Dystopia revisited

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Other  |  House: Booksie Classic
hope you like it, it is rather long but it's the product of hard labour.

Submitted: May 23, 2013

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Submitted: May 23, 2013

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Another summery morning arrived through the window. The alluring sunrays washed the face of a middle-class ex-teacher, Dennis Middleton, London resident for the past few years. Since his retirement from a state school at the center of the city, he is spending his days gazing at the sun and feeling a bit of nostalgia about the beautiful days spent in the four walls of the proud school. He used to teach Mathematics.

A telephone on the previous night reminded him of an anniversary celebration at the school, which celebrates 100 years since it set off on its educational journey that keeps thriving until this very day. Dennis looked forward to it. His favorite students must have surely graduated, but certainly, there would be someone at school that knew what became of them, after they left school for brand new experiences all around the world. His heart was beating fast as he put on his coat; summer in England differs little from winter. That’s the one thing he would love to change about his homeland; being able to distinguish each season from the others. Each season should have its own distinct characteristics; on the contrary, in England they tend to be, more or less, the same.

  Intent on maintaining his composure in case he learned bad news, he made his way through the lonely city, striving hard not to be run over by the considerable amount of cars the drivers of which headed to work. He was so immensely lost in his thoughts that the prospect of accident was not a far cry. Thousands of names crossed his mind, as he tried to recollect the frequent facial expressions of his students as he announced a quiz. It was one of the funniest moments; hearing all the childish complaints, all the peculiar excuses and all the imaginative arguments against a quiz. It is quite strange to think how every student assumes that a quiz is going to destroy his life. It never happens, but the way a student’s mind works is peculiar, and Dennis often caught himself wondering how he could alleviate their stress when he announced a quiz and accepted all this criticism.

Without exactly understanding how this happened, he realized that he was at the gate of the school. The morning sun had vanished, but the school garden was so efflorescent, so breath-taking that he wished he could stay there forever, smelling the enchanting perfume of the extravagantly splendid flowers. He felt so relieved, so consoled, as if he was at home. This school was like a second home to him. London, although his hometown, was never quite the place he could call home. But this one little corner in this city, this exquisite school, was actually his home. Overwhelmed by the perfume of the flowers, he stood at the gate for a little while, until he realized how eccentric he looked, a lone old man before a school gate.

  He entered the school. On his first step, he could hear the murmurs and the laughs of the students that cherished a day without stressful lessons. He could see students discussing with teachers, whose faces were familiar to Dennis. Everyone was drinking. He could see a fair lady drinking wine. He knew this fair lady very well; when he was about to retire, she was new and ready to educate the first grade. He remembered how he helped her become a part of the school and accustom herself to the environment of a British school. She was American, now in her forties but still pulchritudinous.

“Hello, Hanna”, Dennis said, wondering if she would be able to recognize him, after the passage of so many years.

 Hanna looked at him for a couple of seconds, until she realized who it was.

“Dennis!”, she exclaimed, hugging him tenderly. Dennis really felt like he was at his home.

“Such a pleasant surprise to see you here, you still look so alive and kicking”, she said, bursting into laughter. She had a lovely way to laugh, and make everyone around her immediately delighted.

“You sure are a smooth talker, I know very well that I do not look like a young man”, he smiled. “I’m here because of the anniversary celebration, I couldn’t miss it. I looked forward to being to my second home again. It was so much better to visit it at some joyful moment where the oldest of teachers wouldn’t look so obsolete, instead of disrupting its everlasting, young-centered harmony.”

“Don’t speak nonsense, Dennis, you were one of the best teachers here. You are welcome every day; it is an honor to see you here. How is it going? Your kids? Your wifey?”

“My kids have grown up, they both study in the US. And my wife unfortunately died of breast cancer. It is better like this, she used to suffer so painfully, I could not stand the fact that I could not offer a helping hand.”

“I’m sorry to hear this, Dennis. So, do you live alone now? Here, in London?”

“Yeah, but I wished I lived somewhere else. I realized that the coming of age made London so melancholy and lonesome in my eyes. Being alone and staring at the sun is all you do when you’re not working or bringing up kids or making love.”

“You must miss school a lot”, Hanna said, with a concerned look at her face. “You should really visit it all the time; there are lots of people here who can keep some company to you. Don’t forget, this is your second home, and you shouldn’t forget your second home.”

“I told you, lots of young people here wouldn’t like to see an old man spoiling the young, fresh image of the school. Perfectly respectable.”

  Hanna was irritated.

“Come on, Dennis. You are a blessing for this school. Your students still praise your ability to communicate such wonderful knowledge. You are one of the most eloquent teachers of this school, a lover of words. I admired you then, I admire you now. Don’t underestimate yourself and the majestic contribution to this school.”

  Dennis was pleased to hear that someone acknowledged the amount of work he has done for this school.

“Is Mr. Hallows here? I’d really like to talk to him.”

“Yeah, he’s there, behind the table, discussing with a young girl. She is one of the smartest girls of her grade. You’d really love to be her teacher. Mr. Hallows is really lucky!”

  Dennis smiled at her and walked towards Mr. Hallows. Mr. Hallows was an English literature teacher. He was ten years younger than Dennis, but very skilled and wise. He has dedicated his life in rejuvenating English literature. He even published a magazine at school, with English poetry and prose. Dennis doesn’t know if he still does, but he used to read the magazine and enjoy it.

“Hello, Rick”, Dennis said, with a delighted look on his face. He cherished the fact that everyone seemed surprised towards his presence at the anniversary. No one expected him, as it seemed.

“I can’t believe it, Dennis, you’re here!” , Rick exclaimed, hugging him typically. Tender hugs weren’t exactly his cup of tea. Such a typical Englishman, sometimes. He has assimilated all the English customs.

“Yeah, I really missed this school.”, Dennis said, with a nostalgic tone in his voice.

“Why didn’t you visit earlier? You’re always welcome here, and everyone’s wondering how you’ve been doing. Your presence is a relief. The school is into some really hard times lately.”, Rick said, in a depressed tone. Dennis’ heart missed a beat. Something was going terribly wrong, and he didn’t even know.

“What is wrong, then, Rick?”, Dennis asked, totally unaware of what might have happened.

  Rick lowered his head. Dennis realized that whatever happened must be very grim.

“Oh, come on, Rick, please. This school is my shelter; I need to know if something is harming it.”

“You know, Dennis, sometimes it feels like there’s no other school in the center of London that can reach the level of education and the quality of the teachers’ work. We’ve been so benumbed by this idea of majesty and superiority that we were insufficiently prepared for unpleasant news. Everything that destroys our harmony feels as if a human being is being struck by the inevitable coming of age; it makes our whole world collapse, break into smithereens, leave us alone, dissatisfied with ourselves. The whole universe is like a big, fat lie, and it is such a surprise, because we thought that it was as true as gold. We may seem like we’re moving on, but inside us, we know very well that nothing is the same anymore. Neither the stupefying perfume of the flowers, nor the dazzling smiles on our faces can undo what has been already done.”

“But, what is wrong? That’s a nice introduction, considering you’re a writer yourself, but I do not understand. Why isn’t the school possessing the majestic quality it had in the past?”, Dennis asked, with a pain in his stomach.

“Some other moment I may have presented this introduction as a means of showing off my eloquence, but this is not the case. I just don’t know how to describe my feelings about this plight we’re going through. Do you remember this student, Mark Allenson? He was a bright star, a genius…”

  Dennis’ heart skipped a beat. Yeah, he remembers Mark. Sometimes, he wonders what happened to him after school. He was a genius at mathematics. Not very social at all. The game of social interaction was not his cup of tea. He preferred numbers. He liked the fact that numbers were his only friends. He was offered a scholarship in some prestigious university in the US, but Dennis’ knowledge of Mark’s future plans ended there. Surely, he must have become a great mathematician, a very skilled one, with major contributions to the science he was so deeply in love with.

“Who can forget Mark? He was one of a kind, no joke.”

  Rick’s eyes were watery. He tried to hide it, but it was in vain. The sorrow was so obvious, in the words he spoke, in the expression he had, in everything he uttered.

“His lack of skillful social interaction cost him a lot. His brightness did not really help him in the game of love. He fell in love with a profusely breath-taking girl from the US, who refused to hang out with him. It seems she was a bit too harsh, but any kind of comment would hurt a socially unpracticed man…Everyone thought that this unfortunate love story would end here, but it didn’t. Mark kept annoying her, calling her all the time, leaving her some love messages, but she wouldn’t reply. So…he committed suicide…”

  Dennis’ tongue remained immerse, his eyes stared at Rick with uncertainty, hoping he misheard. He was unable to perceive those words. His world fell apart, like a tower made of pieces of paper. So simply defeated. A whole world charred.

“He jumped off the window. No one in the university expected him to do something like that. So young, so deeply hurt. It was tragic. He was anti-social, no doubt, but not a psychotic. But you never know what people really are, deep inside. No one knows anyone, Dennis.”

  Dennis couldn’t speak. Suddenly, the birds chirping, the students laughing, the teachers carelessly discussing, everything seemed meaningless. The perfume of the flowers wasn’t baffling anymore. He could think rightly; clearly; without the numbness of the smell, without the fake beauty of their blossoms. The pretty school, the homage to the smartest, everything fell apart. Now, the school smelled like death; like a corpse rotting, day by day. The sky followed his sorrowful mood; the sun has completely gone away and the clouds were frolicking above his head. It was hard to believe. Those people…in this campus…everyone was benumbed, delighted, pleased, drinking, eating, enjoying a (even cloudy) summer day. No one thought of Mark, no one knew that someone who once set foot in this school is dead and gone, leaving his family depressed and helpless. He wasn’t mad at them; they weren’t obliged to feel sad about a person they don’t know. But it was unbelievable to him, at that very moment, at that moment he sat opposite of Rick, with the clouds above his head, and the smell of wine and flowers trying to seduce him.

Without being able to spell any utterance, and without waving at anyone, he left school. Once he reached the gate, he gazed at the flowers, for one last time. These wonderful flowers, with their little cute blossoms, this beauty, those buildings, those amazing people could not prevent Mark from dying, and never helped him overcome the issues that tortured him, never tried to see deep inside. All this ugliness, this rottenness, concealed by an overwhelmingly splendid beauty, which was as plastic as supermarket bag. The smell of the flowers could do nothing any more; his brain was clear and stark. And this school was no longer a home to everyone who visited it, to everyone who spent just a few moments with the people it consists of. It can do nothing to bring back the eccentric beauty of Mark’s eyes, as they ran across the paper to figure out what he had to do in a mathematics quiz. It can do nothing to bring back the safe home and shelter for those who need it the most.

  He got home, without even realizing. He must have been walking really fast, all lost in his thoughts again. How foolish of him not to be sufficiently prepared for such news. You never know what can happen. You never know how the world is. Once the world is straight and then it is upside down. And the change happens so fast that you don’t realize. How immensely depressing. His brain, his weak brain couldn’t even perceive it. It was as if his so admired brightness was magically turned off. His brain couldn’t realize death and everything that involves its grim figure.

  He wasn’t in the mood to eat anything. He felt a severe pain at his stomach, which he ignored. He sat near the window, and gazed at the cloudy sky for a while. Somewhere there, according to the Christian tradition, was Mark. Although an atheist, Dennis felt the urgent need to believe that Mark was up there, counting, adding, subtracting, multiplying, and dividing. He was delighted to be there, and watching this illogical world from above, not having the need to get down there and engage in absurd everyday situations. At least, he got rid of the typicality that governs this boring world. He could do his thing up there, without being annoyed by anyone mortal. It was a consolation for Dennis to know that Mark thrived, even in the sky, without the recognition of this fragile world. Not that he needed recognition. He was too splendid for this.

  His house was empty. Now, he was more lonesome than ever. He has suffered his wife’s death, but the pain was still intense. All he had to console him, to alleviate his unbearable pain was the fact that his students were somewhere in this earth, thriving, succeeding, being happy, leading the lives they always desired. But now, every single consolation was meaningless; his happiness was like a puzzle. His wife’s death left the puzzle without a substantial piece; but the puzzle used to be almost complete, with the rest of its pieces forming a wonderful picture. But now, the loss of one more piece made it look grotesque and hostile. The alluring landscape of a sunny beach turned into a stormy, hostile town. The shades of blue turned into shades of grey. What’s to love in a town that no longer invites you to stay? Destroy the puzzle; create it once again, with your magic fingers, with a motive larger than life. But how is this possible when the heartache is so painfully intense, when the knife of memory stabs you right in the heart?

  He couldn’t stay there anymore. There was only one thing to do, to sing a lullaby to his loneliness. To feel like he’s doing something useful. Visit Mark’s mother. This is the thing to do. This is a motive larger than life. He wants to talk to her. To let her know, that we are weak beings and that we must forgive ourselves, from time to time.

  Mark’s mother lived in southern London, so he had to use public transportation to get there. In the bus, his brain was empty. He couldn’t think of a proper thing to…think. It was impossible to wonder about little things in life, now that something so immensely sorrowful has happened. Everything else was a game that could be won. But this game, the game of death, was a dead issue. English has a funny way of being humorous in a macabre manner. “death”, “dead issue”. Everything fits. Everything in the proper place.

  After ringing some bells and asking where the Allensons resided, he finally found the house. The people he came upon became pretty grim and depressed when he mentioned the surname. It seems that everyone in the neighborhood was aware of the tragedy that struck the household like a lightning bolt. This kind of thing cannot remain secret, even in a large city like London.

  He rang the bell. Patiently, he waited, until a tortured, crummy woman appeared at the door. Her hair was partly white, and her face had some wrinkles although she seemed young, around her forties. She looked exhausted.

“Who is this?”

“Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Dennis Middleton, and I used to be Mark’s teacher in Mathematics, when he was at school…”

  Mark’s name shocked the young woman. It was obvious that she couldn’t get over the tragic event.

“Come in”, she simply said, letting Dennis step in.

  They sat in the back yard of the house, which had a small garden full of exquisite flowers. Their blossoms had just started appearing and marking the beginning of summer. But nothing in the house, or the atmosphere showed that summer is on the way. On the contrary, everything was misty, grim, gloomy.

“I was sorry to hear what happened to Mark”, Dennis said, and his heart was full of anguish again. This phrase brought to his mind everything that happened, and regretted uttering it. It was unpleasant.

Mrs. Allenson was silent for a while. Her eyes were awash with bitter tears.

“Mr. Middleton, I’m so glad you’re here, even though it doesn’t show. I haven’t been joyful for a while, and I don’t know how it is to smile again. I don’t know who to blame for what happened. Me? The school? The lack of a paternal role model? Sometimes, handing responsibilities is a very difficult task. And I’m so baffled. It crosses my mind every single day. Someone has to pay, and if it is me, I’m going to pay, with all my willingness.”

  Dennis sipped some tea and realized that this woman was more baffled than he was. She needed help.

“Mrs. Allenson, it is no one’s complete fault. The school should have realized that this kid had some issues. It didn’t really help. Mark was horribly bullied for being who he was, but the school never really helped. It never understood that things are serious. It was just a childish game for them. Another teenage craziness, to let everyone out. But, everyone saw that this kid had some problems. No one bothered, though…”

“I’ve spoken to the Dean a couple of times, but he told me to rest assured. He never gave me arguments. Why should I rest assured? He never took any kind of action. He let him be bullied, never bothering. For them, he was a star, a mathematics genius that made the school look more prestigious. But they never saw…”

  Dennis felt guilty as hell. He knew he could have done something, but he never wanted to be responsible for everything. How horrible he felt.

“Mrs. Allenson, I could have done something, but I didn’t…I’m so sorry…”

  His voice broke. He burst into tears. He felt so damn unhappy, so utterly dreary. He wanted to die. What’s to admire in a coward?

“It’s ok, Mr. Middleton, no reason to feel guilty now…what’s done cannot be undone.”, she said, and her eyes filled with tears.

  An awkward silence allowed them to cry as much as they wished. Their tears consoled them, alleviated their mutual pain for a while. How comforting it was.

“Mr. Middleton, I sometimes wonder what he’s doing in the sky. Watching us? Laughing at us? Laughing at our incapability to forget him?”, Mark’s mother said, gazing at the cloudy sky. It was about to rain. The earth had this distinct smell that prepared nature for a storm.

 “I think he’s happy”, Dennis confessed. “He’s up there, without anyone annoying him, calculating, coming up with new discoveries in Mathematics. This is the only thought that can console me…for a while.”

  It started raining, but the man and the woman didn’t make a move. It was nice being there, letting yourself be cleansed by the natural touch of rain. It felt as if a part of the past went away, allowing a more optimistic future to prepare its land. Plus, tears and rain became one and the same. It was a double cleansing, something they craved so much. They didn’t feel cold or anything. It was astonishing to be there and letting nature create its magic.

“You shouldn’t think about it now”, Dennis said. “You’re all trying to leave those pieces behind and move on, in any way you can. Why bring the past in the forefront when you can leave it in the background? Pointless, and it doesn’t comfort the overwhelming pain…”

 The rain has stopped, and there was no more tea to drink. Dennis realized he had to leave. He had nothing more to say, and he was sure that this woman cherished silence. No one would like a stranger to disrupt someone’s effort to lead a normal life, by reminding them of an unpleasant event.

Mrs. Allenson led him to the door. They were both silent. Dennis stepped out of the house, and descended the stairs.

“Mr. Middleton?”

This was Mrs. Allenson’s voice.

“Yes?”, Dennis said.

  He was surprised and pleased to see that she smiled. Even her weak smile was enough to light up this cloudy, mirthless day.

“I think he’s happy too…”, she said. Then she closed the door.

  Dennis stayed there for a while, smiling. Then he looked above. A bunch of sunrays jumped on his face. He felt a sudden joy and lust for life.

  And then, like a little kid that goes to a party, he started murmuring “Here comes the sun”, with a careless and fearless voice…

 


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