The Sun is the Same in a Relative Way

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Romance  |  House: Booksie Classic
An unreliable narrator narrates recounts — in a humorous and observational manner — his relationship with death.

Submitted: June 01, 2016

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Submitted: June 01, 2016



I was stuck. I couldn't say with certainty how I got there. I just remember being caught in the middle of it, much like a hanging branch that suddenly falls in the river's stream. I couldn’t say for certain where the pressure stemmed from, but it had been given a tincture of familiarity. And, if I’m to tell the truth, I welcomed its crippling effects every once in a while, especially around the holidays. The family was trying--to say the least--and awaking under the heavy precipitation of thoughts had a tendency to sprout a rare and healthy incursion into jogging. It was the lingering disquiet, however, and the inability to find convenience in chaos that truly tested the masquerade I so proudly crafted. My comeuppance, I feared, was near. 

I often asked the inevitable question, which I won't bother to tell you, yet I knew that perhaps existed a set of conditions that determined that state of mine.

“Sociological or psychological?” I wondered. Most likely it was one of the -logicals. It had to be. Or perhaps it was religious. I would find out later that day what exactly was the nature of my ailments. And I can tell you there was nothing exact about it.


The day started as it usually did for the past six months, with a weight over my shoulders. I don't want to be one of those overeager tellers of stories who would say it weighed a ton. Because it didn't. But it was heavy enough to cause discomfort and a trigger-happy sense of social ineptitude, ready to fire at every wrong note, hitting hard with words of discontent. I have no illusions. These bullets were always meant to shoot the shooter. In one way or another, however, they seemed to target those who hurt the most, those with an unadulterated passion for life, which was almost always seen in the purity of how they loved.

One of these targets was waking up next to me just as I was ready to reload. I can't precise the conversation that followed--these days my memory seems to be slipping away--, but I will never forget her eyes, that human characteristic that encompasses all other things, all other life. They were light brown and knew never the great tragedies that certain minds manufacture.

That day they did, though. All the innocence, the utter magnificence of youth was lost. And I saw it fade away. 

That death sentence in which I was not only judge, jury and executioner but also the perpetrator did little to resolve my inner turmoil. Needless to say, it made--err... like I said, needless to say. 

Whenever someone close to me dies or, best case scenario, suffers a great deal of pain, my very first instinct is to question my next move...

“Do I suffer quietly? Do I cry my eyes out to loved ones? Do I go on a tailspin? Worst of all, what do I do with my hands?”

It was too early to drink, and to be fair I don't like to shape emotions with the ingestion of a liquid I don't particularly enjoy. Wine maybe, but then again, it was too early. Food was yet to fail me when attempting to serenade an anxiety, although I was reticent to burden my body when it didn’t fully need fuel. I always had a weak stomach and replacing restlessness with physical pain hardly seemed like a fair trade.

What I really wanted to do was to spend money. There was little of it and being on the brink of personal economic collapse would divert my worries and make me focus on what really makes the world go round... or sideways. I never know.

Then it hit me: coffee! A little kick in the brain always helped the search of immediate purpose. No. It would only heighten my anxiety and, as soon as I noticed, I was thinking liquids again.

The problem was hardly of existential nature, and yet I couldn't shake off the feeling that it had something to do with my existence.

I would be lying if I didn't admit being amused by this thought and I even caught a glimpse of a smile on the reflection of the blue Sedan parked in front of my building.

That’s right, I had made the decision to leave the house and didn’t even notice. For the life of me I couldn't remember putting clothes on. As soon as that thought was finished another one came rushing in, in the form of public humiliation no less, and bothered me tremendously.

“Do I really need to go through the inconvenience of explaining why I am too distracted to be decent in the public eye, or worse, being ridiculed for lacking clothes?”

Of course, all of this happened faster than the mind can process it. A quick look eased my troubles.

“I have pants. Everything is going to be okay.”


With a renewed energy and a small sense of victory, I walked into the café around the corner. Something didn't feel right and I walked back out.

Fortunately, the kiosk on the other side of the street provided a quick distraction and I must have spent a good ten minutes deciding which magazine not to read. When the verdict came in, I scoured the pockets for loose change. I hate coins and giving the thin, chain-smoking man a fiver would have meant getting rid of something I don't mind carrying, in return being graced with a literal representation of bother and weight. I had plenty of both already.

As fate would have it, I didn't have enough coins to make a transaction that would satisfy the man with the thick mustache (funny how I didn't notice it straightaway). I was at a crossroads. I spent too much time deciding on the publication and the idea of metal clinging in my pocket all the way to wherever I was going wasn't sitting well with my carefully curated non-plan.

I must admit I was intimidated by the man's stare and impatience. And so I gave in. A fiver it is.

I reached inside my leather jacket and wouldn't you know it? I forgot my wallet. I kept waiting for the laugh track to reveal I somehow ended up in a bad situational comedy. Instead, I got a grunt and used another customer as potential shield by sneaking behind him before telling the man I'd be back later. 


The whole being-on-television business triggered another thought. And it has been explored in American cinema before. Twice at least.

“What if my life was the subject of a reality show?”

I knew I wasn't interesting enough to deserve the airwaves, and yet I was fully aware that there are enough special people to make this country sick. Boring and mundane is the new special.

Isn't it?

As entertaining as that whole affair might have been to process, I quickly visualized a family of four being confronted with my sudden urge to masturbate violently and without criteria in a public bathroom.

It was right there and then that I decided to never have this thought again. 

I was hoping that a good though would compensate a bad one. I had no such luck. I was still standing by the tree next to the kiosk.

“What now? What now?” my brain pleaded.

This urgency to do something, to satisfy whatever intangible, all-consuming desire wasn't digestible. Speaking of which, being oral via a sandwich gained an inexplicable appeal. There was only one snag... my wallet was still home. Or at least I hoped so, since I couldn't be sure. 


I can't say that I remember the next couple of hours in sufficient detail. There was a less-than-pleasant encounter with a dog walker and his over-loving canine, an attempt to listen to classical compositions before the combination of various strings pierced my inner musicality to total exhaustion, and you'll be happy to know that I did get that sandwich. Of course, it was not that hunger I was looking to fulfill, but since I was the type of guy who saw great value in clinging to small victories, I felt that the accomplishment was the ultimate proof that I was on my way to be somebody... anybody.

Oh, and there was also a phone call. It lasted only a little while and I don't remember who called or what was discussed. I do know, however, that it was going to change life as I knew it.


It occurred to me that it had been at least two full moons since the last time I saw my mother. I was never big on features of the skies, so before you start withdrawing conclusions about my personal tastes, you should know that I happen to be a very good observer. And despite some memory lapses, my mind is gifted with the uncanny--and extremely useless--ability to connect totally isolated events.

So I happen to know that it had been two full moons since I last saw my mother... so what?

When questioned about how she faired these days, my mother enjoyed saying that she was peachy.

I did not enjoy hearing it.

Something about it triggered an unnerving buzz that was hard to shake off. You'll want to know that she wasn't, indeed, 'peachy'. The ink in the divorce papers was still wet, she suffered from migraines and her insufferable sister--who's big on bird watching--had been complaining all morning about how a group of crows was responsible for destroying a small ecosystem in some town in Canada.

Obviously, I was in the line of fire. I felt that a Shakespeare quote would fit perfectly in my scenario, but then again, he was prolific and most of his gobbledygook would fit in pretty much any scenario.

When I came back to it, my mother was in the middle of explaining what my problem was. She wouldn't dare saying I was a disappointment and failed to oblige my obligations as an unwanted son. Not because she didn't want to. It was a question of pride. After all, I was her only offspring and she refused to believe she could be unsuccessful with matters of a personal nature. Even when my father recounted in excruciating detail the reasons why the ignorant cashier at Costco was a more satisfying companion, she decided that he was wrong.

What a woman my mother was. 

I felt the post-lunch tiredness over mid-afternoon tea. I was quite thrilled about the timing. Lately I had been the victim of a worrisome lack of energy. The fact that on this precise day it happened while feeling the orange glow of a setting sun gave me, paradoxically enough, a sudden rush of vitality.

The goodbyes were never my favorite part, contrary to my mother's belief. I felt too guilty about being happy to leave and so I wasn't. Happy, that is. The guilt was there.

I couldn't win. 


I was making time to be welcomed by an empty house. I was lying to myself. I knew it was. I questioned why I was avoiding the space altogether and like most questions it went unanswered. This time I did the right thing. I avoided the theories.

“Good job, man.”

I thought of the French shortly after. It might seem arbitrary to you, but if you saw the legs on that thirty-something... oh boy, I never saw so much sophistication below the belt.

I decided I was to be in love and I was to never express it. The other option fit me better: la douleur exquise, or the heart-wrenching pain of wanting the affection of someone unattainable.

“Isn’t it grand?”

How could I sustain my quixotic ways was I not to give myself impossibilities every now and then? Unsurprisingly, this realization would hardly deter me from envisioning the amorous congress that never would. I can tell you she was a truly remarkable lover with an unapologetic yearning to satisfy my every kink.

Then again, it is the prerogative of a wildly perverse mind to reinvent the follies in between the sheets. Whether or not they were to be replicated in the flesh, that is of little importance. In fact, they better not. Fantasies are to prevail where they exist, or sacrilegious disappointment is to be expected. With this I reached an important conclusion... I had to pee.

This too posed a dilemma. I dreaded being told I had to buy something at a café in order to use the restroom. As a life-long voyeur, I always took pride in sitting behind the camera. The spotlight terrified me and the unveiling was too humiliating. I couldn't risk it.

In the same vein, being caught by the law and the idea of potential prison abuse instantly eliminated the option of alleviating myself in public fashion. I considered running home, but I knew it was a long shot. The frustration was eating me from the inside. Even if I reached a solution, I couldn't bear the difficulty of the journey brought about such a mundane issue.

Believe it or not, that was a pivotal moment in my approach to the world. Resting appalled at the deceitfulness of my subconscious, I perceived the frailty of my own beliefs, the glue binding my self-instated rules in a search for harmony. I realized that instant that I spent most of my life cherishing the pain of my uniqueness and, thus, the promise of something eternal when, in fact, that very understanding was the only barrier to the secret I was desperately trying to unfold all my life. I realized that instant that my belief was a product of ignorance. And that’s when I made a decision. I made the decision never to have a realization again.

“Goddamn it”.

My problem was solved. I could go home.


The doorbell rang and when I opened the door, a man entered with a revolver pointed straight at my heart.

Okay, that last part is a lie. I read something about mysterious men and guns making for a compelling story and got carried away.

Remember the phone call I received earlier? It turns out I made it. Ringing the bell was a dear friend by the name of Thomas Southampton, or Southy as I liked to call him—-he didn’t.

Southy had a taste for the spiritual and the occult. When he was at an age plagued by incomprehension--the development of the mind bewildered by sensory overload--Southy started to see things others didn’t.

By things I mean people. Dead people.

Fortunately for him, his father--being of catholic faith and an occasional sermon giver--was in tune with a world different than ours. In fact, not only he didn’t discredit Southy’s twilight zone incursions, but encouraged him to develop his gift.

He did. While most of his friends pursued a more formal education, he enrolled in an institution very few people have access to. Despite a life-long friendship, Southy never shared a name, a location or what went on behind closed doors. I do know, however, that he would become highly sought-out and that now he was at my front door.

I think I was pleased. At least my fate for the next couple of minutes, perhaps even a whole hour, would rest upon foreign hands. I wanted to say there was joy in my facial expression, but I've seen this facade many times and refused to be taken by the illusion.

In the kitchen, I prepared tea--chamomile, I believe--and while I opened the organic, caffeine-free delight, Southy unlocked his briefcase.

That's right. He brought a briefcase. I will tell you what was in it shortly.

First you should know why he was in my kitchen drinking my tea. Apparently, in a state of corrosive incongruity--most likely while Johann Sebastian Bach was taking me to new heights of faux perception--I was graced with an epiphany and asked for a spiritual cleanse. He was more incredulous than I at this request as per the numerous debates we previously had on the subject, some quite heated that led to weeks of childish pouting--mostly on my behalf I'll admit. Inevitably, he didn't keep me on the phone for long for fear I'd change my mind. And if I were to wager, I'd say he expected my absent-mindedness. He was right on both accounts.

Now, as for the contents of the briefcase. One by one, he gently laid them on the table. A single stick of incense was drawn first. I believe it was rose-scented. Then came out the healthiest, biggest potato you've ever seen, followed by Alan Kardec’s magnum opus on spirituality. By the time I saw the cross of Christ I was ready to call it quits. Something told me I oughtn't. I figured it was better listening to 'something' than to myself.

My friend, who I still abstain from describing, for his physical traits hardly speak for the grandiosity of his heart, asked me to fill a glass with water and salt. As soon as I did we were to begin.

I glanced at my friend who had already stuck the incense in the potato and was waiting to commence the séance. With one single nod, he made my decision final.

Everything was set. The incense was burning and the book was opened in whatever page it was supposed to be open. Too many thoughts crossed my mind at this time, but then he said to close my eyes and visualize God.

“Christ, would it have been too inconvenient to ask for something more specific?”

I had to contain myself in order to prevent mockery and another heated argument. So I closed my eyes and attempted to picture the big guy. I had read somewhere that God was light or it could be found in a plant. Those images were underwhelming to say the least, and my rich imagination was already desecrating its purity.

Quickly enough I remembered something else, that God was meant to be something bigger than me. It turns out that I was pretty tall, so, to be safe, I thought about the goddamn universe. The unfathomable Milky Way and other galaxies I wouldn't be able to name made appearances and I was absolutely convinced that whatever was to happen already did. 

I was wrong. My friend touched my arm and whispered something I can no longer remember. It calmed me down, focused me. The scent of rose came rushing in. All my senses were heightened and a great deal of energy went through my body. I heard him call a spirit to guide him. The weirdness that came with his incessant burping wouldn't bother me. I was now under his spell.

His summons got louder. So did his burping. I remember feeling tricked at this point. I asked for a spiritual cleanse and got an exorcism instead.

Southy was extracting a spirit from me, or a 'lost brother' as he would call him. Yes, he was masculine, but not in the way you understand him to be.

“How do I know this?”

Well, it's the darnedest thing and you probably won't believe it. 

When Southy told me to get up, I did. And when he touched me and made me stay rooted to the ground, I went pale. A river started running through me. I opened my eyes but there was nothing to see, or at least, I couldn't. My knees weakened and I feared a heart-attack or a panic-attack, or an attack of any sort. It was the only thing that would have made sense. Rarely things do. The energy bouncing of my inner walls took over my being. Implosion seemed like the inevitable and, I must say, welcoming conclusion to this whole affair. It was right there and then that a sudden sense of magnificent liberation took over.

I was light, I was clear, I was ready to take over the world.

From above I saw Southy and myself, the calm ecstasy of experiencing transcendence nurturing my soul. I never quite believed in it as a conceivable option for perspective, but it was wonderful all the same. This awe lasted only a few seconds before I noticed the strangest of things.

I saw myself opening my eyes, coming back to my senses, talking and walking, and yet I was unable to feel, to connect to the world around me and, most importantly, to myself. I didn't want to believe the truth of what was laid before me. It simply could not be. And if it was, what would happen next?

Southy called for me, his brother.

It was me who he was talking to all along. He urged me to be free, to let go of the poor shell I was clinging to and to carry on with my journey.

This new state of being, in spiritual form no less, seemed new and it seemed like it would always be.

For what must have been less than a second, I feared this realm of the spirits I suddenly encountered myself in. The rush of energy that was going through my body, the celestial one, was unparalleled to anything I've ever felt during my borrowed time. A number of clichés could sum up what you can only understand as a 'feeling'.

Hardly any have the magnitude of what it truly was, an amplified ataraxia, something I could relate as being enlightenment, or better yet--because I take issue with the word's reputation--irrational clarity.

It turns out that eternity as I perceived it was much shorter. I accepted my condition and that’s all there was to it. I was free.



© Copyright 2018 Filipe F. Coutinho. All rights reserved.

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