Dawn broke, and so did Ryan. He felt his mind splitting, disappearing within a vortex of pain and anguish. He hadn’t thought it was possible to feel this way, but here he was, lying in bed as the sun rose outside his curtained windows, and there was a yawning pit of emptiness sitting within his chest and sucking his internal organs into it. He had yelled, for a while. But then the neighbours from upstairs had pounded on the floor with their chairs and somewhere, Ryan still cared about what they thought, and he shut his mouth, feeling a burning shame come over him.
So for the last couple of hours, Ryan lay in bed silently, barely moving, knowing that the sound of the sheets moving sounded loud only to him and that no one else could hear it, but still too scared to move.
Nothing made sense to him. Nobody had died. Nobody had dumped him, not recently anyway. There was no reason for him to be feeling the way he was feeling. He thought he must be going mad. He wondered whether anyone else in the history of the universe could have felt as much pain as he was feeling at that moment.
There was a part of his brain that was talking sense and that kept telling him that he was merely going through a depressive episode, that it would pass, and that he had a lot of nerve to be assuming that what he was more dramatic or worse than what other people had felt at other times. When he thought of people dying in wars, being tortured and interrogated or gassed, he felt ashamed of himself.
The logical bit of him that was thinking this, the part of him that still had a personality and that hadn’t given everything up to the despair, was also rather intrigued by the whole thing. It was interesting, in a way, to be feeling as deeply about something that was utterly undefinable, unexplainable and unreasonable.
It was that part, that still reliably Ryan-like part, that decided that something had to be done. It forced the languid, limpid body to lean over and grab the phone from the bedside table. It forced the fingers to uncurl from their tight fists and to dial the number of his best friend.
“Ryan? Is that you?”
“Oh my god, what’s wrong? You sound awful.”
“Seriously, Ryan, what is it? Who died?”
“Nobody.” He wanted to say more than this, but he wasn’t managing to articulate the words. His mouth opened but his tongue seemed to dry up almost at once and he gasped for air even though there was a steady breeze coming in from the other room.
“Ryan. Talk to me. Right now. You’re making me talk in cliches, and you know I hate that.”
It was that, more than anything, that somehow made him begin talking. The Ryan-ish part of him couldn’t bear to hear Debra talking in common phrases, so far from her over-stylized and careful vocabulary. Other people asked how you were when they talked to you on the phone; Debra asked you whether your muse was around and whether your lungs felt happy and whether your toes were enjoying the cold. She didn’t say things like “talk to me.”
Ryan explained, haltingly, with many pauses for gasps of air, what was happening. Deb was in London, and he knew even as he was talking that there was absolutely nothing she could do for him. He hoped that talking about it might help, but it wasn’t, not so far. On a normal day, Ryan couldn’t talk to her for five minutes without bursting out laughing, either at something flowery that she’d said or at a witty remark she’d made at his expense.
When she grasped the gravity of the situation, she began to ask him, with utter seriousness, whether he wanted her to come home. He teared up and began to sob, because she was the only person in his life who would do something like that for him. He choked out a resolute “NO” somehow, and made her promise him that she wouldn’t cut her vacation short.
He could almost hear her in his mind’s ear correcting him, as she’d done for the last few months when he’d complained about her going away. “It’s not a vacation,” she would say every time. “It’s a honeymoon. We’re going to dip the moon in honey and eat it and read poetry to each other during the rest of the time.” He’d rolled his eyes and expressed his opinions about how wrong it was for her to get married and she would shove him off whatever chair he was sitting on.
But she didn’t correct him this time, and that was what made him understand. He put down the phone without saying goodbye, and felt a fresh wave of sorrow lap at his feet and steadily rise to high tide. Meanwhile, the Ryan-bit of him was repeating the words “Huh. I didn’t realize that,” over and over again.


3 thoughts on “Ryan-ish

  1. Chloe says:

    oh gosh, that was so intense
    i hope ryan will be ok (although a fictional character, i want to reach out to him)

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