The Renegade Press

Tales from the mouth of a wolf

He looks just like me. It’s as if we are the same. But we’re different. We are two men walking underneath a sky so polluted with halogen that there are no more stars to guide us. Our feet pound at the concrete; our hands are jammed deep into pockets and our shoulders are hunched to avoid the rain that’s already soaking through our coats. We pass so close that our shoulders almost touch. I take a sideways glance and scowl, but he smiles a smile so pure that it cuts like glass through the chambers of my soul.

We’re wearing the same coat, the same pants, and have matching rain soaked shoes. But where my brow is furrowed so deep that rain water runs through channels and leaks down my face; he grins like a Cheshire from ear to ear. It’s as though this stranger is completely oblivious to the tears of the gods splashing against his features.

We are so alike. So similar, but different. He looks happy. And I’m…

…I’m not even sure what I am anymore. But I know that I’m not like him. I didn’t get that promotion today. I never wanted the position. I just needed the money. I never even wanted to be a businessman. I never wanted to sit tethered to a desk crunching numbers or filing complaints until my hips seized up and my wrist began sounding like a cement mixer whenever I tried to move it. I wanted to be a free spirit. As a child I wanted to be an artist and an astronaut; I wanted to change the world. As a teenager I wanted to travel. I told myself that changing the world wasn’t nearly as important as walking across it with strangers by my side.

But when I became an adult I screwed everything up. I made stupid decisions, ruined friendships and accumulated debts. Before I knew it I was trying to convince my employer that I gave a damn about their strategic vision and business objectives. I started selling my soul for a paycheck that would inevitably be whittled away on material possessions or by my ever amounting irresponsible choices.

But I bet this man before me never had these problems. I bet he got the promotion. He probably didn’t go searching for happiness at the bottom of a beer glass or by eating himself into a stupor.

I raise my hand and flex my fingers, feeling the tendons in my arm pinch as he mimics the movement; except he does it pain free.  He looks like a family man. One of those successful self-driven types who manages to balance a day’s work with raising a household whilst still finding time to stay in shape. His kids would love him. They’d call him daddy and throw their arms around him when he arrived home from the office. My children don’t even exist. They’re part of a dream that I pray will one day become my reality.

He straightens his shoulders while mine hunch further to protect my tired body from the heavy rain. We’re so similar. But we’re so different. He’s just like me. But a better version. A doppelganger walking the same streets as I am, only he does so with a heart swelled by providence and emotional wealth. Whereas mine feels like a stone sinking towards the bottom of a sea so black that not even light can reach it.

‘How?’ I ask in a voice so weak that I doubt he can hear me above the sounds of pedestrians jostling around us. ‘How did you do it?’

He cocks his head and throws me another disabling grin, as though my question perplexes him.

‘You’re just like me. We look alike. We dress the same. And yet you’re happy. You’re caught in the pouring rain and you’re smiling. But I’m standing here and I can’t even tell whether the water on my cheeks is from the rain or because I can’t hold back my tears. You look so happy. I’m so fucking tired.’

I raise my hand and pull back the sopping wet fringe that has fallen against my face and try to wipe my eyes. He mimics my movements, pushing his hair from his forehead until it’s semi-styled and dries his eyes for a few precious seconds before the rain assaults them again.

‘I bet you have a great job. You probably followed your dreams and travelled the world. You’re in love. It’s obvious. There’s a euphoria in your eyes. You idolize her. She wouldn’t ever dream of loving someone else. You’re fulfilled and confident. You’re intelligent and respected by your peers. Shit, you are truly happy and I just don’t get how you did it. You found the secret to contentment and I need to know how. You have to tell me. Please, I need you tell me.’

Rain-Room-1.jpg

A passerby strikes my shoulder and causes me to stumble. My feet slip against the rain-slicked footpath and I have to use my hands to catch myself. I stand slowly, and wipe my filthy hands against my coat, catching eyes with the stranger once again. He has taken two side steps so that we are still facing one another. His smile has tightened in the corners of his mouth and he looks down at my hands. There’s blood on my left palm. I’ve grazed it trying to stop myself from colliding with the concrete.

‘Please,’ I beg again. ‘Please tell me how you did it?’

‘I didn’t do anything,’ he says slowly. ‘I work a job that leaves me unfulfilled. I have no children, and I have dreams that I have spent my life making sacrifices for. I struggle and strive, and sometimes I feel like giving up, just like you do. There’s no difference between our lives. How could there be? I am you. And you are me. I just choose to look at things differently.’

He steps towards me, and this time it is I who replicates him. We’re barely a foot apart now. We are so close that if I were to reach out we could touch each other. I give it a try and feel the coolness of his wet fingertips and the sensation of his palm press against mine.

‘I don’t focus on the negatives. I don’t look at my behind the scenes and try to compare them to the highlight reels of others. I hate my job. It hurts my hips and screws up my wrist. But I’m healthy. I have a family that loves me, and I have a roof over my head and food on my plate. I don’t have kids, and I haven’t managed to achieve all my dreams. Not yet. But I have a girl who looks at me like I’m her hero. It doesn’t matter to her whether I’m worth a ten million dollars or ten cents. She loves me. And I love her. We’ll have a family one day. I know it.’

He steps closer again, and raises his spare hand to meet mine so that we are standing palm to palm, staring one another in the eye.

‘Life is about perspectives,’ he says. ‘It’s about whether you chose to focus on the good stuff or let yourself be eaten alive by the bad. It’s about celebrating your strengths and accepting your weaknesses. And it’s about allowing yourself to be vulnerable and afraid. Those same people that love me; they love you to. They want to see you succeed. But they are there for you when you fail. You just have to be prepared to let them know when you’re not OK. If you can learn to do that you’ll be truly happy.’

I open my mouth to respond but before I get the chance a door flies open and a woman in her early forties steps out from her business and looks at me through concerned eyes.

‘Sir, are you OK? You’ve been talking to yourself for the last fifteen minutes. You’re scaring my clients.’

I turn away from her, startled by the intrusion. But the man is gone. The open door has disturbed the lighting and I can no longer see my own reflection. Instead I can see through the plate glass window where her client’s faces watch me with fearful eyes. To them I am just a crazed man with his hands pressed against the glass talking to himself while the world passes him by.

‘Sir,’ she says again. ‘Are you OK?’

‘No. No I’m not,’ I say with a smile. ‘I’m really struggling with a lot of things right now. I feel lost. And I feel alone. But I have friends and family, and a beautiful partner who will listen. They want to see me happy. More than anything, they want me to be happy. So no. I’m not OK. But I will be.’

With that I let go of the shop front window and continue my walk down the street as the woman watches me go. The rain no longer bothers me. It makes me realise how lucky I am to be alive.

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73 thoughts on “Halcyon

  1. lotusloveliz says:

    Wow, what a beautiful story. This is exactly what I needed to read. I have just started a 28 day practice on positivity, and it helps focus on gratitude and being thankful for all that’s around us. This reminds me how important it is to keep being positive and grateful for everything whether good or “bad.”

    I love how the man was battling himself, and yet at the same time there’s a part of ourselves in all of us, that we must choose to live. Thank you for this wonderful post, it’s just what I needed to keep myself focusing on the positives.

  2. haywardhelen says:

    What a brace piece, read while I should be doing Other Things. Well done!

  3. Love this. Reading it for the first time, if felt familiar. Familiar like an ancient proverb, or family fable that has been passed down for generations. Timeless. Perectly, human. And, a wonderful remind about the power of perspective.

  4. Such an awesome and touching story. Very well written. I love how you were able to reveal to others that they can learn to be happy and content and that it is possible that wisdom and answers can come from within themselves.

  5. SyedaFR says:

    Wonderful piece. It happens so many times when you wish you could have a talk like that with someone. A talk to decide and make our priorities. And then work towards achieving them, rather than being bogged down by situations and negativity.
    Loved reading it!!

  6. Beautifully written! Nice details, and I loved the duplicity. I could really feel the protagonist’s struggle, especially as he compared himself to his ideal.

  7. Kris says:

    Thank you for this. “‘Life is about perspectives,’ he says. ‘It’s about whether you chose to focus on the good stuff or let yourself be eaten alive by the bad. It’s about celebrating your strengths and accepting your weaknesses. And it’s about allowing yourself to be vulnerable and afraid..”

  8. Valene says:

    Stunning

  9. Shy Storyteller says:

    “I’m not OK. But I will be.”

    Such powerful words, such powerful emotions.
    Today as i entered my office, full of doubts and negative thoughts in my mind, I needed something to remind me to change my perspective.
    Thank you so much for these inspiring words. You really made my day.

    Thank you

  10. moragfgardner says:

    Beautiful, this struck so many chords with me – I really needed to read this today. Thank you

  11. Wendy says:

    Wow – a beautiful post which brings to life the importance of focussing on the good things in our life – Changing Perspective. Thank you! x

  12. soomteestar says:

    Wow Chris, this is an amazing post. Really amazing perspective here and I absolutely love the flow of the story and the link between both guys who are one guy. Simply amazing. Funny how a lot of us are guilty of the same. Lesson learnt dear. N thanks for liking my post. Means a lot coming from you.

  13. MJ Brewer says:

    Chris, it’s 2:30 a.m. and I can’t sleep. Racking my brain with insecurities for a job interview I have today that I don’t want, but I have to have because some money with two kids relying on me is better than no money. With a university degree demanding repayment, I’m interviewing for a job as a bartender in 12 hours; I’m pitiful.

    I never read emailed stories–especially long ones. But I read yours. For some reason, I read yours. I’ve been angry about the raw hand I’ve been dealt, but you’re right. It’s perspective. Having a job to pay the bills at all, means I’m fortunate when so many others aren’t. I’m a writer and will have opportunities of hearing all sorts of stories to pick up and run with so many times over with this career; it’s an endless well of entertainment.

    You are right, and I appreciate the advice because perspective has a lot to do with it. If I hadn’t read your story, I would have gone to the interview today and wouldn’t have received the offer. Now that I realize it’s all perspective, I’m confident I’ll receive the offer and be just fine.

    It’s all in the attitude–that’s the secret.

    Thanks!

    1. You’re 100% correct MJ. I really hope that your interview goes well tomorrow. Being a bartender may not be your dream job, but it pays the bills and it allows you to have a life with your two kids.
      Sometimes it can be hard to keep your chin up when times are tough. But it’s those moments that allow us to understand the depth of our own fortitude and ultimately grow. Make sure you let me know how you go with the interview!

      1. MJ Brewer says:

        The interview for a bartender went okay. Once they interviewed me, they suggested I be a lower paying waitress at first. I agreed and decided it would be a great way to learn my way around first. After signing up and getting instructions on gaining all of my permits, food handlers and alcohol, I was to report to work. Something told me to hold off on the licensing, and I’m glad I did. The day I was to report to orientation I received my schedule and two days I had previously been approved to have off, and absolutely couldn’t work, I was scheduled for. I emailed and called but got no response. Meanwhile, I did manage to make a new book available called The ABC’s of Positive Thinking. (The Kindle version is free for now.)

        I sure hope you have an incredibly inspiring weekend. Thank you for the kind words, Chris!

      2. It looks as though things might have worked out for the best! It’s fantastic to know that you were given the opportunity to work, even if the hours didn’t necessarily work out for you. Every cloud has a silver lining, and just knowing that someone valued you enough to consider you for a position of employment is a huge honour.

  14. Ardiana Bani says:

    Such a great piece. Thank you; it’s so beautiful and meaningful

  15. mollykl says:

    Powerful, and exactly what I needed to read today. This is what I’ll come back to on the tough days.

  16. Miriam says:

    What an amazing piece of writing Chris. So honest, poignant and thought provoking, touching on issues that we all battle with. Of uncertainty, identity and where we belong in this world. I really enjoyed this.

  17. colinandray says:

    Very well presented Chris. I hope that the people who read it can find some time to really think it through as there is a very basic life message there which needs to be understood… and applied. It is just too easy to dwell on what we don’t have. My favorite quote in this context (which I have noted on numerous blogs now!) is “I cried because I had no shoes, but then I met a man who had no feet.” Great Post. 🙂

  18. writingfictionstories says:

    No comment…. This was deep! And touching!

  19. Shivani. says:

    Wow, this is amazing.

  20. This is great. You are a very talented writer.

  21. Raney Simmon says:

    Wow, what a beautiful piece. I needed to read that today.

  22. erhynireh says:

    Awe inspiring post Chris. I do agree that it’s all about how we look at things. Difficulties and failures will always be a part of our lives but we can still find happiness and contentment by looking at them in a positive perspective and be determined to change our course to achieve success.

  23. loved this – excellent insight in our lives, the regrets we have and the choices we have made, and all the mental judo following them

  24. Lucia Maya says:

    Wow. I received this in my inbox and didn’t want to continue after I began reading and felt the heaviness and negativity, but your wonderful writing compelled me to finish. I’m grateful I did, and it was such a beautifully written story of how much perspective matters. Our “story” is the thing that determines how we experience others, ourselves, the world around us..

  25. cap95blog says:

    Wow, something I really needed to read at this time. I feel like I always find the worst in every situation and never appreciate all that I have. Thanks for sharing!

  26. Mara says:

    This is breathtakingly profound! It kept me guessing as to where exactly you were taking us and where we would end up at the close of your story. Thank you for this. I was not disappointed by where it left me.

  27. I’d give my thoughts, but I don’t think there’s much more I could add to the landslide of praise. 🙂 Great work.

  28. Eva says:

    I literally said ‘this is so good’ out loud three times while reading this. Once again…that is so good!!

  29. I can really relate to this story and loved how it was written. Thank you

  30. joy1975blog says:

    Love this, can’t wait to get stuck into your other posts xxx

  31. karen kuzsel says:

    This is insightful and illuminating without being preachy. I have a couple people in my life right now who are struggling and could benefit from reading your story but I doubt that they would be able to “get” the moral of the story. I like that you bring your character to a better outcome.

  32. I really enjoyed this post. Thanks for a riveting story

  33. Libby Sommer says:

    great piece. and so well received by your readers. well done.

  34. I will never know, how you developed this powerful insight at such a young age. At 27, I had no idea. Happiness just ‘was’…but then I hit 35, and all of a sudden, for reasons I have not yet identified, I had to work a lot, lot harder, to achieve it. Hit me like a freight train. Now, some days, I wear the smile in the reflection…and others, I wear the frown, with the smile, many, many galaxies away-Why? You tell me and we’ll both know.

  35. inmycorner says:

    Brilliant! Beautiful writing style and message!

  36. joyroses13 says:

    This is amazing!! So glad you posted it!!!

  37. Beautiful writing Chris. It’s all about how we see things and what we focus on. Hugs x

  38. thia licona says:

    Wow! Wow! Wow! Why 3 times? For the last line….”So no. I’m not OK. But I will be.” Indeed! None of us is OK now even when the right perspectives come into play? We have our lapses with the least provocation. Ah! But there is HOPE! The hope of the Power Of Love From On High! Only that hope can avail us for eternity. My HOPE? For The hope of the Power Of Love From On High! to descend on us all even now. 🙂

  39. tracymartin says:

    Great portrayal of the power of choice…I’m all about it. Thanks for sharing!

  40. Frank Anthony says:

    Thank you for liking one of my writing pieces.
    I just finished reading this one and the beginning hooked me in to read the whole thing. Some of your comparisons were breathtaking. The message behind the entire piece is so true: You make the choice of how you look at life. When bad events occurred, I would beat myself up, but now I’m going through a couple harder challenges with a optimistic approach. Life is too short to be miserable and if there is something in your life you’re very dissatisfied with, then make that change.
    -Frank

  41. awkwardaddie says:

    A masterpiece indeed sir! How the story unfolded was breathtaking and quite remarkable. You are a very good storyteller. Looking forward to more masterpieces from you. Cheers! 🙂

  42. well written, love your talent, lets see if we can work together

  43. I had to share this on my facebook page. well put mate. by the way, thanks for liking my post on The Mad Prince Impaler of Wallachia, i’m new at blogging and attempting a career in writing that definitely gave me an ego boost to see someone enjoy my story. thanks.

  44. Ivana says:

    LOVE! Every post I read of yours I’m like Wow, how is he ever going to top that. But you always do. Great Job!

  45. Captivated me. Very well written.

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