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The chest was black with brass corners and latches. The lock was broken and had been pried off in case the key was ever lost. The inside was a bit of a mystery. Other than the interior cedar walls, he wasn’t exactly sure of what was inside. Sometimes he thought of opening it to see, but other times, his mind would change and waver. Long ago, he had embraced the belief that certain things in life invited clarity and others did not.

On top of the chest sat a few dusty guitar picks, a tin container of breath mints, and a few candles. Some of the candles were old and half burnt and others were new. Some looked like miniature lanterns used for camping. It seemed like he was always lighting candles at night.

Next to the matches sat a number of books. He had decided to leave them out for easy access. Most of his books were on a shelf next to his bed in the upstairs loft, but a few, his most recent favorites, always seemed to hover conveniently around his keys, wallet, and notepads. Most of the things he used during his waking hours tended to find themselves on the chest, near the candles, which sat maybe six or eight feet from the door.

The blue couch behind the chest was covered with an assortment of coats and hats. He simply had too many outer garments to worry about hanging everything up all the time. It seemed inefficient to walk clear across the room to hang things up every morning and evening. And, he never did find a good place to keep his motorcycle gloves and helmet. Given the relative infrequency of visitors, the couch just seemed like the most logical place for such things.

About five feet from the front edge of the chest sat his rocking chair. Square and low to the ground, the seat cushion was heavily worn. A couple of remote control keypads, a pair of headphones, and a coaster for tea or hot chocolate had been married to the chair for as long as he could remember. A larger flat pillow was tossed beneath the legs, but was pulled out nightly and used as a footrest.

He never thought it overly important to hang many things on the walls. A few well-centered and original pieces of artwork seemed to suffice for his wandering eyes. While the lights were off and the candles burned, it wasn’t particularly important to focus on the pictures anyway. Too many things meant too many distractions, and he always lamented the wasted moments of his life. He wanted to accomplish so much, yet he often felt tired and unable to summon the much-needed energy to complete his most treasured goals.

While sitting in his rocking chair, however, he thought of Vermeer and Salinger, and he remembered that he would never be a prolific artist or writer. A small body of work, a few well-considered, focused accomplishments were enough. Although he could take hundreds of photographs during a series of two-hour walks through the woods, he only ever felt proud of maybe one or two carefully crafted compositions. Perhaps his creative impulse resembled a peace lily, a plant that sends out only an occasional flower when all appropriate environmental conditions had been achieved. Just a single disturbance in his life and his creativity seemed to wither.

He was powerfully secretive about his deepest strengths and weaknesses. Few people knew what he was best at and what he was worried about. In his twenties, he had realized that he was often too influenced by the people around him, so in order to maintain his essence, he had learned how to be alone and to accept, even embrace, the importance of solitude. It wasn’t that he didn’t love his friends and family; it was only that he tended to lose himself in their company. To be alone was to uncover his own nature, and to be with others was to experience theirs.

Most nights he tended to reflect on the events of the day. He often analyzed his own trials and tribulations at work. He measured his ability to remain settled during unsettling situations and to not become frustrated with people who didn’t understand certain things he considered obvious. Sometimes he felt proud of himself for being nice to people who were habitually negative, and other times he felt ashamed that he had allowed himself to be drug down into the mud, to wrestle with the pigs. He never did understand people who needed to control others. He had a hard enough time controlling himself, so he had no idea how people found the time or had the inclination to selfishly manipulate the people around them. Their nature was a true mystery to him and an exhausting existence to encounter. He thought perhaps controlling personalities were more dependent upon others in order to experience themselves. While these people tended to unsettle him throughout the day, they tended to awaken his pity at night.

Sometimes while he rocked back and forth and listened to his favorite songs, his eyelids would begin to fall, and his thoughts would turn to one of the many beautiful women he knew. He sometimes wondered if he could be a good man for woman A or if he made enough money for woman B. He knew however that his indecision spoke volumes, so he tended not to act on any of his late night reflections. Besides, certain late nights had hurt people in the past, and he knew he didn’t want to go down that road again. He often wondered why he never seemed to put his whole heart into the pursuit or why he was so often attracted to women who seemed to add stress to his life – instead of relieving it. He wondered if partners existed in the world in order to actually comfort each other. Or, if the role of each partner was to challenge the other and purposefully burden them with worry and trivialities. Perhaps he had grown too comfortable with his independence, or perhaps he hadn’t yet met the right woman. Regardless of the reason or combination of reasons, he was often perplexed how he could find women so attractive, and yet, he never seemed to make things work out with any of them. He did have a few friends who complimented his personality, but he couldn’t remember a girlfriend who was able to brighten his life in the same way.

He loved the way the candle flames flickered and seemed to wave back and forth within the holders containing them. They never seemed to be in synch, which was both beautiful and intriguing, and they often created the most interesting shadows on the wall above his couch and pile of coats and hats. The way the shadows illuminated the shape of his dusty guitar held a certain charm as well, and it often brought a smile to his eyes.

Every night, at some point, the back of his rocking chair would begin to knock on the wall and the stairwell behind him. Whether he wanted to get up or not, the knocking usually interrupted his wandering mind, and he would lean forward and out of the chair. Sometimes he forgot that he was wearing headphones and the cord would tug gently at the sides of his head. Sometimes he remembered to put his cup in the kitchen sink, and other times he left it to sit empty on its coaster. Each night, however, he always remembered to blow out whichever candles remained burning. The smell of the smoke was the last best thing he felt, before he walked upward into the loft, toward the place where his thoughts would finally subside.

After brushing his teeth and pulling the shades down over the large wooden windows looking out over the street, he eventually found his way underneath the layers of blankets covering his bed. As he rolled over onto his side, rubbed his feet together, and closed his eyes, he thought about the black chest in the room beneath him. It was definitely the perfect home for his books and candles. He just couldn’t remember what was inside. He wasn’t sure why this tended to make him laugh, but the corners of his mouth curved upwards nonetheless, and when he finally yawned, exhaled, and fell asleep, both of his hands relaxed and found their way into the warm hollow between his neck and left shoulder.

Reader Comments (2)

Thank you for sharing Brian. Twenty-ten is when
I last was starting to get to know you. I never
did get to know you. . . I regret that. Reading
the thoughts you have published here is helping
me get through a difficult time now. Best to you.

January 13, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterTammy

Thanks Tammy. Hope all is well. Looking forward to catching up soon.

January 17, 2014 | Registered CommenterStillbook
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