Dissociation From a Surplus Artist - The Ink Well Fiction Prompt #10 - Three Words


I used to know this kid, he's now a sad old painter with no painting to his name. We take the trip to work and back every day. We never address each other as my father had warned me when I was five to never talk to him. As I grew up, the fear of my father's wrath grew with me, even years after he died. Whenever we get home, I go inside with my family and he remains outside.

Every night I watch him from the window as he stands pondering the moon's reflection upon the river. He stands for as long as possible breathing in the scenery, he then closes his eyes and starts painting it with his mind. He adds and takes out things with his mind. He continues to paint with his mind as he never dared to buy any tools. He continues until a mysterious shadow shows up behind him, he then tears the painting in his mind then walks away.

Some nights, whenever I feel suffocated I get out of my bed at night and go out in hopes of finding him. I try to retrace his steps. I watch him as he walks away with his head down, feeling rejected by everyone, including me, the one who is supposed to support him the most. He always ends up in the same spot, the area next to the half-destroyed building that turned into a dumpster. We end up sitting there in silence until we eventually fall asleep surrounded by trash as the smell of rotten fish, bacon, and months-old food along with the dirty rats and insects eating it.

My wife always noticed it whenever I go on my occasional journeys. Each time we argue about it, it ends with me pleading she lets it go. I didn't want to tell her the truth about him, but I loved her too much to lie to her. I could feel her stalking me now and then trying to see where I go. I always lose her, and then find her in bed when I go home in the morning to change and head to work. That has been tiring me lately.

One night I was staring I was supposed to do some work at home. As I was reading the documents I didn't know what came over me, but I found myself drawing half a face. My right hand was almost paralyzed as my father came back from the grave just to mock me and scream at me once. I fought the overwhelming feeling of breaking down in tears by taking a deep breath. It was one of those nights once again. I knew I couldn't express my sadness here, I knew I shouldn't at least. So I got up and went on another night's journey as my wife once again started following me from behind.

It was another socially distanced chase, my wife was chasing me and I was chasing the painter. That night I felt suffocated, I didn't go through the mazes of dark streets to lose my wife. I walked slower than I did before as that is what the painter was doing. We stopped at our usual destination, this time we were staring at the inside of a half-destroyed building where hundreds of unfinished drawings on torn papers lie. An old man dragged his kid and threw him on the stacks of torn paper.

"You will sleep here", the man screamed.

Before I could start to console the painter, my wife joined us. We stood there in silence for a while, silence if it weren't for the kid's father echoing in my head.

"Is where you have been coming all these years?", my wife broke the silence. I looked around me for a while, my kingdom of trash was exposed, the one place I was never judged, the one place I was always accepted and welcomed. I could see it in her eyes, that look. The look that preceded the last time I saw anyone I told about my kingdom.

"You couldn't just stop, could you, Noor?", I asked with anger "You always looked for a sickness, you could not just tell yourself that I loved you and maybe just stop digging for so many years."

"I just wanted you to stop hiding", she explained as the shock of where we stood at two in the morning remained on her face "I love you unconditionally"

"Okay, then", I challenged her point "You want me to stop hiding? Do you? You barely loved me because of that. Do you want to know? Well, HERE I AM"

I angrily kicked the cartoon box, evicting families of rats from their homes. I stared at Noor as she judged my fleeing neighbors. Silence ensued.

"I am no longer hiding, now what?!", I yelled "Huh? Is it too much now? Maybe some things shouldn't be talked about. If there are things that ought to be hidden, then there's no such thing as unconditional love. It's BULLSHIT!"

"I can see it in your eyes, you think less of me now", her looks, much like the similar ones I got in the past were getting under my skin "What would have happened, if you had just stopped stalking me, Noor?"

"Did you know that I have been following you?", Noor realized "You brought me here intentionally, didn't you?"

I looked at the painter as the look of guilt was showing through his face in the middle of all the self-loathing "You wouldn't have stopped. I understood that eventually"

"Each time you looked in my eyes, you saw darkness", I continued "And I watched you despise me for it each time. You wanted to see the darkness. Well, here we are. We are in the middle of it"

"What's this dumpster? What's with all the trash?", she said with an occasional burst of disbelieving laughter "What the fuck is this?"

"Some people go to the sauna to relax", I explained "Some people go to summer resorts. I come here."

"Why?", she asked.

"The trash", I answered as she looked baffled "It is good to me"

"But why?", She screamed "Could you please tell me why?"

"Because, it doesn't judge me", I exploded "It doesn't belittle me, it doesn't abuse me. It is the only place I don't feel like a stranger. The only place I feel at home"

"This is trash", she said as she was trying to process what she saw then resorted to silence.

"Say something", I requested "You stalked me for years at night. And now that you got what you were looking for you shut up. Say something"

"You disappear at night and...", she said then realized what she wanted at that moment "I can't do this. I need to go. I can't stay here"

"You can't leave just" I pleaded "Please, you need to hear me. I have seen what happens to people leaving at this point. They don't return."

I kept trying to hold her as she screamed "Let me go". I tried to follow her but surrendered to her wishes. I turned to the painter with an angry look on my face.

"You scared her!", I yelled "Are you happy now?"

I got no answer whatsoever as I was screaming in the dumpster.

"You have been nothing but trouble ever since you showed up", I screamed again. What I said echoed in my head, a sentence that sounded familiar, a sentence I heard so many times. The sentence was repeated by the man reprimanding his son inside the destroyed building. I moved closer to the building to see what is happening.

"You have been nothing but trouble ever since you showed up", the man screamed at his son as he tore the paper filled with traces of a drawing "You're useless. You will sleep here again until you stop doing this bullshit"

The kid stood still for a while, looking around with a sad, scared look on his face as he saw the rats no longer treating him like a threat. The stray dogs were no longer barking at him. He stood atop of the paper, wondering how they all would have looked had they finished. Eventually, he walked his tired body toward a carbon board he had set up before, laid down on it, and went to sleep. And so did I.

I don't know how much time has passed, maybe an hour, maybe two, but my wife returned and woke me up from sleep.

"Explain to me one more time", she said calmly "You said that this is the only place you feel at home. Why is that? What do you see when you look at all of this?"

"I see myself", I answered after taking a few minutes to contemplate my thoughts "These are surplus, stuff no one wanted at home. Same as me, I was never wanted. I was a child, and I never understood why I was looked at with such disdain and disgust. Then one day, I looked around all this trash, the stray animals, the insects, and it was no longer scary or lonesome, it was welcoming"

We both took a deep breath before I continued as tears started streaming down my face "I eventually knew I couldn't stay here forever, so I got up and I left the kid behind as he looked for a pencil to finish his drawing. Maybe if he ever finds it he could leave. Maybe he would use it to draw something, a drawing where children are happy. He just wouldn't let me draw"

"Your father?", she asked. It was a question with such an obvious answer I didn't even need to say it. Instead, I kept listening to the sound of paper getting torn over and over and over and over and over again.

"He just wouldn't let me be", I broke down "Wouldn't let me finish my drawing, wouldn't let me do the one thing I could to feel peace. I slowly watched day by day as the years went by and a part of me was dying, slowly getting detached from me. Now, nothing remains but a long thread. It remains there, too scary to follow, and I know it would kill me to cut it"

I stood with my back to the destroyed building, crying. My wife then reached with her hand and started wiping away the tears. We stayed there for an hour until I dared to ask her 'Are you going to leave?"

I never got my answer at the time, we got up and went to our house. As I went to take a shower and wash away the smell I could hear her packing in our bedroom as I sat in the living room. She then came and I walked her to the door. We stared at each other for a while.

"You are not going to return", I said.

"It will take some time", she finally spoke "Just because I am leaving, doesn't necessarily mean I won't return. Just give me some time to understand, okay?"

She then left with a promise that she would return. I honestly still don't know if she ever will.

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