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Contemporary Fiction

This story contains sensitive content

Sensitive Content Warning: Self-Harm, Substance Abuse

The first thing you need to know is that there's no one around. I've been told that my disposition is that of someone who is not entirely there. Oddly, I must agree with that sentiment. It must drive people away when they look into my eyes and they can acknowledge I can hear them but it's somehow still clear I do not want to be where I am at all. I can put on the most juvenile, sunshine smile to try and ease everyone but the smart ones, the people who matter, always see right through it.

It's July now. And there is no one around. It's always hot in the house because my father keeps on insisting he will fix the AC but somehow it always seems to slip his mind. I apply for a job every morning on my rinky-dink laptop. And it makes a noise as if it's preparing for takeoff at which point I promptly shut it before it officially turns off. I guess I can't handle any more rejections. It's not as though I don't have resources, people to lean on, or family to love, it's just that I cannot seem to forge new paths as I hoped.

I'm 23 as of last week. And a morbid, burning question mark has been seared into my cerebrum since age 12 self-awareness. A tug that never seems to dull but keeps pulling harder and shouting louder. It seems to ask what my true purpose is. Purpose, purpose, purpose. Retrospectively, it is a societal construct rubbed into our skins over and over. You have to have a purpose. I guess we've all been conditioned that way. That same question of what do you want to be when you grow up? folded like a piece of paper and shoved into our child selves mouths over and over again. That eventual occupation cloud waiting for us at the end of the education road. And you are expected to let it rain on you for the majority of (what they also call) a short life.

Well, I never got to the cloud. Mine doesn't seem to quite exist. At least... not yet. I did as I was expected to do. I never really failed any classes throughout my public school days, graduated, and got the high school diploma as just an average student. Never had the need to shoot for all A's. I went to College in a state over the full four years, again, just passing by and collecting the degree, it was like swimming. I had or have made a couple of friends all along the way. But they never really seem to stick, it feels kind of like how temporary tattoos are, they were just pressed upon me. Then eventually you realize that they've faded away completely and you can't even remember what their last names were.

Romance is a little out of the question at this point. I used to think that would eventually just happen to me. Some perfect person would just appear with their shiny, straight white teeth and the fairytale wedding fantasy would play out from there. But the more I grew the more I realized how I couldn't do that. How I can't even picture myself being in a real relationship for more than a couple days. How I truly did not want to get married to anyone. How the thought of children was pretty and idealistic but not for me. Maybe for my brother or my sisters, but I couldn't imagine giving every inch of myself to another person in that way. Not that I don't love. Of course, I can love I'm a human. Just that I want to keep my autonomy for me. Dependence on someone else is just not in my nature. Voluntary or involuntary, I am solitary.

The concept of purpose is a pronounced and pounding migraine within my head now. My hands twitch, and the house is empty all but for me and the cat. He is a fickle thing, preferring to observe me rather than interact as I stroll and pace all the rooms and halls like a lost zombie. I walk around in gym shorts that are too big and tank tops that are too small, searching the house. Popping in and out of rooms, sliding down the hall on my socks, jumping onto beds, trying to catch a reaction out of it. Trying to scare it out, whatever it is I seem to be looking for. I live here with my father, he arrives home from work when the moon comes up, we have brief, tired dinners, and he goes to sleep, while I roll through the channels of the TV, still hunting for something.

It's been two weeks. And I am nothing. I know my problem is that I am nothing. I am a body with empty space, hardly a vapor within its entirety. Dry skeleton with no mortal invention that can fulfill its emotional cavities as they should. I find no solace in the warm summer air I have waited all year for. Because my head is so empty and I feel cold and dead. No hobbies interest me, no media, and I take my car out for drives and try to see my place within our world and I feel useless. Because I have nothing, I am nothing, I'm not studying for a career, I don't have a career, and I barely have people who want to stay attached to me. I have no passion that can help us. I stare at the ceiling and try to contribute as they all say we should. But I really am what my grandmother calls "a waste of space" You are truly nothing in this world without direction. A direction that benefits society and other people. And I don't have a want like that.

The only thing I seem to find enjoyment in is watching the candles burn out. I find, somewhat hauntingly, that I can stare into their center for hours at a time, or maybe it's minutes that seem like hours. I've taken it upon myself to use up all the scented candles that the house has acquired over the years that we never ever seem to use. The candle flames seem so unbothered. They stay so constant and unaware of themselves. They just exist. And truly just exist, I am unsure if they know how short their time is or if they don't. Or maybe they do but they just don't care. From the moment they are cut off from the lighter, they are constant, and when they are out they are out. No little chunks can be chipped away from their being at a time. It fills in its own little empty space, and rarely a thing can stop it.

I have burnt out all the candles within the house, all the wicks are done for. I walk to the convenience mart at twelve in the morning and buy a pack of Malboros. I sit on my front porch with that tacky little neon, transparent BIC lighter. I don't smoke. I light one at a time, watching closely as each cigarette burns the damned little tobacco-filled sticks to complete ashes. Usually, I stomp it out before it gets to the end. But a couple times I let it touch the ends of my fingertips before dropping it. Why? you would ask. Because I was fascinated. Caught up in my own glorious glimmer of curiosity. Of a want for something, at long last, for something I had found interest and substance in. However strange it was.

I liked looking at my singed fingertips. Feeling hot and electric. Buzzing with intense feelings on a simple surface level. I was finally feeling something, wow. A weight lifted and a need gripped on. I hardly check my email for my phone anymore. I have no intention of returning to the mundane entertainment of the television set or my various screens. They sit dusty, as August approaches. I set a Q-tip aflame above the tub filled with water. It brings amusement when the flame is extinguished with the contact of water. The light sizzle sound, the blackened head of the once pure white cotton, floating pointlessly in the tub. Repeat this until the entire box is empty.

I find it truly beautiful the look of the orange-yellow, as it eats up lines of anything dry. I like how it could kill me if it wanted, but it doesn't. I like how it looks fake, almost holographic, and not quite there. But when you feel it you can ascertain just how real it is. Burning is what I was missing. It's what I truly want, isn't it? To burn. So fast and bright like a sparkler, to be nothing to anybody anymore but smoke. The smoke a remembrance of something beautiful. Leaving everyone shocked and staring, trying to remember and pin down the look of it before it's all gone. I wanna burn so badly. Like the fire. I want to eat this entire world and leave it crumbling gray. I want to be a flame.

July 01, 2023 17:49

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