28 March 2012
Hey, sorry, I just woke up. I hope you’re not annoyed… I haven’t slept all night and Charlie keeps bothering me with all these phone calls… Jesus, I never get anything done.
Anyway, let’s get down to business. I don’t really have a lot of time to spare, and I’m sure you don’t either, so let me just get this over with before Charlie starts calling again.
First of all, Francis, thank you. You have no idea how much this means to me. It’s been ages since the last time anyone has ever bothered to listen to me talk about Sofie and to be quite frank, I can’t say I blame them. Sofie was the nicest person in the world, but when I start telling people about how she died, they just… I don’t know. They balk. It’s crazy. But like I said, I can’t blame them.
So I’m telling you now, Francis. If you want out, it’s fine. I will understand. We’re friends, but you don’t have to do this if you don’t want to. I can find someone else. Well… hopefully I will find someone else, but… yeah. You don’t really have to worry about that. That’s my problem. I can get a psychologist or whatever—I don’t know. I’ll figure something out.
But since we’re already on the subject, I was thinking maybe I should at least tell you how it kind of all began… You know—so you can sort-of “test the waters.” If it’s too chilly or if it’s too hot. Sorry, bad metaphor—I guess that’s best reserved for refried burgers—but you get the point.
I can even show you her first entry. Just so you get the feel of things.
So, here goes. Sofie.
We’d known each other since forever. For some reason, we always ended up in the same school, in the same class—not that I complained. She was— let’s just say, she was kind of fun to watch from a distance. She had an attractive sense of humor and a natural talent at drawing others into her story, and into everything she was passionate about and all that. Growing up in the same environment, we never really got to talk a lot; she was always with her friends. You know, girls. I was somewhat of a loser growing up, so girls usually didn’t take kindly to me. They thought I was gross. Maybe I was.
Sofie Jung was the quintessential popular kid. She was competitive, precocious, and really, really, really pretty. The boys in middle school said she smelled of strawberries. And cherries. And grapes. Yeah, grapes.
I remember talking to Sofie for the first time. I told her she smelled of grapes. And she said I was weird. She told me I was stupid. So I asked her if she’d rather smell like oranges. She called me a freak. And then she punched me.
She was a little crazy, sure. A walking time-bomb, a clear weapon of mass destruction. But she was smart. And clever. And charismatic. When she opened her mouth, butterflies flew out. When she moved, the world stopped to let her pass. Bad temper or not, she was amazing. This is going to sound really cheesy, but if there were ever goddesses on Earth, she had to be it. Seriously, Francis—she was that perfect.
So what happened? Did we get together in middle school? In kindergarten? Nah. I don’t think she had even remembered me. I was the loser, remember? The invisible fly of Batch 2010. But I started “growing up,” Francis. You know—puberty. I got taller, bulkier. My face changed. And girls started telling me my sideburns looked hot. When I “met” Sofie again, she was staring me over up and down. I felt like I was finally ready to die.
Up until September 2009, Sofie and I never really “knew” each other. Yeah, we were in the same class, we’ve been classmates for as long as I can remember, but she never really knew “knew” me. She never really seemed to notice I was there. But then one day—I think it was September the 8th or 7th, I can’t remember exactly—she released this novel. It was an e-book entitled “Szekely.” It was very Gothic, very Stoker… and I just sort-of fell in love with it. She was just like her book—charming, sweet (kind of), attractive, and charismatic. I couldn’t put it down. She released it around the time Twilight became viral, which to a lot of people wasn’t very smart, but you know what? Screw Twilight. Sofie Jung could kick Stephenie Meyer’s ass anytime. Also, if she were still alive, she’d probably whup your ass too, Francis.
ANYWAY, you probably get the point. She was good. More than good. She was just… really talented, I guess. And I legitly thought she was going to become famous.
Unfortunately, she didn’t. Her novel didn’t get a lot of views, people didn’t even click past the first page, and jackasses kept posting stuff on her comments box about how hot she was. To say I was pissed would be an understatement. I wanted to smash these guys’ faces into a wall. And where the fuck was everyone else? All her friends? Her fans? Her multiple groupies? HER FRIENDS, FOR GOD’S SAKE. Where the hell were they?
And Sofie just… God, Francis… She just fell apart. Well, okay—I don’t really know that, but I overheard her friends talking about how she just stopped… doing things all of a sudden. Laughing, smiling, eating—I don’t know. Damn it, Francis; I sound so stupid admitting I don’t know anything, but I could really tell, even from a distance, that Sofie Jung wasn’t happy. I don’t know—gut feeling, I guess. But it turned out I was right.
It was a Friday, I think. I was in school, I was just about ready to leave, and then I saw her. Just sitting there. Looking so wounded that I wanted to punch myself for just standing there. And then she looked up. She saw me staring. I flushed immediately.
“What are you looking at, doofus?” she said, raising an eyebrow.
I didn’t answer. I was too busy trying to blend in with the floor.
“Hmph.” She looked away, snorting. “I knew it. You’re all the same—all of you.”
I frowned. Did she mean those guys who—
“I’m sorry,” I told her.
She looked at me again, this time with a milder version of her other glare. “What?”
“I… um…” I scratched the back of my neck awkwardly. “I read your novel.”
Her eyes widened.
“It’s pretty good. You should, um, write some more.”
And then her eyes started sparkling. Beaming—from happiness, I figured, because I used to check her online post every day and nobody had ever given her any real feedback about her work until that day. For a brief second, I thought she was going to glomp me. Hug me. Whatever. My brain was doing cartwheels. I wasn’t thinking straight. True, she wasn’t on me yet, but I could already imagine it happening two seconds into the future. I imagined dying peacefully in her arms.
So what happened? Nothing. She just stared at me. For five excruciating seconds. And then she got up and walked away.
Francis, you’re a girl, so you probably know what she had meant by that, but I sure as cow shit did not get it. Was it rejection? Indifference? Was she going out to buy an axe just so she could cleave me around the neck with it? I didn’t know. But I was freaking out like crazy. So I ran after her and tried doing a bit of damage control. There was one problem though; I had absolutely no fucking clue about what I had just unwittingly caused or damaged. As far as I’m concerned, I’d just given the girl the ultimate compliment. She should be happy. She should be glomping me, for Christ’s sake! But she was acting as though I’d just slapped her freaking grandmother.
“Sofie,” I said, catching up to her. “Sofie, please. What… what did I do?”
“Who are you, anyway?” she said, shooting me another one of those melt-worthy glares. “I don’t need your pity.”
“I don’t get it, I said—” She glared at me. Okay, that wasn’t working. “Sofie, you’re really good. I don’t understand why you’re not getting as many views either, but—”
Sofie stopped. She looked me over coldly, angrily. I backed up, flustered.
“What?” she said, crossing her arms. “But what?”
I hesitated. “I- I think you deserve more than that.”
My insides tightened. “I am not!”
“Well, why can’t you just say it?”
“But I just said it!”
At this point, I was really starting to lose my temper. But I couldn’t just stop… She wasn’t angry at me, Francis. I… I knew as much. I could tell as much. She was angry at herself for not being “good enough”… or so she thought.
“You boys are all the same. You never say how you feel.”
I wanted to scream. BUT I JUST FUCKING SAID IT!
“If you can’t even be honest, how do you expect any of us to take you seriously?”
BUT I JUST SAID IT!!
“Sofie, look,” I said, trying my best to keep my voice level, “I meant what I said, okay? I think you deserve more than what you got for… for Szekely.”
Sofie rolled her eyes. She started back toward the gates. Panicking, I grabbed her hand.
She didn’t like it.
“What are you doing?” she snapped.
“Sofie, I can’t… I can’t just… I can’t just let you leave until you—”
“Jason, I don’t need this shit right now, okay? I’m already so fucking fucked up as it is. I don’t need to talk to you, I don’t need to hear about what you have to—”
My eyes widened. “So you do remember me.”
Sofie groaned. “Of course I fucking remember you, Jason. You’re that ass who said I smelled like a grape in third grade.”
“It’s not funny, Jason.”
“I…” I stared at the ground. “I’m sorry… I was just…”
“Jason, let go of my hand.”
Sofie’s eyes flashed dangerously. “Don’t test me, Jason. You don’t know what I’m capable of.”
“Sofie,” I started, “I think you should join the Spear of Longinus.”
Sofie cried out in frustration. “Jason—”
“Deadline’s in a few days. You should hurry if you want to make the cut.”
“Jason, I am not joining the Spear of Longinus,” Sofie hissed. “This isn’t…” She hesitated. “This is not going to work.”
“How can you say that—when you haven’t even tried?”
“You think I haven’t?” she screamed.
Oh. “Things can change,” I said meekly.
Sofie snorted. “And Szekely? How do you explain that?”
I shrugged. “I guess— people don’t know what they’re missing.”
“You don’t mean that, Jason.”
I tightened my grip around her hand. “I do.”
She shook her head. “No, you’re just— you’re just being stupid.”
She obviously couldn’t think of anything else better to say.
“And you obviously have nothing else better to do with your time,” she continued, “except to make fun of me.”
I stared at her, incredulous. “How can you say that? I’m trying to help you!”
“By sucking up?”
I backed up, confused. “No!”
“If you want to help me, Jason, then rack up those views. Get those jackasses reading. Sweet words won’t get you—or me—anywhere.”
“Because if you can’t, then it just means I’m not good enough.”
And then I lost it. In front of Sofie. At Sofie.
“Why are you being so stubborn?” I said angrily. “You’re impossible.”
Sofie glared at me pointedly. “Well, why do you even care so much? You’re not my mom.”
“I don’t have to be your mom to want to understand you, Sofie,” I said, gritting my teeth. “Anyone can do that, if they really want to.”
“You don’t understand me, Jason. You just think you do.”
“That’s not true,” I said.
“Don’t be an idiot, Jason. We’ve known each other for years but you hardly even talk to me. You hardly even say anything. You never even try to understand. So stop acting like you know what I’m going through, because you don’t know shit about me!”
That did it. I just lashed out completely.
“Well, I’m sorry!” I cried. “I’m sorry for being concerned! I’m sorry for caring about how you feel! And I’m sorry, I really am, for wanting to make you feel better!”
She tensed. I saw a tinge of regret flash in her eyes. But I didn’t stop. I was angry that she was being so distant, that she was being so cold. I cared about her; how could she not see that? How could she not understand that?
“Jason—” Sofie started, but I hastily cut her off.
“All you ever do is wallow in self-pity. How can you expect other people to understand you if you always close yourself off to people who care?”
I expected her to apologize. I expected her to take back everything she’d said. I wasn’t really angry “angry” at her; I just wanted her to snap out of it.
“You know something, Jason?” she said quietly. “You’ve never changed one bit. You’re still that same, annoying ass who can never tell when he’s not wanted. I feel sorry for you.”
I couldn’t speak. I couldn’t even find it in me to react. It took me a while to realize the weight of what she’d just said, but by the time I had figured it all out, she was already gone.
Francis, it hurt. I’m not even going to sugarcoat that shit. It hurt so much. And I hated it. I hated what she said. I hated how true it was. But I didn’t hate her. No, never.
You probably think I was being stupid. Maybe I was. But, Francis, you have to understand that Sofie—she’s not a box, OK? She’s not that… simple to understand. And I knew that, even then. I knew there was something more to her waiting to be poked incessantly with a stick, waiting to be called out by people who actually cared. People like me, I guess, or her father, but that’s another story for another time.
OK, Francis, sorry, but I really have to end here. That fucking shitface Charlie is calling me again. I already told him yesterday to stop bugging me about that file but it’s like he can’t hear anything other than his own voice. I actually wanted to talk more about Sofie’s version of what happened—she wrote about it in her diary—but it’s really getting late. Maybe next week. And don’t forget—Wednesday. I’ll send you the next part Wednesday.
Francis, thanks again for—you know—taking the time to hear what I have to say about Sofie. I know I already mentioned it at the beginning, but if you ever feel like balking, backing out or whatever, then feel free to just say it. I promise I’m not going to hate you for it. And if you ever need anything, please—do not hesitate to call. I’m always here, Francis, anytime you need me. If you need me to beat someone up, hell, just say the word. I’ll be there with my sledgehammer.
© Dylan Balde, 2016.