> The alarm clock went off at 04:30 a.m. Red remained dozed in his bed for some time, while the pale moon light passed through the semi-closed shutters of his bedroom window. He had always kept them this way, day and night, because he enjoyed living in an ambience of constant dim light: no absolutes of brightness or darkness. When Red’s drowsiness wore off, he stayed still to enjoy the cosiness of his duvet for a little longer; it was the middle of spring, but a rather cold one.
At five o’clock, he finally got up and prepared in silence his usual breakfast: a hot cup of fennel infusion and six crisp toasts spread with a good amount of honey, a tradition carried on from his university days. The only difference was that, then, he preferred to crunch four hearth-shaped biscuits, with drops of chocolate. After filling his stomach, Red went back to his room, opened the window and leaned out to finish that stupidly hot fake coffee, while contemplating the night scenery. On the right, dark mountains with few lights scattered around; on the left, the high city skyline bursting with countless vibrant lights. Thinking about all the sleeping people around him, a deep feeling of sonder ignited inside his whole body.
“I wonder what they are now dreaming about.”
This zoning out state didn’t last long, and Red soon came back to his morning routine: time to shower. As soon as the warm water reached his shoulders, he began mentally planning his work day at the hospital, only to stop when all the soap had been washed away from his skin. Then, he sat down leg-crossed with his head under the falling water, and conceded himself a minute of meditation.
It was getting late, at least for Red’s standards, so he dried himself fast and took out from the wardrobe some garments to wear: chocolate flannel trousers, a grey t-shirt, an amber wool cardigan and some random pair of boxer shorts and socks. He picked up his leather backpack, wore his straw shoes and hurried out of the main door with his mum’s car keys in hand, but not before having petted the family dog. Eco was curled up on the couch with his ears bent in the – I’m watching your very moves – position; he reckoned it was too early to go out with his brother, but someone never knows.
Red started the engine a couple of minutes after six. He had always enjoyed driving during the dawn, since then he could feel the swift passing of time, beginning the journey in the dark and ending it in the light. He had always enjoyed driving alone on empty roads, since then he could feel as the only living thing in space, or like a lone wanderer in a post-apocalyptic world. What odd sensations to love.
Once the boy reached the hospital, he didn’t park there. Instead, he left the car nine hundred meters distant. No weird reason for this: near the mall the parking was free, whereas near the hospital it was not. The everyday trade-off between 10 minutes of walking and 10 euro gone from his wallet seemed reasonable to him.
Around six and a half, Red took a seat inside the waiting room to the far left of the clinical psychology ward, where had been working as an apprentice for seven months. He had always sat there in such a position that he could see one of the senior psychologists coming to unlock the ward door at a quarter to seven, so he could also begin his duties as soon as possible. The first two hours of his morning were the calmer and quieter ones, the perfect time to complete tasks that required peak level concentration. Once Clarissa, his co-apprentice, showed up too, they together committed themselves to other responsibilities.
At 01:15 p.m., two hours before his colleague, Red concluded his work day. There was now a leaden sky outside and he was quite hungry, hence he rushed to his car and threw himself head down in traffic. A ten minutes trip in the morning had become a twenty minutes one in the afternoon, at a minimum. Maybe he was thinking exactly this, when his phone rang approximately four kilometres from home.
“Yeah mum, I’m not picking up my phone on the highway…
I’m about to arrive!”
But taking a fast glance at his phone, he noticed it wasn’t her. It was Blue. Red and Blue were friends, but not the kind of friends who talk on the phone just for spending the time, so he immediately knew there was something wrong. Something was more than wrong.
“Something very grave happened. Green… has committed suicide.”
Red winced and his consciousness moved out from his body. This… thing was not happening to him. No. It was happening to that other guy, who somehow looked just like him, but was not him. Perhaps two parallel universes intersected themselves for a brief second, only to let Red realize how he would have felt if Green had killed himself, but he did not. Or perhaps all of this had only been a glitch in the system, and he hadn’t been woken up yet. Yes, he was definitely living that films cliché.
Except he was not.
Something forced Red’s consciousness back inside his body, so to grasp the edge of this damned reality. He wasn’t persuaded yet that Green, the most cheerful friend of his company, had decided to end his own life.
“Last night. Clara and I are at the police station, if you want to come.”
“Two minutes and I’ll be there. See you soon.”
“See you soon.”
During those two minutes, Red couldn’t stop pondering about the fact that consciously, he had never ever thought Green could have done it. Yes, he was sometimes prone to outbursts of anger, but his merry mood and party mindset always prevailed: wayfarer sunglasses, flower t-shirts, cream shorts, white all-stars and a beaming smile were his trademark. Nonetheless, at the exact time when Blue said the name “Green”, something buried inside Red’s subconscious arose.
“Fuck! He actually did it, in the end.”
It was as if he had somehow known all along that Green could have done it, but denied this unbearable thought to himself, until it was too late.
Once Red met his two friends in front of the police station, Clara was reading out loud a letter that Green had written to her. In that moment, everything got so very real that everything began relapsing into unreal.
“This doesn’t exist.”
“It doesn’t exist… it doesn’t exist!”
And then, the following events swung between moments of haziness and moments of clearness.
The three of them asked the police if they needed help, but they did not. Then what? The three of them went to the morgue to see their friend, but they weren’t allowed to. Then what? Yellow joined them and someone decided to go somewhere to eat something. Then what? Yes, while they were waiting for their lunch, Red went to the restroom to wash his hands and saw his reflection in the mirror. He felt like he was undergoing his double’s movements, instead of doing them himself. This was probably a symptom of the dissociation between the external semblance of normality and his internal truth of shattering. Feeding his double’s body, as if nothing had happened, was just an inappropriate thing to do. What did he care about stuffing himself with food, at the time?
Meanwhile the twin was mindlessly binging on pizza, Red found out that Green had planned his suicide in a way that prevented him from being saved: amongst other things, he had sent post-dated emails to some of his family and friends. As soon as the recipients read their, they instantly warned the police and everyone else; all of those who could, started a grid search nearby Green’s house. Red had been unaware of this team effort, since he had the unlucky habit to disable the data connection of his phone just before entering the ward door. Not that he believed he could have avoided what did happen, but he would have wished to be there for his friend. Eventually, it was the police who found Green.
What Red did or didn’t do once he returned back home that dreadful afternoon, still remains not so clear. Maybe he didn’t punch his closet, maybe he slept, maybe he didn’t cry, maybe he talked with his mother, maybe he didn’t distract himself the whole time, or maybe he just thought.
In the evening, Cyan picked up Blue, Yellow and Red with his car: they proceeded in silence thinking about having lost one of their own, up until they met their other friends in a parking lot. Together, they drove past all the buildings along the road to Green’s house, the buildings that had become so familiar after all those years: the milk dispenser, the football field, the supermarket, the bus stop, the children’s park. And then all the trees and bends that led to the downhill road before his home. Distant drops of rain began to fall from above as they walked down and merged with Green’s childhood friends in his garden; it was like one of those beautiful crossover episodes. There were probably more than thirty people outside, all waiting to have one final conversation with their life companion.
When Red went inside, he was greeted by the parents. He didn’t know what to say, probably because nothing could be said in a similar situation, thus he just hugged them. Green had left written that he desired some specific songs to be played when laid in state, and so they were. Green had left written that he wished everyone, if they wanted, to leave him a message inside a sealed box, which would have been burned with his body. And so Red did. He remained there with nothing but sorrow for quite some time, until he couldn’t bear it any longer. He gave a last goodbye to his friend and slowly walked outside. Different shades of dark blue and heavy rain.
“How come I’m not living another films cliché?”
The ride back home carried the signs of a collective melancholy, amplified by the pouring rain on the car roof. Red had leant his head against the window and he had lost himself watching the mesh of lights and water drops passing by. Everything, everything seemed so… futile.
Right after returning home, Red fell straight to bed, emotionally exhausted. Contrary to his conviction, this didn’t help him to fall asleep at all. A whirlwind of spontaneous and unsolicited thoughts filled up his head, instead. He had been conflicted for a while whether to surrender or to fight them; then, he chose the latter. Over the years, he had been fine-tuning a technique to fool his own mind whenever he felt overwhelmed by something: he had to mentally repeat the word “white” and visualize white sheets of paper piling up around a white globe. It took a vast amount of time, but this self-inflicted spell worked… kind of.
Because, in the end, one single thought persisted.
“This very morning, Green wasn’t dreaming anymore.”
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