Rich, by all interpersonal accounts, was a normal adolescent boy, stuck between prepuberty and manhood, both roughing him up as they begged for him to stay with them, childhood scraping his back as a mighty boulder of great gravitas, the adult world like an old crone yanking him forward on a hound’s leash. Each night, Rich had the same routine from which he never strayed. The wind would either be howling or completely silent, and he’d tread up the stairs of his mother’s duplex after a now empty word game consisting of oscillating speaker rôles saying “good night,” “love you,” “love you too,” “see you tomorrow.” He’d approach his room across from his mother’s, maybe stopping in the upper water closet for urinary respite, and he’d fall into his bed. His ceiling, black in the frigidity of night, would slowly churn and spiral into abstractions of his female friends from school, some of whom he had just made epistolary conversation with through his apartment’s pneumatic tube system hours before. His penis would start to move on its own like a broken compass searching for the cardinal Boreas, and he’d spin his body around like a skinned poultry bird in a mad rosticceria to hump his blanket with those images spinning in his mind.
And every time Rich would ejaculate onto the area beneath his slightly raised stomach, a variation of a phrase would be the first thing to cloud the mental images of his coëvals developing breasts and legs. It was at times amorphous and at others concrete, but it always carried the same empty dolor. Death of happiness. There were no ellipses following the sentence as it trailed off into a dark violet night which meshed smoothly with the clouded memory of a hormonally frustrated teenager. The nominal phrase simply ended without so much as an avoirdupois ounce of éclaircissement on itself or its subconscious origins. The first few times, he ignored it. Soon, he grew fearful of the phrase in all its variations and its ominous verbiage. After each orgasm nocturnal, he was indeed drained of cheer, but there was no doubt in his mind it would return upon rest and relaxation.
One night, after following his routine like a slave beaten into robotic obediance, after all was said and done, and he had deflated with the phrase once again in his head, it echoed, and it did so extremely loudly. The echo was so loud that Rich was sure it could be heard throughout his mother’s apartment and by the entire building. It reverberated through his azure-by-daylight room walls and shook his bed, jerking him back and forth. He clamored to his bedside for his radio, his hands drenched in guilt, shaking mad while they turned the knobs on his device, trying to find some auditory to nullify the horrible reverberation, and through the static, a faint conversation could be heard wherein a young woman and an older man were being delightfully agreeable about something, and the young woman said, “Yeah, well, I mean, n-nothing is meaningless, especially not twice, is what I’m getting at, hah!” Before Rich’s frantic static overtook their discussion, the older man agreed with the young woman once more, and then they cut to advertisements.