Prose/Shorts

Bleak

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What was it? A waiting room? A lobby? A bus stop? Does it matter? Did it ever? Sure. At some point. It mattered to the person who paid for it. Who made it. The people who ate because of it. But now? No. Not for us. It doesn’t matter. Let’s move on.

They all sat in chairs. Mostly. Not all. One woman stood by a counter, exchanging words to convey purposes. Fulfilling her goals to some extent. Returning to a seat. Now they all sat. The people in the room were all seated. It was a room. We can agree on that. Let’s move on.

Another woman sat in another chair. She was watching people. People-watching, as they like to say. Whoever they are. Who are they? Some people. Generic now. It probably doesn’t matter. They mattered to someone at some point. They probably matter to other people now. Maybe to the same people now as in those other points in time. Maybe not. Let’s move on.

The woman who sat. The second one mentioned, not the first. Let’s not worry about the first one. She’s irrelevant. She always will be, won’t she? The woman sat and watched. She watched and thought. She thought and wondered and tried to decipher those thoughts that floated around. She grabbed one or two thoughts and examined them. Tried to decide why they floated. Why they floated in her head, anyway. She paused in her processing of those foremost thoughts to consider why she might draw back that layer. What’s the use in a metaprocess to consider those primary thoughts? “Am I questioning the purpose of examining the value of my thoughts? What’s the point in that?” She shook her head. This was going too far.

“Nevermind the why. That’s not really important. I’m going to go insane if I keep going. I’ll either go insane or decide it’s all pointless. I guess I’ll have to settle for a partial declaration of pointlessness. Only some of it doesn’t matter. Not to me. Not now.” Her face wore an expression of neutrality, or so she thought. In reality, it looked dark. Foreboding. “Don’t talk to me. I certainly don’t want to talk to you!” It broadcasted the message to any who cared to hear. Those who did address her addressed her by Jen. That really isn’t all that important, but endless pronouns are confusing.

“It certainly is a bleak day, isn’t it?” The lady next to her brought an aura of mental blandness. Jen could feel it. The new lady wasn’t malevolent. She didn’t know any words quite so long. She was quite proud of having remembered bleak. She had seen it in a magazine, next to a picture of the president. She liked the way it sounded. It fit her mouth. She moved through life by doing things. Why? Those were the things to be done. She had read in SILK that plaid was making a comeback. So she bought a plaid skirt. She had spent far too much on it, but with a laugh to assuage her guilt. That’s what credit cards are for, right? She drolled on about plaid and dark colors and how, when she watched John Samuels in the morning (oh, how she loved John Samuels), she would plan her colors for the day depending on his forecast. He said it would be a less-than-beautiful day today. Wasn’t that wonderful, how he kept sooo upbeat?

Always so reliable, that John Samuels. And, if she was honest, he was a looker, too. All this and more poured from her mouth. The useless drivel and recycled ideas tumbled from her brain as she upended it towards our lady in her seat. They contaminated the air as they mixed with the atmosphere. They obscured the background noises in their attempt to overcome Jen’s blockade of interaction. They succeeded. Jen looked at the new lady. “What should I call you, ma’am? I don’t really care, but I’ve decided that semi-unique names are better than entirely generic pronouns.” Barbara, as the hitherto generic ma’am was known by those who were required to refer to her specifically, blinked and looked vaguely surprised. She gave Jen her name.

“Well, Barbara, let me start by telling you, I’m not the best person to engage in small talk. In fact, I make a point not to. I used to try. I realized it was pointless, quite literally. Pointless for me, anyway. I don’t like interacting with people for no reason. It’s an exertion for me. It’s a chore I’d rather not have to undertake. It requires effort. Effort which usually isn’t duly rewarded. For example, normally, I’d say that I have nothing to learn from you. Nothing that matters to me. I don’t read SILK, and I don’t care about plaid.” Here, Barbara gave a patronizing smile, and began to say that she definitely understood differences in taste, but… “I don’t watch much television, and I certainly don’t care about personalities like your Mr. Samuels,” Jen finished.

Barbara’s face twitched for a moment as she reacted to being cut-off mid-sentence and insulted in her choice of style and men. “Well, now, I suppose, to each her own. I mean, I was talking with Clary the other day, and she said that she liked Carter Hoskins on channel 3! Haha! Of course she would. But let me tell you, she hasn’t gotten her copy of SILK yet, and when she sees my skirt, she’s going to just have to have one!”

Jen watched Barbara’s head as more and more of the seemingly endless supply of numbingly-unimportant prattle escaped from its constraints. Was it of its own accord? Was Barbara generating this? Was she just a conduit? A carrier?

“I honestly don’t understand it, Barbara.” Jen cut off Barbara again, and Barbara, though annoyed, was far too polite to protest. Not yet, anyway. She’d tell alllll her friends about this weird little woman who had acted so rudely. Maybe she could find a way to tease Clary about this, what with her dislike of plaid and all… “all this around us, for example,” Jen continued “it has a purpose. This room, it’s here for us to wait in. If we didn’t have to wait, if we didn’t have to be here, this room wouldn’t exist. These chairs… if we didn’t have to sit, or if the establishment here didn’t benefit from our relative comfort, these chairs would still be trees in some forest or lumber in some lumberyard. At some point, someone decided that someone else would need a chair, and some tree’s fate was sealed. From a seed, to a tree, to a truck, to a chair. All that because this place wanted you to sit here, and me to sit here, and nowhere in that line of events did anyone say ‘let’s make sure they talk to each other.’” Barbara didn’t get the point.

“Haha, you are really funny! Also, that’s so deep! I had never thought about a tree becoming a chair. Maybe that tree in my front yard will be a bench for someone one day! Hah!”

Jen pushed on. “So many things go on every day. Countless endeavors for the progression of events. Sometimes the events are related. Sometimes the endeavors fail. Sometimes I wonder why I’m doing them. I wonder why, in the vast world of events and interactions, happenings and failures and successes, why I’m doing the specific things that I do. That’s what I’m getting at, Barbara, somehow. Your endless shpeel on fashion, friends, and meaningless sundry. Why did you direct it at me? What was the point? I don’t care about it. I openly am opposed to it. I told you as much. When I talk about something, I do so with a purpose. I talk in order to think things through at a cooperative level. I talk about important things because they deserve to be talked about. They have to be understood, and sometimes to understand something, one has to talk through it. I talk about things that matter, Barbara. I despise the things that don’t matter. They only serve to distract from matters of importance. Now please, leave me alone.”

Barbara left her alone. She had lost her fake smile. Her face wore an expression of deflation. She turned to her new copy of SILK. She turned dolefully through the pages, and wondered, for the first time, if this really did matter. Then she remembered what John Samuels had said. What she herself had rephrased later. This day really was bleak. She couldn’t wait to tell Clary.

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Hemaflora

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sunset-1645105_1920The letter had the strangest effect on my person. I really hadn’t anticipated it. My mood was foreign to me, though I couldn’t identify it when I tried. I looked at my soul through a window made of mud. I felt numb, and in my numbness, I felt nothing.

Perhaps now, looking back, I can more easily identify why it was that the letter struck me in such a fashion, but at the time, I really was at a loss. I do remember how everything fell out. The morning had been a nice one. The clouds were heavy that morning, but only in spots. It was one of those days when the sky looked like a river bed. The clouds were large and rounded and similar but not homogeneous. They promised rain, but their promises were empty. Maybe next time, they seemed to say, as they glided down the sky towards the places they were destined to go. Do clouds have destinies? Perhaps. I’d like to think they do. It gives one a sense of something greater… but that’s not a discussion for today.

The clouds passed over as I stood outside. The shadows at times made me a bit dizzy as they explored the terrestrial realm. I had woken up late that day, and the coffee in my mug was still warm. As I looked through the garden, I noticed a new plant. I shook my head a bit to clear the sleep, for I felt that I must have been imagining things. The tiredness was quite gone, though the plant still remained. I knew for a fact that it hadn’t been there the day before. I was an avid gardener, and there, amidst the various sedges and asters was a taller plant that had decidedly not been there. I moved closer to examine the stem, for only one stem came out of the ground. Around the stem rose broad leaves, rather like an orchid. I looked closer, and I realized that the leaves were fleshy, like a succulent’s. I took a leaf between my finger and thumb, and the plant shuddered from the impact. A dark spot appeared on the leaf. I frowned at how easily it bruised. The flower bud near the top of the stem was looking as though it would bloom at any moment, so I decided to go in after my camera.

The walk from the garden to my house was short, but I caught my breath as I walked into the dining room. On the table, next to my camera, sat the letter. Perhaps I should mention that other than a stray cat who sometimes wandered by, I lived alone. I quickly glanced around the room, but no one was there. A cursory, fruitless, search of the rest of the rooms in my house did nothing to ease the sudden feeling in my chest that spoke of danger. I picked up the letter and began to read.

“I’m sorry, but I’m afraid that I must tell you that [she’s] dead. I know this will reach you a bit late. I hope you find consolation in that she died while doing what she loved. The following is a picture of her latest finding. She named it Hemaflora.”

Contained within was a photograph of a flower. A gorgeous flower. It looked like an orchid, but the face of the bloom was entrancing. It told stories with its look, but I didn’t care about that. I only stood and gazed at that photograph and letter. She finally died. Of course, she had died to me years ago. That day she told me that her travels would give her more than I could, but now that finality was real. Now the anticipation of something that couldn’t be, that hopeless hope of a life unreal, it was gone.

I’ve told you already of how I felt. I don’t think that would do me or you much good to repeat. I didn’t tell you, however, of what transpired later. I had gone back outside to try and clear my head. The letter was in my pocket, and I gradually gravitated towards the spot where I had earlier found that new plant. Once again, for the second time that day, I started. It was, as I then perceived it, the moment of most clarity in the midst of my depression, but I now question the reality of it at all. The bloom that sat atop the stem was gorgeous and complex. The gaze of the orchid (for I knew not what to call it) seemed to look into my heart. I sat for the longest time, looking at this flower, and eventually, I removed the letter and photograph from my pocket.

I studied the paper for a little while longer, and then I began to tear up the letter and photo together. I scattered the pieces in the garden and turned back to the flower. It shuddered slightly, and then began to rend. A feeling of utter despair washed over me as I watched the bloom begin to drip a dark red substance from the tears that appeared in its flesh. It looked, if a flower can look such, as though it had felt the worst feeling possible, and then it gradually wilted down into a pile of bloody stem and leaves.

Hemaflora, I thought. That’s what she called it. I imagine I won’t see it again. To this day, I haven’t, and sometimes I question if I ever did.

Infinitely Finite

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Thankfully, I am not the master of my fate, nor am I the captain of my soul.

~~

“But I can be good enough!”

This was the cry which had echoed out so many times before, the anthem of the timeless and oh-so-futile struggle that every human fights. The sum of all mortal hopes, dreams, and delusions gathered into one statement. Man has always fought against his helplessness. There is always a battle when the eternal fate of his soul is brought forth for scrutiny. He is convinced, in his mind, of his ability to survive. The Earth is his plaything, sickness is but an inconvenience, and the animals exist for naught but to be controlled. He is his own master. Why should he not be able to control his place in the afterlife? God is but an idea, an ideological crutch on which to lean. Only the weak need to acknowledge Him; that’s what the strong tell themselves.

“I can be good enough!” Always in the future, ever a possibility, never an I am, that’s for the shallow. There’s always one more thing. There are always improvements to be made. Perfection is always just ahead. I. Can. Be.

Like the constant attempts of the mosquito to survive, the finger plugging the dam, or the roadkill which once tried to traverse the highways without a vehicle, so is man. On its own, the finite can never become infinite. The infinite can never be completely reduced to the definable. Collect, pile, multiply, and repeat, the infinite is never within grasp. There will always be an amount, no matter how large the number. Infinite is not a human term. It can be, but it never will. The theoretical has no bearing on the divine. Possibilities will not pass for constants. Can be will never pass for I am. I have been, can be, might, was, or could—none of these will suffice.

Without a piece of the infinite, the finite is but a mere dot on a scale—easily obtainable and even more easily surpassable. It is when the infinite comes down, takes on the burdens on the finite, and provides a portal through which both can pass, that the finite is saved.

“No, you can’t,” came the response, “but I can.”