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Everything and Nothing (1 Viewer)



“Do you ever have the feeling that someone, somewhere is calling to you, but you just can’t here it?” he asked over breakfast. We were both between jobs at the time, and spent most of our time in a restaurant called Bunny’s Hangout talking about life and planning ways to make money. Conversations, especially after recent failures, often turned philosophical with little prodding from me.

“No,” I said, after pondering the question for a moment as I sipped my milk, “I can’t say that I have. Oh, I’ve had the feeling that someone is calling for me, but I turn around and someone is always there. I take it that you have?”

He paused a moment and drunk from his cup. Neither one of us could ever stand coffee, the smell, the taste; everything about it was detested by us. We had conversed on how coffee only sells for the caffeine and companies adding extras to it to make it palatable. So he had just finished swallowing orange juice when he replied, “Yes,” he said in his usual way. He spoke neither fast nor slow; just the right speed. Every word of his was thoughtful; “I constantly hear them. Hear isn’t the right word. They speak through an inaudible whisper, but quieter. You have to feel what they’re saying, ears are no help.”

“So what is it that they say to you?”

Neither one of us had enough money to actually eat breakfast. We saved up for dinner and on occasion bought lunch. But we never had food for breakfast. It was just he with his juice and I with my milk. It drove the waitresses mad, and they threatened to kick us out any number of times. They just didn’t have the heart. One of the waitresses once brought us pancakes and eggs on the house. She was fired later that day. Sometimes other people, waiters, chefs, fellow customers, would offer us food. But neither one of us has eaten breakfast since that day; as a tribute to her, if nothing else.

“Everything, and nothing. Everything and nothing.” He repeated the words as he gazed off into space. His line of sight met with a corner in the ceiling, but he kept staring beyond it. In time his eyes returned and locked on me in that piercing gaze that I have grown all to custom to, “I can’t put it into words, Jake. The feelings are meant to be felt, not heard. Sometimes they call my name, only it isn’t my name. It’s sad and joyful, defeated and triumphant, all at once. No ordinary name can sound so wonderful, least of all not mine. And it’s not just my name either…”

He trailed off, returning his gaze past the corner in the ceiling. Ever since I had known him, he had a habit of doing this. He would be talking, having a conversation, and then he would look away. What he was saying was no longer important, so he would focus his attention elsewhere, at something that didn’t seem like anything at all. Other people would complain about this, and question him why. He would offer them no answer. I knew better than this. Any conversation that he becomes a part of is his, and is his to do with as he pleases. I’ve never been bothered by this. He was a very free willed person, and any attempt to restrain him would be looked down upon.

Besides, through experience I had learned that he always would return to the topic at hand, although it was in his own time, and no one else’s. This conversation was no different than any other, “… it’s words and stories, and not just sounds but sights and tastes and smells. But you can’t hear, see, taste or smell any of them. Only feel. They tell you everything, and yet nothing is told to you. Everything and nothing.”

Were he any other man talking to anyone but me, his next words would likely be amongst the crowd of ‘I may sound crazy.’ But he was himself, and I was mine, and so no such thing needed saying. We have both been thought crazy before by any number of people, but never by each other. He was almost put away once actually. He was discussing with a policeman the speed at which his car (which sadly is no more) was traveling. After hearing enough theories as to the relativity of time and speed, and after waiting for twelve minutes while he stared beyond the stars, the officer was ready to consider him insane. Had a much better car not been speeding twice that of my friend’s car, he most likely would be in some sort of asylum now.

“And how often do you hear them?”

“Often and never, Jake. Often do I feel their call, yet never have I truly heard them. Often and never. When I hear them, I try and listen. I ignore all else that is going on, nothing else is important then. There is…”

Again his eyes locked beyond the ceiling. It seemed that after every failure, these stares grew more frequent and longer. It is necessary that you understand why neither of us has much success finding and retaining any sort of employment. It is not that we lack the skills or the intelligence, in fact quit the opposite. Both of us are rather intelligent people, and neither one can stand conversing with a fool. It’s seldom that we get fired, but we refuse to work and deal with people whose intellect is equal to a child. And so when I say failure, I mean simply that we have failed to find a job that either one of us can stand.

And again his eyes returned, “…not anything that I could say or do then, or hear or see, that rivals the significance of these calls.” There was no speaking for a moment, I was trying to process the information that had been given me, and he was looking around the restaurant at the last of the breakfast crowd leaving. He then glanced down at his watch, and saw the time two hours later than when we had entered. After a moments more of thought, he announced, “Well, I’m done here. Ready to go?”

I agreed, and we left with a dollar and a quarter more in our place. On the way, I spoke not a word, and all noise was ignored for the whistling of my friend. He had a truly marvelous singing voice, but seldom sang and frequently whistled. His reasoning was that music is a language that needs no words. You can feel the song better when there are no lyrics to distract your ears. This day as we walked the melody of an old English tune flew from his lips.

Our financial standings required that one of us needed to get a job soon, which was easily enough accomplished. Over the past three years, we had a steady circuit of places where we would labor until our patience was stretched too far. The employers here were good people, who understood our dilemma and took pity upon us. One such place was a bookstore hidden between two towering buildings, and this is where we headed for this morning. Joe Carlyle, the owner, welcomed us back eagerly, saying that our replacements had left earlier that week. He found it pointless to advertise ‘Help Wanted,’ as he estimated that we would return within a few days.

It was here that we spent the rest of the day, in further discussion between customers. We started out discussing how the overwhelming spirit of patriotism that had settled on the country left the American public willingly blind and overly trusting to the activities of the government. From there, the conversation had evolved into him saying, “We’re at a disadvantage in at least one way to Middle Eastern countries. If they have any sort of enemy, they can claim that it is the will of a divine being that they wage war against it. America no longer believes in one supreme being and so we have lost…”

For the third time during the conversation he stopped talking to me and looked past a shelf full of science fiction. I continued rereading A Marvelous Work and a Wonder as the past two pauses had lasted close to twenty-five minutes each. I was rather surprised when he spoke again, as it was within a matter of second and no longer pertaining to what he had been saying.

“Jake,” his tone was no longer the calm, steady tone that I knew, “the question must be asked, if you found me dying tomorrow, what would you do?”

I was at a loss for words. Never before had he completely ignored what he was talking about. He would often find the current conversation dull, or nearing it’s end, and slowly but obviously guide it to new life. This was his habit, and it made for endless discussions that could span from the significance of James Watt on the industrial revolution to the ethics of genetically modifying humans. And it was not that we have never spoken of death, nor of our own deaths, but whenever we do we consider it a ways in the distance. The change in his speech, mixed with the urgency that he asked the question, left me silent for some time.

“Well Jake, what would you do?” It was uncommon for either of us to prod along the other in a conversation. We realize and respect that in order for truly thoughtful comments to be spoken, they must be considered first, and these things take time.

“Well…I don’t know. I’ve never really considered the possibility of either of us dying in the immediate future. If we live our lives with the image of death constantly lurking in the shadows then we can by no…”

“Jake. I am sorry, but please answer me now,” I sat there a moment further, considering this further deviation from static. My thinking was soon interrupted, “PLEASE!”

“I don’t know, and I don’t know how I could know. I doubt there would be a period of disbelief, I know you well enough to know that you would never joke in such a way. If you were not yet dead, I would take you to a hospital and pray you would revive. I would call your parent, obviously, as soon as I could so that they might be able to…”

“Suppose it was obvious that I would not live? How would your world be different if the man who knew you better than any; the person who has heard your dreams, your philosophies, who you told of every romance, and who told you the same; how would you live if that all vanished?” He waited a moment before adding, “Answer me!”

This was too much for me. I have seen every emotion that this man has, aside from anger. I have never known him to raise his voice, or to think ill of someone. To have asked me to hurry to the point was out of character. To have demanded it, out of mind, “You’re not yourself. I do not wish to continue. Goodbye.”

It was the first time that I had finished one of our conversations, or that one could really be called done. But with those words I left the bookshop. I meandered the streets, never taking notice of where I was going or how long I was taking in getting there. I remember nothing clearly of that time, I may have nearly been run over, but I cannot tell. It is odd, to have thoughts to yourself, swarming in your mind, when you have been used to sharing them openly. I cannot say how I arrived home again, but the sun had set and risen before I crossed our door.

He was home, of course. It was not yet six in the morning and he was lying in his bed. But he was not sleeping. No, this was obvious to my eyes at once. He was awake and had about a strange aura of glory for one whose life was fading, was faded.

“Jake,” his voice was filled with neither pain nor suffering, but with wonderment, “Oh, Jake. I can hear them. Can you hear them can you see them? It’s wonderful isn’t it? Oh, they’re there, and I can smell and taste them. The felling is only an echo of the glory to be heard. They’re calling to me, every way they can. And I can hear them…finally, I can see them.”

I could not speak. He gazed past the sky at images I could not see. I kept my silence, so that he could hear them better, as I always did during his gazings. This time seemed no different than any other. After a moment, he returned to speaking, “There are no wards for their song. Only music.” He then began to sing. No hand can write and no mouth can say words that compare with the purity of that song. As he lay still, I could hear the song. Only the song is not heard, but felt. The song explained everything: why he and I were given this gift, why we lived as we did, why he had died on that day. And yet nothing was told; only felt. Everything and nothing.


I like this piece a lot. One little thing.

In the first paragraph, the word is "hear" not "here". Otherwise this piece is extremely articulate and I was very enthralled with your dialogue! Keep up the good work!


Senior Member
I liked the development of the characters throughout this. The awkwardness of them and they way they connect, it was very well written. There are a few grammatical bits throughout and spelling mistakes as well but other than that I thought it was beautiful. Very well written.