Writing prompt: air

A breath of fresh air whipped into the room. It was finally midnight. Finally cool and calm, where all were sleeping and nothing mattered. Except for those individuals who stayed awake, waiting for the time where judgment would leave them. No one gives a damn what you’re doing past this hour. Two more hours and it’ll be less so. The last of the drunken mob would have moved on. But I’m sleeping. I can feel the change and yet I sleep. I don’t feel I’m ready for that peace yet. I’ve heard it described as one of the most creative times of the night. Where nothing matters. Where no one cares. Except maybe the disgruntled lover you disturbed as you type on the keyboard, or write, draw, play. No one to judge, until you let them know.

I wait. I wait until dawn, when these people have gone to sleep, and I walk out into the world. It’s warm. It’s going to be a scorcher. People sleepwalking down the road to get to the train station. Slowly, slowly waking up with the first drink of coffee. I followed them, faster, walking past them, hearing their sighs. One or two seem to have the beverage kick in. Flashed my card over the reader, and made my way down the stairs. The problem with creatives is they are usually far more emotional than the average human. I don’t mean that they necessarily share the emotions. Quite the opposite. They often bottle it up, trying to make sure it doesn’t interfere with their process. Hiding their thoughts from the ones they love, the ones they need. Then they break, it could be a drink, a comment, a review, a meal, a person they meet. Anything can flip their mood and two weeks later they appear to be back to normal. I’m not saying we…normal people don’t do that. I just find it occurs far more often with creatives. It’s like a woman constantly pregnant and then giving birth. Creating something and then displaying it. The energy, the time. Only unlike children, art doesn’t always grow and mature. Though like children it can be abused, neglected, punished, or sought over and cherished. The train jerked suddenly at a station. Graffiti across the walls. Messy tags. I don’t mind pictures, but names…they don’t own the wall, what are they trying to prove? Then again we all want to try and leave our mark, don’t we? We all hope to be remembered, because we don’t know what’s in the great beyond. I wonder if, if we do reincarnate, if we remember our past lives, if we find our mark. What if Shakespeare found his works, the familiarity, but then distaste as his new life is very different. What if in his new life, he fights to prove the professors wrong? That he wasn’t a genius? The train moves again. I ask only because I found a wall. A wall near my work I hadn’t noticed before. It’s familiar. Initials are etched in it from over a hundred years ago. I can trace each of them, through definite lines, to where the wall has been wore down. I would do it every day while I smoke. What do I remember? What do I feel? Maybe it’s nothing. Maybe it’s just one of those things that we wonder about. Like when we see a face, and we swear we know that person, and yet, yet we couldn’t have. You ask them about their lives and there is no way in hell, the two of you could have met at any time. It’s a bit scary, those feelings. Not as scary as feeling alone in the world. But. Scary.

Creatives also tend to be contradictory. More contradictory than most. I think it’s because of the extremes of their lives. They do one show, and it builds and builds and builds and then poof. Nothing. Nothing to really show for what they did. Whereas most jobs, there’s something. At least artist have physical pieces of their work. Musicians more so, I suppose. But actors? Unless it’s film, it’s a bit hard. Contradictions. I wonder if they happen when we say the thing that is true to us, and then we try to be the person we want to be. And they’re completely different people. It’s a bit hard. Like being two faced. But not really knowing which one you are. Did you really mean you liked the show? Or you hated it? Do you want to get married? Or is being a forever single person your dream? Make up your mind. Yet we are expected to be flexible. It’s difficult, don’t you think? A bit difficult.

The train slows down at my stop. I walk off, once more flashing my card, and moving up the stairs through the crowds. More people. More chatter. A man asking for change. I give him some change. Unfortunately I know where it’ll be going. But better give him a moment of happiness then myself, a moment of regret. A man once told me that we should treat these people better. I agree. Unfortunately some of them will hurt you. Break you. Because they themselves are that broken, that it becomes infectious. Also I don’t have the money to really make a difference. Maybe that’s an excuse. Maybe I sound cruel. Maybe you need to walk in my shoes, maybe I need to walk in theirs. But would you leave a coin knowing where it was to go? Though some, some strive so hard, I would give them all I had, I think. I wish they wouldn’t judge. I get tired of the whirlwind of bullshit people make up. The political correctness that we spread around. How about we just accept, and love where we can and just work on where we don’t? Nothing ever comes from forcing it on someone. A smile. That man smiled whilst on the phone. I realise no one had smiled near me today. I smile. Let it become infectious.

Crossing the road and see a problem. I’m bleeding. It’s hurting now. I didn’t hear the shot. My headphones are still in. Distant violins in my ears give way to my breathing. I’m on the ground. I cough, I spatter. I hear them now. The bullets. The screams. I want it to end. I feel the burning through my chest. A woman comes to me, crouching she uses her jumper to apply pressure. A friend of hers calls someone. I can’t really hear them. They misjudged. He wasn’t done. He didn’t leave. The blood poured onto my face. I could hear myself stop, I froze. The tears seemed to freeze with me. I waited. I waited for a long time. The darkness crowded my vision. I wondered if he had smiled.

I woke. I woke in a white room. I felt where they had taken out the bullets. Within the hour they told me how lucky I was. I was going to be fine. It was a miracle. I survived. There were others. The bullets in me missed almost everything. Some of the others weren’t so lucky. Some looked for answers. What good would that do? Three days of hospital food, of talking, of sleeping. Visitors without names, visitors with sympathy, visitors with no invitation, one for me, three for the one’s next door. Tests, beeping, pain, sobbing of whomever was in the next bed. Nurses and doctors weaving in and out. Never the same face twice.

It’s dark. I’m at home, and I feel the pain across my chest. Three weeks without sleep. I get out of bed. It’s 2am. I open the laptop and I write. And write and write. I hurt. But no one really cares. Get over it. You’re lucky to be alive. I don’t listen with my headphones anymore. I listen with my ears. I haven’t taken another train. I drove to work. A borrowed car. My boss was tired of my…mistakes. But I still have a job. My friends…well…it was easy to tell who my friends were. Or perhaps not, everyone has their own lives. I’m tired of not knowing, and yet I do. Not many actually visited me. And those who did…they spoke of themselves. Their jobs, their children, their ambitions. Whilst I sat there with a hole in my heart. Or what felt like a hole. Their words chilling my core. What had I done? What will I do? I survived for what? I wish I could feel a picture and remember a past long forgotten. Maybe I was a maid for a king, an artist for a lord, a bar tender, perhaps a father.

I typed and typed, I could feel the air warm as morning slowly came. I slept. I slept through the phone calls. Through the knocks on my door. I slept until my job was no more. I understood why 2am was a good time. No one bothered you. The bullshit didn’t matter. Nothing did. Yet, we all mattered. In those hours we matter, we aren’t problems, we aren’t burdens, we just are. I don’t know what I’m going to do. I woke, I showered. I deleted the messages. I made a call. I was going to resign. A mutual agreement made.

I left the building and sat in a corner of a cafe. I could feel the warmth of the beverage in my hand. Drift of smoke. I hadn’t smoked since before the…before the guns. I ordered a muffin, fresh, as they were just making them. They were a bit behind. It was already afternoon. Something must have happened. I didn’t ask. They did. They recognised me, from some, some article. From some picture someone took. I smiled, tried to. It wasn’t infectious. It hurt. They realised. They apologised. They moved on. All except one. She smiled, and told me to wait. She came back with a pad and pencil and told me to draw her. I was baffled. She smiled and encouraged me. I didn’t know how to draw. She said let go. I hesitated. I asked why, she shrugged. I took a sip of coffee and looked down. A warm breeze whistled through my insides. I drew. I started drawing her face, her eyes, her nose and mouth and somewhere there I let go. I drew with a lump in my throat and tears down my face, I drew as I choked the emotions forward and I drew as the sun went down. She was patient. I thought she would be upset. She was a mirror. Her face had the bullets, the holes the blood. The jumper of the woman, and hospital white walls, the urine. I ripped it and she stopped me, taking the image and putting it together. She taped it. She framed it. She hid it and told me one day, I could show someone. But for now, it was mine to keep.

I told her today was the day. She asked if I was sure. The tears on my face said yes. She smiled and put it on the wall. The pain. It was there and yet, it was still inside me. It had settled. A little bit. I’m no artist. A child could do better. A lot better.

It’s 2am, and the chill of the night soared past my heart. I gasped, in pain. I turned to my computer. The pain, it’s slowly shrinking. The breeze turned warm to hot. I smiled, she was waiting at the other end. She too woke in the small hours, along with her husband. Together we wrote, their pain and mine to find the peace. The shallow hours where no one cared, and yet did. I feel whole.


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