“Breakdown for the Broken” by M. Marlett

While walking up the dim driveway, I avoid all cracks and abnormalities in its cold pavement, and the spicy stink of kim chi grows stronger and stronger. Butterflies fill my stomach and perspiration engulfs my palms, so I take a deep breath, count to ten, step up the cracked stairwell and try to contain the joy and nervousness flowing through my beating veins. The crisp air shows steam off my breath as I let out a steamy sigh and knock on the front door. Immediately, footsteps scramble in the distance until they reach the other side of the threshold.

"Who there?"

"It's Peter."

"Who Peta?"

"Loh's old friend, Peter Lamus. Remember?


"Ooh, Peta! I remember!" The racket of dead bolts and chains coming undone slightly distorts her voice.

The door swings open followed with a twelve-year old vengeance of kim chi and a silhouette of an old woman standing in its way. The dark figure steps into the light, revealing white frizzy hair and a glass eye in the left socket. As she approaches me, the cottage cheese and spider veins in her pasty thighs slosh back and forth in a slow meditative wave, making the butterflies in my stomach nauseous.

"How you?" She said, in her thick Korean accent.

"I'm feeling better, thank you."

"Come in, come in. You hungry?"

"No thanks, I already ate." I said, stepping over the threshold into the foray.

"Loh in her room. You go down hall, you know where it is."

"Yeah, I know. Nice talking to..."

The old woman turns away and disappears into the darkness, leaving me alone, taking off my boots. I set each on the floor, side by side, left to right, and decide to start down the black hallway, where scattered memories hang sadly on the off-white walls like old photographs. One particular photo with an orange 4:02:97 burnt into the lower left corner catches my eye; a couple in love, we sat in front of the world's swimming pool as the bronze and crimson star fell into darkness. A photo taken minutes after Loh had jumped over our table, and pumped the ice I was choking on out of my throat, saving me from suffocation.

"Knock Knock."

"Who is it?" Her sweet voice, smooth as cream brings an uncontrollable grin across my face.

"Who do you think it is?"

"I don't know. Someone told me that my crazy boyfriend just got out and was coming to get me tonight." The old knob squeaks and her door flings open.

"Peter!" The beautiful scent of French vanilla shocks my system and fills my body as Loh squeals and falls into my arms. "Get in here!" She pulls me into her candle lit lair of bliss and slams the door.

Eyes fixed on the dimples guarding her luscious, blood red lips, I approach her petite body for a kiss. The sweetness of Loh's mouth envelopes me in a state of euphoria, rendering me helpless. Lit up in the dancing candlelight, we pull back and I gaze into her dark, almond shaped eyes, surrounded by pale complexion and purple bangs.

"Give me a minute or two, or three." She said.


Loh slowly turns away, leading me into darkness through her velvet curtain. I become lost in a world of passion, like that unforgettable night four years ago at the Terreza Jamay, a decrepit, two-story punk rock club in the middle of Los Angeles. I stood at the edge of the crowd with bodies pressed together, limbs intertwined and banging against one another in a mangled mass of flesh when I was suddenly jolted in the head. An angel appeared in my arms and I immediately knew my life was going to change forever. With long, jet-black hair, tied back into two braided tails, and a ruby red smile that could melt butter, she looked up at me with trusting eyes. The windows to our souls met, I became capsized within her presence, causing the rancid sting of cigarettes, body odor and my claustrophobia to dissipate into nothingness.

"Are you okay? I landed on your head pretty hard." Her voice had put shivers up and down my spine.

"I'm fine." I said, setting her down gently.

"My name is Loh. Thanks for not dropping me."

"Your welcome. My name is Peter."

"Well, I'm gonna go back in there. See you."

"Wait. Can we talk later?"

"Do you have a pen?"


"I'll just give you my phone number."

"Are you sure?"


Her hand fluidly ran across the slip of paper leaving behind a trail of red numbers and a name.

Handing me the piece of paper her index finger smoothly caressed the top of my hand, causing all of the air to abandon my lungs, leaving me breathless.

"Okay, well, I guess I'll call you sometime."

"Yeah. Do that." She flashed me a warm smile and vanished into the mass of bodies.

Loh's long black dress clings to her body, emphasizing firm breasts, stomach, and hips, only to be covered up by a heavy, char-coal shaded trench coat. As she reaches for her black, vinyl handbag, her lips slowly approach my ear and whisper, "Let's go." Our fingers intertwined like two mating serpents, we walk through the house, out the back door and into the frigid night. Dark clouds in the distance move closer to the moon, eventually blocking out its romantic illumination.

"The seasons seem to get colder and colder, don't they?"

"Yes, they do," I replied, avoiding cracks in the walkway.

"I see being institutionalized for three years still hasn't cured you 100%."

"I still have a few problems that need to be worked out, but nothing too serious."

"How serious is too serious, Peter?" The change of tone in her voice puts negative chills up and down my spine, reviving the butterflies in my stomach.

"I'm on medication now."

"What, Prozac? Zanax?" She said cynically.

"Actually, yeah."

"Still thinking out loud?"

"No. Only schizo's do that. I'm not like that anymore. I mean, I still have a problem with germs and chemicals and I can't step on any cracks, and..."

"Are you going to be beating the piss out of anyone anytime soon?"

The nature of the question catches me off guard. "I, I don't think so."

A dead silence comes over us, and I turn to look at her. "I would never physically harm you purposely, if that's what you're thinking. I would never have harmed you before committing myself and I still won't. You have to believe me."

"I believe you." She plainly replied.

We approach our bench sitting by its lonesome in fragments of shattered moonlight. I walk up to touch it and run my fingers along the chips in its black paint from the night Loh and I stole it. We had been wandering aimlessly through the neighborhood at three a.m. on a hot summer morning and found it sitting in a condemned Burger King parking lot two blocks away from her house and knew we had to take it. Loh and I had lifted it up and walked stealthily down the street. Suddenly a pink low rider rolled up next to us and its passengers pelted us with eggs, causing us to drop the bench, chipping it's glossy, black finish.

Now, we sit down on the bench. It lets out a tired, broken squeal that echoes through the ferns, wild flowers and boulders surrounding us in her backyard forest. Crickets and nightingales accompany us with their dismal songs while we vegetate on our stolen bench. Loh's lack of speaking and energy puzzles me.

"Is everything okay?" I asked kindly.

"Yes, of course." She looks down at her hands, now clasped together in her lap.

"Okay. Just making sure." I put my arm around her and attempt to enjoy the twilight, knowing that something had to be wrong, but obviously she didn't want to talk about it.



"We need to talk."

Immediately knowing what is going to happen and be said within the next couple of hours, my heart explodes with adrenaline.

"What's going on?" I ask her, removing my arm from her shoulder.

Loh pauses for a moment, looks down, unzips the top of her handbag, reaches in and pulls out an object the size and shape of a softball. The glow from the glossy sphere illumines her face, making her more remarkably beautiful than I had ever seen.

"This is for you, Peter." She drops the heavy, crystal, sphere in my hands. A softball sized globe attached to a small, black altar. It sits in my palms, while one man inside sits alone, face buried in hands, sitting on a bench just like ours, surrounded by loose, gray snow.

"What the hell is this?"

"That's my break up present for you."

My heart and soul melt away into oblivion. This is what I knew was going to happen and be said, I just needed to hear it from her.


"You know why. You were in a mental hospital for three years. How was I supposed to know if you were coming back 100% or not? I don't want to take that risk."

"But I told you before, I would never intentionally hurt you. Not before and not now."

"You hurt me when you almost killed Jason."

The mention of that name ignites fire in my eyes and raises the hair on my body, while the smell of wild flowers and vanilla is taken over by the dank stench of carbon monoxide.

"How the hell could you do this to me?"

"I was alone for three years, and when you got out, if you ever got out, how was I supposed to know you'd be back to normal? After Jason got out of the hospital, he called me and apologized for what had happened. I needed someone, Peter, and he was the only person I knew that could fulfill what I wanted."

"Why didn't you tell me while I was still in there? I could have at least stayed in for a few more years."

"Well, I'm telling you now, it's over."

"But..." My voice is interrupted by the obnoxious rumbling of an old Volkswagen's broken muffler as it pulls up into Loh's driveway. With the engine still running, a car door slams and foot steps travel along the serpentine walkway, presenting the silhouette of a husky individual in the distance.

"Who the fuck is that?"

"That's Jason, my fucking ride. Now leave."

Fluids racing through my veins at unknown speeds, I lose all muscle control, frozen on the bench from anger and shock. Thoughts race through my mind, what do I do? WHAT DO I DO? WHAT THE FUCK DO I DO?

"You're not going anywhere? Fine, I'll leave, but you better be gone when we get back." She grabs her handbag and disappears with the shaded character into the darkness. The sound of two Volkswagen doors slam shut, and I set the globe down on the bench as the roar of the car fades into the darkness.

"My doctor said to wait and think about my actions before committing them. He'd always say, 'Sleep it off, sleep it off, sleep it off, I guarantee you'll feel better in the morning and you won't want to hurt anyone anymore.' That's what I'll do, I'll just sleep." I pause, thinking to myself, "Shit, I'm thinking out loud again." Silence surrounds me and tears begin to well up in my eyes as I realize the events that took place tonight. Bury my hands in my face and become one with the bench, sobbing together, all alone, in each other's despair. I sadly reach into my right jacket pocket, pull out a translucent orange pill container labeled; AMBIEN. DO NOT INGEST MORE THAN TWO TABLETS MORE THAN TWICE A WEEK. DO NOT OPERATE MACHINERY OR DRIVE AFTER INGESTING. I drop two too many of the Tylenol sized pills into my palm and swallow all three of them. The rough tablets sluggishly move down my body into my stomach and in minutes they'll hit my bloodstream, taking over my consciousness.

"How ya doing kid?" A familiar voice and smell remarks in the distance.

Startled, I quickly wipe the tears from my face and look in the direction of the voice. "I've seen better days, Lou."

"I noticed. Want to talk about it?" He asks, walking towards me. His cherried pipe lights up his unwrinkled, sixty five year old complexion and blonde stubble.

"No, not really. Besides didn't she already come to you about it?"

"What do you think? She's my daughter, of course she did."

"Well, I don't really want to get into it right now."

"Do you need anything?"

"Can I have a ride home?"

"Sure you can, Peter."

"Thanks, Lou."

"Your welcome. Do you want to go now?"

"Yeah. I think so."

I pick the globe up off the bench and Lou stands up to his feet while I follow. Still puffing away on his pipe, he turns to me, "You were always my favorite of all of Loh's boyfriends. If you ever need anything, let me know. You'll always be my friend." His warm, fatherly voice comforts my racing fluids as we reach his car.

"Thanks, Lou. I'll remember that."

I open the door to his old, cream colored Chevy pick-up, get in and fall asleep.

The golden sun breaks over the hill tops, illuminating the city, breaking through my curtains, and onto my eyelids. It's heat and glare brings consciousness back and I sit up. "How the hell did I get in here? How long have I been out?" I ask myself. Looking around my old one room studio, white walls remind me of the hospital, plain and indifferent. With crusty eyes and frizzy hair, I look at the clock and it reads April 5, 2003. 11:13 AM. I notice a slip of paper sitting in front of my door. I get out of bed and pick it up. "You passed out in the car so I used your keys and put you in bed. Take care, Lou. 4/3/99 11:23 PM."

"God damn, I slept for two days. What the hell is in that."

A sudden vision of freedom overcomes me and I am able to see clearly. The slip of paper glides through my fingers and floats to the frostbitten hardwood floor. "I now know what needs to happen to put closure on all of this. This and everything else in my world. Time to go, shit, I'm talking to no one again, shit. I really need to control that." Noticing myself thinking aloud disturbs me, so I grab the crystal globe, put it in my black nap sack and leave my studio, pursuing my vision of freedom.

Brightness like hellfire, I shade my eyes with my hands and approach the garage. Dead leaves and dirt fill the path while crisp roses sit still in the dead soil off to the sides of the cobblestone driveway. Under the wooden canopy my car sits, covered with a blue sheet and a thick layer of black silt. I reach around to my back pocket, pull out a clean handkerchief, cover my hand and rip the dust ridden sheet off of my car. A black gremlin materializes through the thick dust cloud as I open the car door. Welcomed with cold stale air, I fall into the seat of the vehicle, shove my keys in the ignition and turn the key.

Split seconds turn to seconds, seconds turn to minutes and minutes turn to an hour as street signs and playing children fly past my eye.

I sit tensely in my car as I slowly creep down Washington Ave. Broken houses sit in rows, some with cars on the front lawn and some with garbage strewn across the landscape. Shattered glass and oil stains paint the street a dark rainbow in the sun as I finally reach the house I'm looking for. The white stucco comes off in flakes, while black wooden blinds hang by duct tape off the face of the one story house. Dead roses and prickly bushes guard the front yard, behind the waist high, iron ore fence, holding up a wooden sign with "23 Washington Ave." burnt into it.

"This is the place." I mumble, trying to control the habit of speaking my thoughts out loud.

I grab my nap sack, get out of the car and leave the keys in the ignition with the car still running.

Fluids flowing steadily and cool, I casually walk up to the black, iron ore fence, and jump over it. I land on my feet with the soft dirt pathway under them and continue to move towards the front door. Dust kicks up with every step I take through the narrow path led by dead vegetation.

"Knock Knock." I bang on the filthy and torn screen door.

The door opens, his image distorted and shaded by the glare off of the screen. "What the fuck do you want?" A nervous voice calls behind the shade.

"I want to make things right, Jason."

"Make what right? What the hell are you talking about? Aren't you supposed to be locked up?" He fumbles with the knob and the screen door drifts open. Under thick eye brows and greasy, brown hair, the expression on the husky twenty-two year old's face shows nothing but fear and anticipation of the worst.

"I got out yesterday. But I'm not here to talk about that, Jason."

"What do you want?"

"I'm here to make my world right. I know you took Loh away from me and I'm just here to let go." I reach into the nap sack with my right hand. His eyes light up with horror as I pull out the crystal sphere Loh had given me.

"See this?"

He lets out a sigh of relief, flooding my nostrils with peanuts and beer. "Yeah, what is it?"

"Loh gave this to me last night. When she dumped me."

"Uh huh. What are you going to do? Kick my ass because she'd rather be with me?"

"Well, no. But the way I see it is that this globe is from you. I'd just like to give it back."

Fear leaves his face and a slight grin follows.

"That's all?"

"Yes, that's all." I raise the heavy object to my chest and take a deep breath. Lungs filled with oxygen, I close my eyes and my heart combusts with adrenaline. All consequences, good and bad flash before me as I choose my fate. Stepping forward, I open my eyes, raise the spherical bludgeon and introduce it to Jason's forehead. A cherry hue explodes into the atmosphere, spraying onto everything within a ten foot radius. Brown eyes roll back into his skull as splinters of it float lightly to the hardwood floors now submerged in blood. Ankles lose balance, knees buckle, back slumps over and he falls to the floor in his pool of urine and blood. The globe sits imbedded in Jason's skull over his empty stare into death.

I serenely turn around, let the screen door glide shut and walk away to my car. Glowing plasma trails follow me walking down the dirt path. I pull out my handkerchief and wipe the crimson juice off of my fingers while a slight breeze picks up and brings on a refreshing moment. "Freedom at last." I say out loud with a petty chuckle.

I get in the running car, close the door and drive back to the institution.