“Are you sure it’s here?”
“I’m pretty sure, I came back here a week ago just to check it out”
“Alright, just that it’s getting pretty dark ”
“You don’t have campfires in the day, Rovik”
The four guys emerged into a clearing , surrounded by elk trees and moist air.
“Do you see it now?” Francis said as he walked towards the log around the smothered campfire,
“Alright, alright , I’m sorry I doubted you. It’s just been too long” Drew replied , placing the backpack on the bed of leaves collected in the clearing.
“Way too long. I’m glad we did this” said Prince. He reached his arms over the shoulders of the other guys and pulled them in for a huddle.
The guys held each tightly and just let the sound of the forest moderate their own breaths.
“Nobody can take this from us” Rovik said finally, breaking the silence. “Alright , let’s start the mix. Prince, why don’t you get the ingredients and whip us up the special stew , the rest of us will start the fire. ”
” You know I got it . I’ve been wanting to cook this up again for a long time” Prince replied.
The tall muscular figure walked over to the backpacks and rummaged through for the food.
“It feels so good to be out of the office. People get so irritating sometimes” Drew said over the crackle of the fire that had just formed.
“Isn’t that why you ran for office? To serve the people?” Rovik said, warming his hands now.
“People don’t know what they want. All they care about are themselves” Drew said
“Amen to that. Fuck People… except you guys, I love you guys. But fuck you all too.” Francis said, breaking into laughter.
Rovik smiled and walked over to Francis, and gave him a friendly slap on his shoulders.
“How have you been man? Last I heard you had quit the P.D. What have you been up to?” he asked .
“Probably screwing around with his girlfriends” Prince said cheekily. “Food’s almost done guys”
“Well yes. I couldn’t take the hypocrisy. Memorandums and proceedings… it was just too much for me. I’m not a political creature , I can’t navigate that jungle.” Francis replied, ending his statement with a sigh.
“Come on, you’re a born leader. I remember people would wait for your word when you walked into the room. Even I couldn’t make a decision without consulting you.” Rovik commented.
“Thanks Rovik. But I’ve moved on. I’m much happier now, running a steelworks place down on Smith. ”
“And it’s the best steelworks place around, isn’t it? These are the hard workers that deserve our country’s appreciation.” Drew shouted across the fire, smirking.
Francis stared at Drew for a while and smiled. “Thanks Senator , you’ve got my vote… buddy”
“Alright, enough with the love story. Food’s ready to be devoured by you fiends. This may be my best stuff yet.”
The men grabbed their bowls and walked to the pot over the fire. As the night grew darker, and the wind blew colder, the men poured the hot stew into the bowls, admiring the glossy surface as it settled.
“Prince, my man. You seem to have outdone yourself again.” Drew said. He took a spoon of the stew , blew on it slowly to cool it down, and placed it in his mouth. “I’ve never felt more like a man. Beef Stew, out in the forest, here with my men. All we need is a bear to wrestle”
“Don’t prophesy now. The night is still young.” Rovik said, laughing .
“You’re a great person, Prince. I’m sorry about what happened between you and…” Francis began.
“Don’t say her name. I haven’t completely moved on” he said, staring at his bowl.
The campfire went silent for a while. “I’m sorry I brought it up” Francis said, breaking the silence.
“No, it’s fine. If there’s anyone I’d want to to talk about this to, it’s you guys.
She broke my heart. I gave her all I could. I gave her a house, I loved her every night, I even told her every day how beautiful she was. But she just wanted something else and she decided to fuck her colleague instead. I asked her why she did it and she said that she can’t let her happiness be inhibited.
Didn’t she realise that she wasn’t thinking about how I felt? Did she really not care for me at all? ”
Prince continued staring at his bowl. He placed it on the log he was sitting on, got up and looked at the group . “Give me a minute , guys.” he said and walked into the forest.
“I never thought she was such a bitch” Francis said.
“I saw it. You tend to meet certain people in life who want to be destructive rather than constructive. The people who want to break things as they move through life, rather than heal the brokenness. ” Rovik chimed in.
“Well it’s a lot harder than you think to keep wanting to heal. Thinking about yourself only keeps the world a lot easier to understand.” Drew said.
“I’m surprised you’re saying that Mr Senator. Isn’t it your job to serve your people? That’s what you ran on …” Rovik said, and then stood on the log, getting into pose. “I am You are Me. If I didn’t care about you, I can’t say I care about me” he bellowed, impersonating Drew.
“Fark off , and get your ass down from that log” Drew shouted, clearly angry.
“Hey, chill… I didn’t know you really felt so different now” Rovik said, slowly stepping down.
“Well, get off your high horse Rovik. Just because you travel all around the world, get yourself into all these romantic misadventures and make stories around yourself doesn’t mean you get to expect the same of us. We live real lives, lives that are defined by the hurt and reality of this world.” Francis said, pointing his finger at him.
“Woah woah, those are some sharp jabs. My life isn’t all roses as well. I’ve been living out of a suitcase the past few years.” Rovik said, defensively placing his hands on his hips.
“And what about all these sweet little things you seem to always have on your hips. It’s a different girl in every country, a different fuck every time. Tell me you don’t think you have a better life than any of us.” Drew chimed in.
Rovik stared at Drew, and then stared at Francis. His eyes started to burn. They had seen this side of him before. It was a cold burn, a flash and then a shade. And it would hurt.
“I’m a romantic, I draw stories about love and life and all that jazz. But I am not a hedonist… I’m not in this for the carnal pleasures a much as I am for the pleasures of the soul. What do you think I desire more? Lips on my dick every other night , or a soul to bond with. If you even think you know me, you’d know it’s the latter.” Rovik said, his voice almost chill.
The campfire went silent for a while. The three men sat , looking into the campfire.
“Maybe this was a bad idea… We’ve all grown up way too much apparently” Drew said.
“Nonsense. This is exactly why we need to meet. If we can’t open up to anyone else, it’s to each other”
The three men turned around. Prince was back.
“Listen, brothers. We’ve been through tough times. We’ve seen each other through hell and heaven. We can’t be afraid of each other now. ” he continued.
“You’re right” Drew said. “I have a confession to make”
He picked up a twig from the floor and started twirling it around his fingers. His eyes were glued to it, intense.
“I’m stepping down from office next week. I’ve decided I can’t be Senator anymore.”
“What??” Rovik said, immediately. “But why? And what are you going to do ?”
“He’ll be joining the property business with me” Francis chipped in. “We’re going to re-develop our town and bring back the wealth that’s rightfully ours”
Prince walked over and sat next to Francis.
“That’s funny, brother. I actually did hear you were going into the property business. But I heard something else too” he said, looking at Francis.
Rovik looked at the pair, intently. “What was going on? ” he thought to himself.
“You see, Rovik.There’s a reason why I tried to get everyone here. I know you’d be able to talk to these guys.” Prince said, pointing to both Francis and Drew.
“Francis quit the police force and formed his own mob crew. He’s been running rackets around the city, impoverishing the hard workers and keeping things under his belt. Drew here, has been supporting it”
“How do you know all of this Prince?” Rovik asked, calling him out.
“Because after my wife left me, I wanted to come back and make a life back home. And that’s when I found out someone was destroying its very essence. It killed me to find out it was these guys” Prince replied.
“Is this true?” Rovik asked the pair.
Francis stood up from his log and walked over to where Drew was sitting.
He sat down next to Drew and pulled out a cigar, which he started to light up.
“I told you this world was going to the shits , Rovik. You inspire me a lot, but this is not one of those times. It’s time we tell you about the reality of this cold miserable world. And maybe then, you and Prince will join us. Who else to share the wealth with than our brothers?” Drew said, a smile now appearing on his face.
“I don’t want any part of this. Have we all let our losses affect us so badly?” Rovik appealed to the group.
“It was never a loss. It’s just the way things are. Our elevations were the inconsistencies, they were random occurrences that happened but could never be sustained. This form of living, selfish and cold , is the kind that will keep us breathing at the end of the day. It’s survival.” Francis said, and then offered the cigar to Rovik.
Rovik stood up and walked over to where Francis was sitting. They were now sitting across each other : Francis and Drew on one side, Prince and Rovik on the other.
“Tell us a story, Rovik. Tell us one of your beautiful stories.” Prince said, putting his arm over Rovik’s shoulder.
Rovik stared at the fire, letting it warm his soul up again. He felt the heat, and his nerves tingle with excitement.
“Alright, I’ll tell a story.
Milan has a beautiful history. There’s so much to see and do in the city, but the one thing that captured me most about this city was this girl. We’ll call her Sofia. I met Sofia on the steps of the Duomo, a large Gothic church near the centre. She was feeding the pigeons and I asked to join her. She then invited me to get some gelato, and I convinced her to spend the day with me. I took her to dinner, and then took her back to my place and we made love.
The next morning, I was ready for her to say good bye, but she decided to stay. She played with my hair, and stared into my eyes. What are you doing, I asked her. Falling in love with you, she said. I laughed back, and asked her if that was too fast.
We’re Italian , she said. Life’s too short to not want to fall in love. I stared back into her eyes, and then kissed her deeply. We spent the whole day in, making love multiple times and watching Italian soap operas. I had a flight booked for the night to Barcelona and hadn’t decided whether I wanted to leave or not.
I told her about it, and she kissed me. Stay, she said. I will, I lied. I couldn’t believe I had reached here. Was I falling in love? I wanted to find out what was wrong with what I was seeing. I started trying to find flaws in her, to ask her about her history and her background. Who are your parents? What’s your job?
She started getting annoyed, and by the end of the night she asked me to go catch my flight. This was silly, she said. This was stupid, I said. I walked out, got onto my flight, and then felt the weight of my arrogance settle. I ruined the moment, by refusing to believe in the good. I was looking for what was wrong so much I forgot to factor in the beautiful.
It’s been a while since the incident. I’m not sure if I’ll ever find Sofia again… I hope I do. But I know what was possible. I knew it was real, I knew I was a force of action and that I was doing something. I was living. I could never deny that.
So I keep believing. I keep hoping. I don’t lose hope on the good. And you shouldn’t too. This world needs more believers like you guys once were. We need to heal this world. We just need to.”
The campfire was silent. The brothers stared into the fire once again. Every moment crept back on them … the stories their lives had been built on. They had done great things, they had build legacies. They had truly lived.
“What would you think if I sang out of tune?” Prince chimed in.
Francis and Drew looked up. Rovik looked over to Francis, and smiled.
“Would you stand up and walk out on me?” he chimed in, walking over to Drew.
“You’re my brother. No matter what you’ve done, we’re in this forest again. We’re safe here and we can decide to move forward. ” he said to the pair.
“Lend me your ears and I’ll sing you a song
And I’ll try not to sing out of key”
Rovik sang, and then gestured to them.
“You know I can’t resist” Drew said.
“Oh, I get by with a little help from my friends
Mmm, I get high with a little help from my friends”
Francis and Prince joined in.
Mmm, gonna try with a little help from my friends
And the forest was filled with music, just like it was meant to be. In the darkness, they had found the light that they thought they had lost. And with a little help from their friends, they were back where they were supposed to be.
We all need somebody to lean on.