• leaflet

    . . .a thin triangular flap of a heart valve. . . a small book usually having a paper cover . . . a medical lit-art e-journal from The Permanente Press
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The Last Day — A Short Story

Vol 6: Iss 2, Prose

It was to be his last day; his image in the mirror repulsive, the image doing nothing to change his hurting mind.  His eyes, darting and furtive, stared back at him; they were dead, covered with overwhelming fear, and not an angle, a hair, or a crease in his face brought comfort to the gloomy minded man.  He had a short, troubled, and broken sleep, but when the morning sunlight cut through the cheap curtain and across his broken down mattress he immediately awoke, unable to seek relief in the dream world any longer.  He had tossed and turned hopefully for sometime, wishing to drop off and away from himself again, but as always he could not.  On the wall was the switch for the single overhead bulb, a light that blew when he switched it on; a perfect metaphor for his life.  Looking down at the dirty sink he saw his razor, perhaps a quick solution which he quickly disregarded, a glance back in the mirror assured him that shaving would be wasted this last morning.  

A half eaten can of unrefrigerated tuna was his breakfast.  It was all that he could afford, and soon not even that.  The fish quenched the small semblance of hunger, but nothing could relieve the sick pressure he felt at all times deep in the apex of his belly.  His life was marked by an unstable mood; periods of manic like activity, interspersed deep gullies of blackness.  He would have days that were subjectively up and better, days where he was productive to a prolific point in an almost supernatural way.  Lately he was mostly down.  Yesterday was a day of hyperactivity and planning his end, today one of blackness, slowness, and harsh reality.  He walked the five steps to his door across a cluttered studio apartment.  Mail was tossed on the table unopened, his care for its contents limited, another eviction notice starring back at him.  His life’s space was littered with half done, mountainous projects, chosen in times of delirious hypomania; a ship in a bottle built not from a kit but from scratch, a Chinese text for his self instruction in Mandarin, nearly every word underlined with yellow highlighter, his journal written in his own self-created language.  Self portrait after self portrait were scattered about the room, even though his self-loathing precluded a look at himself.

He tried to lock the studio door, ending up latching only the lax chain as the deadbolt would not turn.  His landlord promised repair, but as with most things never delivered.  Now humiliated and evicted, he had little to complain about, and no energy to leave another note for the man.

On the street he turned west walking the 12 blocks or so to the sea.  The sun was just rising, the weather actually cool, but he was burning inside.  He passed his perfectly incomplete mural, the painting of the proprietor smiling and condemning him to the bystanders as she flipped pancakes, the project now weeks over due.  He hated the fact that he couldn’t finish it; the creative energy no longer flowing through him, but rather replaced with fear and self-loathing. 

He walked as always with his head strikingly down suggesting an interest in the worn out pair of sneakers that he always wore; the truth, he couldn’t meet others eye to eye.  On the window the Jamba Juice advertised feel good specials inside, a statement that brought a disgusted chuckle to the distressed man.  Nothing Jamba Juice offered could help one such as him or generate any sort of feel good relief.  The idea of feel good food was an inside joke to the miserable man.    

Crossing the Pacific Coast Highway, the commuter train whistled past.  At other times he had seen that locomotive as full of happiness and wonder, now he could only imagine despair, half ruined lives and blackness inside.  He tossed a pebble at the last car as it blasted along, glad for the moment that it was gone.  He wouldn’t have to make the decision right now.      

The man climbed the granite boulders along side the track despondently.  Jumbled poorly organized thoughts rushed through his blackened mind.  Obsessively, he thought of her again, wishing he could push her disloyal visage from his mind.  She did not tell him, just cruelly stopped answering or returning his messages.  She was a painter as well, and at a time he had thought of painting with her forever.  She made love to him, and then seemed to loose total interest in the man.  It was wrong for him to care; she was really with him just for her own self-enjoyment, and while he could see that so clearly he couldn’t turn off the hurt her absence caused him.  Before her betrayal he wasn’t very interested in the girl, certainly not in love; after her rejection nothing but her image clouded his confused mind.  When they were together he didn’t think much of her, but since her rebuff he could not keep her out of his tortured mind.  Her rejection reinforced his loathsome feelings about himself, and furthered his descent into fractured insanity.

A perfectly clear day with the Pacific Ocean stretching out before him, but the man could only feel a burning discomfort, a longing for relief inside his burning gut.  He couldn’t sit still for long, shifting from one leg to the other. Maybe hot, maybe cold; he couldn’t decide, his cold clammy skin causing him to zip up his hooded sweatshirt.  The horn blasted as the train of goodbye approached.  Could he do it; he couldn’t live like this anymore he concluded.  Standing slowly he closed his eyes.  Stepping off in front of the train that last day, there was jarring, crippling, pain, but very little relief.