Drowning in a Sea of Strangers

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
A man awakes to an existential crisis

Submitted: July 28, 2011

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Submitted: July 28, 2011



Drowning in a Sea of Strangers

Silently he rose. The passage from the luxurious amnesia of deep sleep to the heaving burden of daily existence was completed once again. This was a new day. He stood alone amidst the stale dusts of his bedroom and stretched his arms into the air. He sighed, he yawned, he scratched his nails against the numbness of his flesh – all vain attempts to relieve the unbearable tensions which had plagued him of late - but nothing would avail. The undying pressures of life had imprinted onto his anguished mind, the worries and woes of existence distilled into a tenacious cloud of remorse. He looked at the musty blue curtains hanging loosely over the bedroom window and noted the tiny bands of light trickling through them; the first hints of the outside world stretching out towards his weary soul. He opened the curtains to reveal the dim sunshine. A green field lay beyond the window, a huge expanse of land devoid of the concrete required to attract human feet. He knew that man had abandoned the simple, innocent joys of nature in favour of the repetitive strains of an urban world; each person increasingly reflected the artificial world in which they lived. He retreated back into the comfort of the shadows and looked at his sullen image in the tainted mirror upon the bedroom wall. Pitiful, he thought. Who did this feeble face of forlorn belong to? It was a sad state of affairs to no longer recognise oneself.

As he stared contemplatively at the strange reflection in the mirror, he pondered upon how he could change his current predicament. The answer was startlingly simple. It appeared in his thoughts in an instant and lit up his world like a warm, pink glow. He was a man who simply needed to find love. The lonely cravings had silently festered within his mind for too long now – he had to act. The desire for beauty overwhelmed him. The desire for respect overpowered him. The desire for love shone from his bright, needful eyes like two lonely stars within the black night sky. But that was all to change, he decided. Today would be the day, he smiled, the glorious time when all his fantasies would be fulfilled; all his dreams would be realised. It was up to him, entirely, to find his happiness, his joy, his soul. A smile crept reluctantly onto his pale face – maybe the day belonged to him? With a rare fit of passion he reached over towards his wardrobe door and flung it open. A virgin confidence shot through his mind. It was time to test the water - to take a dip into the pool of life, discover a social side of himself which he, and everybody else, had failed to realise.

He eagerly took out a selection of casual clothes then looked back at the skeletal frames of the abandoned clothes hangers. They rocked gently to and fro inside the wardrobe. Creak! Clang! He observed the thin metal wires hanging delicately, almost dancing upon the brass pole which they clung to so mercifully. They fitted perfectly to the shining pole, almost like a jigsaw. He smiled. Some things were destined to hang, he considered briefly. But what was destiny? What was fate? The questions wandered momentarily through his mind. Could he control fate? Could he control destiny? He decided there was no time for these amateur philosophical meanderings - a day only lasts so long. Carpe diem! He put his clothes on and went for a bus.

The bus stop was eerily quiet. He stood alone on the pavement and watched a long line of cars whiz past in front of him, their drivers completely oblivious to the beacons of existence beyond the perimeters of the road. The reality of life soon effused back to him, dispelling the hopes and joys he’d held so sacred only moments ago. He was a lone stranger lost in the suffocating confines of an urban jungle. He focused intensely upon the ground as people walked past, their weary faces etched with soul-destroying melancholy. They walked with dogs, they walked with friends, they walked alone – but all had the same hunched shoulders and foreboding eyes. He looked down as they passed and refused all eye contact. Eye contact frightened him. It could reveal his secrets, invite strangers to analyse him. It was to be avoided at all costs. The only person he trusted enough to attempt a serious analysis of his mind was himself, but even that was never a successful outcome. The cerebral chaos which pulsated within his head was beyond analysis, beyond redemption. The bus appeared at the end of the road - a screeching green juggernaut content on carrying everybody in the city to some unknown place where all lifeless faces go. The doors slid open with a sigh of desperation. He nonchalantly entered.

Calm, content and happy - all emotions he’d tried to grasp the concept of but failed dismally. Unreachable states of mind, it appeared. Even if he did slightly touch upon these emotions he would always rapidly slide back down into the usual pits of despair – that plague of misery which shrouded his eternal soul with ever-increasing intensity. He sat down on the nearest seat and let the bus take him to the city centre. The smooth leather cushion of the seat smothered his body with motherly love; it embraced him; warmed him. It seemed that he could only derive pleasure from inanimate objects these days. He sat and watched the outside world pass by, the bland houses undeniably tainted by the repetitive, futile lives of their occupiers. Some of the passengers travelling on the bus were chatting wistfully about the shallow complexities of ordinary life. There was a constant ebb and flow of passengers. People would board the bus, leave the bus, board the bus, leave the bus… Beautiful strangers would clamber on board, look his way, and then dutifully ignore him. He wanted them to greet him, hug him, share their lives with him, but that would never happen. They would leave his empty life as quickly as they had entered. He sighed. Perhaps he was unapproachable? Why wouldn’t they smile at him? Why wouldn’t they cherish him? All of this came to pass, however, as the bus abruptly hissed to a stop. He had reached his destination.

The activity in the city centre was as frantic as usual. Hundreds of people were making a departure from their ordinary, suburban lives to search for useless consumer junk with which to impress their unworthy peers. Eager to visit their chosen destiny, they hurried past each other without any acknowledgement whatsoever. A multitude of heads bobbed up and down within the great urban sea; the ebb and flow of dispirited lives rushing past each other with great abandon. Most people came to the city centre to shop, but this man wasn’t here to shop - he was here to observe. He wanted to embrace all individuals - to quell the disenchantment which had gradually dragged him beyond the wholesome union which, he believed, society should involve. It was a simple wish: to be at one with mankind once more. As he walked through the pugnacious crowds he could hear the clattering of a thousand clumsy feet grinding endlessly against the dull, grey concrete pavement like boisterous drills of leather. The torrid shouts of his fellow citizens echoed throughout the streets. He held his head up high and looked up at the sky. The dim sun ached its way past the clouds for a brief second, radiating him with its desperate glow. It pressed calmly against his forehead, gently mothering him, protecting him from a perilous society. He realised that this brief glimpse of nature was all that the city would allow him to see. Seeping in from above, the sunlight had found the only way that anything could penetrate the four stories of concrete on either side of him; the single flaw in the city’s ability to protect its citizens from nature’s charms. He apologised for the resentment he had felt when the sun had greeted him in the morning. It was he himself who was at fault, not the sun. The clouds soon covered the sky and a haunting blue shadow shrouded the streets. His spirits were dampened, his individuality violated. He was dissolved within the vigorous crowd.

He thought it peculiar that he felt so alone. Surrounded by the masses he felt alone; deserted; isolated. How could this be? Something was decidedly wrong. How could he feel so remote when such a large group of people was present? The primeval desires he’d contemplated that morning came flooding back to him. Once more, the longing to be softly hugged overwhelmed his fragile mind, the need to be kissed astonished him. So many people, so many lives! Why couldn’t they see that he had a soul too? Didn’t he have thoughts? Didn’t he have emotions? He could love them back! Yet the only physical contact they allowed was quick shallow brushes; impatient knocks against the shoulders as they barged their way through life. A thousand heads bobbed up and down erratically in a huge crowd, the flow of life scattered across desolate streets, like a cauldron of turmoil boiling to an end. And then came the panic…

He became aware of his agonizing breathlessness. He was gasping for air, desperately battling for a lifeline. An irrepressible urge for release overcame him. He wanted to be alive once more! He wanted to fight for the recuperation of his forgotten soul! The ferocious waves of stranger’s heads crashed into his delicate body like hard and rampant battering rams. He shook uncontrollably. The endeavour was too great for him to deal with alone. Pain crawled slowly through his aching nerves – his mind momentarily disintegrated into a fine and bitter dust. A submissive sigh took hold of him. Something had to be done, he knew he was drowning. They were choking him, stealing every last joy from his body.

Sinking into the turbid waters of humanity, the struggle took hold of him - pulled him down below the depths.

Suddenly, he gasped no more.

He panicked no more.

Silence embraced his soul.

© Copyright 2018 Jon Mayler. All rights reserved.

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