05 - A Stranger in the Orange Glow - K. Blur
He leaned against the sharp ridges of the plastered wall and drew in a deep breath. It was a troublesome action, however. The air caught in his throat and caused him to cough and gasp for another breath. He wanted his breathing to stop all together.
The room was warmer than usual it seemed; the air was heavy with the thick scent of tobacco and perspiration. The lighting was harsh, coming from a single bulb hanging by a chain from the ceiling that swung slowly back and forth. He watched the bulb for a moment and instantly grew irritated by the hypnotizing movement and hurled a small whiskey glass across the room, hitting the light. The glass landed on the ground in a deafening shatter, decorating the floor with sharp, jagged pieces. The room grew dark.
He sighed and banged his against the wall. Pain shot through the back of his head as he rubbed his hand through the greasy, golden mass girls once dreamed of caressing, trying to cease the hurt. The pain spread throughout his head and continued to make its way to his neck and shoulders before it stopped.
His hands fumbled across the floor, searching for that small white box that contained the key to releasing his pain. The dense blackness of the room created a barrier against his senses, stopping him from finding the box and causing more irritation to surge through his stomach. He felt his fingertips brush the cool plastic covering of the box and he strained to reach it. Knives tore through ever muscle that he attempted to move, but as his hand wrapped itself around the box, a small drop of tranquillity beat down the hurt.
He pulled one of the finger-length sticks from the box, inhaling the first scent of tobacco, and fished through his pocket for the lighter. He held the cigarette between his fingers and carefully brought the flame up to its end. Smoke protruded off the end as he took a long, sweet drag, his head and shoulders detaching themselves from the tight pain.
He glanced around the room, calmer than before, and noticed that it seemed smaller. The walls were coming at him, closing in around his tired body and getting ready for the kill like tigers encircling their prey. He jumped up, leaning against the chair to steady himself and, grabbing his coat, ran out the door only to meet the severe cold of the December city streets.
His feet created a rhythm against the dampened sidewalk as the orange glow of the street lamps surrounded him and then left him as he walked along between their beams. The rain fell in a steady beat and stung his face like a thousand needles jabbing his skin. He held the cigarette between his fingers, hidden safely above the cuff of his jacket to save it from burning out under the rain, and tapped it every few seconds to get rid of the newest ashes gathering at the end.
He didn’t know exactly where he was going; perhaps to the 7/11 a little ways down the street, or maybe to see his fellow band mate down at the Shell station. Wherever he was going, he knew it had to be anywhere but that small, musty apartment. He had spent far too much time leaning against the wall near the radiator with his guitar, plucking away melancholy melodies and smoking at least three packs of cigarettes a day. He was becoming a loner, almost what some would call a bum, and he knew it.
He missed his family. He had no idea where they were at that time, no idea what they were doing. He was too afraid to call anyone for fear they might reject him after what had happened. He doubted they missed him as much as he privately admitted to missing them, but he was too tired to hassle with building up the courage to dial that old number.
Trudging slowly down the sidewalk, he couldn’t figure out how he had gotten to the state he was in; the loneliness and needed sleep had crept upon him silently and had recently sneaked up behind his back without warning. He wondered how he’d gotten hooked on those cigarettes and the crack he picked up every couple of weeks.
He knew. He knew and it was all his fault. There wasn’t anyone to blame this time. No one was at fault except for him; and this fact hung over his shoulders with the weight of a thousand tons and resembled a dark rain cloud about to burst. He knew that soon the cloud would explode and he would fall apart.
Until then, he had to live in the realm he called life and suffer in his own sorrow. The sidewalk seemed harder and more slippery, as if he could slide and loose his footing and wouldn’t be able to stop. Maybe the nicotine was getting to him.
He stood at the corner with his hands in his pockets and his jacket buttoned tightly around his lanky frame. Before him, cars and trucks whizzed by splashing small droplets of dirty water that had dampened the street earlier on his face and coat. The orange street lamps were positioned along the sidewalk for as far down the street as he could see yet they didn’t seem to create any light in the cold darkness of the outside.
He waited for a willing car to stop and let him cross, just one car that had the kindness to let him have a turn. None volunteered. So he waited and punched the walk button, watching for the lights to change. Above him, was a wet, yellow street light. There were stickers and graffiti covering the pole, hiding the hideous yellow paint. He began reading some of the logos stuck to the sign, oblivious to the fact the street had cleared and he could have walked. He wasn’t really going anywhere, anyway.
He saw it and froze. It was an orange and yellow sticker with thick, black letters, round and lower case. His eyes slowly brought in what that certain sticker read and he could no longer feel or move any part of his body.
"Hanson: the Reunion Tour--Back to Albertane. Featuring young pop idols, Isaac and Zac Hanson," the sign stated clearly. He clawed at the sticker, scraping it off with his fingernails while rage and nostalgia surged through his every movement. The tiny shreds floated to the pavement in small, damp clumps at his feet. Each part of that sticker was a segment of his lost sanity and each rip drove him further into his oblivion.
He struggled to capture the control over himself which he had lost seconds ago, and stared down at the now mutilated sticker. He could still see the orange coloring of the paper and thought he saw a portion of Isaac’s face and maybe piece of Zac’s happy-go-lucky smile which had apparently stayed with him over the years. But soon, as the rain grew harder, the paper became only soggy clusters adding to the dreary, polluted streets of New York City.
Taylor Hanson ran across the street, dodging the cars as they honked at his fleeting figure. He almost reached the other side and leaped with his right leg in front to reach the sidewalk faster, but something hard and wet hit him from the side and pushed him to the ground. Pain shot through his hip, protruding into the numbness the nicotine had given him, as he lay his head back against the hard top. He closed his eyes, too tired and pained to move from his position and shout at the driver. He and waited for that empty blackness to surround and take over. Nothing happened.
Someone shook his shoulder. Taylor heard the person, a young man not much older than himself, calling to him with fright and worry in his voice. The voice rang in his ears, forcing him to open one eye and peer at this man. As he saw those two brown eyes and wavy, now short hair, Taylor nearly cried.
"Oh my god," the stranger whispered under his breath. Taylor stared at this man, his brother, who was crouched beside him with his face merely a foot away. He couldn’t tear his eyes away.
Taylor stood up slowly, still caught in a trance with his brother. He couldn’t believe he was standing this close after all this time. He couldn’t believe his brother was even there. Taylor searched for his voice, but it was nowhere to be found, buried in the depths of his vocal chords.
Isaac tried to speak. All that came out were parts of words and inaudible syllables. He stumbled for the perfect words that would mend their relationship, fix everything that had gone on before, but he was angry at this skinny, lanky adult that looked like he had been to hell and back. It had been his irritable and conceited moods that had broken their family apart. Or maybe it had been a whole mix of things, but under the cold, sharp rain, the only thing to blame was that figure standing, wet, before him.
Isaac punched him. He let his fist collide with the soft flesh of Taylor’s wet face and watched as his younger brother stumbled backwards on to the pavement with his hand covering his cheek. He looked at the boy on the ground who stared at him with pain and wonder. The blueness of they boy’s eyes were scared and took the form and innocence of a small ten-year-old boy who couldn’t figure out why his brother had hit him.
When Isaac looked back at him, Taylor’s face turned towards the ground and stared in shame, pink from the hit, as if he had figured out why.
With his cheek throbbing, Taylor slowly rose and continued to stare into the eyes of his enraged brother. He wanted to hit him back, but something too powerful for him to resist, held him back. He was too weak and saddened at his brother’s response to grab revenge and instead, turned around and walked drunkenly down the street.
"Wait," Isaac called after him. Taylor sluggishly turned back around, his hand on his cheek and his hair matted and wet, and waited. Isaac walked up to the hurt boy and searched for something to say or do. Maybe one more good punch would settle the anger in his stomach, but the sudden longing to hear his brother’s voice and watch him plunk away chords at the keyboard while he jammed on the guitar, overpowered that urge.
And the two brothers embraced. In the middle of the street they stood under the orange glow of the street lamps as two brothers. No longer were they strangers.