The sun sits in the high sky heavily, baring its molten lead glory upon the earth. The cold piercing light, simmering heat radiates, and the merciless blue of a clear day serve as a backdrop to his blighted conscience, putting it in a stark contrast only he can see. It is harder to lie when it is bright. The night has become his refuge, hiding his sins in its comforting darkness, enfolding his tortured mind in its warm unjudging embrace.
Asleep all morning, it is well past midday, he notices the razor. His eyes for some unarticulated yet fathomable reason travel to his left and to the low bedside table. He sees its precise edges and feels its stare travelling on his bare skin. Its swift kisses on the pulsing parts of his arms would lay his turmoil to rest.
He wonders why he has it. He remembers, the flower of his sadness-addled memory blossoming slowly. He had bought a cigarette, just one, with a ten-shilling coin, and the shopkeeper did not have the five bob change, nor chewing gum or Tropical. In his nicotine-deprivation agitation, he took the razor. As these events come back to him, he cannot help but think he saw a slash of a smile on the shopkeeper’s face. But, not a smile, a mixture of a sneer and something else, some emotion, the name of which escapes him.
His body is slowly waking up and he wonders why he did not just get two cigarettes, one for supper and one for breakfast. Because he would have smoked them both and he relishes the single slowly-smoked cigarette (you see if you have only one cigarette, you will savour every lungful) and the long walk to the shop every morning (the physical moving gets his mental moving). But, only in the morning. It is anything but morning. He can almost hear the sun breathing out fire and the subdued land twisting and whispering for help in agony.
His thoughts grow louder and fatter the more alert he becomes as if feeding on his wakefulness. Sleep is one of the few places he can run to. Sleep runs away from him, going faster and further as time unspools. He takes longer and longer to catch up to it, weighed down by the heavy mind he has to carry.
He thinks back to an innocent time. Tears choke him as he remembers. It was only two weeks ago. Time is an illusion. It feels like it was a time before time. Two-three drops come loose. In the blur, the razor again, its outline gentler. Why was it out of its packet? He removed it. It called out to him to undress it and set it free. It is not completely free. Some minor business remains. He lets his mind drift there. How simple, how so so simple it is.
Sitting up, he reaches out and picks it up. He smells the cold tang of metal as he brings it to his nose. Metal heated, shaped, then cooled, unrecognizable from its former form. He wishes he were so easily forgeable and malleable, taking his direction from great machinery beyond his comprehension and control.
Being what he is and from where he is, only choice is available to him. Many many choices. Every waking moment is a fight, a struggle within himself to constantly shake off the lethargy of molasses days. Time crawls, one moment becoming another becoming a same other. Indifferent and undifferent. He has to pick a few from the plethora. It occurs to him how lucky he is. He has enough choices to overwhelm him. Such are his troubles.
Was it worth it? Everything and everyone around him say yes. The lady at the car showroom now looks him in the eye. His old university crush calls to find out how his days are going. His old colleague who went into “business” and has the low-down on an opportunity. The mortgage agent who never used to look at him is now chipper when he walks into the bank.
Everyone except the ones he was doing it for. His world shattered when his parents found out. People tend to find these things out eventually. His eventually was too short. Information is a chained wolf. It always breaks free. He is caught in its inexorable jaws. Mum was gentle, but their relationship has become strained. Papa has refused to talk to him. The consultancy gig paid really really well, Papa. Mum, now I can get you the new fridge you wanted. Thanksgiving Sunday is coming. The church at home needs windows. No.
At least she expressed her disapproval aloud. In one succinct word. Silence kills him slowly, the uncertainty after the fact. He will take a clamouring, a moral tongue-lashing like the ones that defined his teenage-hood. Any noise from them to quell the creeping hollowness. His emotions ricochet off the walls built by his misguided dreams, further swallowing him in the mounting black echo his inner world has become.
The small piece of metal provides a way out. He has lost them. He cackles at the irony. Disgust. The thing dancing in the shadows of the shopkeeper’s face. It comes to him as he caresses the inner patterns of the razor. She is an old neighbour from his parents’ home if he can still call the place he was crystallized home. He is sure she knows. She knows. She is routinely friendly. Yesterday she was icy. Can he live with the vision of her face and its creases constantly reminding him of himself?
Lost in himself, he cuts his index finger. Deeply. Feeling something drip down his hand, he snaps to and notices the crimson spring on his hand. Acid pain follows. He did not feel the metal’s deep kiss. A few quick flicks here and there and the sleep he has been chasing will come to him. Sleep and eternity. Any way out. He does not know how to go back. Not now. He welcomes any way out.