by Sasha Chinnaya
Night. A stack of blank pages intimidates me. A few empty containers once filled with coffee form a wall on my temporary desk. My mind searches for answers wrapped in a pretty little box, not half-baked thoughts that won’t sit still on a page. My eyes are strained like overused batteries. My cramped legs walk around the room every way they can. Next my fingers get a shake and sway as I crack each one thoroughly. I notice my nails are like ships wrecked at sea. The paint has long chipped off of them too. I need to write down everything between us before I forget. It seems an impossible task for one person. To document the life of one they loved. Hands on the clock are spinning fast. They remind me I’m on a deadline. I imagine the hands rotatating backwards, racing over the numbers so that they all blend together. Memories blend like that too and that’s how I think of you. Never in clean-cut chronological order. Simply a collage that is as messy as the finger paint stains on my walls 25 years later.
I remember the day we added color to those gray walls. Oh take me back. Back to humble, brown eyes too big for a serious face. 5 years old and you’re already upset at me. You want to know where I hid the golden haired bear. I tell you Some things just get lost. That I wasn’t punishing you for not cleaning your room. I’ll even help you look for it. You play the role of detective and interrogate me, never breaking character. Your small fingers try to make a fist. It slams on the wooden table. My excuses don’t console you because you miss the way the soft, silky fur hugs you at night. You dragged it around everywhere you went. Every detail about that bear was embedded in your mind. Its fuzzy chestnut nose that lit up when you pushed it twice. The little bit of pale pink under its gold ears. The red star sticker you pasted on its chest to make it yours.
Your cheeks are tomato red even when tears gloss over them. I’d never seen you this upset before and I was almost tempted to put you on a sugar rush with cherry fruit rollups and milk chocolate brownies. At least that would take your mind off of the damn bear. Then I thought of another solution. Instead of trying to make you forget about the bear I told you to think about it. To think about the comfort you get from it. The ones we love should never be forgotten.
Art used to be my therapy for more explosive problems. If it could help me, maybe it could heal your 5 year old broken heart too. Your eyes grow wide when I bring out buckets of paint in several colors. You submerge your hands into the liquid yellow and then spread it on the wall. I join in too, mixing your piece on the wall with greens and blues. Paint drips from the wrinkles on our clothes and even our skin starts to resemble the colorful, messy wall. Wide smile forms on your face, that precious dimple emerging in your cheek. I know you’ll be okay.
16. Suddenly you are a nightmare standing in the kitchen, arms tightly crossed. No warmth glows in these brown eyes. Where did my little boy go? If I do anything for you, I receive an empty Ok. I don’t see a Thank You in that singular, dull word. My life wasn’t always just you, you arrogant son of a … Funny how that insult wouldn’t even be targeting you. A tiny tantrum escalates to nuclear war. You’ve skipped school for 2 weeks and failed every math test since the beginning of the school year. Now you want to go to the mall with friends, continuing to avoid your work. I lay down a firm, aggressive NO. Your reply is unexpected and cruel. I realize how much I miss your toy guns now when I’m ambushed by the sharp edge of words. How can you say such awful things to me? You HATE me? Fine, I get it. Yelling doesn’t make your point sound poetic. It unravels your immaturity, which I might add is not even hidden under many layers to begin with. What do you do with my trust?
You throw it away in a garbage can just like all that junk you eat. It’s weightless to you because you don’t acknowledge the value it has. Or maybe you do. Maybe you’re all too aware of the depth of my trust. That’s even worse because it would mean you enjoy manipulating that trust. When did you get so destructive? I stress all of this to you and you don’t even care. A mild shrug of the shoulders, followed by mumbling and a roll of the eyes is your only response. You don’t give me your attention for even a second. I gave you so much and I thought you would return the favor by making me proud. All you’ve done is crush the hope I kept for you, hope like a candle in the rain I refused to let burn out.
You are detached from me now, where once we used to be the same body. I knew a distance would grow between us. Still, I gave you all my love. I love you through all your silence (your way of pushing the knife deeper in my wound), I love you through your self-destructive actions which seem to scar me more than they do you, I loved you many years ago before you came into this world and I will love you even when…
Morning. Neon yellow alarm screams for 5 long minutes. Every trace of comfort leaves my body when I pull away from the cotton sheets. Through a window, I see that the sun has barely risen in the pale gray sky. Not enough warmth for today. My skin trembles even before the cold hits it. I wrap myself in a sweater and jeans ensemble, but it barely covers me from the icy morning air of late Fall. Scarf, jacket, and boots, I walk out the front door in a suit of armor against the weather. You’re not too far from me now. Maybe 6 feet away, no more. It’s not that I’m not happy to see you. That could never be. But, it’s not always easy to come to you. You’re not a daily part of my life anymore.
I’m afraid to admit that my love has changed for you. Is it fading? I doubt it could, but my memory of you isn’t as intact as it should be. We fought through most of our days together. If I had any clue how fast time spins, I would’ve changed the harsh exchange of words. I would’ve tried harder to make every day like that one special day from your childhood. I have to document us so I never forget even when my body turns on me and lets this disease in. I think I’ve been ignoring the problem for some time. I would forget small things at first like my car keys or a purse. Then, it got bigger when I forgot your name. It was only for a second I swear, but it did happen. Problems can’t be outrun forever though. Coming to this place is proof of that. When I heard my diagnosis, YOU were still the first thing to come to my mind. I shouldn’t have to lose you in a whole new way. It’s getting harder to pick out the few sweet moments from the wreckage of our past. You know what hurts the most? I can barely bring myself to speak in the past tense. I’m staring at dry, old grass and a name when I should be looking at you, the real person. My real, imperfect Chris.
About the Author:
Sasha Chinnaya is a recent graduate from St. John’s University with a Bachelors degree in English. Previously, she had another one of her short stories published in Adelaide Literary Magazine (January 2018 issue). She is also a film reviewer for an online magazine called Monologue Blogger where she reviews a wide variety of short films. She also built and maintains her own film website: https://avoicewechoose.weebly.com.