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Fiction

This story contains sensitive content

Not Tonight

tw // mental health, mention of suicide and self-harm, suicidal ideation, substance abuse

“I go to sleep and get nightmares,” the musician wails. “I wake up and get nightmares.”

From lack of sleep, they fall to the ground, get a scratch and (hope to) die.

Jitr hasn’t slept. He’s staring at his many screens; spread on his polished, apparently expensive yet messy desks were devices of all sizes - from a large-monitored iMac to his dual SIM phone - and thin piles of documents. From the white-haired’s tired eyes, dazzling and blurred in front of him - as if the screens are set too brightly, which is never the case - is data of all kinds, which he tries (or rather, pretends) to gulp down yet too nauseous to tonight. A passerby, if any (even though the possibility is unlikely; this personal office at the top of his company building rarely has visitors, except his few well-trusted friends and colleagues) might mistake this late work as a regular accounting, financial matter any dedicated businessman like him would do. But on a closer look, one may see that Jitr is researching. Legal matters, identification documents, the name of “Jouhatsu” appear throughout the many screens. The sheets of papers on his desk are marked and strikethroughed with obscure handwriting. It almost seems as though he is investigating some adventurous matters to which a sane person would shake their head. His right hand, holding a half-smoked cigarette, tabs it restlessly with his ashtray. The middle-aged man takes some moments to digest all the information he’s reading, gulps it down like some undesirable dish, his weary eyes wandering from one chunk of data to another, as if piecing it together. Finally, he takes off his reading glasses, places them on his desk, or rather, the thin piles of documents, and sighs, breaking the complete silence of his elegant, empty office, and rubs his eyes.

    It has been over a year and a half now since Jitr first decided to disappear, to evaporate. It all started with the word “Jouhatsu”, a name he overheard somewhere and somewhen, perhaps too drunk to remember where he was, perhaps in a secret club only the rich and the corrupted frequent, the kind of place a once-rebellious soul like him doesn’t belong, but visits anyway to obtain information once in a while. Jouhatsu, an overnight ride somewhere out of here, evaporating like air - the answer to, or rather an exit of, his miserable life.

     It wasn’t too difficult for him to search for a service like that; even from here in Bangkok, he could reach a desirable jouhatsu company within weeks of trials and errors. The only thing he needs is a decisive mind. The question is to stay or to go. He still remembers when he contacted the evaporating company for the first time and heard a woman's voice from another side, a voice that never judges, but asked: are you sure?

    To evaporate is not such a simple matter, even with the help of the company. It means to throw away everything he has built up until now. It’s not like he is proud of it or too greedy to let it go, though. The business he has developed? Its purpose has never meant to satisfy his once nonconformist ideal. His relationships? He is way too reserved - unsociable maybe - to have many, and he is more than ready to throw them all away. His family? All he has left is his mother, too sick to remember who he is, and his brother, whom he has hurt way too much and treated far too unfairly because of his childish self. Jitr has grown so resentful that a mere thought of the man makes him sigh. The redemption he once sought - he does not deserve.

    Jitr is more than ready to disappear. The data glowing on the screens in front of him, the documents with marks and strikethroughs - they have been revised over and over, so much that the purpose of researching has been lost. To be honest, what he has been doing has no point at all. He already has the jouhatsu company’s helping hand ready for service. Ever since he told the woman at the other side of his phone he was sure, the voice never asks again. But why? Over a year and a half has passed since, and he is still stuck in the same loop of revisions and preparation. If he is more than ready to disappear, why won’t he do so, right now, tonight?

    Jitr rubs his weary eyes as the thoughts race through his head. Not tonight, he thought. Like it or not, he’s calling it a night.

Actually, it’s not his usual time to go to sleep yet, if he can say he ever sleeps at all. Normally, it’s just dozing off at his desk and waking up in the morning, if lucky, not startled nor confused, but collected, knowing where and who he is. But now he’s going to bed, or rather, to the fancy couch - apparently overpriced but fairly comfortable - at the other side of the room, where he sometimes sleeps things off, where he has had one or two waking paralyzes and one or two confused dreams before, but if lucky, he can have a brief, calm sleep with none. 

The white-haired man puts out his cigarette, closes his devices, each telling him to have a good night, neatly arranges his documents and keeps them locked inside one of the drawers. His movements are calm despite his disturbed mind, as if this is a ritual or habit of some sort. He goes to a counter across the room, grabs a glass and pours himself a fine whiskey, before drinking it down in one gulp with his pills. This will help him avoid troublesome dreams, avoid waking up in the empty office at four, sweat all over his body, soaked into his underwear, panic and dazed, helpless and alone - or so he hopes.

Going to wash his face at a washroom outside the office, he glances down at the windows of the top floor’s modernly-designed corridor. Once again this city of the Gods is flickering with lights and lives, a beauty only the ones from such a height may enjoy. 

At the washroom, Jitr freshens himself with cold water, rubs it on his face, watches it drip from his messy beard. How long hasn’t he shaved? He can only wonder. His metal-colored eyes reflected in the mirror are that of an exhausted man, his pure white hair dangles untidily. No, he doesn’t want to go to sleep just yet, but he doesn’t want the thoughts to circle around his head either - the thoughts that ask him, why won’t he disappear just now, maybe in this very washroom, maybe with an inflicted wound from his razor, on his wrist.

“Only the cowards disappear,” the musician wails in his head. “They do not die.”

It has been eighteen years now since he came to know a poet and musician who shared the same adventurous soul with him, at least in his youth. It was the first and only online affection he has ever experienced, and like always, it was unrequited. The musician nourished his lonely and confused eighteen-year-old self, called him a sweet soul, never treated him as a child despite their age gap. With him, they shared poetry, music and frustrations towards the world, the plague, the war, humankind. It has been sixteen years now since they disappeared without a trace - their Twitter deactivated, their Instagram left with the last photo of a haircut, no expectation, no preparation, no goodbye. The comment sections are filled with worried fans, wishing for them to return, or spitting theories about a possible suicide. Jitr never comments a single thing, nor ever he tells a single soul of how the musician’s voice follows him in his head ever since when he cannot even remember - the voice of a soul who stumbles and falls, a voice no one hears but him, a voice that is not always kind, but at all times, sincere.

Jitr wipes his face with a towel and returns to his office, where he slowly undresses, as if wanting to delay this before-bed ritual for as long as possible.

    Having switched from his regular suit and tie to the unfamiliar feel of t-shirt and underwear, Jitr dims the light until the satisfying level of darkness creeps in - not too much nor too little. The white-haired man lays himself down, listens to the monotonous ring of silence as he waits for the pills and the whiskey to kick in.

    In this dark office on the top floor of his company, silence screams, and Jitr hates to wait. He hates to wait until his heavy mind sinks into a lonesome sleep and his head, with the thoughts, the voice, the wish to evaporate fading away, filled with some imaginary repeats of sirens, somewhere far beyond him.

March 24, 2022 14:42

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