[Story + Audio] Why have you never asked?

Note: I tried to do some voice acting here. Please be gentle. I love you all. x


It all started in ninth grade. Not the common type of love story where suddenly at the beginning of the semester a new face shows up and you immediately fall in love. Then, for the whole semester, you grief in unspoken love, until – eventually – you reach the desired heart during the holidays.

He – a young lad called James – had known him for ages. They went to the same class in primary school. They had serious arguments in sixth grade, when the boys started to fight about a certain anime type of thing. You know what it is like – either you love my stuff or you are my enemy. He had laughed at him in eigth grade when all the others were able to talk about their first “serious” relationships – but he, he couldn’t.

On this particular Monday, they had an exam. Math, very basic stuff. Something like “you got a y here and a z here, but the thing you need is an x, so do the kind of magic we taught you and scribble it down”. Marius – the other guy – was sitting right in front of him. Cool and calm as usual. “No sweat!” was his well-known phrase, and for some reason, his grades were good. Even though he was not the kind of guy to sit at home and learn a lot. A mysterious young lad.

The exam took hours. Well, in all honesty, it took like 45 minutes. But even 5 minutes can seem endless if you have no clue. James gnawed on his pencil. The clock was relentless and there was this thought which thing might happen earlier – the pencil to be gone or the time to be up. It was the time. Once the school bell rang, the teacher came along and collected their sheets.

There it happened. A little booklet fell to the ground when Marius started to pack his things. Just for a moment, but long enough that James was able to recognise the cover. “Doctor Who.” Some kind of fan magazine with short stories and fan made drawings. He knew the magazine, he was a huge fan. He had even submitted some short stories. For a short moment, James blinked and stared at that back in front of him. Marius? Could it be that he shared the same fandom?

This is not the kind of romantic stuff you read in books, you know. There was no magic sparkle. There was no sign that suddenly heaven came to earth. There was just one little thought: “Oh. I wouldn’t have known.”

Several years later, they all gathered again, all the pupils of the same class. They wore black. It was a rainy day. What a cliché. A rainy day in November for a burial. They all stood there, some arm in arm as they had married, others lonesome, but all with sad and worried faces. In the front, there was the priest and some woman, the mother. Her makeup was gone, not due to the rain, but due to the tears. The priest welcomed everybody and gave some soft introductory words. Then the mother stepped forward.

She trembled. “I… Thank you, everbody, for attending this…” Her voice broke. Another woman, obviously not related to her but kind, put a hand on her shoulder. The mother breathed, deeply, started again. “Thank you for coming. I don’t know how to do such a thing and I…” Her voice broke again and she fumbled on her dress with nervous fingers.

“He would have loved you all to be here. I know it. I know it, even though he never said it.” Some people burried their hands deeper in their pockets, other shared sad and worried glances. “I… he was a special boy, my young boy, and I miss you so damn much.” It was over, she broke in tears and was not able to recover for some minutes. The rain was pouring all over them, but nobody even dared to move a single step.

When she eventually came back, she snuffled and shook her head. From the inside of her coat she brought a little book. It was bound in bright colours, pink and yellow, a light blue and some green. There were drawings on top, some hearts, some stars, even a unicorn. It almost fell when she tried to open it.

“This… I need you to understand. All of you. And myself. This…” she held up the book a little bit “is… was his diary. A precious gem I found some days ago but did not dare to look into until yesterday. It is full of the stories and feelings of a young man trying to find his role in the world. There is one passage… only one… you need to hear.”

The silence all over those people got stronger. The rain got darker, colder. Instinctivly they grew closer, when she started to read. Her voice was shaking, but got firmer with every word, with every line her son had written. These words were written by her flesh, and she brought them to the light.

May 2, Tuesday, 19h

Why. Why me. Why not anybody else. I haven’t done anything. Why the fuck me?

He looked at me, again. Dark, brown eyes, sparkling in the sun, radiant. I have seen them so often and still find new details. The way he looks at something he’s interested in. The way he looks in disgust. His eyes when he is laughing. His glance when he is sad. I know every single mood and still there are new to come. This look he gave me? I’d call it “disinterest”.

I seriously don’t know what to do anymore. This fucking fuck book of a fucking book! It all started there, and it never ended. Why me? Why the fuck me? It could have been anybody. I just wanted to be normal. Happy. Somehow. I wanted to be… enough.

I don’t know how to stand yesterday. I went home from school, and as usual I passed the little park where he loves to play with the others. They had played basketball and were sitting there, making fun, jokes. He was happy. He wore that muscle shirt, yellowish, and his skin shone in the sun light. Does this make any sense at all? Fuck, no. Who cares. I passed by. I heard him. I fucking heard him. He was making jokes, and everybody was laughing. One of them was shaking his head. Then, he stood up and yelled “Oh come on, faggot, this was funny!” and they laughed.

I don’t know how long I must have been there, unable to move, until they recognised me. They stared at me. He stared at me, his eyes still sparkling full of fun. He meant it. He said it. He… Not him, too. After all, not him.

I cannot stand it anymore. My father saying that “they” all should hang. My mother just nodding and cleaning the kitchen. My best friend’s mum who said “they” try to kill us all, they bring diseases and are rubbish and like some kind of shit. The priest in the church yelling that “they” are a failure in HIS creation.

For fuck’s sake, what shall I do? God, if you are exist, what shall I do? What have I done? Wrong? I tried it all. I tried it fucking all, and I failed. I failed my Mum, I failed my Dad, I failed my whole family. My friends. My teachers. Why me? Where did I do wrong? I cannot ask them. God, hell, no, never. And I cannot stand it.

He was my anchor. Since that one moment when he dropped that book. Gosh, it’s over anyway, so why not finally write it out. Yes, I started to observe him. To stare at him. I realised his beautiful face, these magical eyes, that smile which brought sunshine into my life. That body which was neither muscular nor slim, but just perfect. His moves. His voice… I should note down his voice, right? Especially when he laughs. It is a small, a gentle laughter, but so attracting. There are so many things and interests we share, and he does not even know. I know. What shall I say? “Hey, Marius, I like what you like, what will that make of us?” Oh, I should remove that sentence, but I lack the energy.

He, for all people, said it. Called us. Named us. Not him. Please, please lord, not him. My anchor is broken and I feel like I’m drowning. But I will try to be strong. I try to. I promise.

The mother’s voice fell silent, and they all stood there and nobody was able to move. Some stared at her, unwilling, unable to process what they just heard. Others sobbed or cried silently.

“This entry was written one day before he jumped.” the mother concluded. She eventually went silent, trembling, shivering, not able to say anything else. The book, it fell out of her hand and into the mud. It was his diary. The little diary with that unicorn, and when they all had found out about it in tenth grade, they had laughed at him. A boy with a unicorn. He ran out of class, crying, and nobody cared – they all just laughed.

The sound of heavy steps. A trembling hand went to the ground and took the book. He was not wearing his yellowish shirt today. He was wearing black. For several minutes he stood there, his back to the others, looking into the grave, they all just saw his trembling. At some point he started crying and his steps took him away from the grave, his friends.

They all looked after him. Soon he was gone, hidden under some trees in the rain, alone. One voice alone reached out for them. She was his former girlfriend. Marius’ girlfriend. There were no emotions left when she did the final blow.

“He loved him. He had told me in tears. But had never told James. And that little magazine about Doctor Who? He bought it because of him. Why, James, why have you never asked?”

[Story] Beyond the surface

The room was dark and cold when he entered. The wooden planks underneath his feet creaked and squeaked with every step he did, just like his grandmother’s house. Whenever he visited them as a young child, he loved to sneak up and down the large old staircase in the middle of the night, trying not to wake anybody. Sometimes he succeeded. But in this room, the sounds evoked something different. He felt alarmed.

With trembling fingers he reached for the matches. Short and strong strokes should fire up the light. The first one breaks, the second fails, the third one finally produces a small, soft glimmer, just enough to bring light into darkness. He held the newborn fire to the candlestick and kindled it, spread the light and the warmth. Light came into darkness and shapes left the deepest shadows.

The room was empty. Only one lonely scaffold stood there, in the very center, and on it a canvas. He had a quick look through the room. Dark and dusty rectangles at the walls showed where once there had been framed pictures and shelves. Everything was gone. He shook his head. What could possibly have happened?

One week ago, just a couple of days ago, the room was full of life. He had visited his good old friend, a painter, a true artist, who was working on his new master piece. There were pictures on the walls thriving of colours, of joy, of happiness. He had bought new furniture to create an atmosphere of coziness. He was excited.

“Here, my friend,” the painter said as he pointed to a canvas hidden underneath a blanket. “Here I create my new master piece. It will be what I have never been before. A piece of love and joy, a piece of dedication.”

“Let me see!” he demanded, went on and tried to remove the blanket – but got stopped.

“Don’t you dare!” the painter shouted while grinning. “This will be a surprise. You will see something of mine nobody has seen before. At the right place, at the right time. The only thing I ask from you is trust. Trust me. Believe in me.”

One week. Now he was gone. He had left without a word or a note, not even the neighbours had noticed his departure. The only thing left in this room full of emptiness was this scaffold. And the canvas. The canvas which had been hidden underneath the blanket.

For some reason he hesitated. Should he dare to have a look? His friend, so full of eagerness, so full of joy, he had put a lot of emotions, of time, of energy into this piece of work. Now he was gone. What would this piece of work tell him? Show him? Evoke in him?

He took a deep breath and surrounded the scaffold. There it was. The true master piece of his friend.

It was a canvas completely covered in black.

For several minutes he just stood still. He breathed. But he did not understand. This was the famous master piece? This has been the work his friend had not wanted to show him? For Christ’s sake, he had spent money, energy and time in his friend’s work and abilities. He had trusted him. The only thing he had asked for was trust and dedication to his work. He received nothing at all. A canvas covered in black. Two emotions rose in his chest – a deep, dark feeling of anger. But also an emptiness, a deep disappointment.

The letter took him some time. Over and over again he tried to find the right words to his friend. He was gone, unreachable, was he? He didn’t care. Yes, he was a wonderful artist, but he had shown no feelings, no emotions, his paintings were just that: paintings. He was looking for something else. Something, that could touch his soul. His heart. Everything. And suddenly, the words came out of his mind, and he put them all on the paper. In many lines he told his friend what he never dared to say to him. In the end, he took a small nail and attached the letter to the black canvas.

Some weeks later, the artist was seen at an auction. The hall was filled with hundreds of people, all staring at the big black canvas at the stage. They were mumbling. They were wondering. What kind of picture might that be? Who should ever want to buy that? And nobody did a bid. Not a single person.

Then, the artist cleared his throat. A quick look to the auctioneer, silently asking for some last words. He did a step forward, and suddenly, in the light, everybody could see his face. His eyes, once sparkling in green and brown, full of life and joy, they were like dead. His face was pale and thin. His words were clear, but without soul. He was hollow.

“This picture is my life.” he started. The people stopped talking, some of them bent forward to listen to his words. While everybody was dragged towards him, he reached for his pocket and took out a small tool.

“This picture is my life.” he repeated. “Dark. Without any colour. Without any soul. Plain. And that’s what many people think. That’s what many people see. That’s even what I see when I look at myself.”

Tears came up, not just in his eyes, but also in his words, and still, his face showed no reactions to the words.

“This picture is my life. You look at it, you wonder, you cannot understand. None of you dared to bid. None of you cared about it. You were wondering, yes, but none of you asked.

“There has been one man, though, and he had asked. I have to mention him here, because I wouldn’t be where I am without him. At all. He cared. He asked. He listened. And reached for my life, and I reached for his. I called him my friend, and still, he was so much more. I gave him trust. I gave him dedication. Life is never white like an unpainted canvas, nor is it black like a surface covered in oil, I told him. He listened, he nodded, he agreed.”

While he was talking, he went over to the canvas and started to use his little tool on it. First in the top right corner, then in the top left corner. The reached for the center. And for the bottom.

“This picture here is my life. I presented it to him, pure and raw, as it was. There is no bigger gift in life I can give than life itself. I presented it to him, and when I closed my studio after I had prepared everything, I smiled. He would understand. Nobody else would. But I had told him.

“And he saw it. My picture, my life. He looked at it, the dark, black canvas. He stared at it. For a long time. And then…” he reached for his pocket and pulled out a letter, lifted it, a letter which was crinkled and winkled and wet of tears. “… then he did not understand.”

Standing in front of the picture, he took a small pause, and while they were looking at him, they could almost hear his soul break.

The artist, he stepped aside, and with a brief and strong movement he ripped the black surface of the canvas. Underneath, though, there was another picture, which had been hidden by the dark layer. The people gasped and it took them several moments before they were able to process.

Underneath, there was a picture so marvellous, so wonderful, they never had seen anything like that before. Shapes and colours were combined to a master piece of warmth and life itself. One older lady in the first row touched her heart and sighed fulfilled of empathy. There were open mouths, but overall, people feeled a change of mood. All their bad feelings, their bad thoughts, they were gone, and they started to feel life itself. There it was – the true master piece, the artist had spoken about. And it showed life itself. Birth. Youth. Adolesence. Love. Sex. Death. Everything.

“This picture is my life. Not the surface. This life was meant to be given. In the dark, encouraged by the words of someone special, it blossomed, it grew, it became what I ever had dreamed about. It took time, yes. And I did not dare to show it to him. I had to figure it out. I was vulnerable. I knew, he would understand. I knew, he would be waiting. This is not just some opus major, this is my life.”

The people started to overact, they rised their hands and shouted enormous sums towards the stage. The auctioneer’s eyes were sparkling, but before he could start the next round of bidding, the artist lifted his hand. Everybody fell silent.

“This picture is my life. I don’t offer my life to just anybody.”

And from the ground he took a blanket and wrapped his life into it. Hidden. Once again.