WHEN DOUBT DOUBTS YOU

By Jermaine R. Walters

Ryan sits there...motionless...staring into eyes that are blank. In the back of his mind he knows this is pointless, yet he stares anyway. He sees a bead of sweat roll down the side of their forehead and he knows they are as nervous as he, and if he makes the wrong move, says the wrong thing, it's all over. His doubts in the back of his mind soon clear way to a single question, in the form of a single word: "Why?"

Why is he sitting here? Why is he staring at a face that stares back at him the same? Why are the doubts he's never felt before suddenly forcing themselves upon him like a sledgehammer to the back of the skull? He then looks down at an object in his hand and quickly looks back up again, a sterner look on his face, determined to succeed like he never has before in his life. Soon all the questions are answered in the form of yet another question: "Why ask why?"

Ryan begins to smile, but then the one he's staring at blurts out. "You know why you are here, so why fight it? You know why you are sitting there and you know why all the doubts are in your head. And you know that I know this better than anyone. You're scared, Ryan. This is the most scared you have been in all your life and I am not the only one who knows this. You know it too."

His adversary smiles evilly at Ryan, who seems to lose his composure, til he stares at the object in his hand again. Ryan looks up, cracks a smile and shakes his head. "You're right, I am scared. But you know what? I have to do this...'cuz if I don't, I'll continue to live in fear for the rest of my life."

"Oh you're so full of it, Ryan!" The adversary bursts into laughter. "You're only doing this so you don't have to fight your own fights. You're nothing but a pathetic excuse for a man with a backbone the size of an amoeba!! C'mon, man...you don't have to do this... where's your guts?"

"Watch your mouth!" Ryan interrupts abruptly.

The adversary laughs harder, sarcastically mocking Ryan. "Waaaatch youurr moouth! Oh my God, I'm dealing with Mother freakin' Theresa, here!"

"No...you're dealing with a man that...that..."

"That what? Come on, dude....say it."

"I'm confused, ok? For the first time in my life, I'm confused. And I don't know what to do."

"Awwwww, poor poor Ryan. Confused for the first time Ryan. Pity me I don't know what to do Ryan. Mannnn, both of them must not have dropped yet, bro. Tell ya what. Let's take those jeans off you, and put on a diaper, cuz ya whinin' like a baby!"

Ryan stands up and turns away. "I don't even know why I talk to you. You do this every time. You mock me, make me feel less than what I am. And it's not fair. We have dealt with each other every day of our lives and you still do it after all these years."

"Oh here we go with the pity party! Break out the Kleenex and the General Foods International Coffee. Celebrate the moment of your meaningless life, Ryan! Oh grow up! Did you think it was gonna be easy? That life was gonna be easy? Wait...you don't have a life, do you? Well, you do, with me. Without me, you're nothing...you're less than nothing...you're the goo that nothing is made outta, you worthless --!"

Ryan jolts and turns around and comes face to face with his adversary again. "That's enough! No more, I've had it! You will not demean me ever again, you hear me? I don't need you... AT ALL!" Ryan turns and takes two steps to the side of the bed and sits again. He looks up and stares into his adversary's eyes again, this time a little shaky. "You just don't understand. This is the hardest thing I've ever had to do in my life."

"You think I don't know that, Ryan? Look...remember when we were kids, and you got hit by that car and your leg snapped like a toothpick? Docs said you'd never walk right again...remember? But look what you ended up doing, you pulled through that, ended up playing football so well you earned a scholarship to a top school. You ran track, you run marathons twice a year. It was hard to come back from that injury but you did it."

Ryan smiles. "Yea, that was tough. But this is tougher. And why all of a sudden are you on my side?"

"Ha! On your side? I'm never on your side, dude. I just want you to grow some and realize that sometimes the toughest things aren't as hard as you make them out to be."

"Ok you're confusing me."

Ryan's adversary laughs louder. "Yea I confused myself there. What the hell was I just saying?" They both share a harmonized laugh. "Look, I don't like you that much, but no matter how many times I say that you are still there."

"Well geez thanks a lot."

"Would you let me finish?" Ryan nods. "Ok... here it is. I'm gonna lay it all out on the table for ya. You're a moron if you think you need to do this. You don't have to do it. And as long as I'm around, I won't let you do it! You got that?"

Ryan cocks his head. "Wait. Man you are like a three-sided coin."

"Ummm...three-sided?"

"Shut up I know there's no such thing as a three-sided coin, geeeeezzzz. What I meant is...you're against me, then for me, then against me again. Make up your damn mind!"

"What did I tell you before? I'm never "for" you. But I know you, and you NEED me! You can't live without me, just like I cant live without you."

"Ewwww! What are you...my woman?"

Ryan's adversary laughs. "Dude...you wish! And that's gross!" Ryan smiles wryly. "Anyway, Ryan. You need me in your life...we are like two sides to a coin. Oh, damn you got me doin' it now!"

Ryan laughs loudly. "Look. What do you mean I need you? That's the biggest joke I've ever heard. And on top of it you say you can't live without me? Let me get one thing straight. YOU are the leech! YOU are the one that always seems to pop up when you need something from ME! Not the other way around, you demented half-witted waste of good space!"

"Oh...I'm the leech? I pop up when I need something? Ok I think I need to refresh your memory a little!"

Ryan rolls his eyes. "Oh boy here we go."

"You damn skippy here we go! When you were in junior high, and your sorry behind got bum rushed by those idiots that didn't like you simply because you were...for the lack of a better term... a geeky nerd! Who helped you outta that situation?"

Ryan whispers, his head staring at the floor. "You did."

"And how 'bout all the times you were scared to talk to a girl! Who taught you how to approach them?"

"You."

"OK... and how bout all the times you needed someone to talk to and no one else was there... who did you call on?"

Ryan jumps up. "Don't you see? Those times are over. That's the past. Times have changed... I've changed."

"You won't ever change. You will still be the same tired excuse for a "man". And I will always be the one you call on to help you through it all."

"You're wrong... I have changed. I'm better. I'm stronger. I'm whole. And it's not because of you. You have had nothing to do with the changes that have gone on within me. Nothing! You think you know me, but you don't."

Ryan's adversary shakes his head. "Ryan, Ryan, Ryan. Ohhh man, do you need help! I know you better than you know yourself, bud, and you're not ready. No way are you ready to take this step. And how do I know this?" He takes a deep breath and blows it all out on his next comment. "Because IIIIII knowwww youuuuu, duude! You're nowhere near ready to move on. And who is gonna have to bail your butt out... ME!"

Ryan stands again and just stares. He walks to a door in the far corner of his apartment and shuts the door. Silence fills the room, Ryan is quiet for the first time, not speaking a word. Even his thoughts have gone silent, which is an utter relief for him. He silently wishes they would stay that way, but he knows that's not gonna happen, because as soon as he feels relief, they start up again, speaking louder this time. "You are nobody...you can't do it. He's right you know... you can't live without him. You're pitiful, Ryan and you know it. There is nothing sadder than a man who doesn't realize they can never be more than what they are right now, and you, Ryan, are the lowest of the low when it comes to men. You're weak, Ryan. Face it."

Ryan screams at the top of his lungs. "SHUT UP! YOU'RE WRONG...YOU'RE ALL WRONG!"

"Boo!"

"Ahhh!! Ryan jumps back six feet. "When the hell did you get in here?"

"I'm always around you, or did you forget that quickly? Everything you just heard, dude? That was me...I'm gonna always be here to whisper in your ear...to let you know that you are who you are and can never change. And to make you finally admit, that the only one you need...is me, Ryan. And only me."

Ryan whispers. "You're wrong."

"You know I'm right, Ryan. Admit it."

"No."

"Admit it, Ryan."

"No!" Ryan blurts a little louder.

"Come on, Ryan. We can't move on without you finally admitting that you need me. Admit it!"

Ryan screams loudly. "NOOO! I... DON'T... NEED...YOU! NOT ANYMORE! YES, I AM MOVING ON, BUT WITHOUT YOU!"

He draws a breath and falls back to the edge of the bed. "I don't need you, because..."

"Because...?"

"Because..." Ryan takes another deep breath, "--the one that makes me whole...the one that completes me...is her. Not you." Ryan stares deeply into his adversary's eyes and for the first time, confidence takes control of his heart and demeanor. "Yes I will admit in the past, you were there. To help me, to guide me, to..." He reaches in his pocket and pulls out a small velvet box, tosses it in the air and then smiles widely. "...to inspire me. Damn, why didn't I see it all this time. It's exactly what you're doing now." Ryan looks up at his adversary, and his adversary does the same. "All my life, everything I've been through, you have been there to inspire me to greater things, even if your methods were... questionable."

"Questionable? I was downright nasty!"

Ryan nods. "Yeah I guess you could say that. Thing is, I no longer need..." The buzzer to his apartment rings. He rushes to answer it. A beautiful woman smiles brightly as she jumps into Ryan's arms and hugs him tightly. Ryan returns the warm welcome with a light, gentle kiss to end it. "How are you Sharon?"

Sharon takes her hat off, revealing long blonde hair. "I'm cold! And I have to go to the bathroom. Be right back."

As she slams the door behind her, Ryan goes back over to the mirror across from the edge of his bed, draws a deep breath and looks at himself long and hard. His Adversary, the name he's called his reflection for as long as he could remember, the epitome of his emotions, his self-doubt, and, as he has just realized, his motivation to do greater things, stares back. Ryan puts a hand to the mirror, simulating a hi-five. "Well, this is it. But before I go, I just want to tell you..." The bathroom door opens and Sharon comes out with a smile. "Feeling better, hun?"

She nods. "Much better. You ready to go?"

Ryan confirms. "Sure. Just go on to the living room and get ready I'll be out in a sec."

Sharon walks out and Ryan turns back to the mirror. "Thank you... just wanted to say thank you." Ryan grabs his coat and walks out. But his reflection doesn't move in synch with him. Where you see Ryan's back you still see his face in the mirror... with Sharon's reflection standing next to Ryan's.

"They'll be back." Ryan's reflection emotes as he grabs Sharon's reflection's hand. "Don't worry-- they'll both be back."

Jermaine R. Walters 2007

Jermaine has been writing stories for as long as he can remember. In high school, his stories won acclaim from teachers as well as students who couldn't wait to read the next one he produced. A few minor setbacks (rejections from publishers, etc.) haven't stopped him from pursuing his dream of finding success doing what he loves. The success he's had (poems published by the National Library of Congress) as well as the demands and encouragement from friends and family keeps him assured that he'll make it.

He doesn't do what he does for self... His pleasure comes from knowing that the ones who read his work enjoy it.

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