One Day (the signs are everywhere)

Submitted into Contest #103 in response to: Write about a character looking for a sign.... view prompt


Sad Fiction Funny

Good god does everything look smaller up here!

The rooftop of a city building is uninviting, if you don't plan on flying.

For my purposes, flying would do just fine.

I had spent many days prior to this night, battling monsters, a veritable army of them.

You see, I lost something in the city. I was a normal person, who went to a normal school, and graduated normally, did normal things, engaged in normal relationships, bought normal things, bought a normal house, had normal parents, yet no amount of normalcy could make me calm.

It wouldn't be fair to fire to describe the inner sensation as burning, as I'm infinitely more boring, but that is close enough.







No one who has never stepped outside out of normal would know this feeling. It is not a safe place to exist in, mind you, but that is the price one pays for curiosity.

If curiosity kills kittens, then it will surely obliterate man.

Unfortunately, for us, we only have one life, and it isn't enough.

With my life so far, I have spent many years accumulating, titles and things, but no years living. And this realization, however boring and banal it may seem to you, is too much for me.

Prior to this night, I had spent weeks looking for anything to keep me here, battling.

After work, I'd volunteer.

At shelters, at schools, at hospitals, my church.

I'd help older people cross the street, I'd try to be present for my family members, and they all noticed and appreciated the deeds, and I smiled with them, but in my soul there was no recompense.

Even going to work, I adopted a new strategy of paying it forward. In the gladiatorial race that is morning rush hour traffic, I let people in, I would let them cut me off.

I would let people give me the finger; I would let them flip me off.

With a smile and a soft wave, kindness to strangers was something I gave.

Still not enough.

I gave up smoking. God was that hard! I became a cranky son of a gun, but I thought, maybe if I treat my body as a sacred temple, the good feelings will come as a response!

I became a runner, a stair climber, someone who lifts weights, an exercises that simply loves to exercise.

My body grew in strength, my lungs in breadth, but no amount of physical weariness could make me forget, that gnawing feeling of missing something dearly.

A sad event occurred with my wife in the midst of this awful battle with myself. We had always been a very affectionate couple, always hugging, with little kisses, and holding hands.

Of course, as I became more attuned to look for something outside in the world, outside of the people that care about me, I lost something for her as well.

"Do I disgust you?" She said one night, as we both prepared to sleep in bed.


"You don't touch me anymore. You smile, say hello and goodbye, and you bring dinner, but you don't touch me..." She presses, this time with budding tears.

" has nothing to do with you. I'm just off." I responded, pleading with my eyes to accept my sincerity, as it was the truth, and I couldn't handle her feeling responsible for my ungrateful suffering.

"LIAR! You don't have to feel sorry for me James, I can take a goddamn hint! I just wish you could come out and say it like a man!" The anger in her voice was real, but so was the sadness.

"This has nothing to do with you! I'm not happy, I'm miserable, but it has nothing to do with you. This is MY FAULT!" I yelled now, but with no tears, just a dry voice and dry anger.

She stormed out of bed, and stormed out of the house, slamming the door. I haven't seen her since, it's been seven days now.

She wanted to take credit for my unhappiness, maybe we both wanted to feel bad. But I hated seeing her go, and I hated that I didn't ask her to come back.

It is very confusing when one feels like this, when one descends.

You take everyone around you for a ride, it can be a fun ride.

The result of jumping into the abyss is freedom, letting everything go is the ultimate freedom, but freedom is the kind of thing one believes they want. Very few people, in my estimation, are willing to deal with the price of freedom.

That is why we don't step outside of normal.

Don't misunderstand me, there is nothing within me that is proud of making the trek.

Do you want to know why ? I discovered that I'm not strong enough to exist outside the box! That is why the box exists in the first place! To keep us safe!

I wanted to be safe again. In the past weeks, days, whatever amalgamation of moments my temporal experience has mutated into, all I have looked for is that safety in the universe again. I wanted something outside, in the world, to show me that it is all right!

The most terrifying thing is to lose this safety.

I go to my favorite coffee shop like I always have. I open the glass door, the barista greets me and I greet them back, I wait in line, cursing lines silently in my head, and order my coffee.

I take my coffee, get back into my car, and get back into my day.

That was the normalcy I remember.

Now a coffee shop visit is one where I can't think of anything, I can't open the door, I can't order the coffee, I can't GREET THE BARISTA, without being reminded of how much life I wasted.

I can't go one second without being reminded of what I scam I have lived.

Dear reader, do you know these feelings? Maybe you don't feel them so intensely, sure, but you know the feeling. It is a nagging, almost imperceptible tinge, that something is not all right in the universe. It is a primordial skepticism about the nature of living, the question of why do I go on?

When one is normal, the feeling is a pesky fly.

When one is like me, the sky is black.


Naturally, I visited a psychologist. That is what people do when they face feelings like this, right?

The office had no warmth to it; the walls were gray, the chairs were gray, the desk was only slightly less gray, the doors were gray.

Funnily enough, the psychologist possessed a tepid warmth, and ironically, not a hint of grey hair on their head.

"So what brings you here young man?" He asked, with a professional concern.

Young man, I thought. He is either blind or a bad flatterer.

"Well, doc, I'm not certain I can find a reason to go on. My uncertainty has possibly cost me my wife, my life. I'm looking for a sign to cast all of this aside as temporary madness, and go back to normal. "

"What kind of sign?"

"Anything at this point."

"If anything could be a sign then surely there are plenty to choose from."

"Very funny doc, but if I was in the right frame of mind to choose, I would choose to not feel this way. I wouldn't choose a sign."

"So you want something external to let you know that this is all okay?"


"Maybe the signs are all around you and you just have to choose to see them."

"Don't patronize me, doctor, if I could make that choice then I wouldn't be here!"

"Do you think losing your wife is a sign that maybe this line of reasoning isn't helping you?"

"Of course it isn't helping me, but I can't shake it if its right! I have wasted years. I have spent almost half my life never aware of my fetters. And I'm embarrassed. Now everything that is, is tinged with this ridiculous reminder, and it is ridiculous because I know my life is okay, but the pain of the waste is something I can not shake."

"Is it more important to be right or be okay?"

The analysis was going nowhere, if I could make the choice I wouldn't be in trouble in the first place.

I left that office more hopeless than before. I decided that psychology wasn't for me. It was just another game. It might work for someone else who hadn't stepped outside the box. Not for a fool who decided journeying into unknown territory was a good idea.


The rooftop air hurts my head its so cold. At night, in this city, the temperature drops quite low, I can see my air as I exhale, and every inhale is heavy with a slight ice.

With my hands in the pockets of my heavy sweater, I saunter, at a defeated pace to the edge of this rooftop.

It's an apartment rooftop, mind you, in a metropolitan city, you know the ones. Most people don't allow, or like, when you smoke in these shared buildings, so it's those kinds of rooftops people go to smoke in peace. I didn't bring a cigarette.

It is a funny thing to decide the next day isn't enough to keep going. When one accepts this kind of finality, every preceding moment becomes beautiful, and momentous , so grand.

Now, finally, I can look up at the night stars, and actually look at them. I can see how they are on fire, just like I am, waiting to die, just like I am. They are wonderful things, aren't they, stars, how strong their fire is, that measly little apes can feast on them from so many ages away.

The reality is sitting in, now that I am appreciating stars. It is sad that's what it takes to see the greatness around you; you have to be willing to lose it, actually willing.

I approach the edge, with no dramaticism, just step-by-step, like I'm walking in a dream.

A man opens the rooftop access door behind me, gently, with no alarm. In his hand are cigarettes, a lighter.

He approaches not me, but the edge of the rooftop, as if he wants to look at polluted city stars as well. In his approach, he almost completely disregards my presence, like I'm a hallucination.

But in the end, as he hits the edge where I am also situated, he gives an imperceptibly slight turn.

"Nice night."

"Yeah, a nice night. One of the nicest."

"The city does that, it hides. Smoke?"

A cigarette! I hadn't had one in so long. I might as well.


I take the thing, and he offers me his lighter.

I engage in the ritual of smoking, and I inhale as a goodbye. Good god what a wonderful thing nicotine is, immediately the familiar rush greets me, almost as if it wanted to say it missed me.

In the rush of stimulant-induced euphoria, I remember a minute memory of what I used to be. There was a time where I felt comfortable, but did I actually want it? What a mess.

What a sad, cliched, pathetic mess.

"Man, these things are gonna kill me one day." The stranger blurted out.

"One day! HA" I laughed.

"It'll be tonight for me!"

He looked at me, puzzled.

July 17, 2021 11:07

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