Truths & Ambiguities
I: Reading Between the Lines
Nora laid across the bed as she lazily watched James strategically apply paint onto the large canvas. The scent of his sheets had made her dizzy with feelings she didn’t quite understand yet as she watched with a curious stare, much like how a student would watch a teacher.
His bedroom wasn’t much of a bedroom, but more of an artistic studio for him to do his work that so happened to have a bed for him to lay his restless head at the end of the day.
Nora was 20, and James was 24, having over a thousand days more worth of wisdom and experience than her.
Nora had wished that she would look as beautiful as he did when he was working on his paintings as when she was writing her stories.
They were stories of people that came and went in her life, but as for James, she never figured to write a story on him, for as she imagined he would always be around for her to simply observe, shifting and changing her outlook on life for as long as he’d have her.
She had nothing on him.
Nora hadn’t taken a single drop of alcohol that night but she still felt drunk. Drunk from James’ words; they were words that she had been told all her life, but hadn’t believed until that very night.
“I wish I was half as talented as you,” Nora sighed softly; she hadn’t moved her eyes away from him.
James gave a soft laugh, the kind of laugh that made all serious things seem like a joke, like seriousness wasn’t necessary to be able to live.
The only necessary thing was to live, and Nora hadn’t understood that concept.
“You’re too hard on yourself,” James smiled as he kept his eyes on his painting.
“You’re too humble,” she grinned back at him, “There’s no hope for me,” her melodrama was riddled with a playful tone as Nora rolled over onto her back to look at the ceiling where a blanket was pinned up, making the room seem like a whimsical circus tent that she had run off to.
“Don’t lose hope,” James’ voice had become paternal and encouraging. This was a habit of his when he sought to teach her something. He’d constantly offer her gifts from what he learned.
Nora referred to these moments as, ‘Professor James’ Daily Dose of the Know’. she had admitted to herself on several occasions that he did know more than her, and what was more, she accepted it and embraced it.
“What hope is there?” she challenged as she rolled over to look at James again.
“There’s the hope that for one moment, no matter how long or short, you will be the most important person in the world,” his smile was as honest as his paintings; raw and straight forward.
The colored shapes pieced together perfectly with the sharp lines created from his brush. There was no ambiguity. It was either one color or the other, never shaded with confusion.
“Just one moment?” Nora’s eyebrows rose as she gave him an incredulous glance. “That didn’t seem very hopeful at all,” her voice trailed into a defeated mumble.
“Yes, one moment,” James assured her with no hesitation whatsoever as if it were a commonly known fact.
“That’s rather sad,” her voice cracked. The realist had slighted the romantic pessimist.
“Is it?” James finally looked up from his painted canvas to meet Nora’s terribly naive and childish eyes.
He had a determined look on his face, showing that he had accepted all the sad truths of
life, and had chosen that instead of fighting them, he’d adapt to them.
Nora ignored her sentimental and reckless instinct to tell him that if he would have her, she would give him that moment he spoke of, and that moment would last him throughout his whole lifetime.
Neither of them would have to aimlessly search for basic truths for the rest of their lives.
Still, Nora wouldn’t dare to tell him that she loved him.
What scared her even more than the ‘I love you’, which she was admittedly terrified of, it wasn’t even the ‘goodbye’, but the ‘see you later’. This was because she had grown so terribly comfortable with faded promises that there was no absolution.
People never disappear, they are either there with you or they have become blurred and indistinct ghosts, haunting you until you yourself have become a ghost.
‘See you later’ was the most ambiguous promises in the book.
“Those moments don’t exist,” Nora’s face remained expressionless as she spoke, refusing to allow him to see right through her paper thin heart.
“Yeah, they do, little Miss Grouch,” James laughed again. He always made laughing seem so easy.
“Yeah? How so, Einstein?” This time, Nora glared at him, matched with a smirk.
“Live,” James said.
Live… how dare he.
‘Live’ was always an uncomfortable word, almost as uncomfortable as ‘love’. Still, as shudder-inducing as they were, they were enticing in the most addictive sense, in a way that a fool would yearn for a glorious and fictitious treasure.
Were ‘living’ and ‘loving’ things worth growing old and tired for in years of search? Nora’s face said that she had decided that they weren’t, but in truth she was undecided. The lines of James’ paintings blurred into gradient shades, boundaries were crossed with the conflicting pigments of reds and greens.
She believed she deserved a ‘moment’, just as much as she believed James did too. It would be a moment of living and loving.
Nora knew they both had spent too much time of their lives rolling over in bitter acceptance during the important parts and fighting to the death for whatever parts were left in their lives.
‘Perhaps the treasure isn’t fictitious…’ Nora thought to herself.
She could have her own story and maybe, if he’d have her, it could be real.
This was Nora’s profound revelation, one that could not and should not be ignored. She laid across the bed as the sheets seemed to hug her into a certain un-escapable warmth that couldn’t be better described than as the warmth of home.
James’ attention had returned to the painting, his brush dictating the lines.
“I think I should be heading back to my place,” Nora sat up from the bed.
Whatever this moment would have been, or could have been, it would have to remain a mystery to both James and Nora.
II: Becoming Ghosts
There they stood. It had become significantly colder since the sun had finally set. The smog from the ambitious city covered the stars in the sky like a blanket. The breeze was bitter, biting at their backs each time a train would shoot by on the rhythmic tracks, matching the tempo of Nora’s impressively calm heartbeat.
“See you later,” James pulled Nora into a stiff embrace, sneaking a final kiss on the cheek before letting her go. The cold breeze was almost pulling her away from him.
“Goodbye,” Nora said stubbornly. He wouldn’t change her beliefs. Not this time.
She watched him as he walked away. She didn’t scream, she didn’t cry, she didn’t even attempt to hit him. Nora simply watched him expectantly as he became an opaque figure in the horizon.
James was a ghost.
With his back turned, she could finally let off her forced smile, calmly walking the opposite direction the train was going.
Another train flew by. The different colors of the carts merged into an unsettling gray by the speed the massive machine was moving.
Nora took a deep breath to turn around one last time, to watch him leave, his ghostly body would be hovering in the dark, along with the rest of the ghosts in her life.
Her eyes then focused on a body that remained closer. It was still, and difficult to spot in the dodgy lighting. It was her own body, lying beside the tracks, her arms rested on each side of her in a form of humble defeat.
What was more unsettling was the fact that her body in the distance was just as blurred and indistinct as James’.
She too had become a ghost.