Sailing the Storm
The sun had just started its descent. It was at just that particular minute of the hour that its rays shone through the sky scrapers, revealing offices and the ceiling lights that still extended their brightness to even the darkest most cornered cubicle. The electricity, I’m sure, told the workers, “Carry on! What time is it? Time to make that deadline! Don’t mind that it’s going to start getting dark outside, it’s light in here. This light is the only light that’s important.”
I scooped my backpack onto my shoulders, happy to be under the light of the sun rather than the ceilings. I plugged in my earphones to my phone and let the music play. My ten or fifteen minute walk back to my apartment was my time to wind down. My customer service autopilot mode would start to shut down, and my formal, “Hi, how’s it going?” voice would fade away from my throat and lips. My smile, though natural and genuine (I hope), took more effort to spread across my face than usual that day. So now I'd relax, let my body take over, and let the ends of my mouth lay down for a few minutes for a short slumber. I began my commute home.
How do you feel?
Yes. My own self asked myself that question. How do I feel? Well. I held my breath as I walked by the garbage cans in front of Impact Hub that the white haired homeless man had made permanently smell of piss and foul language. He got pretty angry sometimes, but he was one of the only homeless men I saw actually sleep out in the snow. He now owned that bus stop forever.
Don't change the subject. How do you feel?
How do I feel? Well. I...I don’t know how I feel. I think things more than usual. I dream things more than usual. I see things more than usual. I think about the best and the worst. I've fallen in love. And I've also just fallen.
I did that. I can do this.
You’re not answering the question.
Well, I don’t feel things right now. OK? Don’t you know that by now? I replied. When I don’t want to feel things, I don’t.
So you’re not angry?
So you’re not frustrated?
So you’re not sad?
No!..I’m not any of those things, because I don’t feel them.
Then what are you?
I’m fine. I’m walking up a hill with a slight incline. My hands are wrapped around the straps of my backpack. It's warm. The sky is blue. I'm done with work and have time to read or write something tonight. I’m about to cross a street here now. Only a few blocks and i'm home. See? I’m fine.
. . .
Yes, I’m fine. Just my eyes start to water. I start to wonder. I try to fight it. Stop the leaks. This ship can’t sail if it's broken. A stranger looks at me. A car passes between us. I can’t make out his face through the watery blur. I know he sees the brim of my almond eyes filling.
This ship can’t sail. It’s leaking.
I cross the street, and he only stands there. Soon, I am walking passed him. Just keep walking, I tell myself, you’re almost home. But he motions towards my head. His lips move. I hear only the music playing in my earphones. I reluctantly pull out my earphones.
“Sorry, what did you say?” I ask. I can now see him clearly. He has dirty skin and clear blue eyes. He’s younger than I thought he was thirty feet ago. I know he knows I’m broken. I know he knows i’m hurting. I know he feels the storm.
“I like your hair.”
I look at him stupidly. Surprised. Shocked. Grateful. Exhausted. My hair. My disease. My mind. My shortcoming. My beautiful.
How do you feel?
I don't feel when I sail through storms, but four words from a stranger and the entire ship sunk into the ocean and drowned in the waves of the salty sea.