The Quiet Man- Short Story

I was always alone. Even when I was surrounded by people I was alone. Public places or people I knew- it didn’t matter, I lived in my head and that’s all that mattered. There was a time I was this extrovert- confident and outgoing but that’s a distant memory now. No more than a couple of moments that float around in the back of my mind. I had a lot of friends back then, I guess I did fit in the popular category. That was back when I actually cared about things and felt this, this need to explain myself, to have people listen to what I felt were important views and opinions. I guess I did think I was important or at least I thought I could change the world, inspire people and in turn inspire myself.

Must’ve lost myself along the way.

There’s no significant moment I can pinpoint and blame the source of my downhill on. It all fell apart slowly, like leaves in autumn. Eventually I woke up and just didn’t feel the need to talk anymore, not even to express myself. Things in my life lost their appeal. The once vivid, unique things in my life became quieter and quieter and in turn I became quieter and quieter. The music in my life became stifled. The rainbows of my life transformed into a sea of grey. I liked it that way. I cared less about the world and more about myself. I guess you could call me selfish.

First I lost my girlfriend, then my friends, family soon followed. They all screamed and shouted more or less the same things- “What happened to you?”, “Who are you?”, “You’ve let yourself go”. My blank expression only enraged them further but I zoned out. It’s all pretty much a blur now and I like it that way. I’m not a drinker or a smoker but people still seem to be hesitant when giving me whatever spare change they have. I don’t really want anything special- tea and biscuits are quite underrated I personally think. It’s been a couple of months now and I think I’ve finally managed to claim my own park bench. It’s the only bench that isn’t paired with a bin.

So yea I guess you call it a downfall but I’ve never felt better mentally. It’s just physically that I look like shit but I don’t really care. People will judge you no matter what you wear or have. In my past I did care about why people thought but now I don’t.

I don’t care what people think because people don’t think.

What goes on around me doesn’t really affect me at all. Things happen to you, whether you like it or not, even though you don’t have a choice in things happening to you, you do have a choice in choosing how you feel about what’s happening. People forget they have a choice. They think their emotions or feelings are just automatic or natural reaction and they can’t change that. They don’t realise every single thought counts. You think and think and think again. Your thoughts turn into habit and soon enough they’re an integral part of you.

I just thought… a lot.

I thought so much I stopped allowing the external world in. I thought so much you’d think I could’ve thought something into existence, out of thin air. It was a young man in a fitted business suit who interrupted my thoughts just by sitting next to me. He just sat there for a couple of minutes, staring into the distance. There wasn’t much of a view so he must’ve been thinking. I was surprised he sat to be honest, people avoid me and my bench almost always, they would never dare sitting next to me. I think he was just really stressed out at the time, even desperate you could say.

Not a good day huh?” he said to me, scratching the back of his head while continuing to stare ahead.

I shook my head. Somehow he saw me…he had a knack of noticing things others didn’t.

I’ve always wondered man, is life really that complicated? I mean, everyone spends most of their lives searching for answers. How they’re gonna pay rent, what are we here for, who am I or even what am I eating later…is it really necessary to drain ourselves like that?”

I stayed quiet, I refused to join in on his pointless chatter. I spent so much time concentrating on myself and improving myself mentally, just being at peace with myself I didn’t want to risk anything for a complete stranger.

Come on. Help me out here.”

He looked at me hopefully, as if I was the only person who could answer him. I decided i’d act like I was a mute. I signalled to him that I couldn’t speak. He gathered that quickly enough. Guilt was rising up inside of me though and I knew I wouldn’t be at peace with myself later if I deserted him like this. That and he didn’t seem like he’d leave my bench to myself for a while.

I gestured for a pen and paper. He eagerly pulled it out from his ragged bag.

I scribbled the cheesiest phrase onto his paper and handed it back to him, hoping he’d get upset and finally leave me alone.

Wow, you’re totally right. I can’t believe I didn’t see it for myself. Thanks a lot man.”

I thought he was being sarcastic but he jumped up, dug into his pockets and thrust some change into my hand for my ‘good’ service. Then off he went almost skipping back the way he came from.

Well that was easy. At least I get to buy some tea and biscuits now.”

I thought that would be the last I’d see of him but boy was I proven wrong.

He came back a week later, intruding my personal space again. This time he spoke to me straight away but I wasn’t paying attention, I was trying to wish him away with my thoughts somehow. He wouldn’t stop talking so I gestured again to him for his paper and pen. I thought if I wrote down “i’m a mute” it would mean he would leave me alone for good. Instead he shoved some more money into my hand and asked me for my advice. I wrote that I didn’t know what he wants from me. He begged me till I nodded and told me he’d buy tea while I write what I thought of his situation. I lightened up a bit. Tea is always nice. So off he went and I was left with his little pad again.

The pen sat awkwardly in my hand this time. The pad felt weird rested on my lap. It has been a while since I wrote anything significant. I pushed that thought away. I didn’t need to write anything good, he’d gobble up whatever I put down on this page. I flipped through the notebook, it was empty other than his name scribbled down on the first page. ‘David Woodsworth’ stared back at me from the blotted paper. I flipped it back to where I was supposed to write my ‘godly’ advice. He looked like a David too, I’m not sure what Davids looked like but it just fit him.

I could see him on his way back now with the tea. He got me a mug too. Time was running out so I wrote the first thing that came to my mind and I was right. He devoured every word on the page as he read it. I could see it in his eyes. Hope… I haven’t felt in so long I almost forgot how it felt until I saw it in him. This time he didn’t get up and leave though. He stayed with me and we drank our tea together. His presence didn’t actually annoy me as much anymore.

When he got up he said something I will never forget. He said “My mum always taught me when you give, you will receive in one way or another. I never thought i’d meet someone who gives us much as you.” And then he just left. I’d never had someone put so much faith and belief in me before I was extremely disappointed in what I wrote down for him. If anything, he’s the one who advised me and not the other way round.

It was weeks before David came by again. I found myself looking out for him almost every day. Just when I gave up hope he seemed to appear. I was thinking a lot about what he said and the gift of giving. I caught myself smiling at others, cleaning around the park a bit and complimenting people. It was strange feeling positive again. I had thought the whole time that I was at peace with myself and that I didn’t need others for so long but I couldn’t have been more wrong. I began buying tea for other homeless people with whatever spare change I collected. At times it got tough but then they started to help me too. The odd piece of bread or biscuit but it was always more than enough.

I decided to save up money to buy the ‘yellow pages’ in hopes of finding my family again. I had to set things right. I’ve sat around in self pity for too long, i’ve been incredibly selfish and that’s not ok. It turned out David was only passing through to say goodbye. He thanked me dearly for my ‘help’ and was getting up when I decided I would actually speak and thank him instead. But for some reason I couldn’t. My neck strained but nothing came out. David gave me a peculiar look then left without a word. I couldn’t comprehend what was going on. I tried to scream and shout, clawing at my neck as if it would help but nothing. After exhausting myself I resolved that I had actually lost my voice. After the panic settled in, I accepted this was a part of me now and there was nothing I could do.

I decided I’d have to find my family first, I know they hate me but they must’ve been worried about me to a certain degree. I know my mum would accept me back, she’s my mum. I headed to the nearest store and quietly went through the yellow pages before someone could catch me. Luckily our family name began with an ‘A’ so it was easy to find. I ran out the store and headed to the address scribbled on my hand now. Only then did I realise I was still holding on to David’s pen.

When I reached the address I was confused. It didn’t look like home at all. I knocked and some stranger answer. I tried to say something but instead strained my neck pointlessly again. The man at the door understandably thought I was just begging and gave me some money hoping i’d be on my way. I wrote what I needed to say down on my hand and gestured for him to look at it. He skeptically looked at my hand and told me he’s never heard of someone by mothers name. I asked if he knew who lived here before him. He blankly stared back at me as I realised I hadn’t said a word. I wrote on my hand again. He answered saying he’s lived here all his life. I thanked him for his time and left.

That’s when it all started.

I had to the nearest police station hoping i’d find answers. I was told my family have been dead for years…

I don’t even remember sleeping but when I awoke it was utterly white and my mums face peered back at me.

How?..” I asked…I could actually speak now. It was bizarre hearing my own voice, I didn’t even remember how I sound. And my mum..I thought she was dead. She helped me up and simply said ‘follow me’. There was an obscurity of my surroundings, my mum seemed to float, almost glide across the floor. Everything was white, pure and clean. I wrecked my brain for answers-

hurry up” she said sharply.

We sat on what looked like an exact replica of my bench in the park.

Honey, there’s no other way to tell you this other than being straightforward with you. We’ve all passed away for quite some time now. You however, were stuck between heaven and earth. You see, God had to test you one last time before making his decision.”

What?…what do you mean we’re all dead? Stuck?..h-how?”

It’s been centuries my dearest Oscar.”

My name echoed in my head several times before I could comprehend what was going on.

You see Oscar” she continued “Most of your family passed away naturally and made it into heaven. You were the only undecided one. Basically you were sitting on the fence. You’ve been down there for so long, i’ve missed you greatly.” me forgetting you guys and being a mute and homeless and all that…not true? Not real on earth or here? Just in the middle? So have they made a decision then? What’s going on?”

Easy there Oscar. You were being tested and I’m ecstatic to say you passed. For once you were willing to give rather than get, just for the sake of giving, you remembered feelings of joy and selflessness. We all almost gave up hope on you. You were straying so far off the path we were afraid.”

My mind was blank, I couldn’t think straight.

Oscar, for God to let you into heaven you’d have to be pure. Your soul cleansed of the fouls of the earth on which we are tested. You only had a tiny spot left, that’s all.”

That’s when I remembered everything. It all came to me at once and I said almost automatically “But, everything is more beautiful because we are doomed…now what?”


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