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Youth Short Story 2nd Prize! Departure

departure Steven Finberg

Departure won joint 2nd Prize in ESRA Magazine's Youth Short Story Contest 2022 

It was a mess. The place was littered with garbage and was reeking of a certain stench. It could be snuffed from anywhere around the room and so severe, it was blizzard through your entire body. Leaving you with only one thought... to leave. To leave as fast and as further away as possible. It was alcohol.

He sat in his chair in the middle of the room and looked at the bottles. "Saviors Beer". He looked at the word "Savior" for a long minute. It seemed to resonate deep inside him. Yet he couldn't get his finger on what exactly it meant. His memory was so fuzzy these days that he could never track down to the core any trail of thought, even if it was detrimental. At the first sight of hardship regarding those thoughts or even any activity in general he turned away. He did it again. Or at least he tried but somehow, instead of forgetting about it and burying himself with a mountain of mundane activities or completely useless information which ultimately amounted to nothing but boredom and emptiness like he usually did, something has managed to acquire a grip on his mind and refused to let go. He didn't return to the same exact thought but rather to a similar memory.

Suddenly he acknowledged the fact that despite the promise he made to his father and even himself, tens of opened and used-up bottles were laying before his eyes. They served as a constant reminder, a memorial to his embarrassing and even shameful tries to escape reality... to forget. He didn't pay much attention to that.

He looked at his phone and saw that today his father was supposed to meet him. A sudden rush of uneasiness has taken place over him. He didn't like him. So much so that he didn't even consider him as his father. It was always he who was saying rubbish. Always he who was in the way. Always he who was getting mad over nothing. Always he who didn't care. Always he who didn't love him. Always he...

The dreadful hour has come. It was gloomy and late at night when a knock was heard on his door. He hesitated for a bit, then he started making his way slowly to the front door. At that moment, the door which he was about to open seemed like an archangel, a divine guardian who was sent from the heavens to protect him from the outside world. He was reaching with his hand to the handle when he stopped, to get a quick glimpse of what lies beyond through the door's eyelid. A silhouette of a large man aged 50 was standing there. Hesitation has taken place once more. A second knock. His hands were trembling and his heart was pumping so fast that he thought he would pass out. It was here and now. He couldn't delay it any longer. Such an act of decisiveness wasn't typical for him. He regained control over his mind, gathered his hands, and unwillingly but consciously chose for the first time in years to throw the guardian away. Even if it was for but a couple of minutes.

He put the crutches aside and opened the door. The man walked in and stuttered for a second. Then, he made his way silently and sat on the couch. He looked around. Then said:

"You have been drinking... Again."

"You can't tell me what to do anymore. I am an adult already."

"'An adult? Is this what you mean by adult? You have closed yourself in this tiny, dirty apartment doing absolutely nothing."

"But I have been>"

"What? Reading books? Learning? Doing something useful for a change? Yeah, I can clearly see it all scattered on the floor like garbage. Why am I even comparing? It is garbage. Every book, every lecture, every motivational video or poster you have bought or watched, every comforting yet doubtful saying of 'I will change' you have ever said to me or your mother was always a lie. A facade. I know you don't give a damn about lying to me, but at least have the decency in you to not lie to yourself."

Both men looked at each other for a couple of minutes while not uttering a single word. Then, his father turned around and started walking to the front door when he looked at his leg. It was covered with one of those posters. It had piqued his interest. He lifted it from the ground and inspected it closely.

"Do you know son, what separates us from animals?"

"No, and I don't care."

'Two things. One is the recognition of death. However, simply by acknowledging the fact, one does not become human. For you to truly become one."

He let go of the poster. It landed right before his son's legs. And yet he didn't even bother to look at it. He was outraged. The man came to his house, accused him of everything which had ever brought joy to his life. And even shouted at him. It was always this trait of his that he hated the most. The blunt and uncaring attitude in which he denounced him every time. Usually, he didn't speak out, but, he could not contain himself any longer. So he cried out.

"Cut with the bullshit. You never cared about me. You didn't even try to understand me."

The door was fully open. His father standing right at the entrance. He looked back at his son. Though he was smiling, his eyes were signaling despair, and soon enough they began to shed tears. He opened his mouth but nothing came out. He gathered himself, then said.

"I know you always wanted for me to leave you alone. As a father, I thought and still do that doing so means betraying you. But I just can't go any longer... Your mother... got to that state precisely because she stayed in this mindset for far too long. This will be the last thing I ever say to you before leaving you. Never again will you have to listen to my disturbances. So, please... listen, just this once. What is it that makes us human? A true human? When do we stop being one of the masses and can be given a name and be regarded as an individual?" he paused for a second, then continued:

"'At least remember, that we cannot change anything unless we accept it."

He looked away. Then said 'happy birthday son' and closed the door.

He took one of the bottles and threw it at the door. What was there to change? To accept? The people? The wrongness of the world? The surgery? How could he change something which was out of his control? He had a feeling like he was missing something, like some hidden message that he couldn't wrap his head around was still lurking around the words of his father. He tossed and turned for hours before he was able to sleep.

A golden beam from the rising sun slanted in through the window and fell across the pillow. When the sun was on his face he opened his eyes. He looked outside. Suddenly the strangers across the street, the brightness of the sun, the clouds far up in the sky, and the ants crawling on the ground all seemed beautiful to him. He looked at his apartment. It really was small. And dirty... almost lifeless. He thought. Then without any warning, he sprung from his bed and rushed to the poster. He picked it swiftly from the ground. When he saw the diagram of a 5-level pyramid with the caption "Maslow's Pyramid" he started crying. He tried to look around but he couldn't bear the sight of the scattered bottles. He rushed to the fractured mirror. He always hated that mirror. The day it broke everything went downhill. But instead of getting angry at the mirror like always, he got mad at himself. His face was thin, pale, and sick. 'I hate myself', he thought. 'Since when do I hate myself?'

At that moment he realized the magnitude of the illusion he put on himself. By taking the easy road, by drinking, by forcing to forget every sin, by avoiding facing difficulties and hiding behind circumstances HE got himself into this mess. Into this miserable state. Then he remembered a long-forgotten memory. His father told him 'the only savior who will help you, is you.... you are a snake, and a snake that cannot shed its own skin will perish'. Finally, he understood what his father was trying to desperately tell him all of those years. He was no longer blind. No longer deaf. No longer ignorant. He wanted to run and beg for his forgiveness, but he stopped himself. He was ought to change. First of all for himself. Only then would he be able to proudly face his father and say: 'I am Fresco, your son.... and I have become human'. 


Comments 1

Guest - Alexander Kopelliovich on Thursday, 04 May 2023 05:59

An amazing story, raising lots of meanifgful thoughts ! Bravo, Steven! Proud to have you as my student!

An amazing story, raising lots of meanifgful thoughts ! Bravo, Steven! Proud to have you as my student!
Saturday, 24 February 2024

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