Hi, and welcome (back). Hope Christmas was as amazing for you as it was for me? Thanx a lot for making the series so much fun. We’ve literally been here and there – in case you’re just joining in. Now, we continue…
When I woke that morning, I had no idea who or where I was. I felt familiar; heck it all felt familiar – but that was as far as I could know by myself. Time soon came to my aid – and, after the millionth try, I found the strength to open my eyes and crawl out of the couch.
I could feel the forger’s hammer against my skull and an angry yoyo turned in my bowels. Nothing felt right – like a pizza cut by a drunken chef. The details remained hazy but I knew two things for sure: I was me, and this was it. While passed out on the couch, I had drifted through different worlds, feeling like many things. One after the other, though, those worlds had all vanished or morphed into others. This last one, the very worst of them all, felt real.
As I staggered into the revered sanctuary of my bathroom, I couldn’t help noticing the mirror’s trick. It had swallowed a cheap imitation of me. The figure looked like something banished from the heavenlies by a misguided typhoon. It moved like me and even had my clothes. Any fool would have been deceived; not me. Still, I couldn’t be bothered; now wasn’t the time. I just sat on the ivory throne and rained organic justice on my enemies.
A few hours later, when the hangover had cleared a bit, I realized I had fallen asleep on the toilet seat. I then began the long climb up the emotional ladder. While I was no stranger to frenzies and hangovers, this time was different; the previous day could easily have been my last.
You see, my friends and I were an unrestrained pack of adrenaline junkies. We had no care in the world; no plans, only an insatiable taste for fun. Nights were pretty drab; if we weren’t drinking, we were clubbing really hard. That’s not what made us feel special. Anyone could pay a DJ to own the dance-floor and drink cocktails from an aquarium.
What got us really high was what we did in daytime. We would meet to agree on the daftest, riskiest quest possible, and then set out on it. This time, we raced across three states to buy some food we weren’t to taste till we had returned. Of course, whoever returned first had all the bragging rights. We did stupid stuff like that all the time; it was how we killed time. And, it would have been just another wild run – but something memorable happened.
In my rush to finish first, I hadn’t noticed the giant pot-hole just at the edge of the final bridge. Normal speeds may have afforded enough time for a safe maneuver, but we left normal behind long ago. All I could do was swerve and hope I wouldn’t fly off the edge. It had felt like certain death; so bad my knees quivered for many hours after.
So, when we met up later at night, I understandably drank more and partied harder than anyone else. Anything to take my mind off the incident was welcome. But, some things just don’t go away. I looked back at how it all began as I sat on the edge of the bed, pondering what could have been.
My friends and I grew up in the same neighbourhood – and even though we now lived in different parts of the city, the bond remained strong. A few years ago, we were easily the most optimistic and responsible guys on the planet. We looked forward eagerly to completing our university degrees and launching off in our chosen fields. Nothing meant more to us than becoming model youths with dignified careers. Those dreams had, however, been deflated by wave upon wave of school closures. In place of all the hope, we were now left with were anger and frustration.
The last closure happened five weeks into our final semester. We had felt so much relief at finally being within touching distance of the finish line. All that quickly fizzled out when we heard the news of another indefinite strike. That was the last straw – too much for any of us to bear. We didn’t know how much we had to sit at home this time, but we made up our minds. If we had to watch our dreams fall to pieces before our eyes, the least we could do was get some popcorn for the show.
The adrenaline and late-night madness proved just that. But, if you could see beneath the surface, you’d realize it was only a ploy to mask our deep-lying frustration. And, despite our best efforts, the relief was always short-lived. Reality always came knocking in those quite moments after a major high. We thought repeating the cycle frequently would make a difference – but it always kept coming back. Nothing seemed able to outlast the frustration of being in and out of school, unable to complete our degrees in time.
The incident on the bridge made it all the more obvious the time had come for a new approach. I had to think about my life again. A voice in my head always told me to fight for the future – but it had been ages since I last heard it. The booze and adrenaline had finally worn it out. I had to go away someplace, far from the distractions of familiarity, and have a proper look inside. Maybe I would hear it again.
To think I once painted my dreams so vividly: the career I’d build, the family I’d raise – even the cars we’d own. Everything with so much detail. Now was the time to salvage those dreams – and re-birth the irreparable! I would take the last train to nowhere, and from deep within unknown territory, remind myself of everything I once dreamed life to be.
I had journeyed quite some distance, and was now at the terminal waiting for the day’s last train. Anyone who knew anything about the station hated it for all the filth, stench and rushing bodies. Good thing, only a few people ever waited for the last train. Still, it was the last place in the world I would have been; desperate times, they say, yell in your ears!
The human noise had gradually begun to morph into ambience when I saw her walk in. Time stood still for a moment and chimes went off in my head. She moved with an assured calm that spiked my heart rate. Her aura was prim, spicy, yet homely. Standing just a few feet away was all I ever wanted in a woman. I could feel my head dancing in the clouds. It felt like the stars were aligning for me again; I had to speak with her. Who would have thought dreams could come true so fast!
But, just as I made for where she stood, I looked again and she was gone. Where on earth could she have gone – the ladies, another waiting space or one of the exits? I had to find her; no way was I letting such a chance pass me by!
I had looked everywhere and was now approaching the uncompleted terminal. It would have been a good time to call off the search – but my train wasn’t due for another quarter-hour. Maybe she had to take a really private call – or just wanted some air? Curiousity, the rat’s best friend, help me by the neck.
I found a partly sealed entrance to the new terminal. It was dark and dusty; not a place many ladies would hang out on a cold night. But it didn’t feel very strange, seeing as I had exhausted other logical options.
The search appeared to be paying off, as I could now faintly hear what seemed like a generous whisper through the thick darkness. I had to get her attention. So, like any Romeo to his Juliet – and Clyde to Bonnie – I called out.
As soon as I had let the words out, though, I knew I had been undone. Of all the vile words in existence, who would have thought ‘excuse me’ would be the ones to get me killed!
They say your whole life flashes before you shortly before you die. Mine had been flashing since I almost went off that bridge. So, this time, the only flashes I saw were the deathly fireflies that raced toward me. Running was pointless – there wasn’t even time for nostalgia or regret. All I felt were awe, pain and, eventually, peace.
The bullets glowed and whistled softly as they approached, leaving me briefly transfixed by the beauty of their display. The pain of their impact was, however, beyond anything I had ever felt or imagined. Things quickly became very peaceful as I lay peering into the darkness. I was now beyond the realms of pain, and the eerie smile slowly froze away on my face.
As we walk the path before us, we may stumble on the black shadow of a white statue – or the quite memories of a noisy battle. We may wonder how things came to be this way. How night replaces day; how love turns to hate and back. But we remind ourselves that the universe must have her way. That highs must follow lows – and valleys, hills. And, if the sun rises again tomorrow, we realize it’s only the start of another cycle. Tomorrow, however, is more than some of us can hope for.
At depths from which I would never rise, I felt the joy of knowing I fell from somewhere higher than here. I would never have to worry for anything; I tried again to smile at the thought – but there wasn’t much left of me. The end felt like a new beginning, as a flood of peace washed reality clean away.
Thanx for making #2013 one to smile about. Here’s to an amazing #2014. Happy new year in advance!