How Much?

How much time ticked away
As each day
After day
I grew older
But not wiser
I grew up
But fell down
I had dreams so big
They could crush all of humanity
For they were certainly crushing me
Where did it all go?
All those minutes
Hours
Days
Weeks
Months
Years
I have no way to mark the time
No memories to guide me
So I know
I’ve been alive
I’m drowning in indifference
And aching sadness
Consuming my mind
Like a dense fog
In the early morning
Unwilling to lift
Until broken
By light of day
My soul is hit by a tidal wave
And it shakes me to my core
I stumble and fall
And I must teach myself
To remain on my two feet
At what age
Do I become strong
And sturdy?
Time cracks me open
And all of my rambling thoughts
And pointless daydreams
Come pouring out
Like the explosion of a star
Or a comet streaking midnight sky
And I feel full of light
Hurtling into endless night
Eternal darkness
My mind gets lost in dark matter
And I am left with time in my hands
Spilling out
Like water I cannot hold
As my tears mix in
And create a mess
Of broken dreams
And lost life
Broken hearts
And lost time.

Original Work: KH 11/20/14

Short Story: 35

Chapter 4: Freedom

She awoke in a haze of confusion, unsure of everything that had transpired, and its basis in reality. She felt as though something was different, but she wasn’t sure what that something was, or how it related to her. Everything was beginning to feel like some kind of odd dream, as if she had lost her grasp on reality again. The sheets of this bed felt unfamiliar, starched and white as could be, with just a hint of bleach wafting through the air. She was lying in bed, looking at all of the items in the room that she didn’t recognize, amazed she had gotten there, and was living in a fantasy, even for just one day.

She decided it was time to get out of bed, and begin her day, with a trace of subtle hope in her heart that today would somehow be great, better than the days before. She hoped that today would be truly memorable, and she would finally experience happy moments and meet people, and see places, that she would remember for the rest of her life, however long or short that may turn out to be. She walked to the curtains that hung over the window, opening them with a touch of unnecessary dramatic flair, and allowed her eyes to take in the sights that were outside her window all around her. Sometimes, waking up and seeing something unexpected can be a truly beautiful gift, and she felt that way right now, as her eyes perused the different landscape that lay outside her tiny room. She nearly forgot the usual part of her routine, as she was taken aback by the reality of the situation she was currently in. How had this even happened, she wondered to herself, lost in the daydream of an early morning in an unusual place. She felt nearly happy, at least for a few minutes, until that sinking, aching feeling returned to her stomach, and slowly began to consume her again, something she was all too familiar with. An odd feeling, one she had most mornings, that she couldn’t quite explain, and couldn’t quite shake. Something just felt off, wrong, odd somehow, yet she never could figure out why. It seemed no matter where she was, that aching was sure to follow, its loyalty was almost admirable, she had to admit; that pain, that sadness, might be the most loyal thing in her life, and that made her horribly sad. She thought, being there, all of this would be left in the past, but alas, it followed, as she knew it would.

Charlie walked away from the window, to the bedside table where her small toiletries bag was. She reached in, and removed her all too familiar bottle, the one she’d sworn she wouldn’t bring, but did anyway because she couldn’t help herself. She prepared to count out seven pills, those seven pills, the ones that she had always counted every morning before, as part of her morning routine. She counted, one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, and laid them on the nightstand next to her bed, here in this lovely hotel room. She thought coming here would change everything, and suddenly she’d have the realization that life was worth living. But that feeling, that aching sadness could not be defeated, not even here. She was suddenly startled by the alarm on her phone going off, although she didn’t remember setting it; must be left over from the days before, she thought to herself. However, the alarm was not needed, as she had woken up 10 minutes before the alarm went off, as was usual for her; it was a familiar, almost comforting feeling, knowing that she always woke up without the help of her alarm, no matter what day it was, or where she happened to be. She walked to the bathroom, preparing to shower just like she did at home, prepared to live her last day, as Big Ben struck seven times; one, two, three…

Short Story: 35

Chapter 3: The Bar

She didn’t mind this time of day. Late afternoon, just getting to the bar, no one was there yet, just her and her boss. She didn’t mind it when it was just them, preparing for the night ahead, getting ready for all the fools that would be stopping by. She wished people had other options, rather than just this bar, but of course in a town this small, this was the place where everyone gathered. She frequently saw the same people, over and over again, every night, never changing. Honestly, at this point, everyone had their own booth, or table, or stool, and all the other patrons knew what belonged to whom, and people just stayed in their respective, unassigned seating. It was annoying, yet the consistency was almost comforting, almost being the operative word.

He had always told her that the town was like this. He had said that’s why he left, and why they found each other, why they were drawn to each other when they met. Neither of them had patience for monotony or boring lives, they didn’t have the time for it, their dreams were too big. They had met so far away from where she was now, she remembered it so well, like watching an old home movie when you’re home for the holidays with your family. She was grateful every day that she had decided to go to Santa Monica Pier that sunny summer afternoon, even now, even after everything that had happened. It was like finding a spot of warmth in the sunshine, on an otherwise cloudy, cool spring day when you forgot your jacket at home. That’s what he was, and that’s why everything was difficult in this moment. She’d been out in that chilly springtime weather, underdressed, for way too long now, and couldn’t seem to find a patch of sunlight anywhere. He had told her he moved out west because he’d heard that the sunshine and pacific waters could heal even the most damaged souls, and broken hearts, and that move to the coast, so far from home, was his last chance. It’s just too bad the California sun couldn’t save him; instead, it burned him alive until nothing could extinguish those flames, not even her.

Her mind always drifted to him when she was at the bar, preparing the glasses and bottles and getting everything prepared. He’d always loved a drink, but he rarely went too far with it, which she respected, since she quite frequently went too far with her own drinking habits. He had loved to sneak a couple beers onto their favorite beach, just outside LA, on late spring nights when the weather was like something in a dream. They would nurse their bottles and talk about their plans, their hopes, and their dreams, like how they always believed the next time they submitted their writing would be their big break. Just wait, he’d always said, this time will be what we’ve been waiting for, this time they’ll see how great our writing is, this time will be different. It broke her heart that it was never different. He’d waited 35 years to hear something different, but it never came. She could still see his green eyes as they sat on that beach, hopeful, but brimming with despair at the same time, mournful eyes he had. He was a good man, always so full of hope, right up until he’d put that gun against his head. She wasn’t even surprised when she found out how he’d decided to do it; he was a writer who had always admired and love Hemingway’s work. It would have been poetic if it weren’t so horribly sad, and upsetting. She had decided on pills, rather than emulate her favorite writers, Woolf, and Plath, she didn’t have the stomach for what they did. She wasn’t even sure how long she’d been standing there when she heard the man’s voice begin to speak.

“Hey, do I know you? You look very familiar…like I’ve seen your picture somewhere before…is your name Charlotte by any chance?”

She snapped back to reality, eyes focusing on this man in front of her. Who was he? And how did he possibly know her name, especially her real name?

“Uh, yeah, Charlotte, or Charlie actually, no one really calls me Charlotte. Do I know you? I’m sorry if we’ve met, terrible with faces sometimes, are you a regular?”

“No, no I’m not, just visiting, in from New York. I used to live here though, grew up here actually. And you don’t know me, but I think I know you, I’ve definitely seen your face before. I forgot he called you Charlie, I only remembered Charlotte. You were with Jack, right? Before…you know, what happened. You were Jack’s girlfriend. We used to email, we were friends in high school, he used to tell me about you all the time, sent pictures even. God he loved you. I’m sorry, I probably shouldn’t be bringing him up or talking about him, I’m sorry, really.”

She remembered him now.

“You’re Mike. Mike from Manhattan. I remember that, he used to talk about you too. I’m sorry it took me a minute. And it’s ok, honestly, I’m all right to talk about him, it’s been a couple of years, I’ve made my peace. It’s nice to talk about him actually, especially with someone who knew him when he was a young guy, it’s different, interesting.”

“I’m glad you’re well Charlie, honestly, I know how hard everything must have been. Is that why you left LA? Is that why you’re here?”

“Honestly? I think so. I just missed Jack, and who he was, before the darkness took over. And there was nothing left for me in LA. I realized I’d never become the writer I wanted to be, same as Jack, and it honestly just broke my heart. I don’t know exactly. I think I moved here hoping I’d still feel connected to Jack, if I was in his hometown, and I thought I’d be able to find a better job, maybe save some money, travel a bit, I’m not sure why I’m here actually…”

“Travel, huh? Where did you have in mind?”

“Jack and I always used to talk about Europe. We always imagined, by this age, we’d be on book tours around the world, seeing different places, meeting different people, I’m not sure exactly, but it’s just how we saw it. I always imagined us in Rome, or Paris. But really, we always dreamt of London. That was our city, you know? The one we saved up for, the one we saw ourselves walking through on rainy nights, having tea, writing. London was our city. When I moved here, I thought I would save up for London, I guess. Maybe I didn’t even realize it, but that was where I’d always hoped to go, even after he was gone. I used to hope for so much, but it’s all kind of faded now….I’m sorry Mike, I have not stopped talking in ages. Want a drink then?”

“I don’t mind talking Charlie. It’s nice, being back here, talking to you, all of it just feels nice for a change. I love Manhattan, I never want to come back here, no offense, but I do miss certain things, like this, you know? I miss talking to people I knew in the past, or in your case, loved a man I was good friends with. I miss him too, I do. He was a good man, he loved so much, so many things, people, you…Actually yeah, can I get a gin and tonic please?”

“Of course.”

She got to work making his gin and tonic. She decided to use the good gin, the Bombay Sapphire for his drink, since he was a good guy, and he had been a good friend to Jack. She remembered how Mike had tried to help Jack several times, but it just wasn’t enough to save him unfortunately, and that broke Mike’s heart, and her’s too, to be honest.

Mike left after his drink, which she hadn’t charged him for, since it had been nice to see him, and nice to talk about Jack. She hadn’t talked about him in a long time, and it felt really wonderful to say his name, and talk about all the things they did together. She always dreamt of being with him in London, but honestly, one more evening, watching the sunset on their favorite beach outside LA, a couple of beers and just them, that would be enough for her. She had accepted losing him, and her decision about tonight, on her 35th birthday, wasn’t about Jack, or missing him, or hoping for some afterlife reunion, which she didn’t really believe in anyway. This decision, this need to be released from all of the pain, and failure, and hopelessness, was right for her. She could feel it. Nothing had happened to make her doubt this decision, and even if something great had happened, something life altering, she just wasn’t sure she had the fight left in her to keep going anyway, and that was the truth. She’d been fighting for so long, to have something to hold on to, and honestly, she just didn’t have any fight left in her.

It was closing time, and she was ready to go home, and finally fade away; she was ready for the pills, and the release that would follow. She wasn’t scared, she was weirdly excited, and that almost frightened her, but not enough to actually change her mind. She was wiping down the counters, cleaning glasses, and realizing this would be the last time she’d do any of this.

“Charlie, envelope for you.” Her boss walked up and handed her a small white envelope with “Charlotte” written on the front of it.

“What’s this? Who’s it from?”

“A man that was here earlier. He wanted you to have it, didn’t say what was inside, I didn’t ask, just wanted me to give it to you.”

Charlie took the envelope, opened it, and saw two items inside. One was a letter, and one was something she couldn’t believe she was looking at. How? Why? She read the letter:

“Charlie,

I needed to give this to someone, since I haven’t any use for it anymore. I thought you could use it. I though it might bring you some happiness. I know it’s not enough to bring Jack back, or solve your problems, or make everything right. I know there’s more going on than you told me tonight, I could see it in your face when you spoke. I just thought…maybe this was something. Maybe, this could be the change you need. Don’t ask why I have an extra, personal stuff, don’t want to get into here, but it’s yours now. Do with it what you will. But I hope you use it, and it brings you whatever it is you’ve been searching for. I wish you happiness, Charlotte, all the happiness in the world.

Sincerely,
Mike

Charlie’s eyes filled with tears; she walked to her car without saying a word, and headed home.

Short Story: 35

Chapter 2: The Store

She’d been stood in that same part of the store for around 4 hours now, halfway through her shift, and she felt like her eyes were about to roll back into her head, and not in a good way. This place, this store, was essentially a graveyard for people who had gotten nowhere in life, and every day she worked there was another day she was digging her own grave. Luckily, today would be the last day, and she would never have to wonder about any of this ever again. Someone else could dig it for her now. Her boss had started the day as she always did, going on and on about needing to meet sales goals and putting the customer first, and all the other bullshit she always felt the need to repeat day in and day out. Nothing ever changed; their goals, of selling a lot and treating the customer well, never ever changed, so she was unsure why her boss felt the need to give this same speech every single day. Chalk it up to the absolute pointlessness of this job, she thought to herself, as she went back to folding the same sweaters she folded every day, on that table by the store’s entrance. This was her space in the store, the area she was in charge of, and had worked in for the last two years of her life. Each sales associate had their own part of the store that they were in charge of when they were there, and this was her’s. How charming, she thought with great disdain, they treat us like children. They try to make us feel like we’re special in some way, by giving us little tasks to complete, giving us our own little place in the store to call our own, but in reality, there’s nothing about it that’s ours, or that’s special, or important. We’re cogs in the machine, just working to help this billion dollar company reach their bottom line, while we make $10 an hour. There’s absolutely nothing special or important about that, and anyone who that thinks there is, is simply fooling themselves into believing their existence actually matters when it doesn’t. Life is not built on the monotonous lives of hopeless and drained human beings, who are forced to complete pointless tasks at jobs they don’t care about; jobs and tasks that they have to complete in order to serve someone else, and help that person fulfill their dreams. Why is their dream more important that anyone else’s? She never understood why she, or anyone else for that matter, spent their lives working jobs that helped other people fulfill their dreams and desires, whilst her own simply decayed and died each and every day.

She had been thinking of this for a long time now, but today it all seemed to click, and she was able to finally string these thoughts together, and understand why she felt so unhappy at this place, working this job. So many people always said, be grateful you have a job at all, so many others don’t. She understood what they meant, but it didn’t make this job, or working it, any better, easier, or more important in the grand scheme of her life. It gave her nothing, except barely enough money to survive on. At this point, she felt like she’d rather be completely broke and working as an artist on a street corner somewhere, rather than continue working this job anymore. She would rather paint everything she saw, and struggle as that kind of artist, attempting to sell her work to random stranger that walked by. She would try to see her art to “those” couples, the well to do ones that walk through the artistic, bohemian parts of big cities on the weekends, looking for art or crafts to buy from struggling people, to make themselves feel better about who they were, at least for that one day. Buying art to make themselves feel like benefactors to all those poor struggling artists they came across, as they walked hand in hand toward stifling mediocrity. But don’t be fooled, they aren’t benefactors, or saints, and whatever they fancy themselves to be; they’re just people who learned how to play the game better, and made a bunch of money as a result of their skills. Can’t take it with you though, money and a sense of superiority can’t live with you in your grave, so might as well get joy from it now, she thought to herself. She had never thought more clearly than she did in this exact moment. She realized, in that in that quiet corner of the store, that she would never know peace, because she couldn’t accept life for what it was. She couldn’t accept that this was how things were, how people lived, how they found happiness, or pleasure. She knew that that was part of the reason she felt so much anger, and discontent.

She almost felt happy that she had realized all of this before tonight; it was as if this was one of those final, cleansing moments of clarity, where a person says their last words before they drift off into eternal sleep. She felt like a woman on her deathbed, finally coming to terms with her life, and her struggles, and her pain, the emptiness that rattled inside of her chest and made it hard for her to breathe sometimes. She felt as if standing in this store, this place where hers, and so many others, dreams had died, she found meaning in her thoughts. This was not a unique tale, an important story, but rather it was so similar to some many others, other people who had struggled and found their lives not measuring up to what they’d always dreamt their lives would be. It was that sense of dissonance that haunted her, and it all felt so pointless and unnecessary. She couldn’t derive happiness or pleasure from an existence that was so drastically different than the one that had played out in her mind since she was a little girl. Why bother continuing at all if real life could never measure up to the life that inside of her dreams, inside of her mind? This store was as empty as her heart, and nothing could fill it up with purpose. Maybe, one must be surrounded by that hopeless emptiness, to fully understand the meaning of one’s life, or in her case, the complete lack of meaning or point. She let her mind wander to the seven pills again, on her nightstand, and she felt peace, and calm, and realized none of this would matter after tonight. Nothing would matter at all, and that made her feel like she could breathe deeply for a little while.

“Excuse me? Excuse me!? Hello? I’ve been trying to get your attention for nearly a minute! I need this in a medium, and in green if you have it, hurry up please I’m in a hurry! I’ve never seen someone look so completely out of it at work, thank God you’re working retail and not an important job where attention matters!”

She looked that woman dead in the eye, walked to the back room of the store, grabbed her purse and coat from her locker, clocked out, handed her name tag to her boss, and walked out of the store, right past that horrible woman. She didn’t need it. She needed that glass of whiskey and her freedom, sitting on that side table by her bed.

Short Story: 35

Chapter 1: The Shower

Every time she counted to seven now, she felt relief. It didn’t even matter the context, that number brought her a kind of peace she had trouble explaining to those that didn’t understand. This was a morning like any other, except it wasn’t really, because it held more significance than yesterday. She counted them out on her bedside table, like she did every morning, a ritual that gave her a sick kind of pleasure, mostly because it was terribly consistent, when nothing else really was. One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, she counted in her head. Seven pills, laying on the table, next to a tall glass of water she had filled the night before. Today, she unlike the days that came before, she actually planned to wash those pills down right before bed, as she had always planned. She turned 35 today, and this had always been her deadline. There were quite a few reasons for this, many of which she had trouble explaining, even to herself, but she knew them in her mind, and they spoke to her when she began to doubt her decision to end this path she was walking. 35, a number that seemed impossible, and yet here it was, an albatross around her neck, causing her stomach to churn, and the hairs on the back of her neck to stand up. He’d been 35 too, she thought to herself, realizing she’d stolen her play right from his playbook, and began to feel embarrassed about that fact. But she didn’t care why she had thought to make the deadline this day, it didn’t matter in the end, since she wouldn’t be here to dwell on the decision anymore, like she had so many of her past decisions, that have haunted her all her life. She was still sat on the end of her bed when the alarm on her phone began to ring, and she reached for it, checking the time. Seven a.m, she’d forgotten she’d even set it last night, didn’t really need to, she’d woken up ten minutes before it had gone off anyway, as she always did. Like every other morning, she let the pills sit there on the table, as she went to shower, and began her routine for the day ahead. She had that feeling in her stomach, that one you get when you can sense something is off, lurking and lingering, as she undressed and climbed into the shower; she hated that feeling, and the fact that it had haunted her for so many years of her life.

She turned on the water, and let it wash over her skin, allowing it to awaken her. She had always said that she felt more alive in the shower than she did anywhere else during her day, a sad realization when actually spoken out loud to other people. In the shower, however, she felt alive because she had the chance to be someone else; as she washed her hair, and cleaned her body, she imagined herself as the woman she was meant to be when she graduated from college. She was meant to be successful, a writer, or an artist of some kind, independent, happy. She was meant to be on a book tour in Europe, with him and his lost soul, as they walked the streets on Paris, or Rome, or preferably London, their favorite city, the one they’d dreamt of visiting together, holding hands and whispering to each other as they meandered aimlessly down empty midnight streets. She wasn’t in any of those cities, and neither was he. She was stood in the shower of her disgusting apartment, in a small town she could barely remember the name of most days, and he was lying in the cold ground, where he could never be reached again. She was getting ready to go to a job that crushed her creative soul and what was left of her spirit every time she was there. She had been meant for so much more, but years of trying had led her nowhere, except to be the woman that counted out seven pills every morning, and every night decided whether or not that would be the night she finally washed them down, preferably with a tall glass of his favorite whiskey, that she kept in the small cabinet next to the fridge. The shower was her refuge, the last place on Earth where she could still allow her mind to wander into the land of what if, and imagine how things could have been different. But as soon as the shower ended, so did her day dreams, and she toweled off and went on about her day, preparing for her last day of work, although she hadn’t given her two weeks, she figured they’d eventually catch on to where she’d gone.

The odd thing about all of this was how she didn’t feel sad, or anxious; rather, she just felt slightly off, especially in her stomach, that feeling she had remembered from earlier that was simply not subsiding. Yet, relief seemed to also live inside of her somewhere, helping all of this seem much easier and like the right decision. She didn’t have to worry about it, since it wouldn’t be happening until tonight, so she decided just to get on with it and go to work, and live the last day of her life like she always did, because honestly, why bother doing anything different. She felt like she was going to be released, as if she had been tied to something and was finally being cut free, tonight, when everything would permanently cut to black. No one at work knew when her birthday was, so she wouldn’t have to pretend at all today, which was actually the best birthday present in the world. Not having to fake anything; she could finally be exactly who she wished to be at her job, and it wouldn’t matter if she got in trouble, or fired, or any of that, because there would be no actual consequences, and that was wildly liberating to her. It actually made her happy, that sense of freedom, and a smile began to creep onto her face and lips as she thought of it. Happy birthday to me, she heard ringing in her head, and she let out a small chuckle, as she locked up and walked to her car.

Washed Away

On that quiet sea I float
Away I go
Away I go
I drift into the great unknown
The abyss engulfs
My mind and soul
The water wraps around me so
Poetic words shake my mind
Awake me to life and time
I could write
About the sea
And all it always means to me
For centuries that pass and fade
For time cannot bend or break
Eternal words through my fingers slip
Like water held inside my hands
And splashed across my warm skin
The letters of my phrases
Written to the sea from me
Decorate from limb to limb
I bathe in all I could not explain
And wash away my sins
My words still dance
Inside my head
To the sea
I do love thee
Forever and forevermore
I’ll come knocking
On your door
I float away
I float away
That quiet sea
It lives in me
I drift into the great unknown
And know I’ve finally
Found my home.

Original Work: KH 11/5/14

Goodbye, Hello

Where’d she go
Where’d she go
Oh my love
No one knows
She’s best lost
For quite a while
Wandering and rambling
Here and there
And everywhere
She talks of journeys
She speaks of paths
Not walked before
That exist
Just for her
She speaks in a voice
With a lyrical tone
Magical and musical
It moves round and round
She sings alone
As she walks down
That empty road
Her mind jumping
From place to place
Up and down
And back around
She’s always getting lost
In the thoughts
That consume her soul
Her heart beats for
The open road
Her feet always take her
Where didn’t know
She needed to go
But there she is
Once again
Searching for home
Where did it go
No one knows
Where’d she go
Where’d she go
Goodbye
Hello
No one knows
No one knows
She’s been lost
For quite a while…

Original Work: KH 11/5/14