So I haven’t been able to update as frequently as I’d like, but that’s because I’ve been incredibly busy at work. But guess what? It’s paid off in the form of a promotion. That’s exciting news for sure, and what’s also exciting is Carl not being such a whiny bitch anymore. He’s ready to turn things around, and the first stop is Elcsum Gray. But can that fence be mended? Find out now!
Putting down his pen and closing the cover, Carl tucked his notebook – a personal tome of his father – on his bookshelf next to those stories of wizards and warriors, instead of hiding it away his his desk drawer. It would serve as constant reminder of who his true hero is and always will be.
His mom said she reminded him of his father; it’s time he started acting like it.
Rubbing his face to try to subvert any tears that may form, he reached in to his top drawer to pull out his cell phone. He unlocked the phone, scrolled right to his contacts application, down to ‘E,’ and hovered his thumb over his best friend’s name. As it wavered precariously over the screen of his phone, Carl’s mind became flooded with thoughts:
What if he don’t actually wanna talk? What if Ock’s wrong and El’s happy with the way things are? Shit, if he did wanna talk, why hasn’t he made even the slightest attempt to? If…
…if I wasn’t so afraid, this’d be easier.
Exhaling deeply, he put his phone in his pocket and laid down on his bed. As he stared at the ceiling, he asked himself one question:
What would El do if he fucked up as bad as I did?
He pondered for a moment before springing up from bed. Like his mom said, what El would do is act confident if he weren’t. If Carl were to fix their friendship, he’d need to be strong for once in his life.
Grabbing the keys to his car, he sped over to his friend’s house, but not before making a quick stop along the way. His heart thudded with nervousness as he pulled up and parked on the street, noticing that only El’s car was in the driveway.
Walking up the sidewalk and ringing the doorbell, he immediately heard footsteps approach the door. Carl’s heart skipped a beat for a moment; what was he going to tell him? Sure he was sorry, but what could he ever say to really make things right?
Guess I’ll have to wing it, Carl thought half a second before El opened the door.
The door opened with swift *woosh*, and immediately upon seeing him, Carl uttered, “El, I…”
Emphatically banging on the door, interspersing the knocks with “El!” and “Let me in!” but to no avail. Attempting a different method, he ran over to the backyard to face El’s open window.
“El!” he yelled, but with no reciprocation.
So he tried again.
“El! El! El! El!”
Now jumping with all his strength to try to have his voice carry farther in to his friends room, he began, “Fine! I know you don’t want to talk, but at least listen. El…I know I fucked up. I’m sorry, man. I’m a piece of shit. I don’t know what I can say or what I can do except tell you that you were right. I was…I am jealous of you, and it was wrong for me to feel that way. And if I had taken the time to ask more about you and how you’ve been doin’ with things and if you got any problems of your own, I woulda realized that you don’t have it perfect, either.
“But I didn’t…and then to make shit worse, I ditched you the second I got a girlfriend, even though you’re there for me rain or frickin’ shine any time I needed you. And then I topped it off by acting like you were the asshole and socked you right in the fuckin’ face. What the hell kind of person does something like that?”
Finally peeking his head slightly out of his window, El said his first words to Carl in months:
“A raging douchebag.”
“That about sums it up, don’t it?”
After a brief pause where both parties needed a moment to let things settle, El called out again, “I’ll be down in a second.”
Smiling, Carl sprinted over to the door to meet his friend.
“I missed you, man,” El replied after opening it to see Carl once more.
“Are you done with all of it?”
“Yeah…yeah, I am. I, uh…I talked to Ock about some things. Dude can be pretty wise sometimes.”
“When he can actually get words out,” El said, allowing a minor smile to form.
Moving away from the door, El motioned for Carl to come in, and the two walked silently in to the kitchen.
“Oh, I almost forgot,” Carl said, lightly hitting himself in the head. “One sec.”
Running from the house and to his car, he rummaged through the back seat to retrieve a square white cardboard box and then jogged back to El’s door.
“Here’s the pizza I owed you,” Carl said with an unsure smirk.
“You’re a prince,” El replied. “Come on; let’s eat inside.”
“Just you here?”
Placing the pizza down on the kitchen island, the boys each pulled up a chair and sat down, grabbing a slice and putting it on a plate in front of them as they did.
“So for what happened to us…” Carl began, not certain about how to finish his sentence, “I don’t know if I can say sorry enough. Sorry and…thanks, as weird as that sounds.”
“Thanks for letting you hit me in the face?” El remarked with surprising levity.
“Ha…well, it started to help me realize, like you said, how much of a fuckin’ d-bag I was.”
“Well, you got it out of your system, let’s hope.”
“I wanted to say sorry right away, you know,” Carl said. “But I really just didn’t know how.”
“Yeah,” El remarked solemnly, wishing that Carl had.
“Face healed pretty quickly, though.”
“God wouldn’t allow me to not be pretty for too long,” El quipped, a devious grin now on his face.
“Still a dick,” Carl laughed, shaking his head.
Walking over, El outstretched his arms. “Come here.”
Sharing a hug, El replied, “Really did miss you, bud.”
“Okay, enough of that homo shit,” El joked, “there’s something I’ve been wanting to ask you for the past four months.”
“Just how good did it feel to pop Wing in the nose?”
“Really, really fucking good,” Carl answered, smiling.
“Ha! I can only imagine. But I hear he hasn’t let it go yet.”
“That right? What’d you hear?”
“Wants to fight you at prom. Figures they won’t expel him that close to graduation, and if he has the chance to embarrass you in front of all those people, he’s gonna do it.”
“Where’d you hear this?”
“Lax practice. Guys talk.”
“Well, too bad for him, I ain’t going to prom.”
“If not prom then some other time. Just be careful,” El warned.
“I will. You gonna go? I was just talking to Ock about it earlier tonight.”
“Really? I figured you’d be all over that.”
“To tell you the truth, man, I was pretty bummed these past few months and never bothered to get a date or a ticket. And now there isn’t anyone left to ask anyway.”
“Sorry, man. I actually got tickets if you want ‘em.”
“Don’t sweat it. We’ll bro out that night.”
“Sounds like a plan.”
“So what have you been up to these past few months?” El asked.
“Readin’ a lot of comics. Playin’ a lot of video games.”
“Business as usual then?”
“More or less. How ‘bout you?”
“Chillin’ with the guys. Seeing a lot of Ock lately. Yawn’s had some parties, too.”
“Guess you got our friends in the divorce,” Carl joked, referencing their falling out. But as the words escaped his lips and brushed pain across El’s face like paint on a canvas, Carl’s heart immediately dropped.
“El, man…shit. Ock told me what happened with your parents. I’m…”
“No, no…it’s cool,” El replied, hurt but not offended. “It’s for the best I realized.”
“Really? How so?”
“Just…they were really unhappy for a long time. And, yeah, I wanted them to stay together. But I guess I accepted that if I want them to truly be happy, then they’re gonna have to be apart for a while.”
“I…yeah. I never would’ve thought of it like that.”
“Yeah, I mean, it’s not like I figured it out right away. But one night, I was just laying there in bed, staring at the ceiling. And I was playing through all the scenarios in my head: Mom and dad getting back together, us going on a vacation, smiling, taking pictures, all that stuff. But the thought of it all just felt kinda empty, ya know? Like it was all just fiction. Because then I thought about how much they fought, how many times my dad would storm out of here after a big blow up, or how many times I caught my mom crying…I don’t know. I guess I realized I liked the idea of them together than them actually being together, ya know? I don’t really know how to explain it.”
“Makes a lot of sense actually,” Carl mumbled.
“So, yeah…been dealing with that, but it’s been alright. Life goes on, ya know?”
“Certainly hope so, man. So you hear back from any schools?”
“Yeah, I was between UCLA and UCB for a while, but I’m got in to the honors program at UCLA, so I think I’m gonna go there.”
“Still thinking pre-med?”
“Yeah, I think so.”
“Any idea what kind of medicine you’d wanna get into?”
“No clue. Too soon for that. You decide on your major yet?”
“Not too sure, either. Something in English, I guess. Like journalism.”
“That’d be pretty sweet,” El said as he took a big bite of the greasy cheese pizza that Carl had provided.
“Yeah, but who knows. Like you said, too soon to really know.”
“Well, whatever you go with, you’ll be great.”
“Thanks, man. So, you ever end up bangin’ Glacier?”
“Nah, man. All she wanted to do was make out. Like constantly. Just kiss. Some junior high bullshit.”
“You poor bastard.”
“I know! What about you, though? Any new girls?”
“Have you spoken to Spore at all?”
“No. As much as I’ve wanted to, I was just too depressed and too ashamed. I, uh…I didn’t handle the breakup too great.”
“You don’t say…”
“Ha, I was just talkin’ to Ock about that, too. I mean, I’d be lying if I said I still don’t think about her, but I guess I just realized that, looking back on the whole thing…”
“…you liked the idea of it better.”
“Something like that.”
The two boys shared a poignant smile and continued to eat their pizza.
TO BE CONTINUED
We’re slowly dwindling to a close! Though his friendship with El has been revived, will Carl have the power to fix the rest of his life? And what about this threat from Wing? Prom’s a few short weeks away, and even though Carl might not be going there, something’s definitely going down.
See you next time for another installment of Empowered!