The walls were white, washed off and needed fixing in some places. They were bare as to give no imagination to the people staring at them during the day. They were not inviting you in but rather letting you in without a care for who would judge them. A round clock used to be hanging above the bed head but it has been taken down for no one could hear the usual metronome ticking sound, that displeasing noise reminding you every second of your own mortality, what a drag in a place like this. It was not welcoming in any way and Natan thought it would sometimes stretch time on purpose, make an instant longer or a movement faster in order to check if he was paying attention to what was coming. But what was coming?
He woke up slowly from his dream. He sat on his bed and yawned a couple of times whilst looking around. Paintings were hanging on the wall opposite the bedroom door, some of them depicting various stages of Natan’s life, they were made on special occasions, for example a picnic in the field behind his childhood’s house but some of them were just splashes of colours, no real concrete forms or subjects present but underneath each of those kind of paintings a little note was pinned to the bottom of the frame referring to a number. Books were filled beneath a bedside table on his right, each one of them contained the meaning of those paintings according to their numbers on the front page.
Waking up is often the same process as birth is, both are a process of pushing yourself, consciously or unconsciously, into the world and it may feel like the first time sometimes.
Natan would often look at the window, an object or a person for a second and in a brief moment would stare blankly as if the image in front of his eyes disappeared suddenly and something else was in its place. During his many contemplations, the ghost of his past would often resurface. Not for long, it would always linger for just a moment.
He stood himself up and walked towards the window. It was big enough to let a sufficient amount of light in and he concluded that by the look of it that it must have been early morning. The sun was not out yet but he looked up and saw the sky was filled with greyish clouds, floating about, gently pushed by the wind. Rain was pouring hard already and small drops were crashing against the window pane in an almost chaotic melody. If you were to hear each and every individual droplet one by one, this melody would fade, and only an almost inaudible sound would be left to hear. Maybe that particular chant was the reason for his awakening, the multitude rose his consciousness to the surface. Sometimes, the sound of crashing waves upon the shore would wake him up but this was not the case this time. He stood by the window, almost immobile, as if something delicate would break if he were to breathe too loudly. That delicate thing would be this very moment, right here and now, a moment he created for himself.
Flashbacks of childhood dreams flooded his mind, like water sipping through his porous brain and for a second he almost felt like it was real. He would look at the little droplets alongside the window and follow their course with his eyes. It seemed interesting to him that once a droplet would make contact on the reflective surface, it would stick to its position for a moment, sometimes for a while before slowly sliding down until its course would meet another droplet and merge together to create something else. “What did determine its trajectory? What would have happened if its size was, to begin with, bigger? What if this drop had crashed on another spot?” These are some questions Natan would often ask himself.
A couple of times he was escorted back to bed by one of the lady staying at the house to take care of him, only for Natan not to remember a single thing the next morning.
A young woman entered his room at around midday, this was the beginning of her afternoon shift and she had to check if Mr. Kershaw was okay. She walked silently, her small feet carrying her towards the bed, she wore a long white overdress down to her ankles and centred around her tiny waist, the straps were large and covered a light grey shirt with long sleeves buttoned up to her collar, her attire flowed with every step she took. On top of her head a hat was placed, also white, in a shape resembling a small boat, it was lined around with a black ribbon and tied perfectly at the back. She approached the bed and whispered softly.
– Mr. Fretlaw, are you awake? It’s Miranda, can you hear me? I’m here to check on you this morning.
Natan woke up to the gentle touch of her hand, he could feel her warm fingers on his shoulder as he turned around and looked at her with sleepy eyes.
– Yes, I’m awake he replied to her.
-Good. How are you feeling today? Today is the 12th of April. Do you remember me?
He nodded at the first two questions but he expressed a little unease at the third. What did she mean by ‘do you remember me’? Of course he remembered her, she was here yesterday and brought him his lunch.
– Yes, I am good. Yes I remember you from yesterday when you brought in my lunch. Why are you asking?
-That’s very good Mr. Fretlaw. Now I am just going to check your respiratory system so if you could breathe in for me please?
He inhaled softly and held his breath for a couple of seconds.
– You can now breathe out please.
A high pitched sound came out of his mouth when he exhaled, like he was trying to whistle. A moment passed and the young lady started to scribble some notes onto a blank piece of paper and continued to inform Natan of the situation.
– I am afraid there is some deterioration of your respiratory breathing system, it seems that it worsened in the last few days, for that reason you cannot go out in the garden today Mr. Fretlaw. It is for your own good and your well being. We can check tomorrow if your condition gets better but for now you need to remain in your room. Do you understand
– Yes, yes I do, he replied.
Miranda kept on with her diagnosis but Natan frowned for a second and he looked at her as if he was studying something very important, something he needed all his concentration for, as if he saw it for the first time. He watched her lips closely as she spoke, they looked soft to the touch and his eyes lingered on their rosy tones.
His mother is smiling, holding him in her arms and he hears laughing in the distance. He remembers her eyes too, there are two small aquamarines lodged on each side on the centre of her face. They are dazzling in the sunlight while she is spinning Natan around. Her skin is tanned from cutting woods outside all day, her hands are coarse from handling the axe and her soft black hair falls above her shoulders. Natan observes the wrinkles on her forehead, traces of the life she led up until now, and follows their winding paths down to her lips. They are of a soft pink, slightly brighter than the ones of other women he usually sees at the market when he accompanies his mother to the village, their skin look rather pale in comparison to her complexion. The two of them only go to the village to fetch the meat needed for supper, that is all they can afford. The house they live in is small, surrounded by large fields and pine forests. There is only one window in this house and barely lets the light in, candles are placed throughout where they are deemed necessary like above the stove next to the cooking pans or the hallway leading to the adjacent bedrooms. His room is only filled with a bed facing the door, a chest of drawers placed on the right wall and some makeshift toys lying on the floor. Next to it is his parents’ bedroom, only a little bit bigger to accommodate a double bed and a canvas. The bathroom was at the end of the corridor, on the left and above all of this is the attic where old paintings were put to rest. They like to bake whenever it is possible, for that they always wake up at dawn, put on their boots, head to the henhouse in order to catch the freshest eggs and hurry up back to the kitchen and start the preparations for the day. There are only a few rooms but they mostly spend their time in the kitchen area as it is the most convenient for them whenever they want to spend some time together. She likes to paint. He likes the freedom of the cornfields. He feels the warmth of the sun on his face, and the wind coming down from the hill. They go for long walks, almost every Sunday, where they pick up mushrooms to cook later on that evening, she teaches him lessons about life, stories of her past and other worlds forgotten by most.
He can’t remember exactly those stories, it seems that they are slipping away from his memory the more he tries to recollect them but they must be filled with life for each one is a piece of his journey.
– They must be filled with life? He asked himself quietly.
Miranda finished with her examination was now patiently waiting for Natan to answer. He seemed to have paused but she could see him looking straight at her and his lips were trembling.
– They should be filled with life. I don’t understand, repeated Natan with a louder voice.
– What did you say Mr. Kershaw? Is everything okay?
– I… I… can’t… he mumbled, trying to find his words.
She looked back at him and waited for him to finish his sentence. He seemed lost, as if nothing made sense. Her eyes were fixed on his face for a second and the memory of her own father came to her, perhaps it was the age or the frail frame of Mr. Kershaw’s body that reminded her of him. She thought about whether someone would come to visit him at least once before the fateful moment. ‘It must be quite lonely to be up here every day without company’ she pondered. What if it was her parents in this situation, how would she feel? Surely she would come and visit them from time to time.