by A.K. Hata
A woman pushed down the stairs, an elderly robbed of his purse, a girl assaulted, a man beat up—I was convinced such things happened in dark corners and desolated side streets, not with people passing by, watching away. I believed moral courage was a real thing, more than just a notion. Now I know better.
After one day of absence, I head to the office. My body still aches, so I take the car. The locked doors give me a feeling of safety; I don’t think I will use the bicycle again. Strangers stare at me as I navigate from the parking lot to the company. I wonder what conclusions they have formed.
Entering the office, I mumble a “morning” and sit at my desk, trying not to attract attention. The detergent’s smell reminds me of the hospital; I can still sense the blood running down my chin. An awkward busyness fills the room—no idle chatter today. They already gossiped enough, I guess. My friends avoid me. Do they feel ashamed? More likely they are relieved it was me and not them.
“How are you?” someone asks. The bang of a coffee mug being put down echoes in the sudden silence.
Cynical and offensive replies emerge in my head, but I answer, “I’m fine,“ just as they hope, and work resumes, life resumes. Everything as usual, but it’s not, for I am changed. Experiencing all those disturbing thoughts and feelings I never had before makes me feel like a ball being kicked around. My old life seems like an illusion, a sweet dream long gone. I don’t want to keep working here, keep living here, but I cannot afford to only think of myself.
My friends glance at me, but when I raise my head, they guiltily look away. I want to forgive them. I know they bore no ill intentions—they were too scared to help—but my heart screams in agony and disbelief. I feel betrayed.
On my way home, I hear a song on the radio; it touches me—the words touch me and are soothing. They evoke feelings of hope and give me strength to carry on.
Later that evening, I sit at the table, the lights are turned off, and my family has gone to bed. My laptop is opened to an intimidating white page, and the curser blinks. My heart hammers against my chest; my hands shake. I write a word at first; a sentence follows. I hesitate, but then a dam breaks, and the words keep flowing. My inner turmoil calms, and I keep typing. I will write a book, a novel. I will spare no effort in the hope to craft words as comforting and beautiful as that song.
About the author:
A. K. Hata has several short stories and poems published in anthologies by Clarendon House Publications and online by Spillwords Literary Press.