“Hello? Is anybody there?”
*Begins to walk down creepy hallway to certain death*
“What was that? Show yourself!”
*Music stops, dead silence as blonde bimbo starts to peer around corner*
Winston flinched in his chair. I shot him a sly grin only to be greeted with a soft green pillow to the face. I let out a soft giggle. His bottom lip protruded out as he crossed his arms like a child having a temper tantrum. He glared across the room at me with his dull green eyes, unamused with the situation.
“Oh, shut up ya hypocrite,” Winston said as he ran his hand through his fluffy blonde locks.
“Hey! I didn’t even flinch!”
“Yeah, because you were too busy lookin’ at me!”
Winston flung himself onto the loveseat, arming himself with another pillow and chucked it straight at me. I dodged it with ease sending it careening over couch straight into the painting on the wall. I held my breath as it teetered from side to side gently scraping the wall.
It eventually settled against the wall with a slight tilted to the right. I reached over and gently pushed the corner up until it was level with the straight-edge top of the couch. I dropped my hand with a thud onto the armrest and I turned to face Winston.
The playful mood in the room deflated like a cold balloon as Winston pushed himself up from the loveseat,
“I’ll be right back. Going for a quick cig.”
“Yeah, okay. Want me to pause it?”
He shoved his hands in his pockets, drew in his shoulders, and shuffled out of the room. I zoned out on the worn coffee table my feet were resting on until the slam of the backdoor echoed through the house, jerking me out of the trance.
I reached for the remote on the other end of the couch, punched the power bottom with my thumb, and launched it across the room. It slammed into the wall, leaving a dent in the outdated, brown paint. I curled my thin fingers into the pillow on my lap as if it would stop the hot tears that were beginning to spill onto my cheeks.
I stood to my feet, letting the pillow hit the floor, and turned to face it. The painting. His painting.
The acrylic on the canvas shimmered under the sun’s rays that were peeking through the blinds. Every bump, ridge, and edge were highlighted as if it the painting itself wanted to prove its authenticity through its imperfections.
The scene it portrayed was nothing out of the ordinary, however. It was of a busy street corner full of grey, uncharacterized citizens flooding though an intersection. Each head, void of any defining features associated with human faces, as if to emphasize their lack of importance to the viewer.
But right in the middle of this little grey and black street corner, was what appeared to be a young boy with his face looking toward the sky. Each wrinkle and crease of his face outlined by the reflection of the single sun ray that was pouring from a small whole in the overcast sky. He wore a baby blue hoodie with cream colored pants, accented by his bright red sneakers.
To the untrained eye, it looked as if the painter wanted to tell you that in the midst of all the grayness of the world, there is hope. But to me, I don’t see hope in that little boy’s brown eyes.
I leaned in close enough to feel my hot breath rebound off the painting back onto my lips. And there it was, a little glob of white paint representing a tear that was creeping out of the corner of the boy’s right eye. It wasn’t a tear of sadness, not even hope. No. It was the kind of tear that is shed out of sheer relief.
That’s what he wanted I guess. Relief.
Elias wasn’t born with a silver spoon in hand. He was like a boxer, cornered in a ring. No matter how hard he swung, or how many times he dodged. He was always beaten to a pulp.
His father left his mother was he wasn’t even out of the womb. His mother died before he spoke his first words. And he lived in so many foster homes, he lost track after number 28.
He got in trouble during high school on the daily for defacing locker doors with his doodles and popping pills like a Pez dispenser. He didn’t quit until Winston knocked some sense into him during their long night shifts at the local McDonalds. He was hired three times, fired twice, and quit once. There’s still a dent on the corner of the glowing yellow “M” from one of the many rocks he threw as revenge towards “the manager from hell”.
I forced him to take an art class with me on the weekends during my freshman year at college. I told him that if he wanted to draw for the rest of his life, he needed to do more than doodle on bathroom walls. He loved it.
He started painting in his spare time, sketching out designs on the back of unwanted receipts during his uneventful shifts at Play it Again Sports. After he finished his first full painting, he hung it on the wall behind the couch at his and Winston’s place. He argued with Winston on whether or not it needed more than one nail to stabilize it. They decided on one after learning it was the last one left in the box.
He died on a Tuesday. 14 days before his 24th birthday. He was wearing his favorite baby blue sweater. He was buried in the corner lot of Mountain View Cemetery. His name isn’t on the stone. It was faceless, like the emotionless people in his painting.
I heard the backdoor creak open as Winston’s feet softly padded on the kitchen tile. The door clicked shut just as he reached the entryway to the living room.
I took my eyes away from the painting on the wall and peered over my shoulder to where he was leaning against the doorframe.
“Sorry.” Winston said.
Winston pushed himself off the doorway and took several big strides to embrace me into a warm hug. I buried my face into his cotton shirt and lost control of the tears.
“Do you think he even cared? Cared about what it would do to us?” I sobbed.
“Yes. I know he did, but depression isn’t something that can be fixed with a good talk and a hug, Nadia.”
“I know. I just wish we could have done something more…” I trailed off and let the wave of grief flow over my whole body.
After what seemed like hours, I had finally calmed down and Winston released me from his arms.
He glanced back to the painting, then to me, then back to the painting. Without losing eye contact, he walked past me, climbed onto the couch, picked up the painting, flipped it upside-down, and placed it back on the wall.
He shuffled off the couch and took a few steps back to get a good look at it.
“Uh, why did you flip it upside down? It looks weird now” I said.
“No, I think it looks better. See,” he pointed to the little boy, “now instead of looking up to heaven er whatever, he’s looking back down to us.”
I paused and examined the painting closer. Winston was right, he looked almost superhuman branching off from the street corner looking down to the clouds.
And in just a moment, that single tear’s meaning changed entirely. It changed him into a little boy who looks to the ones he left behind on Earth. He became the boy who cared, but harbored a disease that told him otherwise. It snuck into every corner of his life and whittled him down until there was nothing left.
But a corner is not just a place where the path ends, when there is nowhere to turn. It’s a place where two things collide and somehow make the perfect match.
Like the corner of your first smile, your first timeout in the corner when you learned markers are for paper and not for walls, the corner of the fence that doubled as your soccer “net”, the corner of the paper where the sun always went when you colored, the corner of the page you bent to remember where you left off, the corner of your graduation hat that bent after it hit the ceiling when you threw it up into the air…
The corner is where two things meet. And to have a corner, means to have a connection between the pieces of your life that seem to be more like a deck of cards thrown at you that scattered all over the floor.
I gave a meek smirk to Winston. He grinned and put his arm around my shoulder as we quietly stood, looking at the little boy on the corner.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: