We kept the TV on, blasting the latest sitcom or news feed – they both sound the same these days. We don’t dare turn it off. The TV has become a necessary distraction, a purposeful implantation in our lives that keeps the depression of reality at bay; should it go off, the reminder of our poverty and destitution comes creeping back in like a vengeful plague. We don’t dare turn it off, we don’t dare…
Life for us has shifted from scraping for enough money to pay for basic necessities, to scraping enough entertainment to distract ourselves from the truth. The truth that we failed. The truth that we didn’t make it. The truth that the world wasn’t really built for us but we are, somehow, a part of it anyway, scraping and scathing ourselves on its boiling rims, clinging to it out of force of habit, too fearful to let go, too down to keep going.
It felt insane and the insanity wasn’t from us; it was coming from the world. It was quite paradoxical, then, that we allowed the TV into our lives to cast the shadow of the world over us, constantly reminding us of what we didn’t have. It was getting desperate and tensions were growing. I could feel it. She could feel it. Her face was playful and joyous, but I knew it was just an act, a necessary illusion to keep from going, truly, insane.
I notice her watching me out of the corner of my eye. It was subtle, an innocent glance, really, but the point of contact was felt, viscerally in our tinny room. Her look seemed to echo throughout the space, playing shadows with my mind. The space – our tinny apartment – had begun to shrink and bars had grown between us. We allowed ourselves visiting hours with each other, but it was placid, devoid of real emotion and absolutely necessary for our survival.
“What?” I barked at her. I remember controlling my voice but I don’t remember it having any rhythm of the intention.
“Nothing.” She said, innocently and sweetly, like a child that was guilty but trying to hide behind adolescence.
I looked back at the TV, hungry for its panacea, desperately wishing for it take away this moment and transport us into the next. I closed my eyes and let the words wash over me, welcoming its distraction. I changed the channel to break up the tedium. The room transformed into a kaleidoscope of shapes, filled with a new white-reddish glow.
She exhaled. It, too, played with my mind, rattling around in a cacophony that I couldn’t control. I let it go and focused on the TV.
“Hollywood star in turmoil as his life crumbles around him,” the reported squawked, his face a perfect statue emitting an empty emotion, “…divorce finalized and he is now having to settle outside of court. His assets are being split between him and his wife in what…” I let the voice trail off, not wanting to listen anymore. I let the unquiet of my mind in and a deep contemplation on how to process the news came over me. I squinted and rubbed my eyes. Should I pity him or welcome him into my world, our world?
Her exhale finally caught up with me, innocently at first, and then in full force. I tried to control it, I really did. I did the breathing. I worked it out rationally in my head. I lived it, breathed the moment before it happened and all seemed well. We still loved each other and I was still pacified.
Why, then, did it all go so wrong?
“SHUT UP!” It came from within; a deep guttural growl that attached itself to her feelings immediately and ate away at her instantly. She broke down, finally, and let me have it.
“I try so hard! I wasn’t doing anything. I’m trying to be quiet. I hate you.” It stung but was well deserved. More of a reminder of what was growing inside me instead of who I wanted to become.
A deep sadness enveloped me faster than I could catch my breath and then I, too, was broken.
“I’m sorry!” I screamed. And I meant it. With every fiber of my being, with everything I used to be and everything that I had learnt about myself, I was sorry. Sorry I had said it. Sorry I couldn’t support us. Sorry for her. Sorry for me. Sorry for our life.
I couldn’t fight it any longer; the urge was too powerful to ignore. Being happy in this insane world was the hardest part of our lives. Being happy was, to me, accepting my fate and giving in to the insanity. Not wanting to capitulate and declare myself unfit, I did the only thing that I knew how to do.
I turned off the TV…
Author Notes: Thank you for taking the time to read my short story. Any feedback is most welcome, for, it is why we are here. Thank you.