3 comments

Fiction Contemporary

This story contains themes or mentions of mental health issues.

Him:

February 22, 2021

Today she finally did it, and I can’t say I blame her. I just wish she’d given me more notice. Yes, I did see this coming, but I just didn’t know when.


I guess it’s time for me to find somewhere to stay.


When I asked her where she expected me to go, she snarled that she didn’t know and that I was an adult and should be able to figure it out. Right she is, I guess.


I am now at MacDonald’s, sipping coffee and wondering what to do next. I have no one in this world.


Why am I still writing in this useless book? Does it change anything? Not anything that matters anyway. Not that anything in this world matters of course.


I suppose I’ll be sleeping here tonight. Well, not exactly here, inside. Outside. On the benches.


Until they close, I’ll pretend that there’s still coffee in my cup.


Her:

February 22, 2021


Today he finally did it… Michael left! He simply packed his stuff and… LEFT… He cried… I cried. And there will be a lot more crying when the girls wake up tomorrow and don’t find their dad.


Oh dear God, what am I going to do…. my world feels like a capsized boat…my head is under water and … though I keep kicking with all the fight that’s left in me… it won’t budge. It just won’t budge… it’s sitting on my damn chest…I can’t breathe. Is my heart giving up on me? Will it stop beating or am I just imagining this? 


I can’t say I didn’t see this coming, but oh, dear God, I never thought it would come so soon. I was warned that he had a wandering eye and would not last long… marriage was not for people like him…


He must be with her now… the whore… my Michael is with his whore. Probably cruising in his fancy Porsche.


I never thought I would ever feel this broken. My hands won’t stop shaking... and my chest won’t stop heaving … though my eyes are out of tears… I have to find a way to control these sobs or I’ll wake the girls up… the last thing I want to deal with right now…


Maybe things will look different in the light of day?


Maybe I don’t even WANT to see the light of the fucking day! 


Should I call my mum? I don’t want to wake her up… but she would know what to do… I can’t think.


Him:

March 5, 2021


The snow is starting to melt. The days are slowly getting longer. This means no more bike accidents. No more frostbite at night. More people in the city, which means more money for Freddy and me. He’s a good-looking dog. They feel bad for him. Our can is usually full of copper and nickel coins. And there’s always the occasional fiver. I know the money is for him. As for me, they must curse me in their heads. This fully grown-up man in his thirties on the streets subjecting his poor, helpless dog to the elements. And right they are.


Today a hunched old woman, who looked and sounded like my mother, gave me a can of dog food, an apple and a banana from her shopping caddie.


“So I know you won’t blow the money on drugs and alcohol,” she snorted through her wrinkled nose and crooked teeth.


“Thank you, Ma’am,” I nodded. Freddy raised a tired head and whined quietly as if to say thank you.


But I don’t do drugs. I gulp down a single shot a night just to keep me warm until I fall asleep. Just because I live on the street doesn’t mean I’m a druggie or an alcoholic.


I just have nowhere to go.


Her:

March 5, 2021


I guess it’s getting easier. I still drink myself into oblivion and cry myself into a stupor each night, but I no longer see myself wanting to swallow the remainder of Michael’s prescription pills or fighting the urge to let go of the steering wheel after dropping the girls off at school.


It’s just maddening. I have no idea where he is and he won’t answer his phone! What an asshole! Forget about me, but what about these little girls who adore him? If he’d just answer his phone… I would apologise for… for it all… I just want him back!


I never thought I would say this, but I’m so happy Michael didn’t take the dog with him. The girls adore him. But more importantly, going for walks with him forces me to get fresh air. He makes my black bubble less bitter.



Him:

June 5, 2021 


Sometimes I wonder if I should call her. Maybe apologise for whatever it is she wants me to apologise for. What I’d do for a hot meal right now! A long bath to wash away the grime of many days on the streets and nights in the park. A break from the quick showers at the train station.


Of course I don’t miss her. I don’t have it in me and she knows it. She knew I was staying with her because I had nowhere to go.


I tried to be useful around the house, organise her pills, clean up her mess, carry her to bed... Do I hate her for kicking me out? I don’t. I wish I had the energy. It would mean that I’m alive, but the plain truth is that I don’t care either way. 


“Apathy will be your downfall,” she used to wave a gnarled finger in my face.


That was when she was in a foul mood, after a long night of cheap wine perhaps.


When she was in a good mood, after the first glass perhaps, she would call me her one and only armadillo.


An apathetic armadillo. But who said apathy is such a bad thing? Isn’t it what helped me clean her puke and pick up her bottles all these years? Who said that having armadillo armour was something to be ashamed of? It just means being shielded. Immune to it all. If it wards off the bad things, let the good things be the currency that affords the shield.


Her:

June 5, 2021


I can finally report that the good days are more than the bad days. The girls ask me less and less when their dad is coming back. I’ve gotten used to having the bed to myself. I don’t have to forgo onion and garlic and everything that gives food any flavour just because they “upset his stomach”. I can have my friends and my family over whenever I want without having to negotiate with him before and listen to his rants after.


All that is to say, I’m doing fine. I still get pangs of sadness whenever I remember him and how he left without a trace, but those pangs pass just as quickly as they come. I guess being a single mother all of a sudden keeps my hands full. Too overwhelmed by responsibility to be overcome by abandonment.


Everyone insists I should start dating again… would help me get over Michael. At least get myself a rebound, but I just can’t yet!


Him:

August 10, 2021


The strangest thing happened today. I had collected a lot of bottles and cans from all over the park. When it got too hot, I biked to the supermarket, returned all the empties and got the deposit money (Go Green Germany). I then bought myself a cold Cola and Freddy some dog food and headed back to the park. I found us a new bench in the shade. Our usual spot was taken by one of the many families that spread all over the place like ants. So loud, too.


I’m glad I never had kids. Or a wife, for that matter!


I parked the bike behind the bench, opened Freddy’s can and sat down to enjoy my cola. I looked over to the reeds and lake and was instantly lost in my daydreams. The first thought was how great would it be if I just “fell” into the lake and never came out? No one would even notice. No one would care but Freddy. But he would be just fine. With those big eyes and floppy ears? He’d be snatched in a minute. He would finally get the love he deserves.


But I’ve always been too cowardly to “fall” into lakes. So my mind drifted to the next daydream, the more realistic one. The dream of qualifying for benefits and being given a place to stay. A real bed and a real toilet, not a dirty sleeping bag on a hard bench and a public toilet that always stank of urine and worthlessness.


Out of nowhere, this woman in bright red lipstick materialised in front of me and said something. I squinted at her, and she repeated the question, “May I join you?”


I understood the individual words alright, but I didn’t fathom what she meant. Join me in doing what?


“It’s just that the… the park is packed,” she stumbled over her words, “Nowhere else to …to sit!”

I looked around to see if she was really talking to me. No one ever talks to me. I’ve forgotten the sound of my own voice. I didn’t want her to sit beside me in case I stank.


But I also didn’t want anyone talking to me.


Annoyed, I grabbed my bag and got up to leave.


Her face turned the colour of her blouse, “I… I’m fully vaccinated!” 


As if Corona was the reason I didn’t want to be around people!


When she saw that I was leaving, she motioned for me to sit back down and stormed off tripping over her own feet.


People are so weird.


Her:

August 10, 2021  


The day started off quite well. I went to a successful job interview. I think I’m ready to take the plunge and change careers.


The girls and the dog were at my mum’s and I had an hour to myself, so I stopped at the park. The sky was a clear blue, not a cloud to be seen. There were people everywhere. Little kids squealing in the water, couples curled up smooching in the grass, the occasional tramp looking for empty beer bottles and cans.


I walked around for about forty minutes thinking about the rollercoaster that was my life in the past months. The water beckoned to me seductively, but I didn’t have a bathing suit, so I decided to sit down and watch happy people do happy things, inviting their happiness to hop into my heart.


All the benches were taken, and I didn’t feel like sitting in my interview outfit on the damp grass. I was wearing my pencil skirt and lucky red blouse, so I kept looking for somewhere to sit until I saw this man. 


I’d seen him a few times before, always on his bike with his cute dog running alongside him. He looked gruff in his oversized black coat–even in summer– and bushy ponytail and big beard with thin streaks of grey, but there was an elegant quietness about him, a quietness that said he needed no one. He always looked ahead, taking notice of no one.


I remembered what my friends said about me stepping out there and thought to myself: why not? He seemed cool.


But when I asked if I could sit on the bench where he was sitting, not only did he crinkle his nose in disgust, he even attempted to get up to leave! I was flabbergasted!


“I’m fully vaccinated!” I heard my stupid squeaky voice say.


I’m vaccinated? Against WHAT? Rabies?


I wished the earth beneath me would open up and swallow me! How desperate did I seem? Arghhhh!


I ran off as fast as my heels would get me over the grass and gravel.


Never again am I going to look at men! First my husband leaves me and now this man won’t even sit near me.


Anyway, I did end up taking off my heels and sitting on the grass, my toes flirting with the cool water. I am proud of myself for not letting this arrogant guy ruin my otherwise perfect day. I reduced him to a tiny speck of dust and stowed him away in a tiny box at the back of my mind. I ended up having a lovely time basking in the slowness and peacefulness of my surroundings. I even caught myself grinning.


Him:

October 20, 2021


I no longer live in the park but still come here almost daily. I still collect empty bottles and cans. It became a routine. I wonder what the government would think of my “side hustle”. They regularly check my bank account to make sure I don’t have a source of income. How they would love for me to find a job so they can cut my benefits.


I’m good as long as I’m taking the psychotherapist’s pills. As long as he tells them I’m destined to be a bum. A failure. Better kept away from society.


They don’t need me and my darkness; I don’t want them and their brightness.


My mother called me today. She said she missed her armadillo and wanted him back. When I told her I had my own apartment now, she thought I had finally found a job or a girlfriend. I let her believe what she wanted to believe. When she asked for my address so she could come and visit, I reminded her that she kicked me, her only son, out.


Then she started a fit of drunk, sniffly wailing, saying she did it for my own good. A man in his thirties should not be living with his mother, she said. I didn’t engage. I waited for the rant to run its course. 


Before we hung up, she asked me if I hated her. I said no. That is the truth. The black hole within me had nothing in it. No love, no hate, no hope, no despair. I engulf the nothingness and the nothingness engulfs me.


Her:

October 20, 2021 


Today has been one of the best days of my life! Quite literally! It started with my boss telling me I was a great addition to the company. He said I bring art into graphic design, earning us many new clients! 


But that’s not all! An hour later, my phone pinged, and I saw that someone had bought the painting I’d put on my new Etsy page! Four-hundred Euros! Is that insane or WHAT? Mum had bought me the colours and canvas and basically forced me to paint after giving it up many years ago. She squealed like a little girl when I told her I was treating her to dinner to celebrate the sale!


One last thing: this might not be seen as a great thing, but it certainly is a great victory if you think about it.


Michael CALLED! He wanted to see the girls and me. If he had called me two months ago, I’d have shaken with glee and relief. But now, after daily writing here, thinking and reflecting and talking my friends’ ears off, I am genuinely over him. The man I thought I couldn’t breathe without now feels like a once favourite shoe that had stepped in dog shit. You don’t even consider saving it; you leave it there, carefully slipping your clean foot out of and away from it.


Him:

February 22, 2022

I hate this day. I hate it, which is rare because my days are all the same.


As Freddy and I were riding through the park, I saw a rubbish bin with two empty beer bottles next to it. I parked the bike, and Freddy huffed and puffed, taking in the cold air. He doesn’t like the smell of beer.


I put the two bottles in the shopping bag dangling from the bike handle. Then I took off my gloves and stuck my arm into the metal bin, fishing for more. I was able to find three. 


When I turned around, I was faced with a little girl who wanted to throw a banana peel into the bin. I could see she was stunned to see what I was doing. I grunted and moved sideways so she could throw the banana peel. 


That’s when a lady in a red coat started walking toward us. 


“Lena, come on!” she urged the girl.


As she got closer, I recognised her.


It was the “vaccinated” lady. The one who wanted to sit on my bench back in the summer.


I froze.


She looked stunning in her thick coat, leather boots, grey beret and red lipstick. 


I don’t know why, but my first reflex was to throw the beer bottles back in the bin. But it was too late. Her little girl was already exclaiming that “the man just took things out of the rubbish!”


I don’t know what these feelings are. Anger at my luck for being caught by this particular woman who once thought I was worth sitting next to? Anger at myself for being pathetic? Shame for being caught looking through better people’s waste by a beautiful woman? Jealousy of this vibrant stranger who seemed happy? I can’t put my finger on it, but I’m mad at myself for even caring what she thought of me. When did anyone’s opinion ever matter?


What is happening to me?


Her:

February 22, 2022


It’s been a long day! In a wonderful way!

All I can say is I am very grateful for my life. For everything! 


BTW: I ran into Ponytail Guy. I don’t know what to say…


July 22, 2022 17:23

You must sign up or log in to submit a comment.

3 comments

Phoenix Rizing
00:46 Jul 28, 2022

Rama, I love the wonderful way you write this piece like journal entries and tie them together at the end! You leave me with a cliffhanger. I’d love to read more!

Reply

Rama Shaar
02:50 Jul 28, 2022

Thank you so much for your feedback! It was hard to convey the concept and do decent characterisation in 3000 words. I hope it worked!

Reply

Phoenix Rizing
18:56 Jul 28, 2022

You nailed it, Rama! Well done!

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
RBE | Illustrated Short Stories | 2024-06

Bring your short stories to life

Fuse character, story, and conflict with tools in the Reedsy Book Editor. 100% free.