In a cold, cluttered study dimly lit by a bulb encased in a thick layer of grime, a man stands surveying old, flaking walls filled with bookshelves and cabinets, head cocked on one side as he impatiently tuts and looks around him. A room once the hub of his home and working life now sits dormant and forlorn in the cold October sun peering through cracks in the yellowed blinds. A room once so lively and loved now seems as alone and lost as the man standing within.
He takes a step forward and roughly glides a finger across the nearest shelf, leaving a bright trail of mahogany standing stark among the surrounding layer of dust. Lips curling in disgust and rubbing his covered finger on his jumper, he sighs. This room, now of no use and an annoyance to him, needs clearing desperately.
As a plan forms in his head, he leaves the room only to return a few seconds later armed with every cleaning utensil he can find. He then starts clearing out the room. Initially, he takes his time, taking each item off the shelves and inspecting it before deciding what to do with it. But as each dog-eared novel and notebook full of scribbles is salvaged from the dust and dirt of the shelves, old memories resurface themselves to mock and taunt him. Memories of days where writing was his life and words tumbled out of him like droplets onto a page, and the world around him held the fascination of a child. But too many rejections from snotty publishers can make a man bitter in his ways, and soon his bubble of ignorance was torn as the world became cruel and unforgiving. Suddenly the passion of the world was gone, and a dream to write died along with this room.
Memories flood back like flames, taunting him with their flickering, fiery tongues. Fury filling his core, he flings out his arms and pushes every item into bin bags, grabbing books, ornaments and ornate ink pens and throwing them to walls, ignoring the glass smashing and ricocheting off the walls. Ripped pages fall like burning ashes to a floor filled with shattered glass and puddles of blue ink stains sinking into the carpet.
His crazed cleaning does not stop until he grabs hold of an old glass photo frame and a jagged edge catches his skin. He curses loudly as it draws blood and looks down towards his cut, only to be stopped short by what he sees.
It’s an old frame, a photograph within that had been blocked and almost faded from memory. He sees himself, a young man of only twenty, standing beside his childhood hero, a published author whose name he cannot recall now. He looks upon the uncontrollable smile on the young him’s face, the eyes shining with childlike eagerness, and that day comes back to him like a bolt of lightning. He remembers meeting this man, and sharing with him the hope of one day joining him with the esteemed title of ‘author’, his love of writing and wanting to write forever. And most of all he remembers the author looking at him with an almost fatherly smile, patting his shoulder and saying, ‘If you want it enough you can do it. Never give up on a dream like that.’
The statement echoes through the man’s head and around the room, bouncing and echoing off the bare walls. Never give up on a dream like that. The frame drops from between his shaking fingers, landing with a dull thud below him. He stops; sinks slowly to the ground. Everything is too much. How could he forget this? How happy he had been then, how full of joy and life… memories flood back once more, but this time like rushes of water coaxing the tears from his eyes as he falls forward onto his hands, sobs rocking his whole body. He balls up his fists and beats the ground, yelling to a man who is not there, who cannot hear him.
‘Never give up?! You can’t even begin to unravel an idea before reality shoots it dead now! I’ve been shot down one too many times, I’m wounded. I GIVE UP. I can’t get back up this time.’
The cold, empty shelves stare at the man sunken and broken in the centre of the room with blank, harsh stares. Tiny speckles of blood spurt from a cut in his hand, but that short, sharp pain is nothing compared to the tearing of his heart, the thumping of his head, the desolate thud as his stomach drops. No pain could compare to that of a man falling apart from the seams. Tears fall relentlessly from his eyelids, and his body lurches forward and back with pain, as emotion floods out of him in a tidal wave of desperation, total loss and turmoil.
‘I can’t get back up this time,’ he whispers, his eyes shut to try to bottle in the pain, ‘I can’t get back up.’