VOICES: The Interviews
Allow me tell you about the little project AJ Brown and I are working on. In the coming months, one character from each story in AJ Brown’s collection VOICES will be interviewed by me! Hmm… Actually, let me tell you what AJ says about our project:
“No, this is not your typical interview session. What I want to do is make each interview like a story, one that continues until we reach the end. Some of these are going to be short. Some of them might be long. I don’t know. Like you, I will find out just how long each interview is based on the questions Lisa provides me. I don’t know the questions ahead of time and neither do the characters.
Since this is an interview, I will go ahead and say up front there are spoilers in each session. If you have not read Voices, I urge you to do so before continuing. If you haven’t read the collection, you have been made aware of possible spoilers.”
So, as the man says, Spoiler Alert!
* Spoiler Alert * Spoiler Alert * Spoiler Alert *
While this project was originally intended to be a promotional piece, it has taken on a life of its own… or maybe the characters have taken over. It’s hard to say. Read Voices, follow the interviews here and at Type AJ Negative… let me know what you think.
Voices: The Interviews
Session : Lena and Nothing
Lisa looks away from where Mr. Worrywort slinked off to when she hears a sound. A young woman, possibly in her early twenties, but maybe even in her late teens, rights Mr. Worrywort’s seat and sets it back in the U. Others watch her, but say nothing. She is pretty, a blonde with sharp cheekbones, thin lips and hauntingly beautiful blue eyes. Her hair falls to the middle of her back and when she leans over to set the chair right it looks like a yellow veil has been placed on her head. She is petite, but not brittle in appearance. In truth, Lisa finds her very pretty, strikingly so.
“Thank you,” she says to the young woman.
“You’re welcome.” She is polite and gives a slight curtsy with her statement.
“What’s your name?”
Ahhhh … Lisa thinks and looks around at the faces of the other characters. She had expected Nothing to be here, not Lena, but she doesn’t see anyone who might fit his description.
Lena nods, “Hi.” Her cheeks turn pink and she looks down at her hands. She twists several of her fingers together, almost as if she wants to turn them into knots.
“You’re … umm … you’re Nothing’s girlfriend, right?”
The pink in her cheeks darkens to two blossoms of red. “Yes, Ma’am,” she says without looking up.
“You know, Lena, you and I have something in common.”
Lena looks from her hands up at Lisa. Their eyes meet and Lisa sees the clear blue of Lena’s and it almost takes her breath away.
No wonders he loves her.
“Yes. We both believe in loyalty.”
Lena doesn’t respond to this.
“You are very loyal to him, aren’t you? Loyal to Mr. Nothing?”
It sounds weird in her own ears. Mr. Nothing, as if the boy this girl loves is nothing … nothing to her, nothing to anyone. Adding a prefix to his name doesn’t change the way loyalty to nothing sounds to her. A tinge of sadness touches her heart.
Lena shrugs. She is looking at her hands again.
“Loyalty is … loyalty is good. It’s a good thing, Lena. Don’t you think so?”
Lisa take’s a deep breath, let’s it out as a loud sigh. Just ask her the other question.
“So, Lena, I was wondering, are you actually into his fetish for cutting and scarring, or do you participate in it out of loyalty?”
Lena’s bright blue eyes grow wide, her mouth drops open. She closes it, then shakes her head. “I … I …what?”
“Do you not understand the question?”
Lena nods. “I … I understand it, but it’s … it’s not a fair question.”
“Okay, okay,” Lisa says.
“You wouldn’t understand.”
Lisa smiles softly. Maybe I shouldn’t have been so direct. “Look, I do understand what happened. I really do. But, what is in your past that you would embrace a relationship with someone like him?”
“Someone like him?”
“Yes. Someone like him. I mean, do you even know his real name?”
“His real name?”
“You know, he has to have an actual name. Nothing? Really? Is that his real name? It can’t be.”
“I … I …” She looks around. Her hands clench together. Lena’s neck twitches. She bites her bottom lip and one of her feet bounces on the floor.
She’s freaking out, Lisa thinks. She starts to speak, to try and calm the young woman down. “Lena, it’s okay …”
The door opens. In steps a tall young man. He is lanky and has no hair. A loop earring is in his right ear. He wears a long-sleeved gray shirt buttoned all the way to his throat, and baggy black pants. There are no shoes on his feet. There’s a puckered scar along his chin and others pocking his cheek and neck, and one directly under his right eye. He closes the door gently behind him and walks over to the U shaped group. He grabs the chair Lena had righted minutes earlier, the one Mr. Worrywort had cast aside when he abruptly stood and slinked off to the corner where he, no doubt, sits, staring and listening to the voices of the rest of the participants in this … group interview. But is that what it is? Lisa isn’t too sure. She thinks it is more like a group therapy session, with each person here dealing with their own demons, trying to escape their own pasts, escape their own presents, and maybe forget their own futures.
The young man picks up the chair and walks down a few spots. He looks at the guy sitting next to Lena. “D’you mind?” he asks and nods for the kid to move down. The boy says nothing, only moves his chair to the right. The person next to him does the same; all of them do until the gap left from the empty spot Mr. Worrywort had vacated is closed. The young man sits down, looks at Lena and takes her hand.
“It’s okay, Baby,” he says and he sounds like he is not just in love with her, but is her protector, maybe even her savior. Or maybe it is the other way around.
“Mr. Nothing, I assume. Good of you to join us.”
Nothing looks at her, but there is contempt playing on his face, a sneer on his lips. Like Lena, his eyes are captivating. Unlike Lena’s, his are green. He looks back at the pretty girl, whispers something to her. She whispers back, then cast a mournful glance toward Lisa.
“Why?” he asks Lisa.
He catches her off guard with his sudden question. It strikes her as an accusation, as if she has done something wrong, and not him, the young man who mutilated his father with the broken neck of a beer bottle. “Why what?”
“Why did you try to hurt her?”
“I wasn’t trying to hurt her. I meant no offense. Really.”
He whispers to Lena again. She nods, but she doesn’t smile.
“You have questions?”
“I do, too.”
“Okay, Mr. Nothing—“
“It’s Nothing. Just Nothing. No mister, no last name. Just Nothing.”
“Okay. Nothing it is,” Lisa responds, then adds, “I was actually hoping to get to speak with you.”
“Okay,” Lisa says and licks her lips. She wishes she had a notepad with a list of questions on them, but she hadn’t been prepared to step into the room, not like this at least. “Like I said to Lena—“
“Do you love?” Nothing asks, interrupting her.
“Do I love?”
“Yes. Do you love?”
“I love my husband.”
“No. Do you love?”
Lisa shakes her head. “I just told you I do.”
“You said you love your husband.”
“I do. Very much so.”
Nothing laughs. “You love … a person. But do you love?”
“Yes. I love. Deeply.”
Nothing and Lena exchange glances. One side of her lips curl up. Her eyes aren’t quite dazzling, but Lisa sees something in them that could be good for her.
“Ask your question,” Nothing says.
“Okay. As I was telling Lena, I understand why you felt the need to do what you did.”
“What did I do?”
“Excuse me? What did you do?”
“You killed your father.”
“You understand what that is like?”
“I said I understand why you needed to kill him.”
“How? How could you know that?”
“I just do.”
“There’s only one way I COULD understand isn’t there!?” She clenches her teeth. She fights back the urge to stand and walk up to Nothing. She fights the urge to slap him hard across his pale, scarred face. She fights the urge to say ‘screw it, I’m done,’ and leave the interview and not look back. She can. She knows she can, but she doesn’t. Instead, her jaw relaxes and she takes a deep breath, letting it go before speaking evenly, “I apologize for the outburst, Nothing. I won’t claim my … um … history is quite the same as yours, but I do understand the impulse, the desire to fix something or right a wrong or just get good old fashion revenge on someone. I just never would have followed through with such compulsions. All I really want to know is … why? Why would you follow through with it?”
Nothing eyes her. His jaw moves from side to side. He is leaning forward in his chair, his elbows on his knees. Lisa sees him then for who he is: a scared child just looking for love and acceptance.
“You say you understand.”
“Then answer me this: Do you hate?”
It’s Lisa’s turn to laugh. She brushes a lock of dark hair from her eyes. She is not smiling when she responds. Even if she wants to, she doesn’t think she can. “Do I hate? Oh, I did. Oh, I most certainly did. And sometimes I still do.”
Nothing nods. “Me too.”
“The difference between you and I is I never let it consume me. I certainly could have, maybe even should have. But I didn’t.”
Silence fills the room. With the exception of a gleeful laugh from Mr. Worrywort in the corner, there are no sounds to be heard.
“It’s your turn to answer my question: why did you follow through on your compulsion to kill your father?”
Ten seconds pass. Twenty more follow. A full minute of silence ensues. Nothing stands. He unbuttons his shirt and slips it off his shoulders, dropping it to the floor. He wears a white t-shirt now. He pulls this off as well. There are several audible sounds of disgust and wonder and shock from the other characters.
Nothing doesn’t stop there. He unsnaps his belt and the button that holds his pants closed. He unzips and drops his pants. He steps out of them and stands before them as naked as the day he came into the world. Nothing lifts his hands out to his side and slowly spins around for each of them to see the multitude of scars lining his body, the puckered, discolored skin that will never be smooth again.
When he has come full circle, he bends down, picks up his pants and slides it back on. He sits down, but doesn’t move to put either of his shirts back on.
“This is me. This is who I am. I am hate. I am nothing. And he made me this way.” He pauses, looks at Lena. She nods. The look on her face is hopeful, like a mother’s would be if her child was afraid of something and finally facing it. “He was my hate and as long as he was alive, I could never love.”
“Why involve her?”
A smile, genuine and warm, crosses his face. “Because she is my love. Without her, I couldn’t have faced him and I would still hate, not just him, but myself, my life. Now … now … I love.”
“I can see that,” Lisa says. It’s true. She does see what most probably have never glimpsed. She also knows a truth she didn’t before. It is Lena who helped Nothing overcome his fear, overcome the monster that had stalked him his entire life with words of hate and loathing. It wasn’t his idea to kill his father. It was hers. And he had followed her lead and allowed her to scar him, not the way his father had, but with their version of affection. “I have one more question, if that is okay?”
“What is it?” He is holding one of Lena’s hands now. His leg is next to hers, his foot touching hers. There is no doubt in Lisa’s mind that they are meant to be together, that they are destined for one another.
“Nothing, what is your real name?”
He stares at her, as if contemplating the meaning of life. Lisa thinks he knows the meaning. It is love and not much more.
“Honestly, I don’t know. I thought I might remember after he died, but I don’t. As far back as I can remember, my father called me nothing, so nothing I became. I am Nothing. No one else. There is no other name.”
Lisa smiles at this. It is a truth, and if not, then it is the truth she will take with her when this is over. “Fair enough, Nothing. Thank you for your time. And, Lena, thank you, also. If I upset you, I’m sorry.”
Nothing and Lena look at each other, their eyes lock and remain that way for several seconds. Finally, Lisa pulls her own gaze away and settles them on the next person she has questions for …
To be continued …