Chapter 13: The “Other” Side
Still holding the letter in my hand, I stand up and hobble around, wishing I had just one tiny sliver of a chance to go back home. I wish the walls would just magically roll back out as they did before.
But they don’t. And I am not sure if they ever will.
Defeated, I slouch down on the ground within a lonely lie of everything I am and I had hoped for, sinking deeper into my hopeless tunnel of desolation. There is a galaxy of sadness inside.
And I have stared at these four walls for so long, they look as though they are alive. I watch them pumping the air. In and out, they try to breathe the air like a wounded dove inside a fox’s mouth. They know. They’ve known all along. I’m the fool. They know of every moment of my life. Stained and dirty, these are the walls of my soul.
I hear them whisper . . .
. . . as I watch them
slowly. . .
. . . all the stains of my ugliness down the walls. Just like trails of blood contravening the goodness of my soul.
I am exactly where I belong. Lost—trapped—ashamed—inside my own soul.
Again, I hear the distant ringing of a cell phone.
A tiny voice echoes….“Dad, this is Leo. Listen, I really need to talk to you about some things. It’s important. I am in danger. Can you please call me back? Bye, Dad.”
Tears roll down my face. I can’t remember the last time I cried, but all the bloody tears are coming from—you know—the “other” side. Years of mistakes. Selfishness.Greed.
“Where is my son?!!” I scream.
I can’t pretend that I don’t care anymore, because I do.
I clutch the letter I wrote harder in one hand and my pen in the other. And I look up at the ceiling and beg my soul to open its doors again and let me out.
Help!” I let out one last blood-curdling scream at the wall.
“Help . . . help . . . help . . . help”—echoes back.
Maybe this is the end of my little adventure in my soul. This is it. It’s just what I deserve, I presume—alone in a basement, with nothing. And maybe, just maybe, I will stay in here, locked up forever, eternally trapped within these four walls, with nothing. It’s hard to accept such despair. But I have no choice. “With nothing! With nothing! With nothing!” I say to myself over and over again.
For so long, I had called everyone else worthless, when really, it was me.
I really am a man with nothing. I lost the doorway back to my own life, my company, my house, my marriage, my son, my belongings.
And I don’t even care about the “things” I am missing. I have lost my joy, my happiness.
Hmmm . . .
What does that word even mean? Happiness; it’s merely a moment, a piece of time, a measurement inside your soul of one’s thoughts being content and filled with joy. Happiness.
Da, na, na, na, na, na, nare . . . Da, na, na, nare . . . da na, na, na, nare . . . But it is all relative. I twiddle my thumbs in the air.
I envision a man. This man has thousands of possessions or “things,” and then I envision another man with only a few. The first man has got it all. He has the nice car, the vacation home, a nice family, etc. And the other man has a family, but is very poor. They have very little. You think, how sad. But doesn’t the man with many possessions feel lesser and lesser excitement or happiness when he gains one more thing versus a man with only a few? I wonder if it’s possible that when that man with only a few things finally gains something he has been longing for, he feels a greater measure of happiness that is so great and undeniable that it even outdoes all the tiny measures of happiness in the other man’s entire life. You never know.
So, in the end, who is the winner? Which man? It’s the tiny measures of happiness that matter and no one really knows, because the winner is measured inside their soul.
All those years, I focused on winning . . . only to come to this point and realize I have been losing all along.
Da, na, na, na, nare . . . da, na, na, nare . . . I am the man who has lost every measure of happiness slowly but surely over time.
So, this is it. The end. Trapped forever in a basement, alive. Wait, am I dead? I never thought too hard about the mortality of my soul, but I think that I am supposed to, um, you know, figure it all out. If this is, in fact, the end of my life. The mystery of life and everything—so, this is it?!?
Where are all the answers? I thought my life is supposed to appear as a flashback. I read that somewhere.
I roll over on my stomach across the freezing cold floor. I can smell the filth in my hair and see the blood splattered all over my fists. I cry again.
I think about God, sadly for one of the few times in my life. I wonder what he would think if he saw me right now. What would I say?
Sorry, God. Um, so sorry, God, I wasn’t a great father. Sorry, I wasn’t a good husband. But I averaged investments of 1.5 million dollars a week for people. “Isn’t that just great, God!” I yell at the wall. “God . . . God . . . God . . .” echoes back.
“That’s a really good deed for humanity,” I whisper. My voice is weak. “And I can help you invest too, God!” I yell back.
But what have I really done for the world? What did I . . . I give? I shake my head.
I remember, back when I was five years old, how excited I was that I had saved a bunch of coins in my piggy bank. And one proud day, I decided to give them all away to my parents. I wanted to help them, and in my tiny mind, I believed it would. I just want to feel that child-nobleness again.
I yell at the wall, “Give me one more chance! I will change! . . . I will show you, God, what I can do! I will show you the good! Just let me out! Open a door!”
I look around the lifeless basement. My chest aches.
I see an old tiny stained window high up on a corner of one wall. I didn’t see it until now. Was it there all this time? It is only about as big as my hand. I wipe it vigorously with my sleeve, and look out of the tiny opening.
Outside this tiny window lies a dense forest. The trees are old and withered, and some are rotten. But their leaves are a greenish-gray. The sky above is stone colored gray, and clouds are so thick, it makes it look like night. It’s really not the prettiest sight, but I am just happy to be able to look outside. Hmmmm . . . it looks like around four o’clock. But I don’t know? Is it? I wonder if it is fall or winter— maybe? The outside world has vanished into a prison. I stare at the trees. The ache in my chest, now worse.
The tree’s branches sway in the atmosphere like they are peacefully breathing. Funny how I see their innocent peace, meanwhile, I stand trapped inside my own hell. How bittersweet.
I start beating the glass with my fist to see if I can break it. But my hands fall through the wall, just another invisible trap. I look back at the trees and watch. I try to imbibe their peace. They are so beautiful. Truly, everything is a matter of perspective because had I not been locked in this basement for so long, I would never have noticed the beauty in those trees.
I take a step back and look at all nasty layers of dirt and mold caked over the tiny window, knowing that I have been looking at the world from a dirty window for too long. I have been blind. I have chosen to see things my way. If only I stood still enough to look at everything, like I looked at the trees right now, more than I did.
If only I had another chance. I lie down again on the floor.
I hear a crack in the floor. I flinch.
A small black box appears on the ground. I snatch it up as fast as I can.