I never have really liked apologies. Hearing people give them out has always made me feel some level of guilt for whatever reason, more so when I’m on the receiving end of them. I basically cringe at the soft and occasionally weepy voice that floats out those delicate words, as if they’re some beg for forgiveness. I get it, you feel bad, but let’s just move up and out past this time and forward. Leave the past behind please.
I suppose that’s an odd sentiment for somebody like me to hold anyway. Who would dare think that I, somebody who has vowed their major in college to be history, would want to move on and be done with the past? I can spend day after day in the lecture hall while my stocky grey haired professor rambles in monotone about the revolutionary nature of sowing barley seeds in the ancient Middle East and to the disgust and horror of my peers feel enthused. But, when people mess up and sin against me, all I want to do is go into stasis and sleep till the next day. Wake up, shower, try and move on because whatever has happened has happened and actions cannot be undone.
It was last December that apologies had become a recurring theme in my life. I had come home in the middle of the day after an argument with my girlfriend and we both needed space. As I opened my front door the reek of bleach and industrial soap stung my nostrils. I knelt down to shake the saddle bag from my shoulder and rest it beside the living room’s pink sofa. As I rose again my head tilted to my staircase to notice naked pillows on top of it. The cases had been removed. The hallway light was on too.
“Alex?” I called up to my brother. A man in black dashed from some room and ran down the stairs, his heavy boots cracking on every creaky step like thunder and lightning. The next second moved at the speed of a minute. Absorb every detail of this scene, burn into my mind forever so that every time I try to sleep I see it. A young man in a baggy black jacket that went over his waist stomps in a rush towards me. His light coloured eyes framed in the ratty black mask over his face. His gloved hands tracing my banister as he heads down so to steady himself, knowing he needs to be careful not to lose his step. Running down stairs in heavy winter boots is not an easy thing at all. As he swears death threats, my mind goes numb and tries to decipher what he’s saying. Is Alex wearing a mask while cleaning because the fumes are bad for his lungs? Is he yelling at me because he wants me to get out and not inhale the fumes? Oh wait, this isn’t my brother. This is a robber. Yeah, I’m about to be robbed. A pistol’s handle hammers into my jaw and I can taste the blood touch my tongue from the very second my lip rips. Iron.
After a day of gory details, of being beaten, hooded, tied up in my own home and dazed by a concussion, I stood outside of the emergency room in the December frost without shoes, without a jacket, without a phone or wallet or keys. Most people who have been violated cannot think well afterward. Their minds are tied up in their emotions, in their trauma, in confusion. I was not like that, and in fact was so calm after the fact that detectives arrived in my hospital room to accuse me of staging the crime myself,— for why else would somebody be collected and have their wits about them after being assaulted and robbed? Apes. As I stood there waiting for my ride, my mind went to one thought: Beth. I have to tell Beth. Oh my god, how have I not told Beth? Well, I was robbed and was a bit busy until now, but seriously I need to tell Beth!
I struggled to get a hold of her, after all it was 2018 and nobody had phone numbers memorized. In the car my mother told me that she had the phone number of Beth’s sister from some event or another a year ago. I called her, I texted her, I begged her to tell me Beth’s phone number. Her response? ‘Oh just message her online.’
Thanks for the help, Stace.
My sense of time was distorted, and I’m sure that was in part due to the fact that my skull had been batted at half a dozen times, and the whole experience seemed like a practice in surrealism. Some seconds felt like minutes and some minutes felt like hours and some hours had passed and felt about as fast as an eye blinks. Needless to say that the twenty minute ride home took my mind on a slow motion tour of the rush hour traffic between my house and the hospital. I got home, scrambled on to my laptop, which had been thrown across the room by a burglar but was still functional, and I messaged her a brief summation of what had happened. I told her I was okay and asked if she would please see me. And did I mention how slowly time was passing at this moment? If twenty minutes is two hours in post-assault time, then imagine the eight and a half hour long wait between my message and her response. It’s about two in the morning, and I’m wide awake because sleeping is now an impossibility before I get the first message she sends me after learning that I’d been pistol whipped to the point of a cracked rib.
‘Omg that’s fucked.’
I have never cared for apologies. I have spent years feeling uncomfortable with receiving them, plagued by some sense of guilt for somebody being sorry and for some inexplicable reason why. It could very well be some sort of self loathing that deems myself unworthy or maybe something about the shame of people when they lend me their sorrows.
While I can pretend that on the early December morning I wanted to simply move on and forget the past day, move on and forget the argument, move on and forget the robbery, move on and forget that that was her response I cannot allow myself to. Every night I see the light eyes of a wild man as he hunts me through my house. Every night I remember that was her first response. Those are the words that will be ingrained in my memory whenever I recall this day. Those are the words that will float through my skull as I make ill fated attempts to sleep.
People say their apologies to me. Don’t say you feel sorry for what I’ve been through. Don’t wish me well after everything. Please, don’t lend me any apologies, don’t lend me any empty words. I don’t want a false utterance about how you understand when you don’t, about how things will get better. I don’t need your downtrodden words to make me feel safer. All you need to do to show you care is be there, not detached from me via the single sentence of a text.
A freshman and merit scholar at Concordia University in Chicago, Jefferson is an avid reader and a history major. He has been previously published by The Westerner. Jefferson’s favorite poet is Wilfred Owen, and his favorite author is Anthony Burgess.