Published by Meredith Miller on Shakespir
Copyright 2016 Meredith Miller
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A Compendium for the Broken Hearted
Mirror Mirror on the Wall
Hands on a Watch
A Haunted Soul
People, it is said, are like trees in a forest. We are all different heights and shapes, different types as well. Some of us are useful for birds to nest on, or to build a house with, and some lucky few happen to carry all kinds of fruits, nooks and crannies for furry pillow like squirrels to hide their treasures, and are admired by whoever passes through the forest. There are two facts that remain true of all the trees in the forest, however. The first is that trees grow upwards, striving to reach their true height. The second is that it takes a combination of hard work and good soil for them to be the best they can be.
My soil was as average as could be. My parents were both office workers, hardworking yet fun if caught without the telltale signs of exhaustion evident on their faces. My brothers and I rarely had a proper home cooked meal, although my sister tried her best and was always able to get something edible into our tummies at dinner. The smell of spaghetti still summons good memories, which is wonderful news for a college student with little time on his hands to cook anything else. I was a habitual liar when I was younger, partly because I found myself smack in the middle of four siblings with more or less identical looks. At times, it would be useful to inflate my accomplishments a tiny bit, and dad’s approving smile kept the lies coming. Eventually he and my mother both frowned, and after a few missed fishing trips along the rivers next to Denver, I learned that parents having little opinion of you was better than being known as a liar.
When I was fifteen my younger brother got diagnosed with early onset diabetes. The case was manageable, and he was able to live a fairly normal life, but it left an impression on me. I decided early that a person’s health was not only fragile, but also to be protected. The doctor’s stern solemn manner, eyes hidden by the glare against his glasses, both frightened and left me in awe.
My grades had always been good through no real effort of my own, and I was able to go to a medical college not too far away from my hometown. By then I was old enough to forget childish dreams, although not yet old enough to rediscover them. It took a certain medical student to alert me of that fact.
Being barely twenty years old, my first instinct was to party, especially after my highschool sweetheart, who shall forever be unnamed, managed to find a chink in iron armor of indifference and grazed a tender spot left unmanned. He was my roommate in my first year, sharing dorm-room seventeen in building number three. Unlike me, the dark haired man had piercing eyes, despite being forever hunched over some book or the other. He dark circles hung beneath, and his tight angular jaw showed slight signs of being set a bit too often. His smile came slow and didn’t last long, but the man was kind. He helped with assignments when he could, and let me and my friends hang out in our room while he went elsewhere to study. Sometimes he even stayed and would listen while he worked. After a month or so, we came to think of one another as friends.
The dark haired tall man did not say much about himself. One day, I asked him why he needs to study so hard. “You see, Jamie,” he remarked slowly, his eyes glued on a tome while he sat hunched over his small old brown coffee stained table, “I am just not as smart as you are.”
“Nonesense, your grades are way better than mine. There’s nothing wrong with relaxing a bit and destroying all of the medical student stress from time to time.” I scratched at my head, thinking that perhaps I needed to change the shampoo I was using. I had noticed a few blonde hairs graying here and there, and hoped to god that paranoia was the extent of my worries.
“You’re a natural. I need to work this hard to keep up at all. I didn’t use to wear glasses until two years ago.”
“Huh… wait, so just studying a few years made you need glasses? Woah!” I couldn’t really believe what he said, but played along. “So what were you doing before that?”
“Goofing around. Turned out to be useless.” He was a few years my senior, and so I could somehow understand the man’s difference in attitude, or at least appreciate it.
“Huh?” He had lost me, being so caught up in his book, and so I had to repeat myself. “Our years of goofing around will never come back.”
“So we may as well have fun. What are you in such a hurry then?” He glanced at me in annoyance, then noticed the chocolate bar on my bed. After a glance and gesture, I handed it over with a grin. For once, he smiled but went back to his book, ignoring me.
I didn’t understand most of the man’s old methods, but at least he and I agreed on music and didn’t bother one another. Metallica would blare in the background whilst he studied and I procrastinated or went somewhere to have fun. Don’t get me wrong, I also worked, but never as hard as Landon. Another convenience was that due to his financial situation, he and I shared books that I bought. Honestly, I would have bet anything that he enjoyed the company on some quiet level. I’d often see his expression change whenever some of my friends were joking around in our room, and a glimmer would sometimes enter them. I don’t think he wanted to be alone.
The tipping point in our friendship came when, in our third year, a one-time grant of five hundred dollars was offered for the best report on a certain case that had happened in our affiliated hospital. An old woman had reacted badly to her physical therapy, and she had broken her knee in a strange way due to it.
Now, we were supposed to do the report either way, but Landon took to it like a madman. By then I knew him rather well, although I knew nothing about his family still. He’d met my oldest sister, who came by the year before and made us her homemade spaghetti with little hotdogs inside, and knew a little less about my other siblings and parents, who were now well on their way to retirement. My father liked him, and often told him to keep an eye out for me. Landon had dutifully promised he would. However, I truly did not understand his fascination with money. I’d known that he paid his way using loans and side jobs, but to be perfectly honest, I took notice of his tattered clothes and one sweater. It seemed like a bit much, even for him, and made me sure that my friend was slightly cheap.
One night, He was working as usual whilst two of my buddies came over. We were busy doing something or the other, talking loudly over the music, and suddenly he snapped, “Will you guys be quiet already!” All of a sudden a hush fell over the room and I turned the music promptly off. One of my friends tried to go the humorous route. She said, “Looks like somebody needs a little bit of candy in their syste-“
“That’s it, get out.” With barely another word, Landon got the protesting guy and girl out of the room. He then sat back down at his table, a lamplight shedding illumination on a corner of his standing up jet black hair.
“That, uh, wasn’t that cool, you know?” I said to him, still seated on my bed. He was looking anywhere but at my face.
“Sorry, I’ll apologize tomorrow. I just really need to finish this assignment.”
“For the prize money?”
He nodded. “I really need that money.”
“What for, man? I know you’re paying tuition just fine. You’re not even buying anything with the money you save up each month. No books, nothing in your wardrobe. We don’t have any responsibilities!”
I began to heat up at his nonchalant manner. “So, I think you’re being cheap for no reason. Live a little!”
The man’s eyes widened. “Live a-“ he chuckled, the sound leaving him with the difficulty of the unaccustomed. “Just forget it, man.”
From that day on, my and Landon’s relationship became strained. We didn’t say much to each other, and stayed away from our room whenever possible, coming back only to work and sleep. We barely said a word to one another until the month after, when we handed in our assignments and he apologized, saying his issues are no excuse for bad behavior. I apologized as well, telling him that I’m there if he needed to blow some steam. We chuckled and walked home slowly.
In the end, Landon won the scholarship, but it wasn’t until a few months after that I saw him walk into a store and buy an expensive looking telescope. I had accidentally witnessed the matter, and so did not ask him about the strange wrapped parcel under his bed. Curiosity burned deep in me.
The day after, around ten O’clock when the birds get motivated for a second round of chirping, I saw Landon from our room window. He was strolling outside across the grass, to an older man who I assumed must have been his father. I saw them hug, talk a little, then walk around to our building. I prepared myself.
A knock came shortly, announcing the visitors. I feigned surprise, jumping from my chair. “Oh, hello, sir,” I said to the older man first, noting that he did not look much like Landon.
“Jamie, I would like you to meet Reverend Hegbert Sullivan,” announced the young man, taking a deep breath. “My father in law.”
There was no need to feign surprise at that moment. I looked from the older man to the younger in surprise. “Your…”
“Oh wow! I didn’t know. He looks a little like you. So where’s the lucky lady?” Reverend Sullivan looked uncomfortable, so I backed off a little.
Landon’s sad true smile was the only answer I needed. I reflected on how people, like trees, differed depending on what soil they were planted in.
Thank you so much for reading this story! This one is actually a little bit of fan fiction, written for my best friend’s benefit. If you would like to find more of my work, such as the social anthology “A Compendium For The Broken Hearted”, it would make me happy. Also, please consider finding me on .