It was just Another Night…(Short Story)
Hazy charcoal silhouettes painted the view from my tiny balcony as I gazed deep into nothingness. It was just any other night; cold, dark and silent. It was way past bedtime; just about time the nocturnal bingers considered returning home. I have been standing here, struggling, for a long time. Days whizzed past like lights on a speeding metro; I could only gaze and watch them flow: hazy, opaque and in trammel. Nights were a burden that I could not avoid. I feel old, really old and this is going to be a long bitter night.
I miss the time when Vienna made me feel young. It was like those impish high-school days when hope and smile never seem leave an arms distance. Long barefoot walks in the Stadtpark, the lazy swirl of Riesenrad, those unceasing discussions on art and music at the café Demel near Hofburg place or just being lost in the silence of a moonlit Danube.
How can I not miss them?
How do I let it go, the feeling of being alive, the feeling of being in love? It made me feel young; she ensured I stayed that way all along.
The hot end of Marlboro made me jump as it traded my dream with the dark canvas of night, devoid of color and life. I fiddled my pockets for another one. Was it the fifth? The ashtray suggests it is ninth; I have to give up smoking; do I really need to… and I lit it.
It has been more than two years since I met Eva and I am drawn to her every time with the same passion as I felt the first time I saw her at the gallery. Like a painting etched in dull canvas she was a stark contrast to the white plastered walls of the gallery. My eyes could not savor enough of her tawny hair curled to unruly perfection. She was clad in blue denim and a white tee and was intensely gazing at one my wares on the wall. She was an artist, a student; embroidered in red was the symbol ] a [ resting unambiguously on her sleeve, a logo of akademie der bildenden künste, a prestigious fine arts academy in Vienna, and then she turned. Her dark brown eyes, sparking through the clear glasses caught me off guard; she smiled; I shivered.
The night was getting colder; I can feel the numbness of my fingers as I held on to the glass of scotch. I watched some teens singing in the street…, something in German which I could not pick. One of them looked at me standing like a ghost on the first floor balcony and lifted his hand in a friendly salute and I returned the gesture unconsciously. My hand twitched on the glass as I woke them from their icy stupor as I watched them waddle away into the night. Why do all good things come to an end..?
Eva was twenty four when I first met her and I was lugging myself into my forties and waltzing around Europe trying to sell my wares. I have a studio in Weiden in Vienna given to me by an old friend who would rent it to me for a canvas a year. He would not take money from me and I would not want to rent free, so that was our middle path. It was big enough for me to double up as a working studio and a cozy residence. I enjoyed its loneliness, its silence, but that was before she came into my life.
In the beginning we discussed art, she loved talking and I loved watching her talk. It was perfect. Later her conversations were more discursive and would wander all around. Impressionism, Fauvism, existentialism and then suddenly we would be talking of Bavarian beers. We were indefatigable in talking and days never seemed enough hours to finish a discussion. There was a certain pleasure in accepting defeat to her cogent reasoning. We would walk the first district watching tourists and their awed expressions or just go to the hills in the north for a quieter Sundays. We did nothing special in particular, but whatever we did together felt special. We were not defined by love, love defined us; it made life look simpler, easier and worth the effort to drag it through the chores of existence. A sense of good feeling prevailed. I wanted to grow with her, as Dag once said, firmer, simpler, quieter, warmer.
The silence of the night was eerie; it made my thoughts sound louder…as if coming out of an unruly megaphone. I walked in to my studio and dribbled to a mounted canvas; it stared at me blank, devoid of life. I want to draw to distract, to stop my head screaming to do something, I have no clue what but wait for the sun to raise and wash away the darkness. I started to wash the canvas with paint but the brush seems to have a mind of its own and why is it so heavy?
It was last summer when Eve moved into the studio. It was always too big for me, and way too lonely. She hardly changed anything in the studio, except a closet changing it ownership, but everything seemed different. Like a freshly painted canvas coming alive after the last swash of paint. The candles, were a nice touch, so was her presence. I needed no reason to smile other than watch her cuddle in my arms. Everything was suddenly warm even those cold Austrian winters and wines gave life a new meaning.
The colors were growing darker than I want them to be on the canvas, I was painting without a reason, without an outcome. The darkness was receding in the background and the warm light of the sun tried to wrap the distant skies. It is beautiful. But I hated it. It made me irritable, made me angry. I was helpless and it made me clinch deep inside.
We should have been married. It would have made her happy. I think so. She never mentioned it, we never talked about it. It was unnecessary. But it seems so right…today, when I see her draped in wires, trying to hold on to a life that would never be the same
She loved to cycle and spring made it ever more pleasant thing to do. Vienna was a cyclists dream. It was designed for the enthusiast. She made the morning breakfast and left a note that she will be back in time for the evening plans. I slept as she left the flat.
She never kept her promise and I have not slept ever since.
A call from the hospital went unanswered as I kept my phone on silent mode, lest it should disturb my precious tranquility. Late evening I answered the door to the call of an officer who came to tell that she met an accident and is at the hospital. I was disturbed by his imperturbable calmness of manner, but not worried; the cops told me she fell of her cycle… how bad can that be?
They did not mention that she hurt her head and will never recover from her induced coma and she never did. It’s been eight years since I read her note on the table, I see her every day with the hope that she will return home. An occasional twitch sends a spasm of hope but it passes away as spasms always do…ever so quickly.
I have to say my final good bye one morning, and let her sleep. Wires can only keep you alive but they do not bless you with life. All wires have to stop one day and tomorrow morning…is it today. They are going to stop those wires from fueling a life that has long gone away and another which will never be the same again. I wish this was an endless night.