SYNOPSIS: A young man makes his way out to a long forgotten town, and discovers that he should embrace life and love, rather than let all of it slip away.
I don’t know what was going through my mind when it happened. I was walking the same route I always took towards the train station which would lead me to university. The bag was swung over my shoulders; my wallet was in my pocket. My dark hair was blowing into my eyes, the wind picking up speed as it always did around the shadowy corner I walked by. And there all of a sudden it was; a bright blue bus which pulled up beside me at its intended stop.
Now, I don’t know whether it was because I’d never seen it before, or because I knew I’d never get a chance to ride it again due to the death sentence hanging over my head, but I suddenly had the urge to deviate from my usual schedule.
Now, I’m not a man who normally takes risks, but all of a sudden, instead of walking on I decided that I would ride the bus. I didn’t care where at this point in time; I just knew I wanted to be sitting on one of the luxuriously furnished chairs positioned across the interior of the strapping vehicle before me.
After purchasing a fair from the driver I made my way down the centre of the bus and sat down on one of the farthest seats from the front, placing my bag atop of my chest and resting my head against the soft backing of the chair. My eyes began to droop and sleep came over me as I felt the bus beginning to pull back onto the road.
I don’t know how far I’d travelled, but by the time the bus driver woke me the surroundings outside of the bus had drastically changed since last I’d seen them. Instead of a city made up of metal and bone I found a country atmosphere greeting me from my window, not a single thing reminding me of home. I yawned before rising to my feet, hanging my bag over my shoulders as the driver said ‘end of the line.’
‘Where am I?’ I asked, staring outside the window, a radiant sun beating down onto the metal hull of the bus, while a light breeze carried leaves across a dirt road, small estates located across the dry terrain around me.
‘Townsville’ said the driver, nodding for me to exit.
‘Is there really such a place?’ I asked, scratching my head.
‘Must be son, ‘cause you sure as shit are in it’ chuckled the driver as I made my way off the bus, watching it disappear in a cloud of smoke and back up the dusty highway from whence it came.
I stumbled across the road before making my way across a small dusty trail which led to a rundown hotel with white paint peeling off from its exterior. I sighed before walking through the creaking door which swung upon loose hinges, a bell ringing above my head to signify my presence. A minute passed before a rather stocky woman made her way out from the back. She wore a dirty white apron over a blue and white striped shirt, her face appearing to be as run down as the hotel she resided over.
‘Ah’ I began, before proceeding on. ‘Forgive me for asking, but where exactly am I?’
‘A few miles away from civilisation’ said the woman in a croaky voice as she lit up a cigarette. ‘And that’s exactly the way we like it.’ She looked at me inquisitively before continuing. ‘You’re not from anywhere around here, are you?’
‘If I knew where here was that would be greatly appreciated’ I said.
‘I already told yer’ expressed the woman. ‘Imagine wherever you were before arriving here. This place, is a long way from that.’
I looked at my watch, noticing that one and a half hours had gone by since I had made my way onto the bus.
‘What, you gotta be somewhere?’ guffawed the woman, before extending out her hand. ‘Name’s Trudy Watson.’
‘Ryan Shields’ I said, taking her hand in mine.
‘Okay Ryan, perhaps you could start by telling me what yer doing here’ began Trudy, ‘then perhaps I could help you out.’
‘I honestly don’t know’ I said. ‘I just had this inkling to get onto the bus; and so I did. Suddenly, hey presto, I’m here.’ I sighed before going on. ‘Ah, perhaps it’s because I felt that I should not continue living the way I was used to and try something a little different, especially since I won’t be around for much longer.’
‘What are yer talking about?’ asked Trudy. ‘You’re a young man. Me, I’ve got cancer and you don’t see me doing anything that ain’t what I’m used to. So what could possibly be prohibiting you from living till the age I am now?’
‘My liver’ I said. ‘When I was younger I contracted Hepatitis A through food. That taught me not to eat at a restaurant, that’s for sure.’ I gave a weak chuckle before continuing. ‘Anyway, it damaged my liver and over time it has gradually become worse and now it’s inoperable. The only way to fix me up is to replace it entirely, but I’ve been warned that the risks are too great. I’m booked in to have the surgery in two weeks time. I did however sign a DNR.’
‘DNR?’ questioned Trudy.
‘Do not resuscitate form’ I said. ‘My lawyer looked over it and confirmed everything was in order. So if I flat line during the procedure, I stay that way’
‘Why would a young man such as yourself want to go kill yourself for?’ asked Trudy.
‘Everyday for as long as I can remember I’ve lived a life of regret’ I began. ‘I’ve only managed to accomplish half of what I wanted and I know that if I do survive the operation, nothing’s going to change. I’m not going to have a sudden epiphany and do everything I never would have. Including asking the girl I’m infatuated with to go out with me.’
‘Girl?’ asked Trudy. ‘Wow, if you’re willing to kill yourself to ensure you don’t have to talk to her she must be something special. What is her name?’
‘Cassandra’ I said, taking out my wallet and showing her the picture I carried around with me. It was a photo of me, Cassandra, and three others within one of my classes during a group exercise. Cassandra however stole the lime light. Her light brown hair shone brightly in the camera flash, which preserved her physical beauty forever in the image.
‘The ideology I live by however is; what’s the point of intimacy when you’re already dead inside?’ I stated, sighing to myself.
‘I think I know why you’re here’ said Trudy, handing me back the photo. ‘Everyone in this town is here for the exact same reason’ she said, taking off her apron and beginning to make her way out from behind the counter. ‘Follow me, I want to show you something’ she said, before beginning to lead me back out into the open.
We slowly walked along the dirt trail before stopping outside a small cottage a few metres down from the hotel. ‘Here lives Mr. Bristol. He arrived here about eleven years ago. He’s an athlete who never believed he was good enough to attend any of the major events, and when given the chance to compete believed he wouldn’t succeed, so instead, came out here.’
Trudy slowly began to continue up the trail before stopping outside a small metallic house on the opposite side of the track. ‘Here lives Mr. Sall. He’s an artist who never believed he could cut it. When his wife died of Leukemia her only wish was that he would allow others to see his paintings. He however failed her, as he did himself and retired here not twenty years ago.’
Once again Trudy began to make her way back up the trail as I slowly followed behind, the track becoming steeper as we stopped outside of a double storey residence which was constructed from pine. ‘Mrs. Smeath lives here. She used to sing in a church choir group. When a man she had always loved came up to her and asked her to accompany him with his band as they toured the country she agreed. On the day she was to meet him however she felt that he would not like her if he were to hear her sing once more and instead came out here. That was sixteen years ago.’
Trudy took a deep breath before slowly moving a little further up the trail to a house which had a jet black coat of paint draped across its exterior. ‘Mr. Turtletaub resides here. He was engaged to be married to an incredibly beautiful Turkish woman, but a few days before they were to be wed he left, believing their relationship would not last because he felt he was not going to be good enough for her. He arrived here eight months ago. Like everyone else here, he ain’t ever going to leave.’
Trudy sighed before making her way a little further up the trail, the wind billowing before us as we came to stop in front of a thinly crafted double storey residence made from a metallic substance. ‘Mrs. Valdreski lives here. She’s a woman with a Croatian background who fell madly in love with an Anglo Saxon woman. She however never confessed her feelings because she believed that she would be not only be rejected, but completely humiliated as well. On top of that, she thought a blending of different cultural backgrounds would not go down to well with either parities parents, and so instead came out here. You’d think that the hate people have for homosexuals would be yet another fear which corrupted her sensors, but no, it was not funnily enough. For fourteen years she’s been living in this house. You might recognise the woman she fell in love with. She’s now the leading woman behind a homosexual movement in Melbourne.’
Trudy smiled weakly before beginning to make her way up a little farther to a small house on what appeared to be the outskirts of the little town I’d discovered. ‘And here, the crème dela crème of all bad cases is where I live. I came up here twenty four years ago because I couldn’t face my family. I’ve a daughter who I’ve lost touch with. She hates me, or so I believe and personally I feel that if I were to ever see her she would not even bother attempting to make conversation with me.’ She sighed before continuing. ‘I guess the point I’m trying to make here Ryan is that I don’t want to see another person wind up here. All of us are here for the exact same reason. None of us could ever face whatever it was we wished to accomplish with our lives. I only hope that you can go back to civilization and do for all of us what we couldn’t do for ourselves and live God damn it, live.’
I found myself back in university the next day, my class coming to an end as I began to leave in the same manner I always did, completely avoiding Cassandra on the way to the door. Before I could stop myself I had stopped in front of where she sat and had opened my mouth to speak. ‘Excuse me’ I began, Cassandra looking directly up at me, my heart skipping a couple of beats.
‘Yes?’ she asked. ‘You’re Ryan, right?’
‘Yeah’ I managed, surprised she even knew my name.
Cassandra smiled. ‘Is there something you wish to tell me?’
As for what I said, I doubt I have to write it down, for you know, just like Cassandra does now, exactly how I feel for her. She stood by me during my operation and now we’re engaged to be married this August. As for every other man out there who’s in the same position I once was I ask only one thing of each of you. Find the one thing that you need and hold onto her forever.