And With Madness Comes the Light

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CHAPTER ONE

“I was head over heels in love with her. No, that didn’t describe it. I was tear my f**king heart out and throw it at her, beg her to take it into hers. I was falling from the greatest heights with no safety net below. I was giving everything of my own life for hers, giving up every inch of my soul so she could wear it proudly. I was a former king on my knees in front of the queen. A jester begging for a chance. I was powerless, helpless, and at her mercy.”

There’s nothing more frightening than the dawn that seems darker than the night. When you wait for hours for that first glimpse of daylight, the constant reminder that our planet is turning and life does go on, and you get only darkness instead. Maybe the sun is out there, somewhere, and maybe the world keeps rolling on, but f**k if I knew it. All I could see was this darkness, this black oblivion that sucked me dry until I was nothing but a husk of my former self. There was no light in all this madness. My tattoo was a lie.

The morning after Perry left me—after I created this hole—the sun never came up. I spent the night tossing and turning on the bed in the den until I couldn’t stand the smell of her hair on the sheets. Somehow I made it to the couch, and somehow, when I eventually awoke, I wasn’t alone.

I wished I was.

“Dex.” Jenn’s voice broke into the abyss.

I didn’t want to face her. Last night, she found me crying on the floor. She helped me up, and for the first time ever, took care of me. Maybe because the guilt she was carrying matched my own. Maybe because that was the last time she’d have to and she was saving the best for last.

I opened my eyes slowly. The room was grey, monotonous, dead. She was sitting in the armchair she had pulled up in front of me, the one she hated because I bought it at IKEA. She looked just as awful as I did, which made me even sadder. When Jennifer Rodriguez resembles a pufferfish with extensions you know something terrible has gone down.

“Dex, we need to talk,” she said, her voice hoarse. She looked down at her knees, clad in silky pajama bottoms, her wild hair obscuring her eyes.

Usually those words make any man sit up. Perhaps even jump out the window. I was too hollow, too weak, too blank to do anything except lie there and watch her. She looked different, the room looked different, nothing would ever be the same. And though I could have found some respite in that, this change meant losing Perry as well. And therefore, it meant nothing.

“So talk,” I told her, because I didn’t have the strength to do it myself. Besides, I wanted to hear it from her own mouth. I wanted to hear her finally admit her mistakes. I wanted—more than anything—the chance to admit mine.

She began running her lacquered nails up and down her legs, creating lines on her pants that slowly faded in the silk. This was hard for her. I took some comfort in that.

“I…,” she said and looked up, away from me. Her eyes glistened with tears. If I could have cared, I would have. No one wants to see a woman cry, even a twatwaffling she-devil. “I think we need to break up.”

I kept my gaze steady on her. “You don’t say.”

She sniffed and gently wiped under her eyes, as if she’d mess up the nonexistent makeup she was wearing. “I haven’t been fair to you. And I know you haven’t been fair to me.”

My eyes narrowed. “How haven’t I been fair?”

She looked at me sharply. “You’re in love with another woman.”

“And you’re in love with another man. How long have you and Sir Douche, I mean Bradley, been going on for?”

She slid over the insult with ease. “How long have you and Perry been going on for?”

I jerked a little. “It’s not like that.”

“Yeah, well, I guess you win then,” she said, pulling her hair off her face. She really was such a beautiful girl. No wonder I had been blind for so long. She had ways of making you feel like the luckiest man on earth, just because you were seen together. She made you wonder, why me? But I knew why. Because I was safe too. We both used each other as a safety net until the holes got too big.

And I definitely wasn’t the winner here. Not by a longshot.

“So, if we’re both being honest for once, tell me…how long?” I repeated.

She let out a pained sigh. “Since…since you left Wine Babes. Since you left me.”

I really didn’t want to get pulled into another argument over my departure; all of that shit was a moot point now. And, surprisingly enough, it didn’t sting as much as I thought it would. I guess my pride really had been demolished during the night.

“Why didn’t you just end it?” I asked.

She shrugged. “Why didn’t you?”

“Because…” I began. Then I couldn’t find the words. I was afraid. I was afraid to take a chance with Perry for a million different reasons. I was afraid to get hurt. I was afraid to lose my heart, my soul, my everything, for a woman who might not have wanted me back. For someone I needed more than anything.

“I didn’t know how she felt,” I said quietly, staring at the carpet.

She snorted. “Right. Dex, that girl was head over heels in love with you. And you were in love with her. I knew it from the moment she walked into this apartment. You looked at her in a way that you’ve never looked at me. And she looked at you in the way I never did. You could have done this properly, you know.”

“I’m sorry we can’t all f**k other people behind each other’s back,” I snarled.

She crossed her legs and folded her hands together, the Latino bite coming back. “Right. Okay, Dex. Like you didn’t f**k her here last night.”

“It was just once,” I told her, hiding a white lie.

“I can see that. It’s not my fault that you had to screw it all up after.”

Actually it kind of was. “You cheated on me constantly.”

She leaned forward so her puffy eyes were just inches away. “And so did you. I may have been screwing Bradley with my body but you were f**king Perry with your heart. And which one is worse, huh?”

I bit down on my lip until I tasted blood. Finally, I said, “There’s nothing worse than that.”

She nodded, a flash of open vulnerability on her face. “We both screwed up.”

“We sure did.”

“I guess we couldn’t just break up like normal people.”

I managed a smile. “Jenn, you know I’m not normal.”

She smiled back, wistful. “I know.” She reached over and grabbed my hand, giving it a quick squeeze. It would be the last time Jenn would ever touch me.

Later that day, she made plans to move in with Bradley. She decided to leave Fat Rabbit behind since the dog always liked me better anyway, and Metro Von Dickfucker had an apparent allergy to dogs. She packed up her ugly cheetah-print suitcase, told me she’d be back in a couple of days to get the rest of her stuff, and wished me luck.

I needed all the luck I could get.

***

The next few days before Jenn came to get her stuff were an absolute write-off. Rebecca kept calling me and I kept thinking about calling Perry. I wouldn’t answer anyone’s calls, and Perry wouldn’t answer mine. I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t shit. I drank myself into a stupor, and the only time I left the apartment was to take Fat Rabbit out around the block. The rest of the time, I just left the balcony door open and the little bastard did his business out there. I was too empty inside to care if our apartment was turning into Turd City.

I’m not one to wallow in self-pity, really I’m not. The last time I did that, I ended up in a mental institution on extremely strong drugs, pining after Abby, a girl who would later turn up dead. And then, years later, end up in my apartment. Still dead.

The funny thing was I expected to see Abby haunting me now that Perry and Jenn were gone. I expected to see her grotesque form gliding down the hallway or hanging suspended from the bedroom ceiling. I expected to see her standing amidst Turd City’s shitbrick buildings, beckoning me with her finger.

But Abby never came. And, to be honest, I was kind of disappointed. How f**king lonely was I, to be craving the company of a deranged ghost? No, this time I was so completely and utterly alone. I had no one but a smelly dog, and even he was starting to resent me for the deteriorating conditions.

I just didn’t see the point in anything. While my thoughts weren’t exactly suicidal, I entertained the idea of ending it all. I knew I would never do it, but I fantasized about how easy it would be. How no one would care. And how quickly the pain would stop. I didn’t want to die but I didn’t want to live either. Living, breathing, existing from day to day only added to the weight on my heart.

Shut the f**k up, man. Get over it. Shape up or ship out. Don’t think I wasn’t yelling those things in my head. But when the f**k did my head and heart get along anyway? They were mortal enemies now, sworn to rip each other to shreds.

I f**ked up. More than I have ever f**ked up before. I had the love of my life in my hands for one beautiful, exquisite moment before I ripped her apart and my heart bore the paper cuts. Perry…I’d never see her smiling face again. I’d never hear her melodic voice. I’d never be able to make her laugh or cringe or yell at me. God damn it, even if she would pick up her phone, scream at me, and give me eternal hell for the way I acted after we slept together, it would make me whole again. But there was nothing but silence. Nothing but darkness.

It took Jenn and Fuckface barging in the apartment while I was sleeping (okay, so it was the middle of the day), to bring me out of my first funk. Jenn ran in the room waving her arms above her head like a muppet, screaming at me over the state of the apartment, and threatening to call the SPCA for Fat Rabbit. I knew she was right. And when I heard the disappointed noises from Bradley in the living room, I realized I still had a smoldering coal of pride left in me. Abercrombie & Douche wasn’t going to get both my ex-girlfriend and a coat of self-righteousness.

“Jenn,” I said, sitting up in bed. She was looking around the room like I’d hidden shit everywhere. Literal shit. “Make this quick.”

“You’re disgusting,” she announced, flouncing over to a half-eaten pizza on the floor. “What the f**k happened?”

“You know what happened,” I said quietly, surprised at the embarrassment I was feeling, relieved that it meant I was alive. “I lost everything.”

She stopped in the middle of the room, slender hands on slender hips. “You lost nothing you didn’t already have.”

“How many negatives were in that sentence?” I asked, trying to count them.

She rolled her eyes, still managing to look disgusted. “You can’t lose something you never owned to begin with. Accept that and move on.”

“Whoa,” I said, shaking my head. “How fast you’ve gone to Bitch Town. Where’s the compassion I saw in you the other day?”

“I only have so much. You’ve used it all up.”

“So, this is how it’s going to be?” I asked, almost amused by her coldness.

“Jenn,” Bradley yelled from the living room, “maybe we should come back after we call the hazmat team.”

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