We have a mutually-agreed upon contract which indicates that if one of us dies, the other must feel very sad. For the most part, we adhere to the terms and conditions of the aforementioned deal, but naturally there are the necessary restrictions and exit clauses. For example, if one of us were to fuck the other’s girlfriend, the contract would become void. If one of us were to spend rent money on alcohol or drugs or anything other than rent (resulting in a failure to pay the rent, leading to our eviction), this too would render the contract obsolete.
However, we are both pretty good about avoiding those restrictions. We both play things pretty safe, we pay the rent on time, and neither of us have girlfriends.
We keep the contract in a glass dust-proof case in the dining room, right across from the window that receives the most natural light in the house, which shines brightly on our written agreement. On some days it rains and we don’t receive any sun and the lack of serotonin makes us want to sit in our rooms separately where we both feel glum. You handle it well, I do not. You make popcorn on these gloomy days and bring me a bowl. Now when it rains, I instinctively smell kernels popping.
One evening, the contract was nearly bought out when one of us came home and silently swallowed a significant number of pill capsules. When the other party arrived and saw what had happened, they nearly felt the impending sadness, but were able to call an ambulance in time to avoid a catastrophe and the coup de grâce of the agreement. We both rested a hand on the case and apologized to each other, and to the contract itself. We promise to get it laminated in order to keep it intact. However, despite the contract not being fulfilled, the resulting sadness didn’t pass from either for some time. Neither of us died, but we both felt less alive.
Sometimes, we have a couple too many beers and sit at the table beside the contract, telling stories of our childhood and our families. You tell me about your grandmother that had the “life’s greatest blessings call me grandma” bumper sticker beside another that said “if you’re going to ride my ass, at least pull my hair.” Our faces shine peach as we laugh and reminisce.
Other times, we drink even beyond that number and pretend that we are Hulk Hogan or The Rock or some other professional wrestler from our youth. We spar for a while before you eventually tackle me to the ground and place me in a headlock. I tap out onto your wrist. We collapse onto the carpet and stare up at the ceiling light with its two burnt bulbs.
You apologize for wanting to die. You plead forgiveness from the contract and me. You don’t look me in the eyes when you say it but I don’t hold it against you. You’re staring in the direction of the glass case in the corner of the room, the back of your head to me.
I think of your bicep around my throat, my lungs starved for air, and feeling no choice but to submit. I tell you I understand. We’re not professional wrestlers, we are amateur humans—and all we can do is try to honor the terms of our contract.
About the Author: Tucker Leighty-Phillips is a writer and student at Bucknell University. His work has previously been published on sidewalks, bar napkins, something called an "autograph tree," and the restroom at Brendee's in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. His Twitter is @TuckerRoseEmoji.