Bringing Charlie Back (Rewrite)
She’s come over like I asked, and now all I can do is stare at her. My gaze seems to physically agitate her. I need to say something. “Well are you gonna fucking speak?” I should’ve written a script. How do I explain this, to her, of all people? My mind frantically shuffles through a repertoire of apologies. I can’t open my mouth. I think they’d all fall out at once.
“I swear you’ll never understand how sorry I am. I was just… well I was put in a tough situation.”
“Damnit, Chase! You could’ve saved him!” I could’ve saved him. Those words made my intestines twist.
She turns to leave. She probably can’t stand to be near me any longer, yet she seems hesitant to go. I think maybe she needs this closure as much as I do, and I think maybe she wants to stay. So I grab her arm and I’m taken aback by how violently she throws me off. And now I think maybe I was wrong. I remember when I’d touch her and she’d pull in closer. It kills me that I may never have that effect again.
“If you don’t want me to leave then stop me! Just snap your fucking fingers and stop me!” She doesn’t get it. There are rules. “It’s so damn easy for you. All you had to do was say a word or move your hands - whatever the hell it is you do. But you didn’t. You just watched - probably with that same damned expression on your face, as if it hurts you more! As if you’re the one who’s dead.” She takes a moment to calm down. By no means for my sake, but only to regain the ability to speak. “As if he was your brother.” The words tremble, and that makes them hit even harder. I suddenly inherit their same quality and need to sit. At least now I can shake without the fear of collapsing. I guess it’s illogical to sit on the floor while in a living room, which obviously has furniture. I mean I can’t remember exactly how many chairs or the location of the couch at the moment, and I don’t bother to look, but I’m sure they haven’t disappeared or anything. It’s me that’s not present. It makes sense to not care that I’m on the floor, because I’m not on the floor at all, well I am but not really. Really, I’m on the side of the road.
“There were people there,” I choke out. “So many people. They would’ve noticed, all those people, they would’ve seen and then they would’ve known. And Charlie - Charlie, he just wanted to prove himself to the others so badly. I told him not to - I fucking told him that it was a stupid game; he wouldn’t listen!” I’m sweating. Moist arms brush mine, or was it my arms that were moist? My immediate thought was that their sweat was seeping onto me, but it could just as easily be mine onto them.
“They all wanted to see it. Didn’t think the eight-year-old would have the balls, but he did. He went right to the edge of the road and waited for a car. I told him, I swear I told him. I even pulled him back and said we were leaving, but he wouldn’t have it. I’d never seen a more determined kid in my life, but I knew he was scared. He gets that look in his eyes, sort of cringes them when he’s trying to seem tough.” All this cheering. Charlie soaks it in, absorbing it like a sponge. It makes him feel a lot bigger than he is.
"But he stayed anyways. He told me he wasn’t gonna quit ‘til at least one car had flown by him. I can’t believe those kids, giving Charlie highfives, calling him a badass and all that. Man he loved it, but of course it wasn’t worth it, right? Because he seemed untouchable, but that car was big. Big, and red, and fast. We were all standing on the side of the road and I swear that thing was going 60. I remember watching Charlie take off for the other side and looking at the car approach, just thinking he’s gonna make it, he’s gotta make it. But that’s when I saw him start to slow down. He would’ve been fine you know? Did you know that? The kid would’ve been ok if he’d of just kept running, but damn he must’ve been scared shitless. Just 8 years old, hearing a speeding car just a few feet away. I probably would’ve froze up, who wouldn’t have? I saw his face get all nervous and his feet start to shuffle, and I yelled at him to run faster but I guess he had too much adrenaline to listen.” A scream. It’s all I have. All I can do is watch from the sidelines and scream.
“Anyways, for whatever reason it must not have gotten across to him because he just sort of stood there when the car hit. I don’t really remember where it hit him just the blood, so much fucking blood.” Somewhere I hear an anguished gasp, sobbing? But it doesn’t hold my attention. How could anything hold my attention when there’s blood by my shoes. “When the car stopped Charlie was actually partly under it. That’s how fast the man stomped his brakes. But it was too late. “Died on impact.” And god, the driver! Just kept blubbering on as he called the police about “how the hell was he supposed to avoid hitting a kid who seemed to have appeared out of thin air?!” He was right though. Can’t really blame him."
"If you think about it, it was just those kids. Who would want to play a game like that? Explain to me how that’s fun? So you see, I couldn’t have stopped it. I really couldn’t have, not in front of all those kids, those stupid fucking kids. They would’ve seen me muttering some shit and sticking out my hands like a witch, they would’ve known! I mean, they would’ve seen! So do you see? Do you see why I sat there and watched, do you get it? There was nothing else to do - I - I really - there was nothing I could do! Right, I mean there wasn’t a single thing!”
I feel something on my cheek and realize it’s a hand. I blink a few times and slowly appears Rachel. Her face is so close to mine. It would’ve been lovely if it weren’t so swollen and pained. I can’t bear it. A potent mix of love and guilt and desperation burns my chest.
“So bring him back,” I can feel the air roll over my lips, her breath hot from crying. She’s that close, but it’s not enough. I grab her arm; she doesn’t pull away. The throbbing in my head that I never even noticed existed until it was gone subsides. Suddenly there’s a possibility that I haven’t lost her too, but it may only be for a second.
“Bring him back? Rache I - that’s the type of shit you see in movies.”
“There has to be a way Chase. If anyone can do it it’s you! Haven’t you ever heard anything? Stories, legends, anything?”
“Well there is one, but… I mean it might not even work.”
“Whatever it is, Chase we need to do it!” I don’t think she understands what she’s asking.
“Rache, it’s not that simple. There needs to be a balance. It’s-”
“- I know.” She does? “I’ve been looking into it.” My mind starts to swim. She knows. And she’d have me do it anyways. I mean I understand it’s her brother, I love him too, but to do that to someone else. To have me do that to someone else. Is this fair of her to ask? Is it now my duty to her, to him? But she must have seen my discomfort because I feel her hand slide down from my cheek to caress the side of my neck, and now I’m thinking that maybe it is. The way she’s searching in my eyes right now, I’m thinking it must be. “I would do it myself if I was like you. I mean I would’ve just stopped the fucking car if I was like you.”
“Rache - “
“- I know, I know. Not in front of everyone. But this, we can plan. It’ll be difficult sure, but come on, I mean it’s Charlie. If it were anyone else maybe it wouldn’t be worth it… He had so much ahead of him; he’s special. You know how much he’ll do for the world?” In a way she’s right. Is it possible that it wouldn’t be such an awful thing? If he grew up to benefit society, as he very well would have, would it be worth the price? Morally it’s wrong, unarguably unfair, but if it’s for the greater good… Maybe choose someone who never really had a chance anyways. I mean at eight years old it’s sort of hard to tell, but what eight-year-old could possibly have more potential than Charlie?
“We’ll need to be smart about this,” and her face lights up.
“So you’ll do it? You’ll bring him back?” Feelings of guilt and uncertainty melt away. How could this be bad? Just look at her smile.
“If anyone deserves life, it’s Charlie. I’ll bring him back to you, Rache.” Her face presses against mine as she hugs me. She holds so tight, and I get this feeling she’ll never let go.