(N.) not death, not suicide, but simply ceasing to exist; deteriorating in a way that is painful to others.
(N.) death, destruction, ruin
“This isn't a joke, is it?”
The words felt like they were choking the air out of the room. The truth was a slimy texture with a sharp aftertaste, everyone knew that. But this was different, this was scarier, harder.
In the darkness of an August night, there was always the sound of the newest hit on a speaker. A wannabe DJ was always creating new mixes and presenting them at grossest parties on the outskirts of downtown Albany. Smoke seeped out of screens, blocking the basement from the outside world.
The basement was owned by Aaron Caldwell’s parents, who were out of town to pay respects to Mr. Harris’, Aaron’s stepfather’s, distant cousin. They knew many members of the Harris family’s gathering would be heartbroken, and that getting there and back would take three days all by itself. The funeral was in Helena,Montana, but no one had the money to buy roundtrip tickets on such short notice in that neighborhood, even the gas expenses would put the household on a money strain for a few weeks. Mr. Harris and his wife knew that as well. Anyone would’ve known if you lived in the same neighborhood as them.
What they did not know, though, was that they had volunteered their basement as the party place the weekend they were gone. The term party was used loosely, considering the only loud part of this gathering was the music. The music was always the loudest at parties, besides the drunken fights that usually occur in the backyard of someone’s house.
But there was no fight. There wasn't even a sign of one as beers were distributed and couches were taken over. Girls slung their legs over boys, who promptly rested their free hand on the girl’s thigh. They all sipped, laughed, and shouted over the music so then they could hear one another. As with every party, there were separate groups discussing separate topics. But there was always a moment when all of said groups converged. There was something about being squished together on basement couches that ripped off the stereotypes pushed on a soul.
This sense of unity would end when they went back to school, but it was nice while it lasted.
It seemed like every person invited to the basement that night had a partner or two. All of them except for one, the school’s resident rebel, Parker Avery.
Everyone knew Parker Avery. Whether it was for a good or bad reason was up to the person you asked. Some saidParker was the hottest shit that was born into the city since Emack & Bolio’s, the ice cream establishment down the street from the town library. It was expensive compared to Stewart’s, but soft ice cream was a treat. Others said Parker was just hiding behind a facade, running from the reality of home with a few snarky comments and a level head.
Doesn't matter if Parker Avery rides a motorbike and has a few extra piercings. Parker will always be Parker. Was the one aspect everyone could agree to. Nobody knew how to describe their classmate, just knew that there was no changing Parker, even if they wanted to.
Whenever Parker was invited to parties, the vibe turned from white kids wanting to be ghetto, to indie rock and lip bites. No matter what, the life of the party always showed up, with or without a friend to tag along. Parker still had a way of making friends with people that said hello without a word.
The rebel also had a track record, having been arrested for graffiti in the school locker rooms after school hours. After hearing about the abortion laws in the south, and hearing a gym teacher saying that was the way life ought to be, a small group of students decided to take justice into their own hands. They all arrived in the gym at the dark hours night and brought their own spray paint. It didn’t matter if they stole it from their parent’s supply boxes or bought it for a discount at a local store, they found their way to their hellhole with personal supplies. The items in their backpacks wouldn't help pass a test, but it would certainly teach them lessons and leave impressions that would never fade over time.
They had split up into separate, gender assigned, locker rooms, spraying comments and warnings directed to their misogynistic gym teacher, ready for war.And, for good measure, left the symbol that would become known as Parker’s Playing Card. A crescent moon with a spear piercing through it.
Why only Parker’s? Well, Monday had to come eventually.
The police had shuffled into the building and assessed the damage done by what they originally predicted was a group of teenagers with a bone to pick.
They rounded up all of the students who could be suspected to do something like this. Some were innocent, some were not, but all of them knew better than to start pointing fingers and blaming each other. They all knew that this was an appropriate embarrassment for the school.
“Now, if you start owning up, then the punishment won't be as cruel,” The school’s officer said. Officer Wilkins was not an intimidating woman, but she knew that this was her job.Determination was more admirable to some of the students, and she had that, so many respected her. “We don't want to start calling your parents and asking if they knew where you were this weekend.”
Kids were beginning to squirm, not knowing how their parents would react. Their parents were all in a situation like this before, in that school, probably in the same disgusting chairs. But still, most of their parents wanted more for them than detention and suspension. They’d be disappointed, mad, or even heartbroken. As much as their parents wanted to say they knew everything students did, they didn’t know half of it.
“It was me.”
When Parker Avery said that, everyone was blown away. Not that the kid did it, but admitting it came out so easily. Officer Wilkins raised an eyebrow at the single confessor. “With whom?”
“I was alone.”
“On your own?”
“On my own.”
If any of the other culprits were relieved, they never showed it. They weren’t even surprised when Parker was pulled up from the rickety seat by the social worker’s door and the snapping of handcuffs on wrists was the only thing heard.
Long story short, Parker was handed a fine of five hundred dollars and twenty five hours of community service through the Youth Court system, and was pushed to figure it out. All of that was received with a smug grin, the message was still sent, and no one but the infamous Parker was punished.
Good enough for the school.
But at parties, Parker was sly and flirtatious. If there was someone all on their lonesome, and didn’t have a preference on how things unfolded (as well as lacking a significant other. Parker was a flirt, not an asshole), Parker Avery’s charisma was at their service.Kisses may be exchanged, maybe even a few bases passed that, but nothing serious emerged. Never has the self-entitled antihero settled down and let casual kisses become Sunday cuddles.
That was, until that party.
Hayden Blake was dorky, not reallyParker’s type. Sure, they had seen each other throughout school, they’d shared classrooms since the third grade, when Hayden moved from wherever. But they were so… different. Hayden was book smart where Parker was street smart. Hayden thought everything was black and white while Parker thought life was gray allover. If you wanted to get physical, Hayden had the thickest glasses since the telescope lens, while Parker had near perfect vision. Hayden was mixed, half black and half Italian, while Parker was the palest thing since paper.
So it wasn't that they had issues, they were different. High schools thrived on separating different.
And yet, there they were, at the same party and both alone. Hayden had two friends that had been going out since sixth grade, and were the only couple anyone believed would actually survive the rest of school. As much as Hayden loved them, it sucked always being the third wheel.
Parker was the perfect distraction.Even if Hayden wasn't the ideal choice, Parker never argued.
“So, what brings the future valedictorian to a basement party?” Parker asked, sneaking up behind Hayden and whispering closely to the other’s ear. Parker would’ve paid money to see the way goosebumps raised on Hayden’s arm, and how hairs stood on end, once again.
“Do you always sneak up on people?”Removing their glasses, Hayden looked over at Parker without a second thought.Even as the glasses slipped into a robotics club jacket pocket, there lied a certain awareness in every movement. Why were the two so close? Didn’t they teach kids in elementary school how to respect the personal bubble of others?This was so… confining.
“Maybe, but I seem to enjoy the way your eyes look. So you think I can stay this way for a bit?”
“Uh, I mean, well… don't you have someone waiting for you in a bed somewhere in this house?”
“Pfft,” Parker’s laughter filledHayden’s ears and drowned out the music for a moment. It was scratchy and rough, probably from the cigarettes that had gotten them in trouble many times before. But something about it made the butterflies in Hayden’s stomach, which didn’t seem to be there before entering, catch in their throat. “You're cute.”
“Yes, cute. I'm sure you get that often.”
“No, I don't. I also don't get comments about my eyes too often.”
“Oh? Maybe it's because you hide them behind those plexi-glasses of yours. Want me to keep talking about them?”
Both of them had had multiple drink sand, even though Parker had a higher tolerance, there was still a buzz among them. So Hayden didn’t give a second thought before saying, “Please do.”
“Well, first off. I didn’t know green eyes like that existed. Most people gush at blue eyes, but damn. They must’ve never seen yours before. Is there a forest named Hayden Blake? Because if not, we should start making a new one.”
“Actually, there's Hayden Park in Redmond, Oregon. My parents named me after that place.”
“Oh? And how do they or you know about that?”
“I'm from Oregon. I wasn't born here. My dad got a new job, so we had to move,” This information sent Parker’s mind into overtime. There was something about this that made the chase so much more fun. “They met there, so they thought it was fitting to both get married there and name their first child after that place. It’s probably the worst story ever.”
“Not really. I think it makes those eyes of yours even more fascinating. I’d call them destiny. I'm sure, though, that they're more beautiful than a random town park,” Parker earned a halfhearted laugh, so it was time to cut to the chase. “Tell me, you alone tonight?”
“Why do you want to know?”
“Because I…” A hand wrapped smoothly around Hayden’s waist, and before it could be asked if they could be any closer, the answer was yes. “I want to see if you're in for a little joy ride tonight. I want you to want me.”
“Consider me smitten.”
That was when they realized how different they were. They already knew it, of course, but they had forgotten how different their ends of the spectrum were. Parker couldn't give a shit about what some words meant as long as a conversation could be held, whileHayden never stopped learning the meanings of words. That was how it was in their lives as well, both reaching at different lengths and for different reasons. But, for now, maybe one could teach the other.
“Well, it just means that I'm already highly attracted to you. But that doesn't mean I’m sleeping with you right now. Are you sober enough to drive, though?”
Another situation one considered while the other did not. Parker blinked, glancing away from Hayden for the first time. Parker knew better than to drive drunk, even if there was someone to impress. There could be no driving, no doing what was originally planned.They’d have to put a pin in that.
“I am not, so why don't we go outside and get some fresh air. Tell me some more of those big words.”
Let’s just say that wasn't the last time they ‘ran into’ each other.
Whether it was in the park, or another dirty basement, it seemed Parker and Hayden were there to hang out. They never arrived together, Parker was sure to make that clear. But as soon as Hayden entered the room, the atmosphere would lighten.
Now, Hayden knew it was ridiculous, being automatically attracted to the antithesis of what their parents wanted.They wanted someone who was put together for Hayden, someone who could be there when the time came to be on their own. And, yeah, Parker was always there, but there was nothing put together about this enigma. There was nothing sappy aboutParker, besides the fact that the pickup lines that were created on the spot to make hearts flutter. Smooth, maybe. Sappy, no. Maybe Hayden preferred it that way, since sappy was in all of those young adult books that were stacked up in a corner, all marked by Hayden to say that they’ve been read.
“So, tell me, are you and Avery going at it yet?” Morgan Tatum was one of Hayden’s best friends, one of the two that Hayden had third wheeled with for about five years. Whenever Hayden had a person of interest slither in, Morgan and Kendall, the other of the two, would become doting parents. It was like they feared their best friend would end up alone if there wasn't someone in high school.
“Going at it? What do you mean?” Of course, Hayden knew what was meant, but wasn't sure how to answer. When one plays dumb, they are given a bit more time to think about an appropriate response. That was a game that Hayden had mastered years ago, so then explaining things to others wouldn't be as excruciating. Socializing was stressful.
“I think you’ve tied down ParkerAvery. Neither of you have realized that, though,” Kendall flicked off ash from a cigarette they had been sharing. Hayden did not enjoy picking up such a habit, but did from hanging out with Parker for so long. It was like the two swapped spit and mannerisms. They were the most unlikely non pair that's been seen by their classmates. They were their own exhibit at the museum for people to prod at. They were the oil and water that somehow mixed. Impossible, and yet accomplished by unnatural circumstances.
That's what they were. Unnatural. No one should think the dynamic Hayden Blake and Parker Avery had was a normal occurrence. To think they were tying each other down? How un sensible. But somehow Hayden did not have the guts to just say that with a firm belief.
“Are you kidding Kendall? No one ties Parker Avery down.”
Parker was used to the isolation of thoughts. The entire brain seemed to function whether or not one wanted it to.It seems nowadays the only way to get your brain to stop for a moment of relief is to off your entire body. The only way that could have happened that seemed self sufficient to Parker was suicide.
But suicide was a dangerous game. If one left at the wrong time, the mourning would never stop. If left when a reputation was on the line, then people would frown upon it. Parker would never be frowned upon when choosing to not exist. The airless feelings in those lungs that they had been born with were enough to remind Parker that time would run short faster if there was no life lived. Anything else done by Parker Avery could be frowned upon, because in those moments Parker was in total control. Any actions that were performed by the human raven would be owned up to because the decision was controlled and done on personal terms.
Death is not controlled. It comes and goes as it pleases and wishes to have a dance with every girl, guy, and person in between. Death does not discriminate. Someone said something along the lines of death being the great equalizer, correct? Parker was not okay with that. Death would be a constant game played, but everyone knew who the winner would be in the end.
Parker did always suck at chess.
It seemed that also meant having a lack of foresight.
And who's to say that there is heaven? Who’s to say that there is hell? Who’s to say there is anything after this persistent bout of anxiety and confusion of life? Is every action tallied and surveyed against a template, even though the values of people and Time itself changes in fits of chaos and imbalance? If Parker could not control this, Parker did not want it, or to know of it.
But there was something Parker knew to be controllable. Or someone, more like. Hayden Blake was too smart, and just enough fascination. Parker never thought that sharing such close proximity with a person could bring such curiosity. Did Parker think that the two would spend the rest of their pitiful existences together? No. But, for the time being,Parker wanted to learn a thing or two. There was a new word pinned on the door or locker of our wannabe street rat with a definition and a sentence. The index card that each word was left on was black, written in silly white crayon. For such a scholar, Blake’s handwriting was horrible to read for someone who wasn't used to reading comments in the margins of essays or the chalkboard at school.
Words showed up like love letters. Words like lypophrenia, phosphenes, absquatulate, anhedonia, euneirophrenia, and orphic carried weight. Whenever Parker woke up and saw those words, it felt like any blood left inside of the reader would stop flowing and freeze. Being chilled should’ve been a terrifying experience, but it wasn't.
Those words invaded Parker’s thoughts like consumption. Sometimes the mere intrigue of these words keptParker alone with invasive and deadly thoughts for hours on end. How could a single word have a definition, with so many more words with so many more definitions, and more after that? No wonder writers became so troubled when they weren’t understood. They knew too much about the magic of words, and were deemed witches or necromancers by their peers, elders, and selves. Every word was connected, and words were created by people. People who are so disconnected. How hypocritical they are, making such a beautiful puzzle that kept Parker awake at night, but never having the willpower to connect with each other unless there was something to gain.
People were inherently selfish and dumb, so why did they have the right to make such beautiful languages and works? And why did these words keep going back with the string of connections that led back to Hayden Blake?
Fucking Hayden Blake. Why was the understanding inside of Blake’s blood flow and not Parker’s? How was Blake, this nerdy kid who did not know left from right and too busy in the brain to bring satisfaction to their casual flirtations?
Parker needed to leave this state of mind. Maybe the literal state in which Hayden Blake lived. Burning every trace of their relationship may bring relief, but not the kind that Parker wanted.One would think getting rid of all those definitions with a flick of a match would fit Parker Avery, but no. That would only make Parker squirm, wishing that the cards were still residing in their current space between shirts and pants.
Everything about this went against what Parker wanted to become. Those words dominated every corner of Parker’s lifestyle and left nothing to breathe in but lexicons of potential and euphoria. It was like the first time the two of them made contact, like a book being written that only the two of them would read. The only thing though?Hayden would be writing it. That book that only Hayden could write, and Parker was the one who could talk. So, in a book? Or even in a story? Hayden was completely in control, just like those words that kept showing up at Parker’s feet, waiting to be read and half understood. Both were puzzles without even having to try, and Parker just wanted the answer key to get out of whatever hell that had wrapped and crushed any oxygen.
Hayden Blake and those fucking words.
When winter break rolled around,Hayden Blake could not be seen outside of the Blake home. There was too much to be done, and a certain someone was foolish enough to believe that all of what was laid out for Hayden’s future would fall into open hands. That someone wasHayden. Publishing submissions were beginning to reopen for magazines that had been closed for holiday editions, and it would be Hayden’s chance to get published. It was not a secret thatHayden wanted to leave this place. What place, one may ask? That was never clarified, nor would it ever be. People just knew that Hayden would rather drown at the bottom of the Hudson and never be seen again rather than resort to an office job and withering valuable time by sending invoices to the elderly.The name of Hayden Blake would be known, a monument in and of itself. The name of Hayden Blake would not be a few indents onto a piece of stone found in the mountains, weathered away due to natural causes. The name of Hayden Blake would be nothing natural.
But, as of now, Hayden felt as if there was a dead end with no left or right turn to get out of. The driver would have to reverse for now, going to the last corner and find a new turn, a new lean.
As if on reflection, an unnatural occurrence began knocking on Hayden’s window, fast and urgent. The writer rolled the rickety chair of which they resided into the window and moved the curtain slowly, seeing the most unnatural person Hayden had ever met. The window opened in one smooth movement, and Parker Avery slipped in so then the neighbors would only see legs hanging out of the window with a hint of a torso, but with no idea of who could possibly be sitting in that place.
“Are you ignoring me?” Parker said.There was no greeting, no room for small talk. How impolite, to go from being the big one in a nonexistent relationship to the one coming back for reassurance.
“So what if I am? I'm the one who needs to get the hell away from you and the rest of Albany, New York. I told you I get busy around this time. I need to put in submissions for spring issues of literary magazines,” Hayden had an edge to the typically level tone that was known for them. “I don't know what you do in your free time, but I would prefer if you did not bother me when I need to get in my metaphorical groove. What are you even doing-- how did you even get up to the second floor of my house in the first place?”
“I took the ladder from your father’s garage.”
“How did you… did you break into my garage?”
“You’re avoiding the question. Are you ignoring me?”
“Not with the intention of hurting your feelings. Have you gone soft on me, Avery? Should I call an ambulance for your weakening heart?”
“Watch your mouth, Blake. I just...”Hesitation floated through the air as Parker noticed that Hayden was still invested in the words. Despite holding a conversation, Parker was still not the priority. “I came for my word. Well, you should be giving me three since you forgot a few days ago, but I’ll let it slide if you give me a good one.”
“So you came to take what you wanted.”
“Just like every other time?”
“I've given you what you’ve wanted before.”
“Sure you have.”
“Just give me a second.”
Hayden opened a drawer within a black writing desk. In this drawer resided a small box holding the index cards that were always left in Hayden’s wake, making Parker continue to question why they still intertwined. The words were pre-written because Hayden never knew if there was time to do the standard research that was performed when looking for the perfect word. Sometimes, there would be too many good options to just pick a single one, so Hayden would write them down to get ahead.
Flipping through, Hayden finally pulled a word from the deck. The card rested inHayden’s hand for a moment, being judged aggressively before being handed to the receiver. Parker impatiently looked at the definition before giving the word a real chance to sink in.
“Gibel,” Parker said, looking at their counterpart. “Why in the world do you find ceasing to exist suddenly so intriguing?”
“Why wouldI not? If I could simply fade from the eyes of some people, I would do it in a heartbeat. I would leave none of the blood, none of the expectation of recovery and none of the trauma. But I would leave all of my writing and the pain and the wonder. I would move people, all because I wrote my heart out and then decided to just… go where I cease to exist.”
The room was silent, which gave Hayden permission to move back to the goal that they had originally wanted to accomplish. “The faster I get published and people know my name, the sooner I can be Gibel.”
Parker stared at Hayden with such intensity one would think a match was lit and dropped into a gas trail, flowing down it's dangerous river in the form of fire. Still, Hayden was not completely paying attention to Parker. How infuriating that Parker didn’t just slip out of the window and never come back, pretending not to be interested.
“...You never told me you were a writer,” Parker finally said, filling the room after a few long moments of silence.
“You never asked.”
“Do I have to ask everything to get all the information about you? You could just tell me you're interested in writing.”
“I'm a word addict. That should be enough for you, don't you think?”
“What do you write?”
“So now you're a word addict and a poet. You are so not sexy. No one is ever going to want to go out with you if you act like a starving artist.”
"And yet you seem to keep coming back,” Hayden finally put down the pen that was being used to write a poem. What a nuisance. “If you're so turned off by my actions, why not pick someone new? I thought the Avery family just swung like monkeys, to and fro, picking up whatever bananas they wanted. Literally and figuratively."
“Whoa, whoa alright. No need to get all defensive. Just because it's not sexy doesn't mean it's not cute.Especially that infectious need to keep moving and make something of yourself.I haven't looked five steps ahead the way you do since chess, and that was in fifth grade.”
“I know what I want. Not everyone knows what they want for themselves as quickly as I did. But since I have it in my head, I need to get ahead of the game before everyone figures it out and takes my chance to find my way into the world,” Hayden’s hands caught the writer’s eyes, seeing pen ink stained on the side of the palm, ashy and cloudy.
“And what happens when you do everything you want? What happens when you're satisfied?”
“Only fools are satisfied with a job well done. Just because I will accomplish what I would like to now in the future, that doesn't mean the future won't carry new curiosities.”
Parker blinked a few times, having to let that all click. “Gibel with me.”
“Excuse me?” Hayden looked up.
“I'm just saying. We both don't know what comes next, and I want to understand these words, and how you are so invested in them. There's a lesson out there I need to learn, and I'm never making it to college. You are an artist without paint, All you need is a ballpoint pen to make worlds fold into each other. Holy shit, we should just gibel together. The world wouldn't know what hit them if the two of us just faded from existence.Together, no less. We should gibel.”
"Gibel is a noun, not a verb.We have to be or have gibel, not do gibel."
"Okay. Would you be or have gibel with me?"
Hayden was utterly floored. This creature was asking to have gibel with the Blake kid. And Hayden felt, maybe after becoming a New York TimesBestseller (or a Nobel Peace Prize winner, but one should never develop a bighead or bite off more than they could chew), that having gibel with Parker maybe a blessing that they both could indulge in.
"Since you're one of the peopleI don't completely despise? Maybe.”
D.M. Williams is an English student from the state of New York. With a grandmother with a great love for literature, Williams was always fascinated with words. At age 14, they had already completed writing two poetry collections and a musical. But as they got older, their interests began to develop and now the love for writing equals that of reading. They've been published in From The Kitchen Sink and Art & Scope. Instagram: @rambling.poet_