May 15 2016
CARVED Part 01: A Jolt in the Endless Loop
The alarm clock’s ringing jolted Rodolfo Estoque awake. He groped for it in the dark. Having found it, he threw it against the wall. It landed with a dull thud onto the wooden floor. All was silent in the room, except for the rain pelting the windows outside. The noise made going back to sleep useless.
Grumbling, Rodolfo turned in his bed and gazed up at the window. The orange beams of sunlight that usually streamed into his room wer replaced by a dull gray haze. Rainy days in June. The school season was starting soon, but not for him. He had to earn his own bread now. He was now part of the machine that kept the country grinding along.
At least he would be, if he had a job.
On the wall at the foot of his bed, encased in an ornate wooden frame with carved scroll work and leaves adorning its edges, was his diploma. Three months had passed since he graduated. All the job fairs and interviews amounted to nothing. The name of the university was enough to get him through the door, but not enough to help him stay there. Rodolfo made a mental note to throw his alarm clock at his diploma next time, but seeing an old, dusty police officer’s hat hanging above the diploma gave him second thoughts about it.
Someone stomped up the stairs and stopped outside his room. The door flew open. It was his mother. Her chest heaved with each breath and sweat trickled down her brow.
“Rod!” she shouted. “What happened? Are you okay?”
Rod pointed at the alarm clock that lay on the floor. “I took care of the alarm clock.”
Mrs. Estoque’s shoulders slumped. “Any more of that and we’ll have to buy a new one again,” she said with a groan. “We can’t keep being careless with our things.” Scanning the room, she added, “And clean up your room! It looks like a pig sty.”
Rod grunted but said nothing. Mrs. Estoque did not miss that cue. “You’ll need to step up to the plate now, Rod,” she said. Folding her arms, she leaned against the doorway. “You’re not in school anymore. I can’t hand you money to spend on whatever you want. You’ll have to be in control.” Gazing at the police officer’s hat above Rod’s diploma, she sighed. “If your father were here…”
It was the same old lecture. Rod scratched his head. It was a broken record player that played the same tune each day: Go get a job, earn some money, help out with the finances, and make your father proud. Eat, work, sleep. Rinse and repeat for the next forty years and hope to retire by that time. Rod had learned to filter whatever his mother said to those basic points. He did feel a pang of remorse, but feeling it every day dulled him to the sensation.
If only it was like the movies, he thought. If only something could kick the broken player so it could play the next part of the song. Rod squeezed his eyes shut and pinched the bridge of his nose. His temples were beginning to throb. Never a good sign, a headache in the morning.
Another wave of pain hit him. It was sharper than the throbbing in his temples. The head pain disappeared in the process of locating this new sensation. Rod pinpointed it to his left arm. He grasped his elbow. Nothing. He tried his hand and still felt nothing. He felt a little higher.
There it was. It felt like someone was scratching the skin on the inside of his forearm with a rusty nail. He winced. The cuts did not seem deep, but they still stung and bled. A few seconds later, he found that they were not straight lines. Sometimes they curved, and other times they looped into each other.
Mrs. Estoque stopped her lecture. “Rod?” she called out, worry evident in her voice. She reached out to him, navigating through the carelessly strewn laundry on the floor. “Are you okay?”
Rod nodded. He rose and stumbled out of the bedroom, almost knocking down his mother. He barely heard her call out to him as he raced towards the bathroom. The pain grew sharper by the second.
Once inside the bathroom, he switched on the light and slammed the door behind him. He propped himself against the door, taking a moment to calm himself down. When his heart rate slowed, he took a deep breath and looked down. These were not mere cuts that were forming on his skin.
They were letters. What surprised him more was that they combined to form a list of things to buy.
“What’s this supposed to mean?” he asked himself. Yet in his heart he already knew the answer. Someone had jolted the record player. The song of his life had moved on to another verse. Where it would take him now was a mystery.
TO BE CONTINUED
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