by Frisk Phillips
Mr Brubeck pulled his argyle handkerchief out of his pocket, and wiped the ketchup from the corners of his mouth. The draining blare of his wife’s incessant voice was imprecise, yet consuming to the point he was both deafened and blinded by it. The sound distorted his vision of surrounding stores’ fabricated light, and the blurred movement of fellow shoppers. When the sound stopped, somewhat momentarily as she breathed, time felt infinite, in both space and breadth, but as the momentary nature of time was in practice, his sporadic depression spiralled back, deeper and thicker than before, into the simple wish she didn’t breathe at all.
“I’m going for a walk.”
In a huff, the blare and his world fell and rose respectively in response, then faded completely. He stood still.
And then a while longer he stood, and let everyone move around him, until, as if on an unheard impulse, he started walking, overtaking adjoined cubicles of artificially scented stores. Shoppers in the opposing stream stepped out to avoid him, as they should for a blind man such as himself. His peripherals though were still searching, until his eyelids fluttered upon seeing their goal. Tobacconist.
He shook free the contents of his wallet, bills and coins and cards clashing on the counter. A slither of his mind questioned whether the attendant would give him the relative quality of cigar for his funds, despite what the attendant would perceive as stubbornness and rudeness on his part. He handed Brubeck a single cigar, wrapped in a form of paper that felt confusingly nice on fingers.
Brubeck continued his journey, fist clenching the cigar in his hand. His walk accelerated to a brisk pace as the artificial smell of the uniform storms threatened to strangle him. His heart rate rose until he found refuge in an elevator. He slumped besides the side of the carriage, pulled a match from his coat pocket, then lit and puffed his cigar, ignoring the blurred and cryptic expressions on the faces that shared his space. The same slither of his mind, over-worked by this stage, wondered if a fire alarm would go off, as a haze escaped through the emergency latch on the roof of the elevator, taking it’s ache inducing aroma with it. It also wondered if he would even hear it.
Eventually someone, possibly a man, pressed the button which steered the elevator to the car park on the roof the centre. As Brubeck suspected soon the cigar would be burning his fingers, he too stood up and disembarked. He walked to the edge of the centre, and before looking down, turned around to see the line of streamlined cars, swimming endlessly. He took off his shoes, dropped what was now a stub of a cigar, and loosed his tie. His muscles, from his jaw to his toes all seemed to simultaneously contract in pain as he sprinted past the rows of cars. Eventually, his lungs contracted and he stopped. His cold muscles had now expanded, and seemed to be bleeding as his punishment. He grasped with open palm, the side of a red sedan, and convinced his slither not to let him buckle. When he looked up again there was a girl standing in front of him.
The girl questions.
“What are you running from?”
This was the first thing he had heard in quite a long time. The sound of the girl’s question seemed pitched in a way that it slashed his face, yet was so perfectly tuned it deserved place in tree tops. Her brief accents made his already shaking body shiver, and his pounding chest felt the sweet sting of her question.
Brubeck thought he could almost feel blood, and sweat, and tears flowing down his face, to his cigar stained smile.