CHAPTER ONE EXTRACT FROM THE NOVELETTE “DANCING SHOES” by Clark Azionaire
One past midnight; even with the knowledge that work will be busy and hectic tomorrow, I still managed to stay up later than I planned to. Maybe it’s because I’ve grown to hate sleeping, the more I appreciated the imminence of death, and the more I realize sleeping is simply a waste of time. Or maybe procrastination from sleeping is possible now. Either way, I know for a fact I’ll have to get up early tomorrow and once again paint a gleeful smile in front of a busy crowd, impatient to get a taste of their oily meat, warm mush, and calorie-filled burgers.
The house stayed hush, everyone was asleep- almost everyone. Every now and then Josh would make an appearance, his face producing a rather mischievous grin in the dark. He enjoyed scaring me every now and then; I suppose a healthy dose of fear is good for everyone. Josh, my cousin, was younger than me by a mile, though his wisdom never ceases to impress me. There are times when he would act like your run of a mill teenager amidst hormones, whilst in some instances he would converse with me as if he were beyond his years.
Before going to bed we would sometimes talk about philosophy and the true nature of humanity. “Would the world live without humans?” he asked. I grimaced at the thought of this; humans are nothing more to Earth but a destructive force progressively killing her. Perhaps my appreciation of what nature had to offer roots from my admiration for Keats, but ultimately it was my loathing for their stupidity that led to human extinction dreams.
“Most likely; we won’t survive without nature.” I replied. It’s true, we rely so much on the land, if it was to someday come to complete annihilation, and we would die alongside her. Times we contemplated what the world may be like before the idea of Creation (for both religion and science), but his constant obsession over cows and their gleeful reunions usually brings our thoughtfulness to a halt.
Sometimes I truly wonder what goes on in this kid’s head. Ironically enough, he reminds me of myself when I was younger.
At the tender age of 12, I found myself strongly obsessing over cows. It was an odd choice of obsession, but it was definitely a step up from my cryptic obsessions in the past. After being dubbed a “happy-go-lucky”, there was never a day where I did not find myself smiling ridiculously, whilst screeching or getting excited about cows. School proved to be the perfect place where I can express a much more carefree side of my personality, since home never truly allowed me to do so.
This craziness continued for quite a while, and the crowd always expected entertainment when they saw me rolling in. Truth be told, it did hurt to be thought of as incredulously stupid and moronic, but I was far too gone for anyone to truly appreciate the fact that I wasn’t actually dumb or mentally incapable.
The blight optimism began to spread like wildfire; it seems my façade made me seem like the happiest child on the planet. Never was there a time where I wouldn’t be caught smiling, perhaps I would’ve completely forgotten how to frown had life after the last school bell not kept me grounded.
I’ve accomplished numerous regrettable actions during my time as a child; I suppose the worse was biting a bully till he bled. The taste of his blood was bitter, just as I expected it to be.
“Darkness is a vacuum, but whilst it is empty, it technically is still something. Although we’ve reached the point of nothingness, in non-technical terms, nothingness is still an existing concept; it’s not truly oblivion, but rather, a surface of it.” I continued.
We spent several hours arguing about how nothingness is still a concept, meaning a concept of existence is still existing in the idea of emptiness. His bed was opposite to mine, and so we usually whispered such conspiracies to one another until we were told to go to sleep.
Darkness enveloped the room; our only salvation was the lamp that faced the wall, providing a source of light. “Do you like to eat cows?” a whisper broke out. I rolled my eyes as I tossed and turned, it seems that after our philosophic chatter, we’re back with the cows. Perhaps this randomness is what kept my cousin grounded; perhaps it allowed him to feel less mature than he truly is.
There are times when he would tease Samuel, his younger brother, who generally disliked taking part in our conversations as we usually end up insulting him for his simple responses. His childlike innocence from the complexity of our stupid conversations keeps our arguments grounded, as he seems to be the sort of comical relief when things get pretty heated.
“You’re fat.” he would say to Josh.
Whilst he was directing this insult to his brother, it was me who initially becomes insulted as I was indeed fat, whereas Josh was barely normal: he was borderline skinny and normal. I’ve lived most of my life being told to hate myself for being overweight, so I grew up hating the mirror, seeing what was on the reflection. I hated the stretch marks that had appeared in my belly over time, I hated the pudginess of both my back and stomach.
“No, you’re fat” Josh returned. I once again found myself rolling my eyes, triggered by the insults these two skinny boys were throwing at each other. Filled with rage, I quietly shushed both of them and ordered them to go to sleep, my tone slowly becoming far tenser than I had hoped. “You’re both not fat so shut up and go to sleep” I remarked.
Samuel was only 9, and so much like boys his age, the dark is still a daunting and frightening place. He disliked sleeping alone, and so he would always sleep next to his brother, only to be abandoned in the middle of the night. Josh hated sleeping next to someone, so he normally waits until Samuel had fallen asleep until he moves to the top bunk of their bunk bed.
“He’s fat.” Samuel whispered to his brother as he directs the insult towards me. I acted far more nonchalant than I truly cared to admit- but this has been an ongoing joke between us, yet I never truly get used to it. I sometimes find myself going to the toilet in the middle of the night, staring down at the ugly scar-like marks on my belly, slowly forming around my abdominal and back area. From there, I would break down into tears and quietly watch as anxiety overrules all sense of reason. Sometimes seeing blood is my only form of comfort. Ridiculously petty, but it was a coping mechanism.
After ensuring both little monsters have fallen asleep, my next battle with Josh was his chronic snoring. For a boy no taller than five feet, he sure snores like a grown man. Tossing and turning was the drill of the night, or what’s left of it. The incapability to fall asleep seemed to be a more common disability than I had hoped, and yet I couldn’t help but feel that if I don’t fall asleep soon I’ll definitely mess things up tomorrow at work.
I have insomnia. It’s a self-diagnosed condition, but I had enough money to buy some sleeping medicine to help me get through the difficult transition between consciousness and the latter. Majority of my nights, I never truly fully crossover, I would find myself half-asleep all through the remainder of the night until the alarm goes off. One pill helps, and sometimes four still manages to be beaten by the insomniac monster.
When this sleeplessness persists, I sometimes flat out quit and simply make my way out into the balcony where my ashtray awaited. I realized that although smoking is noxious, the sensations it provided can be absolutely heavenly. Quietly tip-toeing my way to the seat where I almost always sit in, I grabbed a fag and held it in between my left hand middle and index finger, working on the lighter with my right hand index finger and thumb.
“I could even learn how to love like you…”I rhythmically hummed as I inhaled the black gas being emitted by the burning stick. Whenever I do smoke, I never fail to bring my mobile phone. Music makes this endeavor enjoyable, and so I’ve never smoked without music playing in the background. It romanticizes the vice, making it much more beautiful than it truly is.
Huff and puff; this continues for several minutes, even longer if I decided to have another. Just as I was about the finish, the song was also coming to a close. I was much more relaxed than before, perhaps I could finally have a good night’s rest.
Shit, its half past three already. It seems I was too relaxed to the point of hallucination- there was no way I would be having a good’s night rest tonight. Maybe I didn’t need it though, coffee is the one true ingredient for breakfast to keep you up on your feet all day, and it was what I needed to feel like myself once more.
I do dislike feeling too relaxed from smoking, but this sensation has always been worth it each time. I briefly remembered my first time, the rush felt so good that I kept on going until I could barely control my movements.
‘Twas early in the morning, much like now, and I had been battling my chronic depression as I had been since I turned 17. The darkness then no longer overwhelmed me; in fact I had already welcomed it. However, the inability to feel relaxed and fall asleep was beginning to become a bother. Smoking was glamorized by numerous mates of mine, they’ve even shared a couple of butts with me to try it, but I just never had the guts to truly inhale.
“Just try inhaling it,” Brody suggested. He had been a heavy smoker since he was 15, and so he was familiar with the sensations, but I was still a stranger to it. Whenever I was told to try it out, I pretended to inhale it, when in truth I kept the puff of smoke inside my mouth, never letting it gain access to my lungs. I would exhale the smoke and pretend I had been smoking. Ridiculous attempts to seem cool I suppose, but it was only natural considering social status was everything during high school.
When I looked at Brody inhaling all that smoke, progressively damaging his lungs and health, I contemplated about what age he might pass away. Such a young smoker, he won’t last long. I would never do such a thing, I would think to myself, a thought that now seems farfetched. This method of self-destruction still seemed new to me, seeing as I haven’t entered the wonderful world of depression, so my innocence to self-loathing was still a fresh wound.
“This feels good. I like smoking.” I replied to him after faking an inhaling action. Whether he was convinced I was indeed inhaling it or not, I was never sure. He always made you feel comfortable, even when he’s pressuring you into your own imminent self-destruction. It makes me feel remorse when I think of how two-faced I had been with him in some instances, mostly involving his relations with my best friend. I was never for it anyway, and I’m sure he knew it too. Or maybe he didn’t, I was a pretty good thespian.
We would sometimes talk for a while when we get the chance, reflecting on the many occasions which we both felt we had suffered. His were more generally towards his romantic affairs with Victoria, whilst mine were the amount of hard work I constantly put in to things that I hope would someday pay off.
Brody was the guy whom I’ve always looked up to, the embodiment of what I strived for. He was dark and handsome, mysterious yet relatable, and a crowd favourite. He was smooth with his words, and yet his distinct trait I’ve always been jealous of was his lack of empathy. He may feel the occasional sorry-feeling, but his narcissism leaves very little else to care for. I wanted that.
Whenever we would exchange stories, he would always talk about his broken heart, yet barely hold any regards to that of Victoria’s. It was one of the reasons I also despised him. He would constantly feel sorry for himself, acting like the victim of the situation, when in truth I know for a fact he had been the oppressor.
Sunlight was progressively filling the atmosphere as I finished my third stick, it seems I’ve spent several hours gazing at the night sky once again- I needed to break this habit.
As I made my way upstairs, I carefully glanced at the clock: 5AM. In a couple of hours I would have to take a quick shower and hope that the bus won’t leave me, like it usually would on Monday mornings. The bus system wasn’t terribly bad, but at times it would either be too early or too late, luck is an important aspect- or coming to the bus stop 20 minutes before the said arrival time.
I needed energy for the day, and yet due to my insomnia, I would once again have to rely on caffeine consumption to get through the day without a hitch. I found myself lying back in the comfort of my bed, yet both eyes and brain refused to stay shut. I was hoping I would get a couple minutes of nap time to feel a little bit refreshed, but no such luck today.
Times like this I wish I had chugged on some sleeping pills the night before just to ensure that I would be comatose for the rest of the night, but anxiety kicked in and I felt that if I did take them, I might not be able to wake up and completely miss the bus. What a fool.