Short Stories

Short Story: Pressure Cooker

God, I hate this city. That is the first and last thought I have every day. Now, I stare at the brown blotch on the ceiling. What a fitting image. I try to prolong my stay on the bed, but the stain gets more depressing every minute I let my attention stay on it.

I push my feet outside the cover and let them fall on the floor as unattached and heavy as I feel. That would be a story to tell if they actually fell off. I’m not even lucky enough to get an escape to a hospital and then put into an institution as I surely would make sure I wasn’t fit to be on my own. I drag myself across the chilly room to the chair where my purple morning robe lays. It is the nicest thing I have, and even it is ugly as hell.

I pass the living room as I make my way to the bathroom to wash and get ready. A formless blob lies on the couch, alive or dead, it doesn’t matter. The soul left the body a long time ago. There is only the pathetic shell after the core was ripped apart and trampled over. I look away and head into the bathroom as noiseless I can. The blob stirs but looks right through me.

It would be easy to say something nasty to deflect the pain and suffocation in my chest, but I don’t stop. I brush my teeth, wash my face, dress, and get out of the house as fast as I can, slamming the door behind me. In the past, the cover of the mail slot would have made a noise, but it has been boarded and nailed shut. I make my way to the backyard where the washing lines are; I have hidden my bike from the restless hands.

I hop on and pedal as fast as I can. For a moment there, I feel… free is not the right word nor is alive, but something nevertheless. Maybe joy. But it is not a fitting emotion. Not here. People look at their feet or pretend I’m not there as I pass them by. I don’t care. But if I care or not doesn’t matter next street over. Police have parked two patrol cars, cutting the traffic short. They have their hands on their guns, and one is leading the show with a megaphone. I look up from my bike and see a man on the balcony of an apartment building holding a handgun and shouting back at the police. This can take forever.

Just another shell, but instead of all the goo melted out, this one has turned angry and drunk. Sight so familiar and depressing that I feel nothing else than to need to go past. Fuck it, and I pedal as fast as I can. I hear the man shout after me. “See, she dares to go, so fuck off.”

There is no point in blaming myself. I didn’t start it. But still some quiet part of me says, “Shit, shit, shit.”

I cruise past the closed storefronts, the abandoned houses, the apartment buildings with their faded yellow colors and chipped paint, and past the people, whose clothes are at best market bought, but most likely second hand or as ancient as the dinosaurs. Not in the cool way as the hipsters get to play. No. If they came from here, they would understand the desire for a nice suit and stylish shoes. That’s power, despite what anyone thinks about trends.

I free my hands from the handlebars of my bike and let my legs guide me wherever they want to go. This is a dumb thing to do, especially as the bridge’s slope over the highway is coming. I shut my eyes and let the gravity do its job. It delivers me alive and intact to the path to the city center. That is not where I’m heading. I take a turn to the left to the small boat harbor. If you can even call it that. It is more like a graveyard for wood, plastic, and metal. The white-light blue boat with rust is the first thing I see. I pedal past it, and when the open sea finally greets me, I jump off my bike and let it continue its speed and crash into the trash can.

I head down to the sea breaker, a man-made stone bank, to watch out into the fading horizon. One day it would be nice to go somewhere, but this hell hole has no jobs. The factories have stopped hiring people. Most are living on government checks. And you have to be someone to get out of here. I’m not anything. The sea knows that, the entire town knows that, my family knows that, I know it. I sit down and throw rocks into the black emptiness. At least they make a pretty sound.

Thank you for reading! And have a nice day! One kind word can shape a life.

P.S. This is partly true. I grew up in a small coastal town which never recovered the regression we had in the 90s. It was a depressing place to grow up with such a beautiful nature that I only realized later in my life what fantastic surroundings I had. Still, there was always this tangible atmosphere of melancholy and destitute hanging over the city that all I ever wanted was to get away from there as fast as I could. I did that, but going back there always makes mixed feelings stir up. The gun story is also true. I was a teenager then, and it was a dumb thing to do, but all I could think was to get to my friend’s place. I know things could have gone differently. But most people who lived in those apartment buildings were more sad than nasty, so I trusted in that.

Maybe it is the town why social issues are close to my heart. It was a place where you could see that luck and random events have a lot to do with how things end up. That one regression can wipe out the future of the entire city and its future generations. Even after 30 years, things are the same. Yes, I believe in the stoic idea that how we react to what the universe throws at us is essential, that our reactions will determine how happy or angry we feel. Still, then there are the facts that if you have a shitty start in life, with no money, care, or role models, and you by based on your neighborhood will most probably fall into the wrong crowd, it is not an easy way to be the master of your own destiny.

Most of the boys from my sister’s junior-high-school have gone or have been in prison. From my own school class, I don’t know. I was a loner and don’t keep in contact with them. Things could be worse for me as well. As someone with dyslexia, I didn’t have a splendid start in school. Not when my teacher told me I was lazy and stupid and not dyslexic, but I had a mother who believed in me and told me I could be anything. You only need one person to do that.

© K.A. Ashcomb

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