Empowered: Act 2, Part 4
Work’s got me busy today, so I don’t have a whole lot to say here other than let’s get this goddamn party started! The second-to-last part of Empowered Act 2 begins now:
“ ‘Can’t wait for tonight,’ ” Carl said to Octane while they sat at their lab table the following Friday morning.
“Wha-wha-what? What’s tonight? Are we doing something? I didn’t know if we were doing something. What are we doing?”
“No, that’s Spore’s status,” Carl corrected as he looked at the Facebook app on his iPhone. “ ‘Can’t wait for tonight.’ ”
“You should really block her, man. Reading her statuses ain’t-ain’t-ain’t healthy,” Octane replied.
“What do you think she’s doing?”
“Think it has something to do with why she’s out today?”
“Not sure, man.”
“Do you think she’s hanging out with another guy?”
“She wouldn’t do that to you. It’s been, what, two weeks? Plus you’re technically still together.”
“Yeah, I guess. I don’t know.”
“Easier said than done, but just don’t think about it,” Octane said with a shrug. “It’s not gonna make it any better for you.”
Disregarding his advice, Carl then asked, “Has she said anything to you during the yearbook club?”
“I don’t really interact with-with-with her too much. She does the photo editing for the printed book; I do the video editing for the-the-the DVD. Plus, it’d just be kinda awkward to talk about it: ‘Hey, Spore. I like what you did with the Spanish Club page, also, how come you don’t want to fuck Carl as much lately?’ ”
“Yeah, fair enough.”
“Have you-you-you given any thought to what she said?”
“About your issues or whatever.”
“She’s ridiculous. Like, she was upset that we only did the crap I wanted to do apparently. So I told her last week we can do whatever she wants to, then she says that there are ‘deep problems’ that I’m not focusing on. She’s just bein’ a girl.”
An incredulous “Huh” was Octane’s only contribution.
“Whatever. El says it’ll all be fine so long as I play it cool.”
“Speaking of…” Octane said as he cocked his head towards El’s direction.
Diverting his attention away from Octane, Carl glanced over his right shoulder and saw El at his table with Glacier. He was leaning and smiling, and she was smiling back wide as him. Carl managed to overhear part of their conversation:
“You know, it’s funny,” El began, “girls all seem to want the bad boy who’s only good for her. And guy just wants the good girl who’s only bad for him.”
El’s overt flirtation made the fair-skinned redhead blush, and she shot him an intrigued glance.
“He really does know a lot about women, doesn’t he?” Carl asked, his voice bubbling slightly with jealousy.
“Dude’s got charm to spare; that’s for sure,” Octane replied, noticing Carl’s annoyed disposition.
“What’s wrong now?”
“Nothing,” Carl replied, cutting short his lingering stare at El’s table.
Unconvinced, Octane merely asked, “Seems happy, though, doesn’t he?”
Carl scoffed and shook his head in agreement, not picking up on the point his friend had tried to make.
“He tell you about this parents?” Octane asked.
“What about ‘em?”
“You should ask.”
“Yeah, maybe later,” Carl replied, disregarding what Octane had just said.
Not being able to get her off his mind, Carl sent Spore a text that night at 9:30. ‘Whats tonite?’ the message read, referencing her Facebook post. Three hours passed without a response, and Carl sent another text to her, this one more acidic in tone: ‘Can’t respond? Real nice.’ This, too, went unanswered.
Without welcome or warning, Carl’s thoughts were plagued by the worst-case scenario: Spore cheating on him.
Is that what’s going on? Is she with someone else? Is why she’s having such an easy time of all this?
Has she moved on?
All he could think now was her in some other man’s arms. Someone bigger than him, smarter than him, more attractive than him. Someone that’s making her laugh, making her heart beat fast. Someone holding her, kissing her, getting in to bed with her, and sleeping with her.
Someone taking his power away from him.
These unfounded fears filled Carl with an irrational contempt for this imaginary home-wrecker that he had concocted.
Whatever, let her get with someone else, he thought as his eyes started to fill with tears. Like I give a shit.
He then planted his face in to his pillow and forced himself to go to sleep.
That next morning, Carl dug through the bottom drawer of his desk. Finally finding what he was looking for, he cracked open the cover to the notebook he just retrieved, put pen against paper, and began writing:
Carl closed the marble notebook that he had opened for the first time in almost six months and put it in his desk, making sure to cover it with a stack of papers so no one would see it. Unsure of what to do next, he pulled out his phone to call El.
“Yo, bud,” El answered on the other line.
“Yo, what are you up to?”
“Glacier’s about to come by. I rented some BS nature documentary and told her it’d be a good way to study.”
“Oh, I was gonna see if you wanted to come here.”
“I already have these plans. Sorry, man. Everything alright?”
“I…uh…I texted Spore last night.”
“I couldn’t help it! I can’t get her off my mind, man.”
“It’s alright. I guess you’re still pretty inexperienced, so it’s bound to happen,” El replied, unaware of the condescending weight of his words.
“Don’t be a dick.”
“Just saying, man. You ought to listen to me more; I know what I’m talking about.”
“You’re not always right, you know.”
“Except that she didn’t text you back, did she?”
“What’s your problem right now? Seriously?”
“Nothing. Have fun,” Carl replied. Without waiting for a response from El, he clicked his phone off and threw it angrily on his bed.
So damn selfish. Dude’s got enough and fucks enough. Doesn’t realize how good he has it either, I bet. Comes so goddamn easy for him.
After spending the rest of the weekend in an angry, depressed solitude, Carl was dreading going through the motions of another week of high school. As the minutes slowly ticked away and lunchtime rolled around, Carl, though not having had much of an appetite since the break, knew he had to eat. Purchasing a cafeteria lunch of an overcooked cheeseburger, fries that were too soggy to enjoy, watered-down iced tea, and a stale chocolate chip cookie, he sat down at his usual table with his friends: Copycat, Shift, Brainstorm, Yawn, and Reach.
“Yo, big Carl. How you holding up?” asked Brainstorm.
“Aight,” he responded, looking down at his unappealing lunch.
“Stiff upper lip, buddy,” Shift said. “Plenty of fish in the sea.”
“Yeah, but something tells me his rod is defective,” joked Reach.
“Not cool, man,” retorted Yawn.
“It’s whatever,” Carl muttered, caring neither for the comment nor conversation in general.
Moving the topic away from Carl and towards teenage boy antics, Shift said with a smirk, “Hey, ‘Storm, those chips look good.”
“Yeah, they’re harvest chedd—”
But before he could finish, Shift phased half of his torso through Reach, seated to his right, and solidified his hand to take the snack off his tray.
“Oh, that’s real cute,” Brainstorm replied. “But I think I’ll help myself to your hotdog,” he then mimed a lasso and whipped Shift’s hotdog off his plate and right in to his hand, “and I feel that Yawn’s pickle would go great with it.” Doing the same motion, he swiped Yawn’s dill spear off his plate and placed in snuggle between the bun and meat.
“You guys are so immature,” Reach noted. Then, pretending to stretch, he elongated his arms, curved around both Carl and Shift in an attempt to take Yawn’s salad off his plate.
“Don’t think so buddy. Sweet dreams,” Yawn said with a wink.
“Crap,” was the only word Reach could get out before he went face down in his tray.
“Shouldn’t have made…” Copycat prime stated.
“…eye contact,” his duplicate finished, as one went right and the other went left to loot what Reach’s face wasn’t touching on his plate. The two halves of Copycat merged back together as he made his way back to his seat, holding the bounty that both parts had stolen.
“Well,” Brainstorm stated, “Looks like CC is today’s winner.”
“You, uh, want some of these chips, bud?” Copycat asked Carl, who he noticed was staring blankly at his food.
“Nah, man,” Carl remarked, having less of an appetite than before. “Not really hungry.”
One month ago:
“And they play this stupid game where they steal each others’ lunches the whole time. It’s obnoxious.”
“It’s just so stupid,” Carl replied, attempting to mask his jealousy.
“You can join in, too.”
“Yeah, well, except that…”
“I know, Carl. I know.”
“I’m just sayin’.”
“You just say it a lot, babe.”
“But at least I got you, right?”
Spore was silent and looked down.
“What’s wrong?” Carl asked.
“Nothing. But it wouldn’t matter whether or not we’re together,” she then let her words linger for a moment before continuing. “Just because you don’t have a power doesn’t mean you’re not special. You are, Carl. I keep trying to tell you that.”
“Yeah, and my mom’s been telling me that since I was born. And after you see everyone around you getting stronger and stronger every day, it starts losin’ its meaning.”
“Oh, cutie,” Spore replied, shaking her heard. “When will you learn?”
“I’m slow, remember?”
Spore let out a tiny laugh. She then looked at the blue-and-yellow rental box on Carl’s nightstand and saw The Transporter labeled across the side.
“I thought you were going to rent The Notebook?”
“Oh, is…is that what you said?” Carl remarked. “I’m almost positive you said The Transporter.”
“ ‘Pure popcorn pleasure for older teens and up,’ ” Spore said, picking up the box and reciting the review on the back. “Carl, there’s actually something I’ve wanted to talk to you about.”
“Um,” she began, looking at him in the eyes, the eyes of a boy she didn’t want to hurt. “Nothing. It was nothing.”
“Hey, Carl!” Brainstorm said, snapping his fingers in front of Carl’s face. “Snap out of it; you’re going to be late for Health.”
Carl hadn’t realized he had been lost in his thoughts for majority of the lunch period. Coming out of his daze, he thanked Brainstorm, grabbed his things, and went on with his day. When he wasn’t thinking about Spore, he was thinking of ways to try to not think of her. With her being all he could focus on, everything else around him was a blob of places and people and things. None of it seemed distinct, nor did any of it seem important. It was just there.
As Carl began his trudge to Environmental, he came upon a surprising sight: Spore stood outside the doorway, waiting for him.
“Hey,” he said.
“Hey,” she returned.
“How’ve you been?”
“What was with that text last night?”
she asked with certain bite in her voice.
“Just curious what you were doin’.”
“Ugh, I went with my family to visit my grandparents up north. That’s what. What did you think I was doing?”
“I don’t know. With some other dude?”
“Is that what you think of me? That I’m going to go slut it up behind your back?”
“Guess so…” Carl muttered, looking away.
“I don’t think we should be together anymore, Carl. I’m sorry.”
“You’re so selfish…” he sneered as he shook his head. “Not me.”
“Me? I’m the selfish one! Are you serious!”
“You make me care for you, then you did this shit? Without really giving things a chance? No one’s ever gonna love you as much as I do.”
“Oh my God, you’re unbelievable. I asked you for one thing, Carl, one thing: A little time. But no, you couldn’t give me that. I told you that you always put yourself first, and what do you do to try to prove me wrong? You go out of your way to talk to me when I specifically asked for you not to. Did you really not see how you were doing the exact thing I said was the problem!
“I care for you, Carl. I really do,” she continued, “but I don’t think you ever really cared for me as much as you just cared for yourself. And I really think ‘us’ wasn’t as great as you seem to think it was. I hope…I know one day you’ll find what you’re looking for, but it just won’t be with me. I’m sorry.”
Spore turned and went in to the classroom. Carl stood there and attempted to let her words marinate in his mind.
And with that, things were officially over. Spore had ended it. Everything Carl had…all the love and joy and happiness and strength…it was all gone. In what felt like no time at all, things had gone from great to downright bad.
And little did Carl know, things were about to go from bad to worse.
TO BE CONTINUED