Waking can be wonderful.
The way your pillow has quietly scrunched itself up to match the shape of your face, the curve of your nose. The quiet rustling of sheets, clean and fresh. Early light creeping in through your windows smuggling a perfume of cherry blossoms.
That wonderful smell. They smell like the dawn. Like spring time. Like life.
But then, The Remembering comes to you. Whispering of tragedy.
Like a burning plane, full of shrieking, dying people. It is a crashing, a screaming rush of every fear you have ever had. And yet, by some horrible miracle, the memory, the terrible unstoppable knowing, slowly, gently, unfurls its flat dead petals in your mind, like a grave flower. Quietly revealing the full grey horror of its inevitable, implacable, arrival.
When did happiness die? A month ago? A day? An hour?
Was happiness ever really a real thing? Can that have ever really existed in a world like this one?
Then the last petal uncurls and reveals the final extent of its dull despair.
Yes. there was happiness here once. But then it went away.
Memories come flooding in. Breakfast at Joe’s on 4th. We Got breakfast there every Sunday. Always the same. Eggs over easy, bacon, sourdough toast, and inevitably, those hash browns. He always hated them. Called them “Shredded, potato like, food substance wafers”. Tom would always laugh and you would say that he was “mental” and then he would stare in mock horror, showing his beautiful lopsided grin, trying not to laugh as you tucked in to them.
And you had loved him for that.
But that was before. Before happiness fled from you. Over a plate of scrambled eggs and lovely, crisp bacon nestled alongside a slab of those weird shredded potatoes they insisted on putting on every plate,
“I’m sorry that it came to this, Peach, but I know you understand. We both know this has been coming a long time. This hasn’t been working for a long time now. I know you understand.”
He paused looking like a man who wants to get this over with.
“We can’t keep doing this all long term. I know you understand.”
Then he put some money on the table, and he got up and he left, with every dream of happiness in the world trailing behind him as he walked out the door. He didn’t even look back.
But you hadn’t known. You didn’t understand. Why did he keep saying `Long time`? Like somehow it was going to make it all make sense? Like it made everything be okay again. You were happy.
Just that morning, you were happy. Then happiness screamed in your face and died.
Focus . Turn off the alarm clock. Get out of bed. You have to stop crying. PuIl yourself together.
You have responsibilities. Nothing is okay, now.
Nothing can ever be okay again.
PuIl yourself together. You have responsibilities. You can do this. Stand up. Bathroom. Shower, wash your face. brush your hair. You can do this.
You have responsibilities. You have to go to work. you can’t just not go.
What if you see Tom? He works at Bullards. It is just around the corner from you. He eats lunch in the same places you do. He asked you out standing in the lineup at the sandwich counter.
He was trying to impress you, trying to look confident. He was so cute, all handsome and nervous. Not sure where to look or what to do with his hands.
He looked so happy when you said yes.
And now he had said No. He is gone and you are alone. He knows you understand.
Somehow, you get through the shower, though you can’t remember doing it. You have brushed your hair, your teeth, like a slow defective machine. Pulled some clothes out of a pile. They don’t match but that doesn’t seem to matter anymore.
You can’t find your keys. You have to have your keys. They have to be here. It’s not like you lost them while you were out dancing. That makes you start to laugh. Then, oddly, you are on the floor. You have no idea how you got there, but there are tears in your eyes and you can hear someone crying. The whole world is made of crying now. The cat has crawled into your lap and is purring contentedly.
No keys. Walk to the bus stop. You have responsibilities. You get to the bus stop just as the bus pulls away, leaving you standing alone, in the newly starting rain.
A man walks up and joins you at the bus stop, waiting. He smiles at you. Says hello. He keeps looking at you.
Is he coming onto me?
The impossible is happening. You’re staring at him, helpless, like a small wounded bird watching a stalking cat. It is too much. it is the last straw. the camels back starts to break, you start crying again. You feel like you’re going to throw up.
He is still looking at you but a sort of fear grows across his face. He mumbles something you can’t hear and walks away.
Eventually, just as the rain stops. a bus pulls up and splashes water on you. A kid with green spiky hair gets off, drops his skateboard on the ground and takes out a pack of cigarettes.
He lights one, staring at you, shrugs and rides away. At the same time the bus pulls away from the curb, leaving you standing all alone again. You begin to walk, not crying anymore. Keep your eyes on the ground.
There are no tears left.
People only cry when there is some hope of help. When they still think that, somehow, it might still get better.
Don’t make eye contact, it would be too much to bear if anyone tried to talk to you.
It’s a long walk. You’re probably going to be late. It doesn’t matter. Nothing matters. There is nothing to be done.
You have walked most of the way when you realise that You don’t have to be there at all. Its Saturday. It doesn’t matter though , nothing matters.
Suddenly, more than anything in the world, you just need a cup of tea. Your mom used to make tea when you were a little girl and you got hurt. “Tea with cream can cure anything.” she would say and you would start to giggle, even through your tears.
There is a tea shop a block away. You have walked past it, but never been in. No one knows you there. No one will try to talk to you there.
Keep looking down. Dont make eye contact.
You start to cross the street and almost step in a puddle of pink foam. Only missing it because you are looking down. Not making eye contact.
But its not foam.
Flower petals are slowly spiralling through the world, past your face, landing in soft pink drifts around your feet.
Looking up for a moment, you realise you are standing under a cherry tree. And suddenly the whole world falls away, and the smell of cherry blossoms and an intoxication of clean spring air fills your mind .
And from a distant past, when you were still a child, your mother’s voice is whispering.
A poem I wrote just for you…
seeking the earth,
touch upturned faces
like gentle blessings.
Whispering the secret names of God
kissing your eyes
like memories of love
as they gently pass
Across the street Tom steps out of a shop. He is holding the hand of a girl with short red hair. He kisses her and they walk away. They look very happy.
It is the worst thing in the world. It will almost kill you,
But you have seen none of that, because, for a moment, you are lost in a riot of cherry blossoms and all the air is pink and the whole world smells like spring time.
You don’t know it yet,
but something wonderful is about to happen.
Contact Andrew Piontkovsky: firstname.lastname@example.org