One Question

By Will Schmidt

“I’ll just be having, uh,” he stopped to think, “Banquet Beers for lunch. I guess.” The fridge was empty, per usual. The only option besides Coors was a bucket of Halloween candy his mom had sent him a few days ago. “Yes, Banquet Beer and Reese’s.” He smiled. “So are you gonna come over for the new episode today?”

“I don’t give a fuck what you’re going to eat, or not eat, for lunch. I don’t care about any goddamned TV either.” Nicole’s voice was harsh on the phone – scratchy, and it quivered. Was she,

“crying? Are you crying?” ‘It’s amazing,’ J.B. thought, ‘how quickly the mood of a conversation can shift. Like a light switch? No, too cliché. More like those times when it’s sunny one moment, and in the blink of an eye – torrential downpour of rain. Yes.’ “Jesus Nikki, what’s up?”

“I talked with Steve earlier.” Christ. Steve. The two had dated, Nicole and Steve that is, for the last two-and-a-half years. Long time. Steve was also a good bud of J.B.; the two had known each other for years. It didn’t take a rocket scientist to know what was coming next. “and, St- St-…” her voice bubbled and wubbled. “Steve buh buh buh-roke up with meeeeee!” She carried her ‘e’, she always liked to carry vowels. She would never pronounce his name simply ‘Jay-Bee’. It was always ‘Jaaay-Beeee’ and those eyes would light up like fireworks.

Fuck. This is a pickle J.B. didn’t want to find himself in. Fucking pickles, he fucking hated them. The food and the colloquialism. “Well shit, are you oka-” he couldn’t even finish.

“NO I’M NOT OKAY GODDAMNIT! I need your help” J.B. could see her face on the other end of the phone; those firework eyes snuffed out by overcast skies. His heart strings were being pinged.

“Alright. Just chill, man, and talk with me girl.” J.B. had a soothing, hypnotic voice. “Just breathe, relax. How are you doing?” He couldn’t help but flash a smile.

The next ten minutes passed quickly, but J.B. couldn’t concentrate. Remember that time when Nicole had spent the night? Steve left early for classes, and she had stuck around the house while he was gone. J.B. waltzed downstairs, and the two picked up the threads of an opening conversation quite easily. There was the other time when she saw J.B. on campus. A big smile spread on her face like peanut butter on toast, except he was the one melting. She ran up to him and gave him a big hug shouting, “HEY J.B.!” These encounters and more wracked his mind. His relationship with Nicole had more depth than her relationship with Steve. He knew it. And he was sad for the poor girl, she deserved better.

“Well if you need anything else, you know how to reach me Nikki.”

“Thanks, J, you’re a good guy.” J.B. tossed his phone onto the couch.

His brain was a floodgate blasted open. No water, though. Only questions flowed in droves. There seemed only one of importance that kept resurfacing in the turbid rapids of his synapses:

How do you tell a girl that has dated your best friend for the last 2.5 years that you fell madly in love with her, and that you don’t anticipate yourself falling out anytime soon?

This love, it is a wretched thing to lift a man’s heart so high, only to crush it so nonchalantly. Now it was his turn to cry. He could see no possible answers.

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1 Comment

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One response to “One Question

  1. Will – this is great. I was continually impressed working with you on the Vista and I am really happy that because of STEM I can still read your stuff, especially on the creative side (which you obviously have on lock). Your voice is very clear and consistent and sharp and witty but not cliche or tacky at all. Keep it up so I can keep reading.

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