Exclusive Excerpt from Damaged Hearts
by Jan St. Marcus
He’s silent for a long moment, then, “Leo was such a happy kid. When we were fifteen, he met this girl, this beautiful girl that was totally into that Goth style—black hair, black clothes, black nails and this really dark music. One day, he comes home and starts playing this song over and over and over again and he was so—down. I had never heard it before, you know, so I was kind of shocked. It was so not his kind of music.” He takes a long sip of his beer. “He was in love with her. I knew this, of course. Twin-sense—it’s really a thing. I knew. He kept this song from me. But he played it all the time for like three weeks before he told me that she had moved away. This was their song.”
I look at him and catch him looking away. “Damn. You want me to change it?”
“No. Start it over. Please.”
“Okay,” I stammer. I pick up the iPad and start the song over.
“Have you listened to the words?” he asks.
“Not really. I kind of know them, but not really.”
He shocks me when he starts to sing along to the song. “When you were here before; I couldn’t look you in the eye. You’re just like an angel; your skin makes me cry. You float like a feather; in the beautiful world. I wish I was special. You’re so fucking special. But I’m a creep. I’m a weirdo. What the hell am I doing here? I don’t belong here.” My mouth hangs open. He is perfectly on key and has this voice that’s so pure and a little raspy . . . it’s awesome. Wait. Awesome doesn’t cover it. He could be a rock star. No shit. He’s started swaying with the music as he goes on.
“I don’t care if it hurts; I want to have control. I want a perfect body; I want a perfect soul. I want you to notice; when I’m not around. You’re so fucking special. I wish I was special.” I join in for the chorus—not nearly as good as he is, but I’m kind of loud. So it’s kind of like this weird, cool, crazy karaoke duet.
“But I’m a creep. I’m a weirdo.” We’re both facing each other and kind of screaming in each other’s face now. “What the hell am I doing here? I don’t belong here.” I’m staring into his eyes and they suddenly change. It’s like he’s looking through me. If you’ve ever heard the song, this is where the lead singer goes into the upper register and Michelangelo is hitting the notes perfectly. I shut the hell up, stare into his eyes, and listen. As he sings, his face twists into this ball of . . . I can’t describe it. “Oooh! Ooooh!”
“She’s running out the door.” It’s like he’s found this place so deep in his soul that it hasn’t seen daylight in centuries and now that it’s out, it’s got hundreds of years of anguish that’s been dying to get out and had no outlet. He goes on singing and I’m mesmerized. “She’s running out. She run, run, run, run!” And then, like a switch has been flipped, he starts crying. The last “run” is at once the most pain-filled, powerful, anguished, and beautiful sound I have ever heard in my whole life. Oh my God, I can literally feel something inside me break. I hold my breath. I feel like all the skin has been peeled off my body, and I’m standing there in his living room completely exposed down to my muscles, tendons, and bones. I’m skinless.
Then as the song gets quiet for the last few bars, he straightens up and whisper-sings to the window. “Whatever makes you happy. Whatever you want. You’re so fucking special. I wish I was special. But I’m a creep. I’m a weirdo. What the hell am I doing here?” A single tear streams from his eyes as he sings the last line so softly that if I wasn’t standing next to him, I wouldn’t have heard it. “I don’t belong here.” His voice cracks for the first time. “I don’t belong here.” Now I’m crying. I have no idea why. There was just something so damn powerful about the way he sang that song—the emotions, the pain, the beauty. I’m breathless. Speechless. Skinless.
I’m still in awe as he takes a sip of his beer as he looks out over the ocean. He has no idea what he’s just done to me. My knees are weak and my breathing labored. Can he hear me trying to breathe? What the fuck just happened to me? I’ve heard that song a thousand times before, but . . . wait . . . he called this a love song. I never knew the first words of that song. I just liked the way it sounded. Listening to him sing it, with all that emotion and feeling. Is that what love is? How can that be? I just thought it was a catchy song about this guy coming to grips with the fact that he’s a creep with a girl who is obviously out of his league. But, oh my God, the way Michelangelo sang it with that unbelievable voice! It’s so much more than that. He looks at me, and I can tell he’s back from wherever he went. He smiles and catches my eyes, and then looks away like he’s embarrassed. He looks back at me and smiles.