By Kees Schuller
I stand in the center of my room.
The scent of paint fills the air as my brush swipes across the canvas. Beethoven’s fourth symphony fills the air.
The picture takes shape before me as my brush goes back and forth. The snow on the ground, the streetlights, the bench where we sat.
That night is still fresh in my memory, still vivid, still right there, so close I can almost touch it.
And I’m still not sure if I want to.
The brush goes back and forth, a dab here, and smidge right here, and its finished.
I stand back and look at the work for a moment as the scene plays itself again in my mind.
We walked down the path, footprints in the snow. Our breath made little clouds in the air before us, little puffs. Her body was warm, held against mine, but I could feel her shiver.
It was cold outside, too cold to be outside for much longer. Debbie’s apartment was far away, a long cold walk, but I didn’t want to invite her to my place. Marcus and Louise want their privacy. Which of course begs the question of where I would sleep, but I could figure that out.
“Lets stop and sit” she says as we pass a bench.
I look at the bench in my painting. No, the picture isn’t exactly like the bench from the night before, but thats impossible. This poor renditioning will have to do.
We sat, and she snuggled up closer to me. For a while we sit in silence, me watching the snow fall past the cones of light from the street lamps, her contentedly curled up against me before she finally speaks.
“I don’t want this to end Gavin. This night is too perfect” I looked at her and she stared at me.
I remember her eyes as I stare at the painting. Such a deep brown. Its like I was falling into them, falling falling, down. Winter from Vivaldi’s Four Seasons comes on. A cold song for the cold weather.
For my cold cold heart.
I looked back at her, looking at those wonderful eyes. She looked at me expectantly, hoping, hoping that I would say the same back to her. I knew that I couldn’t.
I didn’t know that night. I didn’t know.
I still don’t know. I sigh and turn away from the painting, run my hands through my hair.
Ahh, that night. If only it had gone a little differently everything would be so much better now. But no point in thinking about that now. It may have been better then, but now is now, and what is done is done.
The painting can sit. I need to get out of the apartment, get out for a walk. On my way out I grab my iPod from the jack and cram my earphones into my ears.
The wind blows fiercely as I push open the lobby door. A slight curl of snow falls onto the floor. The street is not busy, as it is too cold for most people to be out and about. I walk along it, kicking my feet through the snow.
The clouds overhead are thick and fluffy, and big fluffy flakes come spiralling down. It is a beautiful wintry day.
I sigh, and continue my trudge along. Winter gives way to Mozart’s Requiem as my thoughts spiral back again.
She was staring at me. She expected an answer, and her face was falling.
“I, I don’t know Debbie. This is nice, but I’m not sure if it will work. We have been friends since, well, forever. And I’m not sure if I can see you as anything else”
She sat up and glared at me “Thats never stopped you before. So what, now suddenly I’m not good enough to even distract you from your own little world of paints and music?”
“No, no” I was shaking my head, trying to find the words to explain how I felt “Its not that at all. Its just…I always did this because I knew you enjoyed it, but now I know that you really want something. That you aren’t happy with how it has been.
“And knowing that I can’t keep doing this. I just can’t go on as we did before, and I can’t go forwards ri-”
“Oh, so thats how it is is it?” She shrugged my arm off and stood up as she cut me off “Now that something is changed in your life, now that you know something new you suddenly can’t keep on like before? I knew that that was all you wanted Gavin. For things to keep going like they did before, for everything to stay the same in your perfect little world for ever and always, and never mind about what anyone else wants.
“Because thats not how Gavin operates. Everything has to stay the same for you. You can’t accept change, and so you interfere with Louise and Marcus and you ignore me except when it is convenient.
“Well no more Gavin! I am done with you. If you can ever stop being self-absorbed and full of yourself then you can come find me. But don’t be surprised if I slam the door in your face”
With that she had stalked off, ignoring my cries of “Come back, wait”
And I was left alone by that bench in the dark, wishing that things had gone just a bit differently, even if I didn’t know how they could have as the snow whirled down around me, covering everything in silence and a deep white blanket.
I sigh and continue down the street. I’ve kinda lost track of place, but it can’t have been that long because it is still Requiem. The snow continues to come down, piling up more and more as the clouds darken to the point that the street lamps come on.
And that is all that there is to it. Trapped here, at this place, this time, this thought, this image of her.
I walk into the subway station without really noticing where I am going. I run for the train as the doors close and force myself onto it despite the rush hour traffic. People scowl at me, but it barely registers.
What am I going to do about Debbie?
What am I going to do about Marcus and Louise?
I trudged back and let myself in.
The noises of passion that I expected from Marcus’ room were missing as he and Louise were waiting for me instead.
“Debbie texted me” Louise started “What the hell do you think you are doing? You Goddamned moron, what did we tell you?”
I ignored her and walked into my room, locking the door behind me.
Her shouts grew louder as she banged on my door, but I put in earplugs and rolled myself up in my covers, the pillow over my head.
When I opened the door in the morning nobody was waiting for me. Marcus’ door was open and they weren’t anywhere else in the apartment.
So, I put on my music and began to paint.
“Oh god” I mumble as the train announces Broadview Station next “How am I ever going to explain this to them?”
The train passes out onto the bridge and the darkness of the early sunset is broken only by the lights of cars and the cityscape. Then with a screech, a grinding shudder, the lights go off and the train stops in the middle of the bridge.
For a moment I don’t really take notice, lost in my thoughts. Then, the murmur and shouts of people on the train drag me back to reality as people rush to the windows to look out.
I turn in my seat and look out the window. The lights are out on the DVP below, and the city, or what we can see of it anyways, is in darkness.
The snow is falling now, fast and furious, thicker than before. With a loud crack a bolt of lightning lances down.
“Ohh yah, thundersnow” someone down the car cries “This is awesome”
Then the emergency lights on the train go out, plunging us into near blackness.
People begin to really panic, as the realization that we are stuck sets in. Enough people have gotten off by now that we can stand and walk around, but it is still busy.
“Damn” This is not good.
“Don’t worry, don’t worry” someone says above the general din “They will be along to get us out in a bit. For now we should just sit down, and stay calm”
People nod at the sensible advice and sit back down again. I stay seated, having never stood up. Conversation picks up again and I pull my sketch pad out of my pocket.
The sickly glow of smart phones is thrown up onto faces, casting the train in shadows and making everyone appear pale and ghostly. As time passes I draw the people around me, just quick rough sketches in this ghost light.
As yet more time passes people begin to get nervous, and fidgety. Faces look scared as they read from their phones. I lean over to the man next to me “What has everyone so worried?”
He looks at me, his face tense “The whole city is out of power. The snow took it down, pulled down wires and stuff. People are in a bit of a panic, and all the subways are stopped. Something about the power grid being unstable. Nobody knows how long we will be stuck here, how long this will last”
I sit back and think. As the phone screens die around me I worry about Marcus and Debbie, my sisters Louise, Dana, and Maria and Mom and Dad.
Nobody knows where I am. All they know is that everyone yelled at me yesterday, that I painted a very sombre picture of the place where I got yelled at, and disappeared.
I should have let them know where I was.
“Does anybody have a phone I can borrow?” I stand up and make my way down the car “My family doesn’t know where I am, doesn’t know whether or not I am ok, and I don’t have my phone”
My words spark a reaction from many people who had not been staring at phones. They too jump up and begin to clamour for a phone to use, or begins dialing holding phones to their ears.
A teenage girl gives me an appraising stare, then offers her phone “Its almost out of juice, so make it quick”
“Thanks” I say as I dial Mom and Dad. The phone rings, once, again, and again. It goes to message.
“Sorry, but the line is busy right now. Please hang up and try again, or press # for more options”
Damn. Power out means that hard lines are down and I don’t remember their cell number. I hang up and dial Louise. The phone rings once, then dies on me.
I shake my head and pass the phone back to the girl and walk on. If only I had thought of that earlier. I don’t have any other luck with borrowing phones.
I go back to my seat and sit down. I hope that they don’t get too worried about me. Little chance of that though.
Especially because I don’t have a good track history of with depression. I wince at the memory and rub at the thin scars on my wrists.
Sigh. What to do about Debbie?
I mean, we have been friends for so long. And I don’t want things to change either way. I don’t want my life to change. Which is exactly her problem with me.
It is perfect right now, right the way that it is. The last time things changed, the last time I tried to face a change…I rub at those scars.
I just want to go fix things with her and Marcus and Louise, and here I am trapped on this stupid subway, on this stupid bridge in the middle of this stupid snowstorm.
Damn it. Why is this happening to me?
I got past all my self-doubt and my sadness and depression a long time ago! Or so I thought anyways.
Again I feel those scars.
What have I done to deserve this? But either way, I need to figure out what to do.
But its never that simple I think, as the snow drifts past the windows and the evening gives way to night. By the man’s watch I can see that it is 9 o’clock. I’m going to need to go to the bathroom soon now. Some people are already muttering about that.
But thats not important just yet. What am I to do about Debbie?
There is a lot to think about.
We’ve been friends since we were young, since we were kids. I’ve always been happy with things the way that they are.
But now it seems that they need to change.
And she was so beautiful last night with the snow all around.
I wish that she were here.
But do I? Do I want her to be here so that I can explain things, because I want to be her friend, or because I want to hold her close?
Damn. I just don’t know.
Why can’t I figure this out?
Ok, now I really have to pee.
Before I have to say anything someone else shouts “What are we going to do about the bathroom? We’ve been stuck here for five hours and I can’t hold it anymore!”
“Just go at the end of the car” someone else shouts “See if you can’t pull the door open a crack”
Lines form at either end of the train car and people cram tighter into the middle, desperate to be away from the smell.
I relieve myself, and get a seat in the middle of the car again.
I guess I should get some sleep. There is nothing else to do just now, except worry or wait.
My dreams are full of Louise and worry and Marcus and confusion and Debbie. Mostly Debbie.
Odd dreams, full of loss and pain and sadness. Debbie stands before me, then falls away, and I can’t reach her, can’t try and save her.
Marcus and Louise are talking to me. They seem angry, but they are getting further and further away from me.
And they join the crowd around me, the crowd of endless faces. The faces of those who I don’t know, don’t care about, don’t understand. And no matter how much I look for them, I can’t see them anymore, and snow is piling up everywhere and its getting colder.
I wake up, shivering. The train is freezing. I can see my breath in front of me, in a cloud. My fingers are numb in my gloves, so I ball them up in my palms and stuff them under my armpits.
The car is silent, and still. Nothing moves.
I get up, and go to stand by the doors. I can’t see anything out there except for the snow falling down.
Then, I can’t see the snow, just my reflection as the lights come on in the subway, and it lurches into motion for a second before stopping again.
It takes a moment before people wake up, and then they are up all around me, shouting, cheering, but I don’t join in. Looking towards where the city was, I think.
At the next station I hop off and dial Mom and Dad. Its a message.
“Hey Mom, Dad. I’m ok. I was stuck on the subway on the bridge for a long while, but I’m out now. Sorry I didn’t call earlier; my phone was at home and the phone I borrowed died before I could call your cells. Forgot that the land lines would be down with the power. But, I’m safe, and making my way home now, so don’t worry. Love you, talk to you later”
I hang the phone up, and stare at it for a moment before dialing another number.
It picks up halfway through the first ring “Hello?” The voice is nervous, and talks too fast.
“Its me Marcus, and-”
“Gavin! Gavin, you’re ok!” I can hear Louise’s voice in the background “Its Gavin? He’s ok? Where is he? Let me speak to him”
“Yeah, I’m fine. Tell Louise I say hi. I got stuck on the subway as it was crossing the bridge. Sorry if I worried you”
“Worried us? You had us out of our minds! We were sure that, well, we were sure that you had-”
“Yah, I know. Look, I gotta go, catch a cab or a bus. See you in a bit”
“Hey, whoa, call Debbie and Mom and Dad, they’ve been-”
I can still hear him talking as I hang up the phone.
Well, I’m not trapped in the subway anymore. So, now I can go fix things with Debbie. Except I don’t know how.
The bus drives down the street as the snow falls down.
I look out the window, and stare at the falling flakes.
What was I thinking about when I was stuck?
Mostly my dreams were about Debbie.
Does it mean anything?
The stop comes up and I get off, pull my hood up against the cold.
The apartment building is dark. I take the stairs. I’ve had enough of being stuck for one day.
The stairway is cold. I rub my hands together to try and warm them.
Apartment 413. I know it like the back of my hand.
I’m out of the train, but I’m still trapped. Still trapped here, now, in this moment. Just like I always have been, like I always will be.
I could stand here all night, undecided. Trapped, going round in circles again and again and again.
But I have to make a choice. Have to free myself from this cage.
I raise my hand, make a fist, and hesitate.
Is this what I want to do? Is this where I want to be, who I want to be?
I almost lower my hand, but instead I tighten my fist, and set my face.
I knock, and the door practically flies open.
Debbie throws her arms around me, and I hold her back.
“I was so worried, so worried. I thought that you’d, that I’d, that I’d, I’d” She starts crying.
“Its ok, you didn’t, I’m here now. I’m sorry its so late. I got stuck on a subway on the bridge” Still holding her I take her inside and close the door.
“I’m sorry Debbie. I’m sorry about being so much a flake, about making all those mistakes” I sit her down no the couch, and hold her out at arms length.
“I’ve made a lot of mistakes. And I want to apologize. I was wrong” I reach out and brush her tears away with a finger “I want to say, I’m sorry. And, Debbie, when I was stuck on that train, when I was not sure if I was going to get back from there, there was one person that I thought about, one person who was on my mind”
She looks at me, and smiles nervously, and wipes the rest of her tears away.
“You Debbie. You”
As we embrace the snow falls by outside the windows, covering the city in silence and a deep white blanket.