Sunrise by D. I. Jolly
Sitting on his windowsill looking at the sunrise was both a favourite and a much-regretted pastime for Hank. Even when the sky was so full of clouds that you couldn’t see anything but grey, he still found it uniquely beautiful. By varying definitions of beautiful. In the same way that there is beauty in sorrow and in joy.
It also meant that he’d been awake all night, not working, often times drinking or taking drugs, sometimes having sex or a combination of all three. Which, depending on the day of the week could mean it was the beautiful start to an already exhausting day or the end of a very long night.
But that often didn’t matter. It was a perfect moment that he could cherish and take with him going forward.
This particular morning was especially spectacular. The clouds were breaking, but over his apartment it was still raining. So, as he turned his face up, he saw the sky change from bright orange to pale blue to almost black with the rain gently falling onto his face and he thought.
“I hope that I am not the only person who gets to experience this. I hope that more eyes get to see what I see today and that this beauty isn’t wasted on me.”
It wasn’t a happy thought, but it hadn’t been a happy week. On the bright side, when he finished his glass of wine and the sun was fully up he could just let himself fall into bed, close his eyes and drift off into the pending hangover.
Later that afternoon when his alarm went off, he clawed his way out from between the sheets, and staggered into a shower, aware of his boxers but not caring enough to remove them. He lifted his face to the water and thought again about the sunrise. Despite the drinking, he had managed to hold onto the picture and it lightened the load he carried. Lifting the stress and even made his hangover feel a little bit better.
He thought about Irishing his coffee, but he resisted and took painkillers instead. Then, once his hands had been steadied, he shaved, dressed and got ready to face the day.
The taxi stood waiting when he reached his front door. He smiled from behind dark glasses, got into the back and gave the man the address. Then quickly turned to stare out the window, hoping that it was clear he didn’t want to talk about where he was going.
To his relief no conversation started. He didn’t know it himself but that driver knew well enough when people going to a graveyard wanted to talk, and when they didn’t.
All in, the funeral was only two hours. People came and cried and said kind words that were both sad and beautiful. And while he sat listening to it all, Hank found himself thinking back to his morning. Or rather, the end of his yesterday.
When he stood up to give the final goodbye, he removed his sunglasses but instead of taking the speech he’d written out of his pocket. He simply said.
“If there is one thing I know for certain, it’s that there is beauty everywhere. You just have to look for it. If there is one thing I could wish for, it would be that people stop and take the time to notice it more.”
He then looked at the casket and tearfully said,
It began to rain again on his way home. Which hadn’t been his first stop after the funeral. There was a wake but while he walked there, he spotted an old looking pub that had no one but the bartender in it. It reminded him of a painting. So he went in to quietly drink alone.
He watched his phone buzz and flash and to his surprise none of the messages were questions. Just kind words and comforts until his battery died.
When he got into bed, long before the sunrise, he had to smile. It had been a beautiful day. Beautiful and sad.
His mind swam in drink and sunshine, in old cigar smoke and classic paintings. In memories and moments that would never come to pass. For a while he regretted the life he wasn’t going to have and tried desperately to drown himself in memory and get lost in the past. And he cried. He screamed. He drank and fucked and got fucked and woke up with bruises and people he didn’t remember.
And he forgot about the sunrise, and he forgot about his speech, and he forgot about his wish.
Until he found himself sitting on his windowsill looking down, wondering who would find him. One of the neighbours, or one of their children? What trauma would that cause? Would he maybe survive? Or maybe someone would see him fall? Maybe someone was watching.
Hank looked up for the first time in what felt like a lifetime. He scanned the windows for faces, for signs of life, and there it was. Another person sitting with a cup of coffee, not looking at him, but looking at the sky, looking at the sunrise. Someone taking the time to notice the beauty that the world had to offer. The beauty that was always there if you just looked for it.
Tears began to run again down his face as he too watched the sunrise, then he let himself fall into bed. Ready to wake up with a hangover, to claw his way out of the hole he had been lying in and spend the rest of his life noticing the beauty that was always there, if you just looked for it.