The Conversation

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I ought to have this conversation with him, for he just sits there and stares at me, stares into me. Whatever I do, he mocks me, and whatever I say, he always has something to negate me, to disprove me, or simply disagree.

He is young; not always have we been together. We met one stormy night and he has never left me ever since. He has always sat there with a smiling face that hid what he truly was.

We have never talked before, at least not real talk. Our conversations were short and short-tempered. We would exchange one-word statements that proved nothing. At times, say, on a bimonthly basis, he would start an argument over something I did in the near past. Our alone-time was an interrogative session.

He has never left. He will never leave. We have fought over this, and he has been determined to stay. I, on the other hand, cannot leave. This is my place, and I am not going to give it to him. He will not control me. He will not control my life. I will not let him.

“You surely look happy,” he says. “How was your day?”

I refuse to answer. This isn’t about me. Mind your own business, you scum.

“So quiet today. That’s not like you.” He chuckles. “How about we talk? Let’s talk, what do you think?”

“I am not in the mood to talk,” I say. “Just leave me alone.”

 

“Are you not? Really?” He shrugs. “Something happened today?”

 

I stare at the wall adjacent to my bed. He stares at me and I try to avoid his looks, his penetrating eyes.

 

“Can I tell you a story? Would that cheer you up?” he asks. “Or do you prefer to stay like this? Whatever suits you, dear.”

 

“Quiet. It is the only thing I ask,” I answer. “Please.”

 

“Quiet. You shall not get quiet, dear. This is a story that will change you. Don’t you think you deserve cheering-up? I care for you.”

“And I ask of you not to, and I’m asking kindly.”

 

“And so the story begins with a boy. You know what this boy’s name is?”

I sigh loudly, but he does not acknowledge my distress. He keeps on, only with a louder volume.

 

“It’s Trastó.”

 

“Can you please be quiet?”

 

“He’s just some teenager from Colombia. One day, he goes to the park with his friend. They decide it’s a sunny day with a cool breeze that will allow them to study.”

 

“Study in the park?” I say at length. “Shut up already.”

 

“And so they disperse after school, and everyone goes home. Trastó is excited for their meetup at the park, but it isn’t for another two hours. He cannot help but go to the park early. There he sits alone, with his notebooks and class notes. A smile ascends his face, and he steals a glance at his wristwatch every minute, waiting for the arrival of his friends.”

I sit up straight. “What do you want?”

“Trastó opens his notebook to study for a short time until they come.”

“Let me guess. They don’t show up.”

“Aha!” He laughs. “No. They do not! Trastó sits there for a long time, waiting for them to arrive. He starts to question whether he has the address wrong, or he misheard the time of the meetup. No, I’m sure it’s today. It’s now, he tells himself.”

I lower my head, nodding. “Then what happens?”

“He goes home — what else will he do?”

“That’s it? The hell is this story?”

“It’s not over yet.”

“I need to take a nap. I’m exhausted.”

“A nap? Surely you must be kidding — it’s three a.m.!”

“Good night.”

“Wait, wait.”

I detest his voice. He is sitting there like a broadcaster. Like an imprisoned TV newsmaker. Maybe if I let him out — if I leave him at liberty to do what he likes — maybe then he will leave me alone.

“Okay, you want another story? This one is a bit boring.”

“I don’t want stories. I want to sleep.”

“What’s wrong with you? Why can’t you enjoy yourself a little bit? Why do you have to be so grim and so mean all the time? For once, please, show affection to people around you.”

“I try. Trust me, I try.”

“Good God! No wonder why people hate you. You’re unbearable.”

“Am I?”

“I don’t know. Are you?”

“What exactly are you trying to prove?”

“That you’re an egocentric piece of crap who cares only about himself.”

“You know that’s not true.”

He stares at me, and for the first time in I don’t know how much, we lock eyes with each other. He’s still sitting there, determined not to move.

“All you do is sit there all day and yap. You judge everything I do. Get yourself a life, you unworthy piece of shit. Get yourself your own life. Another life; one different than mine. Get the fuck out of here.”

He laughs. The son of a bitch laughs. “It’s what I do, no? This is what I’m here for, right? To care for you?”

“I don’t want anyone to care for me. I can care for myself.”

He frowns, and it seems apologetic. Pitiful.

“What about you? You say I’m judgmental. You never like my stories. You always try to shut me up, ‘hey I’m trying to sleep so shut up,’ and you never said anything good about what I say.”

“What you say? What do you say? All you say is horseshit. I’m more interested in what you do. How about we address that?”

He raises his hands in surrender.

“I’ve done nothing.”

“Really?”

“I have done nothing. It was all you. And you know that.”

“No, it was all you. You used me for your own enjoyment. Forgot the day when I didn’t go to school? Remember what you made me do?”

He laughs again. Slow, pattern-following giggles. I lie on the bed again, trying to close my eyes.

“Oh, so you now think you can sleep with your mind at peace? That is not going to happen.”

“Are you going to stay here forever?” I ask. “Do you not grow tired of…this?”

There he is. The unmasked control-freak. The fascist piece of shit. What shall I do to him? What shall I do to me to make this stop?

“I will continue the story. You can close your ears.”

“How I wish I could.”

“Trastó goes home to find his father standing in the hallway. He knows there will be trouble tonight — every night — for his father is wasted. I do not intend to disturb your peace, but what happens next is just horrendous. Do you still want to hear it?”

He cannot stop talking. I cannot stop him. Whatever I do, he is still there, telling his stories, sharing his memories, or making both up. At times, I do not know if he’s telling a telltale or remembering a crisis. I cannot bear it anymore if he does not shut his mouth.

“I will tell it anyway. His father greets him with a smile, still wavering at the end of the staircase. Trastó knows better than to just ascend to his bedroom. There is a process to which he grew accustomed: give his father a hug, tell him about his day, then eat dinner with his father. That’s what he wished he could do, anyway. No, what happens is that his father sets his mind to beating him up, as he does so often. Trastó has had enough. Not only his friends didn’t show up at the park, but now he has to suffer as his father beat him up.”

“Huh.”

“You don’t seem to like my story.” He sighs, then continues, “Trastó kills his father. The end.”

“Why would you still call him his father? He wasn’t a father. He was an abusive, drunken dickhead.”

“Because. No story fully ends. There is always a continuation to every story. We choose how and when to end it. I choose to end it here.”

“Why? What happens next?”

“Why do you have to know?”

“Because I’m suddenly interested in the story. Tell me.”

“You like the story?”

I say nothing.

“You like it. Say it.”

“Just tell the story.”

“Fine.” He takes a deep breath. “Trastó never buries the body. He doesn’t even hide it; it just sits there in the corner of the living room, by the curtains. The drapes are soaked in his father’s blood, and the murder weapon — a stiletto — lies in plain sight by the body. But Trastó isn’t sad, or mad, or even in distress. He is happy. He sits in the living room for a long time before he recovers from the incident. He calmly walks into the bathroom and washes his hands thoroughly.”

“How can he be so cold-blooded? He killed his father!”

“It is what it is,” he tells me. “He had to die, don’t you agree?”

I say nothing.

 

“He had to die because he was not a good man. You have to agree with that.”

 

I say nothing.

 

“And because he was abusive. Trastó had a miserable life before he died, no?”

 

Still nothing. I just listen to what he has to say.

“And he had to die suffering. It could have been slower, more torturing, but Trastó did not plan it; it was all spontaneous. But still, he suffered before his soul left his body. And then Trastó was never happier. He was relieved.”

“So the body is still in the house?”

“Yes. Will he finally move it?”

“I don’t think so. He’s in shock.”

“Is he in shock? Why do you think so?”

“Well, he just killed his father. He sits wondering for a long time before he washes his hands. It must have affected him. He watched his father bleed to death — surely he must be hurt, he must be guilty.”

“Hurt? No. Guilty? Absolutely not. But regretful? Yes. And only because he had not done it sooner. That was his only shame.”

“Bullshit. OK,” I say and shake my head. “What happens then?”

“Nothing. Trastó continues to live his life as usual.”

“Really? What about his friends? After all, the story started with them.”

“I don’t like talking about what happens to them.”

“Why?” I ask. “It’s no secret. It’s pretty obvious, actually.”

“To whom, is it obvious? To us, sure. But to those who don’t know about his father, I don’t think so.”

“Which is why he never gets caught?”

“Fine, I’ll tell it, happy?”

“Yes. Please do.”

“Trastó kills his friends. One by one.”

A long silence ensues before I speak again.

“That’s it? No details?”

“That’s what I remember. He kills his friends and then the police get involved.”

“And?”

“And he is interrogated…”

“…as a suspect,” I continue.

“No. As a witness.”

“Good Lord. They don’t suspect him?”

“How could they? He wasn’t the killer-type. He couldn’t hurt a fly.”

“So they find nothing on him? No DNA evidence? No holes in his alibis? No witnesses to his atrocious murders?”

“First of all, they are not atrocious.” He smiles. “It is simply justice. And let me tell you, justice is sometimes hurtful — sometimes it burns the souls of the wrongdoers. Justice does not mean mercy, nor does it mean forgiveness or leniency.”

“Okay. So he gets off the hook?”

“Yep.”

“Something is bugging me in your story. Surely you must have left something out. Maybe they found his fingerprints or hair residuals in one of the murder scenes? Or, I don’t know, they found CCTV footage of him walking out of one of the murder scenes? Nothing?”

“Nada. Unlike his father’s murder, he planned to kill his friends.”

“OK, now I like the story. And I like Trastó.”

“But he’s still a murderer.”

“Well, you said it — justice had to be brought.”

We are interrupted by a knock on the door. I hesitate at first but stand up eventually. He stops me.

“I have to get the door,” I say.

“No. Do not get the door. Whoever’s at the door will leave when he hears no one is home. Just sit down.”

 

“No! I must see who it is. It may be important.”

“Nothing is important. Sit the hell down. Don’t make any noise.”

A siren echoes outside, and I feel my heart drop.

Sit. Down.

“It’s the police,” I say, sitting down slowly. “Why are the police here?”

“Shut the hell up. You’re not home.”

“Yeah, very nice plan! They’ll break-in at any moment!”

“What do you want me to say? If you open the door, we will both be sent to jail. Do you want that to happen?”

“Well, you did it all — I did nothing!”

“Really? It’s your fingerprints — your hands. It’s your DNA, your face, your voice. It’s all you.”

“They will take you alone. I will confess to them what you did.”

“They can’t take me alone,” he says calmly. He gets up and paces the confined space. “You know that. Don’t be stupid. If I go, you go. If I stay, you stay. We’re in on this together.”

“There is nothing else to do!” I shout. “This is the end!”

As I take heavy breaths, trying to control the racing heartbeats inside my chest, he sighs loudly, rubbing at his forehead.

“I have an idea,” he says. “But you are not going to like it.”

The knocks on the door have grown louder and faster.

“What is it?” I ask, panting.

“It may sound implausible, but you have to agree that it’s the only option left for you to do. First, you will grab the handgun from the corner of the guest bathroom. You will get inside this room and close the door. I reckon that by law, they are obliged to wait a certain amount of time before breaking in.”

“That’s not true,” I say.

“Whatever,” he hollers. “Now, fast. Go get the gun.”

I lose my breath as I dash through the door-frames and get the gun, then crawl back into the room, and close the door. He’s still sitting there, commandeering me through the process. I don’t like this.

“Now what?” I ask?

“Now you know what to do. But you have to time it correctly.”

“When? I don’t know when!”

“First, calm yourself. This is not what you should look like when they come in. Calm down. Control your breathing.”

I do so. I hold the handgun and aim it toward the door, then close my eyes.

“What are you doing? You’re ruining the whole plan,” he says.

“What?” I ask, not understanding what I’m doing wrong.

“You’re holding it wrong,” he sighs. “The other direction — the window.”

He guides me through it. He helps me hold the gun correctly, aim it correctly, direct it correctly.

“Now wait.”

He shushes me before I even speak. We hear the door break out of its frame, and shouts echo in the hallway. Policia! Manos arriba!

The doorknob shakes tentatively before it, too, is broken with force.

Now. Do it. Don’t give them the win!”

 

 

The boom startled her. The room was dark, even though it was three a.m., and dark was expected, but the room was another type of darkness.

A body lay in the dark, head bobbed backward. A splash of blood had imprinted on the window behind it.

Detective Angelita Núñez looked around the room. The smell had left them awestruck when they broke into the house. By the corner in the living room, a rotten body of an adult man lay by the draped window collage.

She surveyed the room once again. One of her colleagues came in behind her and told her that the body in the living room belonged to the boy’s father. Then he proceeded to the body in this room. He crouched and looked at the face.

No puedo creer lo que veía,” he said, shaking his head.

“¿Es él?” she asked.

Sí. Es Trastó Vásquez, señora.”

She could not believe that a boy this age was capable of killing half a dozen people — one of which was his father — and then proceed to kill himself.

When they interviewed the neighbors the next morning, Señora Gutiérrez said that she had heard shouting before dawn. She had been up reading a book by the fireplace. When Angelita Núñez asked the old woman what she heard, the answer was that Trastó, the quiet kindhearted kid, was talking to himself. She had only heard his voice — soft, filled with rage, and accusative.

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Copyright © 2021 by Tarek Gara. All Rights Reserved.

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