Short Fiction

Grateful For Having NOTHING

Nobody has ever loved me in my life. Nobody real, anyways. Just like you don’t, I think to the dog that is marching alongside me. If you loved me you’d stroll in front of me to check if the coast is clear, like you do for Mother. Nobody loves me. Not my mother, not my father, not the two monsters I call my brothers. If they do, they do not love me completely. That’s my story. And in this wide, corpulent, corporate-worshipping, capitalist-grovelling, shit-eating, whole world, I cannot find anybody who loves me.

 

That’s why I drink. Alcohol soothes the soul to free the mind. It washes away the haze; doesn’t that sound ironic?  And I smoke. I love watching the rivulets of smoke rise up into the sky, or in my case, the concrete-plaster ceiling. They say not to smoke, but I can’t help it, it makes me feel cool, because I no longer am, I can only become a phoney.

 

I used to be very on my guard against everyone, even my friends, but now I’ve let loose completely, because there’s no use being on your guard when there’s nobody to talk to, nobody to try to bring down your defences.  There is now, also, nothing to guard within me. There are no words too, no words that came to my mind. Why would they? It’s not like I’m on amphetamine. I’m on antipsychotics, or, on better days, antipsychotics, and they dull the senses.

 

Roses are grey, and violets look like roses. The sun is the moon, and the skies never notice the clouds.

 

I don’t know what to say. What can I say- that I write to express myself, or to prove that I am worth something? I don’t know. I go back to my room and its four walls speak so little of what has happened to me in my young life. I’m going to meet Chloe tomorrow to see if she wants to speak to me still, with my speech impediment and the fact that I’m not full of verve and brio now. Not anymore. I’m dull these days. I wish I was a rebel, still a rebel or at least a seeker and a catcher of rebels, but I’m no longer anything. I talk to myself. I say, hey it’s okay to lay your head down and do nothing for a whole long 24 hour day, mother loves you. I pretend that I have an alien mother, so that I won’t be too disappointed by the fact that the real one of flesh and bones doesn’t love me and possibly never will.

 

Who am I? I’m no one. I know I’m not a proper child, not a proper girl, not a proper sister. I’m downright improper. Maybe that’s why everyone hates me and finds it so hard to love me. I only know how to make art, but even that has been taken away from me. Although, I think a real artist can survive anything. They can, cannot they? Can they?

 

If I write this piece then I’ll know for certain if I’m still alive within my shell. Or if I’m pregnant with some alien bastard who’s sucking my brains dry.

 

“Hey Chloe,” I say, because it’s the next day and we’re together. I fell asleep trying to write what was in my mind because that’s what my mind does now- sleep. “If you could live in a fruit, what fruit would it be?” I ask this because it’s the only thing I can think of, and I’m self-centred. I don’t really care about what she will say, I just want to prove to myself that I’m not a complete bore.

 

I: “Would you live in a banana, or a raspberry fish?”

Chloe: “There isn’t any thing called a raspberry fish, silly.”

I: “Well, where would you want to live?” I want to tell her where I want to live desperately because I want to hear myself talk and in return, the response I will get. Hopefully I’m still as witty as I think I was. Or maybe I just need to get drunk, more. It’s bad for me and reacts poorly with the medications, but I don’t care. Who wants to live til’ eighty-three anyways? Not me, my life is terrible, but I think I’ve said it enough; although I can’t say it enough, if I am being honest.

 

Chloe: “Well if there was one, I wouldn’t like to live in it. Sounds gross and disgusting.”

I: “No, it sounds lovely.”

Chloe: “Think about how a raspberry would taste like with a fish, any fish!”

I: “Exactly. Disgusting is the new lovely, it’s splendid.”

 

I guess my wit has survived a little. It’s a wonder considering what happened and how my life has turned out to be. I love Chloe because she is a good friend, a really good one. Exactly what someone like myself need (quite) desperately. She and I, we share this one thing: We always wonder how our past-selves, as children, indubitably, would consider us now: their future-selves. For all we’re concerned, we are sad, by anyone’s standards. Well, I think I’m sadder than she is.

 

You know the thing about adults, is that they never listen. We promised ourselves that we’d never grow up to be those kind of adults and we were right and held fast to our promises because we aren’t proper adults, we’re just half, half in half out of it. What makes those adults downright proper and by all regards, normal, we don’t have it.

 

At least I don’t. I don’t know about her, I don’t know much about anyone because I just love talking too much. Every conversation is a war. In my mind. I am always trying to outdo myself, to prove that I have enormous charm and wit, and this conversation is no different, except I have a huge impediment now, and a semi-dysfunctional brain.

 

But artists can survive anything, can’t they? Can they?

 

The will to do, that’s what we must have. So back to Chloe. Charming, 5 feet two inches, tan, sparkling white teeth Chloe.

 

Chloe blushes and says.“No it's not !”

Her upturn nose gives a little twinge, in the way I find mostly annoying.

“Well, where would you live then?” I am dying to tell her where I’d live. It’s a grand mansion and all red. It’s swell.

Chloe: “I’d live in an orange. It has good vitamin C and I like the colour orange. They’re the colour of sunsets.”

I: “People like to look at sunsets when they’re sad. If there were more sunsets in a day, Chloe, I’d watch them all day, 39 a day.” I got that from something I read previously but that doesn’t matter.

 

Chloe says, “I’d watch them with you.” One thing I like about Chloe. She’s always there and she’s so supportive no matter what. She doesn’t feel like a burden. Speaking with her, sometimes I forget about my own competition- the competition to outdo my own wit just a little more with every sentence spoken.

 

Chloe: "Wait.”

 

I don’t like her tone. This is the tone she uses every time she wants to dash my burgeoning ideas when they don’t make sense.

 

Chloe: “If there were 39 sunsets a day, there would be 39 days, silly.”

I: “Yes, I know I’m silly, it’s what’s makes me special. And friendless. You can’t be special and have a lot of friends at the same time,”

Chloe: “That’s only partially true, and that’s why you only have me.”

I: “You noticed?”

Chloe: “Nobody else does, so don’t worry.”

I: “If there’s anything worse than being unnoticed, it’s being noticed for being unnoticed.” I’m really proud of myself by now.

 

“So where’d you live? Which fruit would you live in?” she asks. Her eyes linger on my drink as if she wants some. I nudge the drink away. The ocher liquid swirls in its glass and for a dangerous moment I think it is going to spill over. She’s had enough to drink for a night. She is already swaying in her seat.

 

“I’d live in a strawberry. Those pale yellow dots, the achenes, will be doors that I can peek out of, or windows. Think about it.” That didn’t come out as smart as I hoped. I feel somewhat crestfallen, “and it’s red. Why wouldn’t anyone want to live in a red mansion?”

 

“Okay. That’s a great idea. But a strawberry can hardly be a mansion. A watermelon, though, can be.” Trust Chloe to lift me out of my abjectness, “the strawberry has so many windows, but you’d have to be so small, like the fruit, to fit into it fine.”

“That I am, Chloe, that I am. I am small.” I am small, verily so. I make myself that way. To attract attention is to commit a certain kind of suicide.

“You should write about it. Living in a strawberry. I read your stories. I like them,” she is still looking at my drink. Does she say these things in wild hopes that I’ll offer her a sip?

“I only show you my best ones.” I fidgeted, “Listen, I can’t go on.”

Chloe: “So, why don’t you write about it?”

 

Everything in an instant starts moving in slow-motion. Her voice becomes layered by echoes.

Flare spots, phosphenes, crowd my vision all of a sudden.

 

“Squeeze my hand if you can hear me, Patricia.” A male voice.

 

“I’m heading back, Chloe. Your questions make me disappointed in myself! More so than already am! I won’t write. I haven’t in ages. I can’t. The words won’t come.” The words have stopped.

 

“Okay, Pattie. You do that. You go back and sulk and moan. Let that mind go to waste.” There was Chloe and her non-commiserating, no nonsense chatter. Great advice. I think she hates me.

 

“You don’t understand. I’ve lost it, what makes my mind work.” What does make my mind work? Cogs and machines, but organic and pink, so that they don’t look much like the cogs and machines we see on TV. Are there little beings, a sort of alien species, in our heads, that act like fermions and bosons? No matter what, may these things make up my mind, which connects to my psyche, leading to the soul.

 

“Tomorrow, 8pm? Downtown bar?” Chloe is looking at me with unsympathetic eyes. So unlike her. Did something happen between us? I can’t remember. Memory. Memory served cold and forgotten. Like revenge.

 

I go back to my home. Look at the four walls and contemplate my life. This life of mine where nobody loves me. They don’t know how to. Tomorrow I’m supposed to go downtown and get some more drinks with Chloe. I think we’ll smoke too. That will be good. Smoking calms me. And then I’ll drink, probably alone. I feel alone sometimes, even when Chloe is with me. Because my thoughts and problems are my own, I feel alone. Nobody shares them. They weigh so greatly on me, when I wake up each day, the sunlight sits so heavily on my eyes. I don’t ever want to open them again, I think, but I always do. I read the bible, and I pray to my Father. He tells me to find a husband. Or a wife. I protest with a single word, Father, and he replies, but you are so loved by Me.

 

So maybe if I feel alone tomorrow I’ll go and introduce myself to a girl. A girl that isn’t Chloe because I’ve known Chloe since we were kids. It’d be weird if I went out with her, besides she has a boyfriend. That’s what everyone has, except me. That’s because I’m not proper, remember? Life has its facets, and I happen to be stuck on an ugly side of one.

 

When I close my eyes, I see little children, all running in a field. And in this field there is only a carousal, and nothing else. That’s all they play with, and it’s a lot like life, we go round and round and never get down until an appointed time.

The only difference is when one is on the carousal one pays with time and cash to go on.

Wait a moment, that’s no different. We pay everyday in life. We pay with our happiness, our freedom, our wants and needs, we pay and sacrifice these things every other day. Tell me of one day in your life when happiness was completely and utterly yours and you had everything your way. Unconditionally. Tell me of just one day. Can you? If you can, you’re luckier than some, or a better liar than most.

 

Here I am rambling on and on and I’m about to fall asleep. Good. Don’t wake up.

 

I wake up. The sunlight is blinding. Sometimes light can blind you more than darkness can but I’m not so sure about that because I’m in darkness now. Despite the sunlight, everything feels so dark in my mind and in my soul it is like the fire in it has been put out by a huge torrent of difficulties violated. I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. There is none. I am in hell because I cannot even scream. God doesn’t understand my pain: pain that well, nobody seems to understand me. Nobody ever takes the time. Even if they help, well, those that help, they’re so far away. God gave Eve to Adam because he loved them. I have no one.

 

I’m stuck in this small little country, in a small town where there are very, very cruel people. The roads are flawed and bumpy and the road traffic tolls are expensive.

 

I can’t write.

 

I don’t know what else to say. I better go downtown soon. I wake at 4pm. That’s what happens when you have depression.

 

I prepare myself some breakfast. At 6pm. I don’t have any appetite to eat. What is food other than appetising things you put into your body so that it comes out as things that are unappetising? Not even the smell of eggs can entice me. Only smoke and drink do me well now.

 

And fire, fire for the smoke. Fire is beautiful. It’s the same amber and vermilion as sunsets are. There’s something so winning about a fire. It’s wild and tame at the same time and so unbridled. Like something mysterious. It draws me in until I feel like I’m an extension of it.

 

I think of my life in a single sentence: For three weeks of bliss, there are twenty-three years of nothing.

 

Back to richer things; There’s something about a fire that just really is better than the sun: especially during the latter’s zenith, it’s just too bright and hot and discomforting and disconcerting. It makes my depression worse.

 

Fire is better because we get to tame it, watch it when we’re abysmal. I like to think that our souls look like fire. A burning flame licking oblivion asunder. I wonder, when the soul is quenched like mine is right now, I wonder, how does it look like? Does it look like a worn out, burnt, wet matchstick? Like a cigarette stub? A lump of coal?

 

When the soul suffers, does it make the spirit better, and more…engaging? I want to try to take my own life. But Father said not to, although I already feel like I’m in proverbial hell. So that’s out of the question. No throwing in the towel.

 

It’s 8pm. It’s dark out now. I missed the sunset because I needed to die. That’s what Depression does to you. It robs you of your vitality, your joy, your enthusiasm, and places you in a nebula of damnation and evil that sucks up all your feelings until you have a black hole for a heart. Sometimes I wake up feeling anxious and my heart hurts.

 

I’m going to be late to the bar. The traffic lights are red, tangerine and aquamarine. That’s what I like about city lights. They’re so colourful. They comfort me. I grew up here, in a concrete jungle. I’m walking there, to the bar, till my legs bleed and my feet are plastered with pus-blisters. Physical pain takes the pressure of my soul’s pain away, at least for a while, after all, God wouldn’t allow forever.

 

Nothing goes all right. Even the best series of days end with hurt, confusion and argument. Why? I don’t know, Jesus. I’d trade anything but my hurt to know why it’s this way. We want to climb up the stairway to Eden, but we must not rush.

 

Ah, I see Chloe. She’s sitting all the way at the back. I don’t even roam my eyes around for them to fall on a pretty lady, classic and good looking. They won’t be interested in me anyways. I have a disease, lady. I’ll leave, but would you?

 

“Hey,” I say to one of the women. Her auburn hair falls in waves around her shoulders and her eyes speaks volumes of innocence and the days when we were all still picking acorns and watching Pooh bear getting yelled at by temperamental Rabbit. I’m not able to help myself.

“Hey, stranger.” So coy. Now I know she won’t like me. She likes Presidents.

 

“Do you like to drink?” I ask, because I needed her to feel wanted, but not desperately.

“Yes.” Her upper carriage is graceful and slender. Like a swan, but I’m told I’m like the sun. Swans don’t like suns. I wager she likes only men. All the best do.

 

“Why?” I think I know her.

Her: “Because I’m a nihilist.’

That is always my line, but I’m not going to say it now.

 

“It must be tiring to be a nihilist. All they ever do is not care. Do you know the human brain thinks tens of thousands of thoughts per day? That’s how it’s so hard to not care.”

“What do you do? Count your thoughts all day?”

“No, I think depressive thoughts all day,” I quickly add, “But it’s okay, I like being depressed. It’s my forte.”

 

She looks at me strangely, her eyes are narrowed and I know I’ve blown it. It’s okay: we aren’t the same anyways.

 

Her: “What do you do, I say? For work.”

Ah, why didn’t she say so earlier? Could have spared me the embarrassment. Mental health issues still make for obvious awkwardness, I see.

 

“I write,” I say, before I can stop myself. I don’t write anymore. The tornado stirring in my heart when I think of a potential story has grown cold and dormant.

“Are you published?” her eyes are wide now, and I can see green specks in the large golden brown. The lights reflected in them look good, like yellow stars in a psychedelic soup shop. But she just asked a million dollar question and I can’t help but give her a million dollar answer if I can, only I can’t, so I tell her my dreams.

 

I: “I am.”

“What do you write?” She looks angry, as if I’ve stolen something precious.

I: “I wrote a book titled, ‘Tommy Brown, You’re Upside Down.’”

Her: “You’re strange. I like strange people. Sorry, I’ve gotta go.” She leaves, her summer hair swaying just like that in the light, like coloured whiskey on ice. Dark and blonde-gold, but with dark wreaths in them. Some good shades, I think.

 

When I return to where Chloe is , “Hey stranger,” Chloe says in a tone that mocks the girl’s. I laugh and try to punch her.

 

“So, tell me. Why don’t you write?” Chloe is persistent. She swishes her drink. Reminds me to get one myself.

“I can’t. The words won’t come. I told you. It’s just grown cold. I’m scared I don’t have the gift to express what’s in my soul anymore.”

“I was going to ask you if you write to show your gift off or if you write to express that which is in your soul but I see that it won’t work now, after what you’ve just said,” she finally looks sympathetic and rather sad.

 

I: “All I see is fire and darkness and when I try to write, the darkness is blinding and I just recycle old words written and read. It’s worse than that, I feel like I have no heart anymore. It’s the medicines.” I grow cold at those words.

“Maybe it’s just a case of the writer’s block, you’ve got to relax,” Chloe’s voice is soothing. I think I’ll believe anything she says from now on.

 

“Patricia, squeeze my hand if you can hear me.” That male voice again. Sudden phosphenes in my eyes. “Patricia, you are talking to yourself. Squeeze my hand if you can hear me.”

 

I can hear him but I cannot feel my hands. All I think about is how I’ve lost it, how I’ve lost my will to write, to live, in a way, and how I want nothing more than to go back to Chloe. Why am I seeing these bright lights and hearing that voice? I can’t squeeze his hand, can’t he understand? My hands have failed me. I try to talk.

 

“I w-. I w-ant. I want-.”

“She’s talking.”

“What is it, Pattie?”

 

I want to tell him that I want to go to heaven, and walk in a field of rye and wheat in a sunset that will last forever, but I can’t. I give up. I let my lips fall back into immobilisation. I will go there however, in my mind. I haven’t thought of it before, of my heaven, but now that I know where I really am, I can go there whenever I want to. I can’t breathe any longer, but slowly the world can cease to exist.

 

I walk amidst the rye. I think about how I got here and how everything is so fortuitous. A life is boring if nothing happens by will. If I hadn’t realised where I was I’d still be stuck talking in circles of how and why I wasn’t writing anymore. Now I can rest. I look around me. The field is purple and I wonder why. I see a familiar face. I say, My little man, why are you here with me? I love you so much! Did you reach before me? He watches me with sad eyes, eyes that sparkle, but he is afraid. “Ozzie,” I say, “Come here. You’re not frightened. It’s me. I like being near you.”

“Is it safe to be here?” he says.

“It is safe with me. Look up. What do you see dropping from the heavens?”

“You. And us,” he replies.

“No, it’s only you and your little lovers and friends. Do you see them, my child?”

“Yes, cousin,” he says.

“What do you see?”

“Flowers as beautiful as god and a winter where it is warm, and a frozen bird that turned into a shark.” My cousin is silent for awhile, “Why did the bird stay to die, my favourite?” he says, and he is weeping.

“I don’t know, what do you think?” I say, smiling at him.

“My father told me a long time ago,” my little cousin replies, “father said it was because her heart, soul and spirit broke when her Father gave everything away. And when the Prince was no longer shining, they crucified him with plague, water, and dust, until he was gone, and only his spirit remained,” then he remarks in a voice like the rivers, “It’s a cruel earth.”

 

Plain wheat and rye stretch out for hundreds and thousands of acres, only slightly purple now, and mostly bronze and golden in the burnt Sienna sun. The great depression hasn’t lifted, but at least we can watch the sunsets in content solitude for now.