February 11, 2024

So Simple

A story about time and focus.

It was Friday evening. He came home and entered the living room where he sank into his couch without thinking. A routine after a long day. His mood was far from cheerful, even though he couldn't point out exactly why. It happened to him from time to time. One moment, everything feels simple and clear, another moment not so much. The darkness behind the windows didn't help either; it was the time of the year when the daylight ran out before he got home. "Another day is gone," he muttered to himself while staring at the wall opposing the couch. The wall featured a large print of a photograph he captured during an adventurous trip ages ago. It felt like yesterday, but the number of years that passed since he took that photo mildly terrified him. He used to do many adventures. "So good; so many," He sighed. Well, probably just about the same amount as any other kid did, but that's okay; he remembered them fondly anyway. Small ones between the big ones... these memories made him cozier than the sofa he sat on.

Sadly, the older he got, the less time for adventuring he had. Between being busy at work and responsible in life, there just wasn't much time left. Occasionally, though, he doubted that the time was the problem and reckoned that the no-time narrative was only a noble camouflage. He could still recall when, as a kid, he fiercely opposed claims that "there's no time to spend moments together." Yet, those memories faded with each year, and the no-time got more natural and comfortable. "Maybe there's no camouflage," he wasn't sure anymore.

He changed the topic of contemplation as he slowly relocated towards the kitchen: Which meal would keep him alive until tomorrow, when is this whole procedure deemed to repeat? Sure, "tomorrow" meant Saturday, but he needed to do more work, catch up on groceries, laundry... and it is not that the Highlands would be in reach anyway. When he numbly skimmed through the fridge's inventory, he didn't feel hungry. Rather, a sense of gloom clenched the body so strongly that breathing became difficult, never mind eating anything. He knew that feeling with depressing familiarity. "Ehh..." He closed the fridge.

After catching his breath, he quickly turned to a shelf nearby, as if there was a first aid kit. It was where his outdoor kit and a sleeping bag were. He did not use a sleeping bag often, but the occasions when he did form some of the good memories he had. So, he took it with determination along with a few other stuff and continued to dress up right after. He wanted to be gone faster than his mind started protesting with counterarguments as to why he should sway from doing anything. Even though the no-time failed this time, he knew that any hesitation would bring an array of others. He didn't have to wait long: "What am I doing? he wondered before leaving the house. "I have a bed... A nice bed... I am so privileged to have it..." But he also knew that if he'd take all the voices that resonated in his head to the said bed now, he would not find the much-desired rest. Nope, the mission was on! He was ready to fight another doubt, the rubbish weather classic; he remembered that the finest adventures and sunshine don't always go hand in hand, and if February is good enough to swim in the Atlantic, it will do for sleeping outside. But hey, when he opened the entrance door, it wasn't even raining! Let's go!

Soon, he left all the flashy downtown buildings behind, and the population density around him dropped. He saw wide-open agricultural land, cute farm animals, and some stately mansions. He enjoyed how some still-wet streets reflected the lamps onto the low-hanging overcast sky that stagnated above the landscape like a cloudy mirror.

When the darkness was an outsider behind the window, it was a shady enemy. But when he went to embrace it, it turned out to be a good friend with fascinating values to share. "Of course...!" he recognized the magic of the night's reign many times before. "How do I keep forgetting it?" He smiled. Yes, he smiled.

Eventually, he entered a forest. The only light around came from his torch, but the noise of his wheels slicing the moist soil wasn't the only instrument producing the soundtrack. Rustling leaves and sporadic roars gave away that he was far from being alone.

Despite the lack of light, he felt like he could see more clearly. And the air! It was so fulfilling and fresh; simple breathing tasted better than anything from a fridge. Back on the couch, he felt so exhausted after the day. Yet, he suddenly sported the energy he needed now. Where did it come from? "Is it the night? Is it the air? Or is it the rebellion to go against himself?" He wondered, yet he didn't care. He focused on the world around him and reflected that, in fact, there are tons of reasons to smile. Sure enough, the further he went, the more confident he became.

He felt that he had everything he ever wanted, and he desired nothing more.

He felt free.

About an hour after he left the house, he found a place he sought. "Hoot hoot," an owl made a loud greeting as he unrolled his sleeping bag. "Hello," he responded. "Too right; this is also a privileged position to be in," he thought while he brushed his teeth. Good night!

He slept well, and the view from his "bedroom" he saw when he woke up the next morning cheered him up even more:

While eating a modest but tasty breakfast, he opened a map to see which direction to head out: "While being here, might as well explore a bit." He didn't forget about that PowerPoint or groceries, but he knew that if he stayed focused, he could fit a taster of local roads too.

So he did: winding and straight, hardpacked and muddy, smooth and cobbled.

Some hours later, he came home. It looked like the situation from yesterday, but it was another person who entered through the door. It wasn't an automated emotionless movement; the focus made it all different. He sensed the present, and it felt meaningful. He didn't go straight to the couch, but straight to shower to get rid of the dirt from the outside.

Cleaning mud is much easier than getting rid of worries and nostalgic weeps. But then, reading or watching content about someone else's life is much easier than remembering that he has his own. "Time isn't going anywhere; we are," he thought. "It is so simple."

...Until the next time.

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Published by: Jakub Stepanovic in Stories


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