Three In The Morning

I had partly written this story in time for Carry On Tuesday but ended up having a few unexpected things crop up so I couldn’t finish it. It is about being a hero in your own life. I wonder if such a thing is even possible. The prompt is taken from Charles Dickens’ David Copperfield:

“Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life…”

Here’s my story –

Sleepless_Avenue__by_his_tears

I saved the little girl. I was out of my mind on pills and red wine but when I saw her run in front of the car all the old reflexes I used to have kicked into gear. I scooped her up like she was doll. Well, she was a doll. Three years old and exploring the city on her own.  She had blonde pigtails with pink ribbons on the end. The pink reminded me of my mother’s lipstick – the kind of pink that is so celebratory it makes you inwardly cringe. My mother insisted on wearing the lipstick right up until the day she died. It bled into her lips that were creased and cracked from chainsmoking. She didn’t notice. Sometimes when she washed her face I could see dried trails of lipstick in the cracks, you would have needed a toothpick to get them out. The residue of beauty.

The parents of the little girl were in a store arguing over money. They took their eyes off the ball and let their baby walk out into the street where 5PM traffic ranted and raved.

She might have died if not for you, one police officer said.

You’re a hero, said the mother.

How can I ever thank you? said the father.

Have you been drinking? another police officer said.

I ignored the cop but it gave me a bit of a jolt to realise he’d noticed how out of it I was. Made me think of possible litigation if I’d hurt the kid by dragging her out of the way of an SUV.

Just keep an eye on your kid, I said to the father, loping off with the press snapping photos of me from behind, wearing jeans I’d been sleeping in for three days.

Syd saw the photo on the front page of the Herald. She rang, forgetting everything that had happened between us in a bid to congratulate me. I could tell that she was hoping my heroic act meant I had recovered from what she had done, that she would no longer have to carry around all that guilt in her heart.

I am so proud of you, Jase, she said. That was very brave of you.

There was no bravery involved, I said. It was like kicking away a piece of broken glass on the street so someone coming up behind you who hasn’t seen it doesn’t step on it. I wouldn’t step over the glass and I wouldn’t let the little girl just walk into the traffic. Anyone would have done it.

You used to perform heroic acts like that all the time. Does this mean you’re feeling better?

There it was. The plea. For forgiveness, redemption, a lifting of the black mark against her name. It threw me, this concern for my welfare because she sure hadn’t been concerned for my welfare when she’d been in bed with my best friend. She’d been so concerned about my welfare she’d been moaning in pleasure.

Money and sex. Two things guaranteed to screw up a relationship. Two things guaranteed to make you lose your faith in humanity. And in yourself.

Sometimes good sex can make no money seem bearable but lots of cash makes even the worst sex the best you’ve ever had.

David has money. My friend. I still regard him as a friend in spite of what he did. What he continues to do. How can you just throw away 25 years of shared experiences? It’s not that easy.

I knew he wanted Syd straight away. I could see it. He’s done it to me before, lured girlfriends away, but most of the time I didn’t care about them enough to make a big deal out of it. Until Syd.

I loved Syd unashamedly. She made me believe in true love. I felt that life was worth living with her around. And I thought she felt the same way about me.

That’s what hurt the most. I was sure she felt the same way about me but it turned out she had a price just like everyone else.

I fell apart afterwards. I used to hear young girls on the train talking about how they fell apart when their boyfriends left. It always sounded so melodramatic, so unlikely, until it happened to me.

I split. Bit by bit. From the inside out. Atoms and electrons fell off me like dried skin, ground into the carpet. My psyche was falling into empty space, tumbling and spinning as if caught in a centrifuge.

When someone you love betrays you there are days you think you can handle it but there are nights you know you cannot.

It started with waking at 3AM. Every night for months like there was an alarm clock in my brain, clutching anxiously at the bedclothes, dreading to look at the clock. There is something eerie about regular occurrences, something sinister.

For months the dark swarmed like bees. The pills helped. The wine. But even when I managed to sleep and woke when the sun was shining I knew I was still alone.

A journalist contacted me. He knew my background.

On leave from the Police Rescue Unit are you? Used to be a hero for a living were you? Saving people comes naturally, does it?

I resented his badgering tone but it made me think of the old days when getting up in the morning actually meant something.

Once you open yourself up to it you can’t help but save people. You see them everywhere, floundering, hearts on fire. You don’t do it because you’re a hero, you do it because it’s the right thing to do.

The little girl sent me a drawing. Squiggles and smudges. Flowers and balloons.

My hero☀ it said in shaky script.

I was uncomfortable, glad that I had saved her – but it didn’t sit well that I was being thought of as something I really wasn’t.

How can anyone truly be a hero if they are walking a path of self-destruction? Self-pity, self-indulgence, moroseness – these are not heroic traits. Sure, I’ve had my heart broken, but if you lined up everyone in the world who’s ever had their heart broken and stood them side by side the line would stretch several times around the world.

I bet none of them are drinking two bottles of cabernet sauvignon a day. Accompanied by pills for imaginary back pain or headaches or sleeplessness. I bet they’re angry about having their heart broken and are using that anger to propel themselves into a life without their beloved. I bet they’re shouting : The stars shine just as brightly with or without you.

But what if the stars have lost their glitter without that beloved? What then?

I’m sitting by the window with an open bottle of wine. A drink wipes away misery. Did you know that? A bottle obliterates it. I can’t drink. Not tonight.

The little girl’s drawing hangs on the wall. Her hearts are crooked, leaning to one side. Much like the human heart just waiting to be broken. For some reason it cheers me, that crooked heart. It’s as if in her innocence she knows just how frail we all are.

Syd. Her name is a little leaf in my hand. I have to let it go, let it fall. I hold my hand out the window, turn my palm down. A shiver of wind brushes it and the leaf is released. If I am to be a hero I have to start with my own life. I have to learn to let things go even if the pain threatens to burn me alive.

Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life remains to be seen. But I will try.

*{Image by his tears at Deviant Art}

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16 thoughts on “Three In The Morning

  1. This is lovely; there re so many images and comparisons that strike me. I especially like your description of him coming apart. In the end, it is the act of saving someone else that gives him the strength to rescue himself. I love that.

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  2. Oh, simply splendid work here, Selma.

    “I split. Bit by bit. From the inside out. Atoms and electrons fell off me like dried skin, ground into the carpet. My psyche was falling into empty space, tumbling and spinning as if caught in a centrifuge.”

    A perfect definition. There were several other lines that really glistened: “The residue of beauty.” “..the dark swarmed like bees.” But the whole piece just resonated with deep emotion. Wonderful.

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  3. Your gift for writing a compelling story so shortly, so concisely that no words are wasted, yet no thought or emotion is left out, amazes me Selma. Reading what you have written is not only an adventure, it is a priviledge! This was incredibly good.

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  4. NARAMALONE:
    I really appreciate your visit. I felt like that once, more than twenty years ago when someone I loved turned his back on me. I did feel like I was falling apart. It’s strange the way these emotions return unexpectedly. Thanks for your kind words!

    KAREN:
    What you have said means so much to me. I wasn’t sure if this story really worked because I wrote it in a few separate bits. Usually with a short I write the whole thing at once. I felt I might have lost a bit of momentum along the way. Thanks for the great feedback, hon!

    JOSIE:
    I’m going to start blubbering in a minute. What a lovely thing to say. I am so grateful!!

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  5. There’s a lot happening within this story, between the lines; am I right Sel? That’s what came to me, reading this. Excellent writing as usual. How you weave a tale…

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  6. I loved this section.

    “The little girl’s drawing hangs on the wall. Her hearts are crooked, leaning to one side. Much like the human heart just waiting to be broken. For some reason it cheers me, that crooked heart. It’s as if in her innocence she knows just how frail we all are.”

    You’ve a gift of pen.

    Missy

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  7. TOBEME:
    I really appreciate your constant feedback re. my stories. I very much value your opinion!

    GERALDINE:
    Maybe a little behind the lines. Actually, I think there is a bit of me in every story. Glad you liked it!

    MISSY:
    You are very kind to say that. I am really grateful.

    OLD GRIZZ:
    I am really glad you wanted to read till the end because I feared I had lost the flow. Cheers for that!

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  8. wow! I love this – the sorrows, the rescue, the revelation – it’s so well put together and I love at the end that he realized what he was and what he is becoming and that he wants to change – that is one first step that people find the hardest to do

    I also like the crooked heart hanging on the wall, like Jase’s own heart is also hanging crooked on the wall and perhaps one day he’ll straighten it when come out of his misery

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  9. This was FANTASTIC. I loved every word of this post, but this one was my favorite:

    “Sometimes when she washed her face I could see dried trails of lipstick in the cracks, you would have needed a toothpick to get them out. The residue of beauty.”

    The residue of beauty. That reminds me of my Aunt Bea!

    I love how at the end of the story there is HOPE because he wants to change!!

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  10. I’m glad he decided to look for his old self – it’s never truly gone. Just buried a little, always hoping to fight its way back out. We just have to fight the desire to play a victim, which is what he was doing. Very well done – I could see the whole thing in my head. 🙂

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  11. TEXASBLU:
    The old/real self does remain, for sure. It is hard to get away from the victim role where grief is involved. It’s not as easy to bounce back. But I knew Jase would in the end!

    MOTHER HEN:
    Aww, thanks. You are very kind!

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