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Fiction Life

Frozen

She hated winter despite the fact she’d lived up north for many years. The cold seemed to kill something inside her, and year after year, when she put away the patio furniture and her summer clothes, she cocooned herself inside the house and waited for the frozen world to thaw. Through four long months of bitter cold, she functioned on automatic – get up in the morning and go to work in the dark; come home in the dark and go to bed. When the darkness outside her started to creep into her mind and soul, she used her Feel Bright light visor that claimed to prevent SAD or Seasonal Affective Disorder. SAD – what an appropriate acronym. She became sadder each day, waiting for the rebirth of nature, the reappearance of the sun, and to feel its warmth on her skin again.

It was still early March and winter had lasted longer than anticipated. That silly groundhog was always wrong. This winter had been particularly hard for her, her first year on her own. She had learned to use the snow blower; she had chipped away ice, and closed up all the water lines herself. She’d sat in the dark most nights, worrying about every creaking noise the house made, worried about the power going out or the furnace dying, and imagining herself freezing to death with nobody even knowing for weeks.

She stood beside the frozen canal and thought about the changes in her life and the separation that had been her idea. She’d had enough of being taken for granted in a loveless marriage without even holding hands for more years than she could remember. The only role he’d played in her life was to criticize her and put her down. She was never good enough. She could work and cook and clean and pay for everything but somehow it was never enough. Like the cold, her marriage had killed something inside her and year after year she’d been going through the motions, unable to imagine a future that included happiness.

Not that she was happy now either. Maybe there was no such thing as happiness; maybe it was all just an illusion, like a dangling carrot to keep a person going, this eternal search for happiness. She wasn’t ready to date again. For years she had thought better the devil you know than the devil you don’t and now she realized that no devil at all was the best solution. So, she’d learned to paint ceilings herself, rip up carpets and remove the staples. She cried the entire time out of pain, frustration, and loneliness, but she had persevered.

Things had changed. She was learning to manage on her own, to motivate herself and to keep going; only winter still needed to be conquered. She had avoided dealing with the sham that was her marriage for too many years, now it was time to deal with winter, to draw upon her inner strength, to be a better person, a more resilient person.

She removed her skate guards and stepped out onto the frozen water. Like riding a bike, one never forgets how to skate and it didn’t take long before she was soaring down the canal, arms outstretched and face lifted to catch the rays of the sun. Alone on the frozen canal, warm within her layers of clothing, she was finally flying.

She was finally winning.

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Categories
Fiction Life

Daily Commute

She saw the young man sitting across from her on the train flash a look of annoyance as someone brushed his knee with her bag. She wondered why he was annoyed when he was clearly mansplaining (that is the term, isn’t it?) with one leg in the aisle. She studied him more carefully and noticed that his light blue eyes had a very sad look. He was well-groomed with a neatly trimmed short beard, but the woolen gloves that held his mobile phone were frayed with holes along the edges. She looked down and saw his boots were badly scuffed and the sole on his left boot was starting to become detached.

The most obvious thing though was his woolen coat pulled tight at the buttons, so tightly in fact that she was surprised the large brown buttons didn’t start popping off. The jacket was of excellent quality, definitely not some cheap off the rack coat from Walmart, but it was at least two sizes too small. She wondered about his situation as she looked again at his sad blue eyes.

He could feel her eyes on him and he looked down at his phone to avoid returning her gaze. He couldn’t tell if this older woman was just curious about her fellow passengers or if she were somehow judging him. Even though he didn’t know her, he didn’t want her to judge him; he didn’t want anyone to judge him. He had just spent the last of his savings to cover his rent and didn’t even have enough left to pay his utilities. The local welfare office had covered his monthly transit pass so at least he could keep going to interviews. Next month he might end up sleeping on the train if something didn’t turn up.

He caught the train every morning at 7 am and made his way into the city. He was taking a job search program through a library downtown and he usually lingered after the workshop to use  their internet to search for jobs and submit his resume. The location was close to most of the major corporations if a job interview was scheduled; in fact, he was averaging one to two interviews a day. He was trying hard but nothing was working out for him.

This was probably the worst year of his life. He’d moved to the city with his girlfriend and everything had been great until a few months ago when he’d lost his job. It’s funny how you really get to know someone during difficult times, isn’t it? That’s right – his girlfriend had dumped him and moved out, leaving him stuck with a lease he couldn’t afford and no job. His parents hadn’t wanted him to move so far away and they’d actually argued about it, so he wasn’t about to rush back home and eat crow, not yet anyway. He knew it might come to that though; he felt like a complete failure.

Suddenly his mobile phone rang, waking him from his introspective mood.

“Hello?”

“Yes sir, this is Jason. I can absolutely start on the 15th. I’ll be there before 9 a.m. Yes sir, thank you for the call, I’m looking forward to joining your firm.”

The call ended and he just sat there looking at his phone. Then he looked up at the woman sitting across from him. She was smiling at him now.

He smiled back.

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Fiction Life

Pretending

“I’m tired. I realize I’ve been tired for a very long time. Getting through each day, pretending to be normal, pretending to be like everyone else, is exhausting.

“I’m not like everyone else. I came from a different place. Life has shaped me and made me who I am; but somehow that’s not enough and it’s not okay to be who I am. I’m supposed to pretend that nothing that happened to me mattered, that none of it affected me and that at the end of the day, I’m just like everyone else.

“Except I’m not. I’m tired. Tired of living in a world that expects me to conform – to fit a predetermined mold. A world that refuses to let me be me. I live inside my head too much, and I know that’s not healthy. I come out from time to time and pretend to be who others expect me to be but that makes me tired. So very tired.

“Every single person sees me differently. If they all got together and talked about this person they knew, none of them would realize they’re talking about the same person. I am someone different to everyone that knows me. Which means that nobody knows me. And now I’m tired.”

I listened to the man sitting across from me, looking him directly in the eyes. I could feel his confusion and despair and wished there was something I could do to give him hope, to convince him we all had the same thoughts, we all felt the same way. He was just giving a voice to the thoughts that we all had.

Because I was tired too.

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Categories
Fiction Life

Forever

It was a windy October day, and she stood at the edge of the park, lost in her own thoughts. She was alone in the park and she watched the empty swings swing back and forth, their chains rattling in the wind. The day matched her mood – solemn, reflective, and overcast. The clouds above made the park seem grey and dingy. Each leaf falling from the trees seemed like a final pirouette through the air towards its inevitable demise.

She used to bring her son here when he was younger and he would squeal with delight as she pushed him gently on a swing.

“Faster Mommy” he would cry, “I want to go higher, I want to FLY!”

Nothing scared him; and he laughed his way through childhood, through school and soccer, through life. He loved playing soccer and he brought an exhilaration to the game, running faster, jumping higher, almost flying. It was hard to keep your eyes on him.

Today was the anniversary of the day he went away. She still felt the ache in her chest, the pain of not having her ray of sunshine. She knew that with time she’d learn to accept it, and that it would get easier, but she couldn’t believe it yet. It felt as if she’d feel this pain forever.

Forever. That was how long he’d left her for. That road of no return. It was probably the only day in his life when he wasn’t laughing. The day she’d come home and found him hanging in his room. She hoped he was flying and laughing again, wherever he was.

Forever is a long time.

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