Soda Can Heart

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Other  |  House: Booksie Classic


A woman contemplates her existence.

Submitted: May 13, 2018

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Submitted: May 13, 2018

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There isn’t a more demoralizing thought in this world than knowing that your dreams will never come true.

I stand at the crossroad, the miles upon miles of wheat fields doused in the ethereal lights of the sunset, exposing the barren beauty of it all. Nothing has quite ever blown my mind so quickly, so effortlessly, how somewhere so empty could be so alluring. A haven of impenetrable thoughts, the symbolic path of life’s unexplainable phenomenon.  

I look out ahead at the two forked paths. There’s the road I walk every evening, the comfort of the country house a short walk to the right. My husband’s there, to take care of my firstborn, who I tell every night that her life is worth living for--whether I mean my words is another story. The left path--the wrong path, they told me--shines just as bright in the golden twilight, but the unused road bears no evidence of footprints. I had never set foot upon that road--hadn’t ever had the courage to. I thought it was already implied, that waiting tables was the sad future of dreamers. My sneakers toe the beginning of that path, my soul clenching like a soda can under the sole of life’s shoes.

 Clenching at the sight of my dream, right there in front of me. To draw, in Pairs.

Artistry is my calling. It seizes me, a clench, a twang, in my heart, like lip-puckering lemonade that forgot it needed sugar. I need it. You can see it inside our modest country house, swarmed to the brim with my deadly inspiration. You can see my twitching artist fingers’ compositions, graffitied on our house’s dwindling supply of blank white walls.

 It’s rather haunting, knowing you have the capacity to be happy but never seizing the opportunity. In the night, an idea will flash in my static mind, goosebumps leaping up the bare skin of my arms, and I nearly drown in the sweat coating my brow. I switch on the hallway light, yanking open my drawer of acrylic paints, settling the paintbrush on the wall. Then, I create; line after line, a stroke and a shape and a figure emerge from my fanatic, manic episodes. A painting of fantasy so enchanting, so haunting, when I’m done, I drop to my knees and stare, at the path my life would’ve taken had I listened to my conscience, the little part inside me who still knew who I was. And when I would stare, my husband, Daniel, would step sleepily into the room, a slobbering mass of unchanged diapers and blubbering tears jumbled in his arms.

And when I coddle my firstborn, to shush her from one of her midnight terrors, Daniel would stare at my living, painted nightmare, at the harsh lines and the dark hues of the image inspired by my deepest regrets. Inspired from a life filled with enough romantic passion, sure, but not enough life passion to sate the pain of my mundane existence. He walks down the halls, tracing the dozen other horrors I’d painted before, of all the times I woke up hyperventilating with an uncanny urge to spill my unsated soul. Abstract paintings of knights fighting on a battlefield, a dark, mad queen, a massacre of royal blood.

This is the life society had succumbed me to. This is the life society told me I wanted.  A life that offered me love, comfort, where I could still definitely draw, but my talent would be confined in the isolated walls of my homelife. It would be merely an afterthought. My secret talent. My hobby.

Not my life calling.

Wouldn’t it be grand, if hurricanes could be stopped so sweetly, so submissively, as quickly as society had halted the hopes of its millions of naïvedreamers? If wars could be won from a dictator so almighty people would drop to their knees and plead if their ruler had so much as commanded it to stop? From the moment my toddler hands could wrap around a crayon, I knew that I would be an artist. Not a nurse, with a Ph.D and ten wasted years crying over C’s on my exams, where my hands would twitch from so much anxiety that I couldn’t even pick up a pen and draw. Where I couldn’t fulfill what I knew--deep in my crushed soda-can heart--is the saturation of my pursuit of happiness.

I shift the satchel on my shoulder. Inside, my very few necessary possessions: a drawing book, ten thousand dollars, legal documents, two shirts and pants, neatly rolled. A pen. All I ever desired in this sack. Yet, an ache, like a hunger, still lingers, like spice on my tongue.

But what’s this hunger? A nurse for twenty years, enough money to take me wherever I wanted, buy me anything I wanted. My mind shifts to those paintings, the ones emerged from my cursed dreams, the assassinations that stained the white walls. The abstract nature of my paintings strike me. Not realism, my favorite medium. But abstract...

Abstract. Oh, my god.

The paintings weren’t literal; they were symbols, made by my subconscious. Knights, queens, massacres of royal blood, it was all a puzzle to find my life meaning. Finding my life meaning, through a symbolic, painted chess game...

A chess game, where our dreams are the kings we fight to protect. Where there’s no black or white or brown pieces, no opposing sides, no common enemy to defeat. No enemy but the instigator of the game, the man--the thing--responsible for twisting our lives into a living assassination of our aspirations, our dreams, and our lives: our Fate.

Fate, the world-renowned chess champion. Fate was a mentor to us, once, who taught us the basic rules of choices. Losing a pawn didn’t matter to us, then, in our childhood.

 Then the game became serious, and Fate decides it won’t go easy anymore.

 Suddenly, each move you make is a turn in the fork of life’s winding, shadowed road, and every wrong turn leaves you scraping your skin on thorns. Your battlements go down, your rooks, knights, bishops, weakening, collapsing, at the hands of Fate’s uncanny wit, its ability to discourage you and your seemingly thought-out game. Fate even stole my queen, my high school dream, as college swept me away in a wave of anxiety and a sickening rush of realism, that artists can not survive in this society.

And what’s left of this sad, sad chess board, but my king, my ultimate dream. My king against Fate’s king--in chess, my game is dead. No one can win. It’s a tie. An endgame.

  Is this it? Do I just flee, from everything until now? Has my life been deemed...worthless?

 No. No, my life isn’t worthless. It’s not worthless, because there is always a way to cheat the game. Those dreamers, the artists living out their American Dream, outwitted their Fate, the students who found a way to conquer their masters. And perhaps I could, too.

But now, I’m left with one, impossible decision:

Live out on my hopeless teenage dream. Or live a dream society planned out for me.

Even before society’s identity theft, my answer was already set in stone.

The right path’s packed dirt crumbles beneath my well-worn sneakers, like the new sensation of my weary heart, twanging with an unfamiliar pain. A pain of loss, that’s never overtaken me before, in the vast pit growing beneath my sternum. My heart, oh the torrent that’s engulfed my heart, no longer seeks to find happiness; rather, I feel nothing at all.

No more dreams. No more king. Just….life. Family and a stable job, and life.

And I guess I’m a disappointment, now, for I had chosen this same path, ten years ago.

 


© Copyright 2018 halle schaffer. All rights reserved.

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