*darkness in Japanese
I am standing in the darkness of the balcony of my apartment. The terrace is out of bounds because the building supervisor caught the virus and has been isolated in his quarters. There are four other spots in the building where the virus has made it’s way through. The apartment building has been declared a hotspot. No one can enter or exit; we’re in a isolation, a quarantine, a bubble. My wife is sleeping nights at the hospital, my kids, three of them, are surviving each other and God bless me, but am I tired of them or what? There has been no respite for 5 days now, no walks to the laundromat, no grocery shopping where the kids can get lost in the aisle for all I care, no smoke breaks on the terrace! They’re bickering at the dining table right now, while gulping down what I called dinner. I didn’t even have the heart to eat it. I fired five people at work today, one of whom I had hired myself. One cried, the other stared me down, another told his wife while on the call with me and they both broke down, another abused me and the last one? I don’t even remember how I sat through the call – she’s pregnant. Who knows what would happen next? Would they fire me next? Or will they simply send me an email informing my services were no longer required?
I wanted to run away to some place where no one knew Tsuki, no one knew Tsuki the person, Tsuki the father, Tsuki the husband! Fuck those Tsukis, all of them! I just wanted to get away from all of this. The uncertainty of my days ahead were killing me. I liked routine, I liked being in control of my day, I liked scheduling my tasks. The police cannot decide when I see my wife and when I take a smoke break or what I feed my children! I was losing myself slowly, and the only thing keeping me sane was my wife, my wife of eight years who was spending sleepless days and nights, zipping up body bags, whose masks had left permanent scars on her face and our hearts, whose smile shone at me even through the erratic video calls we managed to talk over. My kids often cried themselves to sleep missing their mother. Well, so did their father but he couldn’t tell them about it.
“Daddy, it is cold outside. And it’s raining. Come inside,” my youngest, Haruki said, peering out of the curtains, his small head looking comically smaller with the rest of his body out of sight.
“Have you all finished your dinner?” I asked, my voice cracking.
“I have. Sakura and Ito are still eating. They eat slowly,” he lamented, rolling his eyes. I knew I’d find his food spread on the plate and probably a bit on his chair as well as the floor. I let it go.
“Okay. Now, go into your room. I’ll come in a while. Daddy needs some time to think.”
“Do you want your coat?”
“Yes, I’d like that please.” His little head vanished out of sight. A gust of wind blew across, stinging my eyes and my face and bringing more water with it. I was wet, cold and sad. Three heads popped into the balcony at once, the little one struggling to find space. I pulled the heavy curtains aside to help them. Sakura was holding on to the coat, which was taller than her. Ito looked like he wanted to go take a leak and Haruki was on all fours.
“Thank you. Why don’t you all go watch the telly and then we’ll try calling Mama again, okay?” I asked, taking the coat from Sakura. They nodded and stood there. I pulled the curtains back in place, putting on my coat, the sudden warmth sending a shudder down my spine.
A while later, I smelled smoke around me. My neighbour was out in his little balcony, taking a smoke. Guess, I just couldn’t be on my own. We never spoke much, just nodded in each other’s direction when we met in the elevator, unless our noses were buried in our phones. The red light at the end of his lit stick burnt through the darkness. I could barely make his face out but that light held my eye. He turned to face me and in the pitch darkness of my 15th floor apartment balcony we held our longest gaze ever. Awkwardly, I put my hands in my coat pockets to find one of them not empty. I took out what seemed like a brick but was the last of the icecream sandwiches we had left in our refrigerator. My kids must have put this in the coat for me. Whether it was the rain, the smoke or the chills, but as I bit into the icecream sandwich, my eyes were brimming with water.
P.S. This piece is based on a creative writing prompt from http://www.thinkwritten.com. The prompt was as follows: “Darkness.”