Monday, June 17, 2013

A Harsh Reality

I've seen it all. I've seen all of the highs, and I've seen all of the lows. I've seen the fights, the parties, and the scandals. I know what David does every day at noon. I know that Jessie's apparent happiness is merely a byproduct of the facade she works so hard to maintain. And I know that Jacob is living a lie, one in which he's forced into endless suffering.

It all started when I was born on a farm in Ohio. I'm the youngest son of three. I've never met my father; I suppose he and my mother had a fling that didn't last very long. From what my siblings have told me, my mother was a phenomenal woman. My faintest memories of her include the typical childhood nurturing mothers are tasked with doing. When I was just two months old, I was put up for adoption. I suppose finding a new place to live was better than being put down.

I spent days in a cage. People of all ages came by and observed my every move. Do you know how much pressure I was under? I had to keep up my appearance and behave like a gentleman, just so I could find a loving family. For me, that was easier in theory than in practice.

After five days in the hot Ohio sun, I was beginning to lose hope. I figured it was farm life or death. But just as I was getting ready to throw in the towel, a middle aged couple pulled up in a shiny, new BMW. They spent hours considering their options, and finally arrived at me.

I was tired of the monotony of farm life. I was ready to find a home, get acclimated to my surroundings, and find my calling. I made sure to be on my best behavior. As they peered down at me, I tried as hard as I could to slick my ears back, raise my eyebrows, and give them the cutest puppy dog eyes they've ever seen.

I guess it worked.

"Aw, David, look at this one! He's adorable."

"He is really, really cute. I'm kind of tired of looking around, it's been two hours already. Do you want to just bring him home?"

And that was that.

They signed the paperwork and we were off, headed toward a new home, a new life.

We must have been driving for forty five minutes when the scenery began to drastically change. Rural Ohio turned into a suburban paradise. Mansions lined the streets. Every blade of grass was cut to perfection. Children rode bikes along the sidewalks, earnestly protected by neighborhood security patrols. I saw cute girls all around me. I remember thinking to myself, 'Hey, I can get used to this life.'

When we finally pulled into what would be my new home, I was in awe. My jaw dropped. I looked up at the big, white house and thought nothing could be better. The double doors were painted dark red, the shutters painted green. There were windows all around, giving me a sneak peak into the internal beauty I would soon call my abode. The bushes and flowers that lined the front porch were clearly the product of hard work and diligent up-keeping. We rolled down the driveway, parking next to the big beige fountain located in the center of the roundabout pathway. Jessie stepped out of the passenger seat and made her way to the trunk to pull me out. She pulled the latch, lifted it up, and looked down at me with an ear-to-ear smile.

"Jacob is going to be ecstatic when he sees him," she excitedly exclaimed.

Jessie lifted me up and rested my head on her shoulders. We made our way to the front door. We opened it up, and within two seconds Jacob came rushing down the front stairs.

"He's here, he's here, he's here, he's here, he's here!" Jacob said as he jumbled his words.

That night, I was shown to my new room. Before Jessie and David came and got me from the farm, I had always shared a bed with my two older brothers. That made it so much more special when I discovered I would be receiving a bed of my own. I could sprawl out, stretch at will, and enjoy all of the comfort of the world.

I ate my dinner, took a bath, closed my eyes, and fell asleep in my new home.


That was five years ago. 

In that time, I've learned everything there is to know about this family. 

I'll start with David. 

Though the term is generally "trophy wife," David appeared to be the model for "trophy husbands." He's good looking, fit, and seems to have an answer for everything. He often brings home flowers for Jessie for no apparent reason. He takes Jacob on camping trips, plays catch with him, and always makes himself available. 

David went to Harvard after high school. He graduated with a Bachelor's Degree in business, and went on to get his Master's degree immediately after. Upon graduation, David was lucky enough to land a job at one of the most highly touted Business Consulting firms in the country, Dexterity. David, being the charming man that he is, soon acquired a large pool of a variety of clients. After two years of hard work and promising returns, Dexterity went out on a limb and promoted him to CEO, the youngest in company history. I suppose that sort of sums up the kind of person David was, the kind of effect he had on people. He was smart enough to know what people wanted, and he seemed to always give them just that. 

But David wasn't as much of a saint as he seemed to be. 

I remember the first time he brought his secretary, Linda, home. He had asked her for her opinion on the new blinds Jessie had bought. That first visit wasn't all that exciting, but one moment does stick out in my mind. David was explaining how he felt the teal shade didn't match with the wallpaper when he noticed Linda staring at his mouth. I don't think she realized it, but she was gently biting her bottom lip while doing so. David took note. 

The next time he brought her home, things weren't as platonic. They both longed for each other, and wasted no time getting down to business. They busted through the doors, and the rest is not worth repeating. 

The affair had begun. 

David and Linda have been coming home for the same "lunch break" for the past two years. Jessie has no idea. Nor does Jacob. The funny thing is, nobody notices that I understand what's happening around me. I understand that David is mere centimeters away from falling out of love with Jessie. The marriage is slowly collapsing, and there seems to be nothing that can salvage it. 

One thing that David does makes me wish I was capable of producing tears. Every time they come home together, David walks around the house and turns every picture frame onto its face. Once that process is complete, he removes his wedding ring and puts it in a cup on the kitchen counter. 

Though I can imagine he would never admit it, I know there's a deeply rooted sense of guilt within him. Every time he and Linda walk out of the door, he turns to the mirror just beside the front steps and simply gazes into his own eyes. He sits there, seemingly paralyzed, and just stares. It looks as though it's some form of self reflection, one that almost always ends in disgust. With each passing day, he seems to notice the ever-growing sadness and guilt swelling up inside. 


To be honest, I thought that since this was my utopia, it was everyones'. I thought everything, everyone, here was perfectly happy. The glitz and the glamour enticed me. For the first few years, before everything went spiraling down, I thought it was impossible to be depressed in this paradise. 

But I was wrong. 

It was just a few months after my arrival that I discovered just how damaged Jessie is. I was sleeping soundly in her bed when I was rudely awoken by dramatic sobs and loud, heart wrenching cries. Jessie just sat there, staring into the mirror, and cried for three hours. 

After this incident, I began to notice a pattern. Whenever no one was home, she would crawl into a ball and lay in bed, almost as if she was catatonic. If she wasn't sleeping, she seemed to live in a way that was simply going through the motions. Biologically, she was very much alive. But nothing was there. She wasn't there. 

The funny thing was, when David and Jacob would come home, Jessie would muster up the strength to put on her ever-so-typical facade. She became the ultimate housewife; catering to David's every need, helping Jacob with homework, and doing it all with a blatantly fake smile on her face. She wanted so badly to avoid being the sole reason this family was imperfect. She didn't know about David's lies or Jacob's secret. She thought they were just as perfect as the rest of the neighborhood families, and she would stop at nothing to maintain that reputation. Even if it meant her life. 

In my five years of living, I've gathered that depression is a very tragic disorder. The sitting around, the constant sobbing, and the perpetual sadness have all plagued Jessie for as long as I can remember. But all of those things pale in comparison to the numerous times I've seen Jessie wrestle with the thought of ending her own life. 

I remember one day last Fall, I had just come inside from the bathroom when I walked upstairs and jumped onto Jessie's bed. She didn't notice that I had entered because she was far too focused on what she was doing. She was sitting in her makeup chair across the room, staring at a bottle of Vicoden. Jacob had just gotten his wisdom teeth pulled. After the procedure, the doctor gave him a bottle of Vicoden to ease the pain, but, as in most cases, Jacob was only expected to take a few of the pills. Once Jacob had recovered, David took the extra pills and stored them in his safe. 

Jessie stared. Her eyes didn't move. She didn't blink once. 

Suddenly, she swung her arm down, wrapped her hand around the top of the bottle, and ripped the top off. Due to the fact that she had opened the bottle with such haste, many of the pills spilled out just as the top popped off. 

Jessie didn't reach down to pick the pills up. She just sat in her chair, maintaing the same blank face she always sported when she was alone. She looked down at the pills, then up at a picture of her, David, and Jacob. 

Without a single tear, without a single word, Jessie reached down, picked up the pills, and set them gently on the bathroom counter. 

This was no rare occurrence. Jessie contemplated suicide on a consistent basis, but, every time, it seemed as though she was halted by the same thing that had held her back her entire life: a lack of courage. After Jessie would think long and hard about removing herself from the world, she would walk into the bathroom, and stare at herself. 

She stared into her own eyes, almost as some sort of self reflection. She didn't see herself. She saw a scared, trapped, middle-aged woman who didn't want to live the same dull life she had been living for the past 23 years. She saw someone pathetic, someone longing for a way out. 


And then there was Jacob. 

Jacob was the model son. He excelled in all walks of life. Be it academics, athletics, or socially, Jacob was the kid whom everyone wanted to be. To many outsiders, Jacob's life could not have gotten any better. He belonged to a wealthy, seemingly happy family. And he was blessed with so many natural gifts. But, like I've said before, most didn't know Jacob like I know Jacob. 

You see, Jacob has this friend, Darrel. The two of them have been close friends since the beginning of Kindergarten. They are the dynamic duo of the school basketball team. They're the hotshots whom all of the girls drooled over. 

Darrel would often come over to work on school projects. When Jacob and Darrel would enter the home, they'd run straight to Jacob's room. I'd often peek my head in and observe whatever interesting experiment they were trying on that given day. But one day, I was shocked by their experiment. Their experiment was with each other.  

In a moment of extreme passion, I witnessed the true Jacob come out. When Darrel left that day, I sat and observed Jacob. At first, he was flushed, as if someone had just come and changed his life. But then, his face turned blank. He stared at the mirror in front of him, and cried. He was ashamed to be who he was. His father wouldn't accept him. His mother would be torn apart by the truth. But there he was, unable to change who he truly was. 

After that day, Jacob was never the same. His eccentricity became blandness. His general love of life disappeared. He became a ghost, seldom seen at home. Before it happened, he would greet me with tight hugs and wet kisses. But now he just looks at me, seemingly wondering if I know who he really is. 

I do. 

I know who they all are. 


Knowing everyone - and I mean really knowing everyone - hurt me. But life was livable. I was still happy to be out of the farm. I was still happy to have the fortune of being able to fill my stomach at night, and sleep soundly under shelter. But one day, everything that could have gone wrong, did. It was as if Karma was catching up with everyone at the same exact time. 

It was lunch time. 

David and Linda had just walked into the home. 

They made their way upstairs, undressed, and began making love. 

Just as David's door shut, the front door opened. 

It was Jacob. He had left school early. The other kids somehow found out about he and Darrel. He busted through the red double doors, tears rolling down his face, and sprinted to his bedroom. 

Just as his bedroom door slammed shut, the garage door opened. 

It was Jessie. She was supposed to be a yoga, but her instructor was sick, so she had decided to go home to grab a bite to eat. She walked up the front steps, and noticed noises coming from the bedroom. She slowly opened her door. 

She looked down and saw clothes. Underwear, a bra, pants, and shirts. She looked up and saw no one. She still heard noise. She heard laughter and moans. She walked toward the bathroom. She swung the door open, and there they were. David and Linda stood there, water covering their naked bodies, and froze. 

Jessie didn't speak. She didn't scream. She couldn't feel anything anymore. She just turned to the mirror in the bathroom and stared. She saw the same empty woman she had always seen. She saw someone who had driven her husband to infidelity. 

Jessie turned back to David, preparing to open her mouth. 

But suddenly, they heard a crash. The noise came from Jacob's room. 

David and Jessie rushed out of the bathroom, leaving Linda awkwardly behind. 

They arrived at Jacob's door. David twisted the handle, but the door wouldn't budge. 

Time slowed down. I remember seeing Jessie slam on the door, frantically screaming Jacob's name. David pushed on the door over and over. Then finally, he stepped back and kicked the hinges clean off. 

They began to run into his room, but were stopped by an inescapable truth. 

They looked down and saw a chair laying on the floor. 

They looked up and saw Jacob. 

They found a note below him. 

"Can we even call this world our reality if nobody acts as who they truly are?" 


This was all too much to take in for a German Shepherd from a farm in Ohio.                                                 


  1. A few can use the dog to guide us through the story but making the dog the narrator is tough (Call of the Wild comes to mind). It is easier for many, when they write stories to adopt some type of first person but you should have a reason and the "twist" at the end of this wasn't enough to jeopardize your voice. As a soft rule, use third person unless you have a reason. You will find much more freedom because the narrator is not bound by location. It can be an easy place for your voice to come through and make sure dialogue is something different.
    Stay away from suicide stories, just like dreams...overused and almost impossible to do well.
    Remove adverbs. Slow down your writing as action speeds up. Add tangible details, those thousand things you can recall later after the most intense moments.
    I got some more, but you are doing the most important part, keep writing.

  2. Hi! First I want to say that this is beautifully written. At the end, everything made sense. I actually gasped. But a few critiques:

    Don't be afraid to immerse us into the story. Show, don't tell. What this means is that you don't need to tell us that something is a certain way, or that something is happening, but to show us. Let us put the pieces together. I hope that makes sense. That way, we are more immersed in the story.

    Another thing. The dog idea is fabulous. However, I do think it's an awkward reveal at the end. Perhaps you can plant some more clues along the way so that you don't have to reveal it so obviously at the conclusion. Say something, like mentioning a tail or a dog bowl at the end, so that we know it's a dog, but we don't feel like you're holding the idea up to is and saying , " see it? See what i did?"

    Fantastic characters. Great message. Poor Jacob :( I actually had to figure out whether this was real for a while, but some things didn't add up (which is why the dog thing made sense at the end). Goodness gracious great balls of fire at the climax you had my heart pumping.

    You have a lot of talent-- great work :)