5:44p.m. The last light from a piercing sun filtered through the bedroom curtains. He could barely roll over to acknowledge the painterly shadows on the wall. The fleeting beauty of the scene would be lost on him, trapped in his thoughts like he was most of the time. He worried over the future and reflected endlessly on past failures-waking up for a few hours only to retreat back to a darkened room choked with dread and dirty sheets. A routine marked not so much by the hours lost as by the predictable anguish that went along with it.

He was approaching the golden years and there wasn’t any shine left for him to salvage. He had no children and it was clear now, despite his earlier dreams, that he would only have been a burden if he’d had them. This wasn’t self-pity. Just a plain fact.

His neighbor from a floor down would check on him every so often and that was his only regular human contact. People, talking- all of that required energy that he simply couldn’t muster. He had used it all up working as an assistant manager at the Fiesta near his apartment. Twenty-six years until he finally had to go on disability. A bleak surrender to the monsters in his mind and the multiple diagnoses he could no longer argue with.

He stumbled out of bed, still in his robe from two days before, and headed to the living room. He could hear the muffled voices and footsteps in the hallway. People heading out into the night. Dinner and a club, he imagined.

He saw the vodka bottle out on the counter. He must have forgotten to put it back in the freezer last night. It didn’t matter now. It wouldn’t help. It never really did but he needed the ritual. Pouring the small glass, then sitting down to watch mindless shows on the TV, then another glass and another show until he was just drowsy enough to creep back to bed.

He knew he was lost. The industrious spark he felt as a teen was slowly sniffed out as he entered adulthood and the delusions came on. Medication kept him functioning at a high enough level to work his menial job, but his spirit was too swallowed up by darkness to ever allow for real love. He glimpsed it once, years ago, only to lose it over his own inadequacies. Perceived slights and recriminations ruined it all soon after he met her. There was nothing he regretted more and it haunted him still, particularly around the anniversary of the day they met. He felt ridiculous thinking of it as an anniversary when they were only together for a few months, but he had to cling to something, even if all it brought him was more sorrow.

Memories are the enemy of sleep. His memories always churned the black sea of his mind just as he tried to find solace with rest. He only wanted peace. Was that too much to expect?

© 2021 Jeff E. Brown. All rights reserved.

By jebrownwriter

Houston, TX-based Writer and Photographer. Proud pet rescuer who spends nearly all his money on them.

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