a short story by Carolyn Morris
([email]amethyzt213 [at] yahoo [dot] com[/email])

The rain beat softly on the pavement outside. It carried the scent of the ocean and the flowers in the bluffs it had crossed to get to the girl’s window. But she did not notice it. Her senses, once attuned to the sights and sounds of the world around her, had grown dulled. Perhaps it was age that had done it, closing her eyes to the brilliance she used to see in everything. More likely it was the man lying sprawled out beside her in bed, as usual taking up as much room as possible, as if even in sleep he wanted to consume and stifle her. She had grown dead to the pain, the aching, the horrible nothingness. Feeling nothing was worse than feeling something. She had found this out over the course of the years, slowly, gradually, and without realizing that her life and soul were being diminished.

Then one night she awoke to the sound of the rain and lie staring at the ceiling. Despite the darkness, she could see well enough to count the few remaining stars attached to it. They had once been constellations but they had fallen one by one, the old adhesive losing the battle with the powdery white plaster. Looking at the sad, sparse bits of glowing green, she was struck by the memory of real stars. She supposed they must still be there, right outside her window if she cared to look. But look she hadn’t. Not for quite some time. The bits of light that used to be her friends, her guide, her twinkling lovers, had gone unnoticed in recent years. The eyes once open to the world had glossed over, veiled by a mist of foggy indifference bred of … who knows.

The worst thing about the nothingness was that she did not know from whence it came or how to make it go back. In a simple world, people long for things, acknowledge the desire, and do their best to satisfy it. In a simple world, there are no choices. In this world, people sometimes create their own barriers to fulfillment. The biggest obstacles are those we painstakingly build for ourselves, stone by massive, cold, solid stone. They are at once the easiest and the hardest to tear down, because the fight is against oneself.

The girl glanced at the warm figure next to her, appreciating the heat because it protected against the chill from without, while grimly knowing that the real coldness lied within. He looked so innocent sleeping there, the poor child. In sleep she could almost forgive him. She could almost remember how they came to be there in the first place. Almost. Looking at him, she tried one last time to summon the feeling she once knew — the quickening of the heart, the warm chill down her spine, the irresistible urge to smile.

But those things were long gone, vanished into the wind after one too many insults or cold shoulders or demands or … so many things. Too hard to explain, too depressing to recall. In movies and in books writers portray love as an unquenchable passion, a soul-shaking experience, a lovely sickness. The girl, cynical by nature, was tempted to brush these off as merely the whims of fancy, brought into being by writers as lonely as herself.

But she knew better. Her spirit had not always been dead. It had once danced to a music too beautiful to comprehend. Her eyes had once shone with the light that painters have tried to capture and failed. She had known times when the world really did stand still or melted away, or whatever poetic term one prefers, and all that was left was herself and another. She knew that real love existed out there, and that people were in it, and that it was beyond words.

The rain fell, and her eyes slowly closed. It was too late for such dreams and recollections. Memories are useless. Her shy spirit retreated again and she cuddled up to the warmth of the boy she no longer loved, and never really had. The glorious stars, wind, and flowers would have to wait until a more convenient time. God forbid she should be late to work in the morning.

Previous publications: Literary Brothel (under pen name “Aine Brigit”)

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