Following someone’s dreams is hard. It’s like inhaling the air he just has exhaled – you are still breathing, but the quality of every gasp is poor. You don’t have enough oxygen in your veins, you feel a bit dizzy, a bit sick. But still – – you are alive. Your heart is pumping red liquid into your body. You can feel drums inside your chest, playing the melody of life.
After some time, you just can’t imagine you could actually inhale any fresh air, you do not miss it at all – sometimes you even think it would kill you. You get used to breathing with the leftovers. You totally depend on the other person. You start to behave like him, you start doing the same poses. You laugh at the same time while watching stupid movies; you say “let’s check the mailbox” at the same time. You drink coffee together, even if you hate it.
That’s the story of my life.
But it never was in the plan, really. I still have this picture in the family album and I still remember that day. Our tutors came to work, wearing their best dresses and – believe me – in late 80s’ in Poland “the best dress” meant something else than now. Colorful knee-length dresses, not too tight, starched, fragrant with perfumes – that’s how I remember them that day.
We were naughty as always, but everyone could feel in the air that The Day, The Special Day When You Can Not Spill Milk On Your Clothes has come. The Spring Photo Shoot Day. The group photo was a challenge, teachers were doing a lot to make us stand in one line: from asking kindly, to threatening that that there will be no cookies for naughty ones. Finally, they managed to form a kind of line in the kindergarten’s backyard: everyone’s ready? On three you smile, right cuties? Just give uncle Benny the nicest smile you can imagine. A big smile like the Kinder Chocolate boy, on three, right? One-two-three!
In the picture, I stay there, on the right. No smile on my face, not even a shadow of it. Instead, there is all sorts of doubtfulness in every piece of my body. I stand with arms akimbo, looking directly into the lenses. Bored. Absent. Mom was totally disappointed: – Why didn’t you smile, just like other kids? – she asked me. – Why should I? I am not Kinder boy to smile all time – that was my answer. It became an anecdote in our family. A story about a 5-yo, independent pupil in a pink, spring coat.
I used to be independent. I used to hate the color pink. And I ended up here, on a powder pink sofa. Addicted to him – my hubby-to-be, the head of the family, leader of our dreams and The Breather.
In last 5 years, we have moved a lot. Friends were jealous: – States this time! How great your life is, how extraordinary! Oh, Dubai, Japan, and Italy. Isn’t it great? Isn’t it exciting?
Oh, yes – I was answering and smiling, and chewing gum, and twirling hair around my finger – Wonderful six months here, wonderful six months there.
At the very beginning, I was excited indeed. When The Breather was at work, fulfilling his deepest engineering hopes and dreams, changing the world, building the Future, I was at home. For first three years I really tried to find a job, an aim to wake up to every day, to set my alarm clock. But no one wants to hire a nomad, and you can’t blame them.
Kiss for a goodbye, but with a clenched fist, oh, have a good day at work Honey, I will be just here, when you get back. I will be waiting, I will be sitting here, praying for you to save the world. The last six months I have actually spent on the sofa, and I can spend next the ten years, with cold feet, listening to the clock ticking. Waiting in a pointless suspension between – “you left for work” and “you’re back from work”. And waiting for the sound of a key, being turned in the lock, just around 7 PM.
Hate is not a simple feeling. It’s not always about yelling at each other or being mean. It’s also about avoidance, about kissing with open eyes. Wearing dresses he doesn’t like. Making him too strong coffee and hoping he will have a headache later. It’s all about finding the best moment to leave quietly, to make the other person suffer the most.
And then, one day it happened, I felt it in my bones. As a human chameleon, I started to look like the sofa, my skin had this pale, ugly pink color. I wanted to blur completely, but no matter what I did – I just couldn’t. I was pale, I was almost invisible, but still there, still present.
I grabbed the phone. – Mum? It’s me again. Do you remember the pink coat, the one from my childhood?
Five days later I was sitting with a pink coat on my knees. Ready. Oh, that is such a good day for doing that- I thought. I looked at my hands, they were almost transparent, between my legs I could see through my hands to the edge of the sofa that I hated so much and a cup of morning coffee, just half drunk.
I realized I had been dead for a long time, I realized I could be the independent small girl again.
For the very first time in a while, I was breathing freely.
And I disappeared.
Story name: the disappearance
Author name: Agnieszka Oszust
Award name: Major Short Story Contest