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Go to hell, they said

Updated: Jul 6

They'd been arguing for about two hours and were Loving. Every. Minute.


"See, you tried so desperately to hurt me at the end, I know you did, and you did nothing but prove to yourself that you're not MATURE enough," Elle said.


Jules, with a weird-looking, condescending smile - "Elle you can't..." - another smile - "I...I can't entertain your argument. I can't entertain this."


Jules and Elle dated for three years. They went to college in the same city, in the flagship city of the Midwest, both imagining their lives like movies. The people around them were, too. Where was the arc and excitement and development and risk in a long-term relationship, they wondered? Even if the only thing long-term about it was a 40-minute ride on the Red Line. The fucking L train.


They needed a change, so they broke up. This was before they realized their breakup would only result in them finding new people to fill similar roles, who would follow echoed arcs of happy-enough days and then boredom and frustration again. Neither of them caught on to the needlessness of the boredom because they really, actually hadn't seen enough of life for it to click yet. It never would.


So now they're arguing, with nothing reasonable left to say but enough to poke each other with for the fun of it.


"You know I didn't want to go up in flames but I think, I really do, that you wanted all this shit to happen," I said.

"You know what? After so many months where you weren't committed, like, really committed? Maybe I did. And maybe you just can't get it in your stupid, pretentious head that I deserve someone else who won't be so, fed, up with himself?"


"Go to hell, Jude."


There was a jolt in the crevice of Jude's head, right where a Matrix plug might go. Elle was erupting and he was seething, both at the thought that they were so very wrong about each other.


And then Jules was not here.


***

Twelve years before


but not long enough ago for Jules to add it to a trove of important, erased memories, he heard go to hell for the first time. Two of him were here now, and maybe that's how it always was. A young boy hearing a phrase that aged him and a young man saying a phrase that shrank his feet seven sizes.


There was a kitchen and a man and a woman, and the man was his father, the woman was his aunt. They were yelling.


"You have TEN DAYS. Ten days. I'm done pretending that you've made them ready for this. Made either of those two ready for it," the aunt said.


Silence.


"I can't lose you, but I'm going to. They can't lose you period. They'll be hurt forever by this. And you put them there. You put them there."


More silence, then footsteps.


***

Maybe it wasn't twelve full years


but it was damn close. The day changed in Jules's mind, and he's four days later than where he was before. Now he's under the long, wooden dining room table. It has curls at its feet that sort of act like vines, useful for hiding under and wiping stray tears onto.


Two voices now, neither of them his father's. But Jules can see three shadows in front of him.


"I wish I could tell you something else, sir. There's only so much you can leave. There's only so much that—only so much that you could've, I think,"


"SAY it. Say I didn't get it all done," the father said. "I know I didn't but I need to fucking hear it because—"


*slapped*


in the face, hard, across time — Jules is twenty-two again.


"You DO NOT say go to hell to me," Imani said. "There's a lot that you don't know, about what I've had to deal with, about what the fuck you've decided is more important than us. I think that you...too many times...I..."


Imani's voice was trailing off. He was falling...



Back to the floor in the dining room between uncomfortable chairs and


"because that's all I've been scared about. Not having it finished for both of them. Those beautiful, beautiful parts of her and me," the father said. "I can't be their monster. I have to be—"


"A dead fucking dad?"


That was a younger voice — a man's, a brother's.


Then silence.


A deep exhale and —


"Go to hell," from the voice of Jude's father.


And Jude could not tell how old he was, if he ever aged from that day and if he'd ever age again.







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