Broken: A Short Story

He resides in that broken home, not living, not dying.

He resides in that broken home, not living, not dying. Holes in the ceiling between upstairs and down, nature forcing its way in through the floor. All he wears is white boxers and a white t-shirt, the last remaining hints of a purity long past. He exists, faithful dog at his side, in this place with no hope.

He wanders from room to room, or is it the labyrinth of his mind. He trips on a memory and falls to the floor in agony, his body forms the shape of a “C”; he doesn’t bother to get up. He prays for salvation but bets on death.  Faithful dog runs to his side, licks his face to make sure he’s alive, then pads back upstairs to his bed.

If you don’t peer through the window the home looks tidy and sound, some would call it cared for; they’re wrong. Inside that house lives sadness, madness, even though there once lived joy. Some days there is a wish for hope but then tears follow, washing it away. The madness insists there shall be no hope in this place; its grip is strong and unchallenged. The house inhabited, the home abandoned.

She’s drawn to this house like a magnet, her casual stroll broken by the pull. Her feet lead her to the window leaving logic and privacy by the curb. She peaks inside trying to be as discreet as possible, hoping she doesn’t alert the neighbours. What she sees inside stuns her for a moment, the inside is a wreck. Holes in the ceiling, the stairs coming loose from the wall, nature coming in through the floor. Her imagination plays the scene between drug den and abandon due to foreclosure but she knows it’s not without life. Caution to the wind, she’s drawn to the door; she knocks quietly, hoping she is not answered. 

Sensing a shift in the madness, a sensation familiar yet forgotten, faithful dog pokes his head through the floor, excited but knowing he must stay calm. He knows he’s supposed to bark with ferocious intent to keep any visitor away; he’s unable to release even a growl for this intruder. He knows he dare not wag his tail to show the excitement he feels; master would not approve.

Their eyes lock, his and the intruder’s, he panics only slightly at being seen. He sees it! Hope, peace, beauty, strength, in nothing more than a second. Faithful dog doesn’t feel very faithful now; all he wants is her touch, her smile, her presence in this house that dreams forgot. He searches his memory for the rules on how to behave at a time like this but comes up empty. There is only one option, he returns to his bed and hopes.

It’s beyond comprehension, what makes her reach for the door knob. Her brain screams “insanity”

It’s beyond comprehension, what makes her reach for the door knob. Her brain screams “insanity” but her body knows, it knows her place is inside. Logic says she should walk away, she hasn’t been invited, she doesn’t even know who or what’s inside – other than the dog. She turns the latch with an ounce of caution that’s easily outweighed by a ton of purpose that she still cannot name.

The door breaks open with only a whisper of resistance, silence. An earthy smell is the first to greet her, no doubt the smell of nature breaking through the floor. She takes her first step in, tentative but not concerned; her body is on a mission. She wonders why the dog isn’t barking or coming to greet her; isn’t that what a dog’s supposed to do?

“Hello? Is anyone home?” Faithful dog answers with a half-hearted “humph”. “Hello?” She takes another few steps in and takes in the scene. She sees no madness here even though that’s what she was expecting to find; she’s not surprised. So many thoughts, feelings, emotions pulse through her and guide her steps further inside. She begins to peer around corners and finds only lost hope and resignation in the two small rooms she finds. Her feet carry her deeper within and she finds herself resting her hands on the short wall at the bottom of the broken stairs. “Hello? Is anyone home?” Finally she is answered by a groan.

She takes a deep breath and leans tentatively over the wall, knowing full well what she’ll find. “Hello” she says, struck by her lack of fear and abundance of awareness. “Are you alright” she asks, knowing full well he is not. She takes in the scene of this man on the floor, white boxers, white t-shirt, not injured, no hope. Her feet move her around the short wall to the man’s side.

For a moment he’s outraged that someone would dare invade his madness,

He could have been there for minutes, or hours or days. He doesn’t know, doesn’t care. For a moment he’s outraged that someone would dare invade his madness, only for a moment. He searches his memory for the rules on how to behave at a time like this; he should stand up, be a man and expel the intruder, but doesn’t have the strength to resist. There is only one option, he stretches his hand out to her and hopes.

There is no touch but he finds himself upright, walking weakly toward the sitting room. His mind resists, fights, demands to remain in the madness but the desire of his body to be whole again overrides it. This room is set up for lively conversation, 2 couches, 3 chairs, smooth fabrics, and plenty of room to move around. This is a well-considered space despite its current lack of care. He sits weakly in his favorite dusty chair. A cloud of dust motes celebrate the freedom his movement has provided.   

She follows him into the room, giving him his space, her mind still wondering what she’s to do. She moves behind his chair and rests her hands on his head, closes her eyes and breathes. With her eyes still closed she sees two women have entered the room, both seem motherly, sure and willing to contribute to the scene in whatever way they can. The three nod in acknowledgement, she takes a deep breath and begins to move her hands.

He sits as if in wonder for some time, uncomfortably comfortable under her hands. He feels a stirring from his feet up to her hands and from her hands, down past his feet. Suddenly he arches his back like the devil just stuck him between the shoulder blades, and tries to get his head away from her hands. Her hands remain steady in place no matter how he squirms. He knows she will not give in. His madness throws a tantrum on the floor of his brain, “She doesn’t know you! She doesn’t know your pain! She doesn’t know anything!” Yet something in his body relaxes, and sets him back in place, “No, she doesn’t see that, she sees me.”  As he calms himself and settles back in the chair, his head gratefully rests back into her hands.

She gently adjusts her hands. She takes another deep breath, feels her brain swirling inside of her head; it steadies as she exhales slowly. Her body relaxes into her fingers and at the same time she feels his body relax into her fingers. The connection between fingers, hands and head is strong, companionable, allowing, a communion between two beings. Minutes, maybe hours pass; she’s lost all concept of time in the presence of this stranger; her mind drifts to nowhere and everywhere.

He allows himself to drift into this woman’s hands like a man overboard taking his last breath before sinking forever.

He allows himself to drift into this woman’s hands like a man overboard taking his last breath before sinking forever. His thoughts are like corks in the sea, aimless and detached as they bob in and out of his mind. He finds himself unexpectedly aroused by this woman. Even though he can’t see her he feels loved again, whole again, like a man again. He abruptly twists in his seat, bends his neck to see her face, grasps for whatever part of her he can have. Sex, he wants sex, is desperate to have her under him, desperate to feel loved again. He jumps to his knees on the seat and grabs clumsily, greedily for her.

She, without a sound, moves with swift assurance, raising her arm to his chest to sweep him clear. There is no combat in her movement though she has every right to fight such an advance. He’s driven to the floor seemingly by his own force and lands with a gentle but sure thump on his back. Still she does not speak, does not fight, does not break her bond of care for him.

The two women in the room watch the scene without surprise and break into knowing smiles. Something good has happened here; there is hope again in this place; a healing has begun. A wordless conversation passes between the three women:

“More can be done for him, when he’s ready, soon.”

“We understand” they say in unison.

“You know how to call me. He knows how to call me.”

She moves silently to the door to find the dog standing guard. Faithful dog bows at her feet, nudges her thigh with his head begging for her touch. She ruffles her fingers through the shaggy hair on his head and tells him silently that she hopes to see him again. She opens the door, steps into the bright light of the day and resumes her stroll for the day.     

He stays on the floor, not because he has no desire to move but to allow himself to linger in the peace he has been gifted. There is a glimmer of awareness flicking through his mind; perhaps he’s not so broken anymore. For a moment he admonishes himself for his behavior, his madness laughs “Why would anyone love this crumpled mess of a man?” Even that thought is replaced with a knowing that he is still loved, still lovable. 

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