Zesty Glowing Fly By D.I. Jolly
In the grand scheme of everything, Robert knew that his problems didn’t matter. Compared to things like climate change, corrupt world leaders and catastrophic natural disasters, his complaints were a drop of piss in the ocean. But since it was his part of the ocean that was slowly becoming urine, they really mattered to him. Still though, when he was asked what was wrong, which he noticed was not the same as how are you, he’d say, I’m fine. Everything’s alright, just a bit tired, nothing to worry about. Because although his problems mattered to him, he didn’t want to be a burden on others. Of course, the truth was that he really wasn’t alright. He was, in his own opinion, the least alright he’d ever been.
It had been a little over a week since it had happened, but when he closed his eyes it was clearer than real life. He had stepped out onto his balcony to enjoy his morning cigarette with his morning coffee and take in a bit of morning sunshine. He closed his eyes and turned his face towards the sun to soak up that sweet, sweet vitamin D. He then took a long drag and looked out at his view of the building across the street. Winter had been long and summer was slow on coming in, but he felt like it was finally starting to get warmer. His coffee was hot and sweet just as he liked it and as his eyes started to adjust, he saw something flickering in the light. A glowing bug sparkling and pulsing as it flew passed his neighbours windows, and before he realised what he was watching he saw Jennifer Brown slam headfirst into the concrete below. Somewhere between the drowsy and disbelief, he had not realised what was happening until it happened and before he could do anything about it, he had watched a teenage girl kill herself. A rush of emotion hit him like a wave and while he crouched over the toilet throwing away his morning coffee and what was left of last night’s dinner, he cycled through a gallery of irrational thoughts. Everything from; how much trouble he’d be in, to all the things he should have done to save her, but didn’t.
Once his stomach was well and truly empty and the numb had set in, he took a shower, put on his suit and headed off to work. On the train, he came to terms with the fact that he wasn’t actually in trouble, that he couldn’t have done anything, and, as a casual observer, really wasn’t involved at all. But there the memory sat, playing on a loop just behind his eyes and all he had to do to relive it was blink. And every time he thought about talking to someone, he remembered a comedian talking about the people who took sick days after tragic events;
“We all know that one person in the office, the one who just has a lot of feelings and makes bold statements like, ‘what if I had been there? I don’t live in that city, but I could have been on holiday that day and died! It could have been me! I just need some time to come to terms with my near-death experience.’ If only you’d come to terms with how to actually do your job, you know what I mean?”
The audience laughed, he laughed, and when someone asked him what was wrong, he was fine.
Until he wasn’t, until standing on the balcony at work drinking an office party beer and trying to enjoy his cigarette, some dick from sales joked.
“Jesus Rob, you look so miserable some of us think you might jump.”
The guy had started to laugh, so missed the initial explosion of emotion. But knew something was wrong when Robert grabbed him and buried his face in his shoulder. The dick from sales quickly tried to wrap his arms around him and they both went down together, Robert blubbered incoherently the whole way. It took a few people to get him inside and they plied him with sweet tea and kind words to try calm him down enough to explain what was happening. All the while a small prang of shame still rang through his mind. Nothing had actually happened to him, what right did he have to be so upset. But despite all that, he also felt he needed to explain. As he spoke and as the people around him gasped and teared up, Robert felt a weight begin to lift off his shoulders. He felt like he could breathe again for the first time in days and by the time his story was over he found that the horror show was no longer playing behind his eyes. When he blinked all he saw was himself, and while he still felt his problems didn’t compare to world issues, he felt better for admitting he had seen something terrible and wasn’t ok. The people around him hadn’t laughed or rolled their eyes, they sympathised and acknowledged something he hadn’t known. That trauma witnessed was still traumatic, and that it was ok to not be ok.