The Curtain

The chill outside of the clinic was fiercely numbing. Joe gritted his shivering teeth on the cigarette and wheezed out the misty wisps through the side of his mouth. The 37-year-old mindlessly traced the sporadic traffic wading through the brown slush down the alleyway for a good two minutes—or, in a smoker’s oblivion, it might as well have been five minutes, or seven. He kept his hands tucked snugly under their opposing arms and didn’t bother to flick the ash off the butt.

Whether he arrived by a cab or a bus, Joe didn’t quite remember. For now, he fancied a walk—no, not quite a fancy, more like a need, a need for a self-inflicted punishment on his breathless lungs in the weather.

Where the heck is spring? he wondered. For Pete’s sake, it’s mid-April.

Indeed, he considered himself a winter person with an affinity for snow. But, even so, the slimy, filthy slush lining the pavement was a punishing eyesore enough, wasn’t it? Surely, the wintry precipitation, like most beautiful things in life, bore no immunity from rot and decay either.

Joe had not the reason for the impromptu stroll quite figured out. However, he reminded himself, not without a knee-jerk cliché, that life was for one to experience and for God—or whoever-out-there—to explain.

Right then, his mobile phone rang, with the catchy Rocky tune he cropped out, not quite legally, from the film. Having no intention to pick it up, Joe’s imagination wandered off to relive the southpaw boxer’s training regimen up until the victory pose atop the staircase, when it finally dawned on him of his caller’s exceptional persistence. Reluctantly, he fished the phone out of his pocket and glanced at the caller’s ID.

Anonymous.

“Great!” he muttered, vexedly. His thumb gingerly clambered up the screen and, after a moment of hesitation, anchored on the “answer” button.

“Hello.”

He didn’t give his name away like he normally did in his proud, aspiring, white-collar voice. A telemarketer whose fortitude had outdone Rocky Balboa’s, he feared, might brawl to his last drop of blood.

“Where ze hell are you?” returned a thunderous greeting.

Joe swallowed his breath and instantly regretted picking up. It was his new boss, Jeff Weber. The costly outsider was recently parachuted in by the board—in the words of the latter—to shake things up with a fresh pair of eyes. With a perpetual suspicion against the status quo, which included, quite especially, Joe and his team, the pompous expat–elitist had certainly caused more than a tremor. In comparison to his overwhelming vices, Jeff’s insufferable brags about relocation history and pentalingualism were quickly dwarfed as the least of Joe’s concern. As his boss’s overbearing presence continued to sift through the phone, much to Joe’s chagrin, a telemarketer’s pestering would have made a bed of roses.

“Good afternoon, Mr Weber.” Joe strived to conceal the sheepishness in his voice. “How may I—”

“Get your Arsch back here now! Your proposal is shit, Dummkopf. You must rewrite it. Ze whole fing. DL 7, Anton Martha.”

“Look, Jeff—”

“Call me Mr Weber.”

Joe dropped a voiceless F-bomb after his facepalm. “Sorry, Mr Weber,” he pleaded, “I’m afraid I’ve taken the afternoon off for a … a legit and pressing reason.”

But Jeff was adamant. “In vich case,” he retorted, “you have better fings to be afraid of, like unemployment.”

“Is it possible for Mark to follow up—”

“Mark is fired. Packed up and left an hour ago—”

“I beg your pardon?”

“Fired. Entlassen. I’ve had enough of his inability to obey orders without questioning. He even lectured me on procedures. To me? Four ranks his senior! Dummkopf!

Joe could not believe his ears. How could one ask for a more devoted and brilliant employee than Mark? Underpaid and overlooked, Joe’s right-hand man was always the first to respond to unwanted chores and demanding customers—without claiming credit either. Mark must have substantial rationality behind his different opinion, if there were any. As Joe recalled the past seven years spent mentoring the then fresh graduate to the manager material the lad was presently esteemed, he sensed a pang of fury seething within his chest. How could Jeff dismiss his subordinate without his prior knowledge?

Joe nonetheless endeavoured to be more professional than provoked. “May I know what happened?” he enquired coolly.

“Ze forecasts in your portfolio are shit! Scheiße! Stront! Skit! I told ze boy to round zem up, tweak ze estimates, re-fink the calculations, und so weiter. No one in our industry cares about credibility. All zey care are good numbers. Attractive numbers. Irresistible numbers. But zat Dummkopf in your team told me it’s impossible.” Jeff spat out a volley of curses in another God-knows-what language before continuing, “Where was I? Oh, ja! I give you one hour.”

Joe could hardly contain his indignation. He hesitated, choosing his words carefully.

Jeff, however, assumed the split-second silence as Joe’s tacit agreement. “By ze way,” the impudent superior went on to say, “bring me some sushi from Sakura on your way. You know, my usual. Ask for extra wasabi and ginger—”

“Wait, Mr Weber—”

“I’ll pay you back … later,” Jeff added unnecessarily, when clearly neither of them could keep count of the lunches and coffees he already owed.

Trembling with rage, Joe decided to voice his objection. He was not returning to the office, let alone acting as the big-head’s delivery boy. “No, I cannot—”

“Fine. Just get your Arsch back here.” Jeff commanded, “One hour!” and hung up on him.

***

2018.08.14 The Curtain 2Joe sat down on the bar stool next to Mark, panting. The young bachelor nodded a greeting and returned to sipping his cheap lager nonchalantly.

“The usual?” asked the barman.

“Maybe something stronger, Brian. Some good ol’ gin, perhaps.”

“With tonic?”

“No, keep it neat and flammable.”

“Raw gin for tea, by golly,” mumbled the barman as he rummaged through the shelves. “What’s next? Hand sanitiser for dinner?”

The remark made both men chuckle. Joe was grateful for the icebreaker.

“You alright?” he asked his companion.

Mark forced a rueful laugh as a reply.

After the barman served him his drink, Joe raised his glass. “To the Dummkopfs!”

Prost!” Mark tipped his pint glass in return.

Joe gulped down the liquor thirstily, hardly mindful of its juniper and citrus essence, nor the spirituous burn in his empty stomach. He was too busy scrambling for something to say. Yet the harder he tried, the more he was pondering over what not to say: What are you gonna do now? Have you told your family? Have you any loans to settle? Before long, Joe realised they were both nipping their drinks in their own space.

Fortunately, and much to his surprise, Mark cracked the silence before it grew irreversibly awkward. “I heard Liz is pregnant,” he said.

“One more month to due date.” Joe loosened up his collar and let off a puff of imaginary steam. What he couldn’t tell Mark was that the pregnancy was unplanned and he was far from ready.

“Congrats!” The lad raised his glass. “Boy or girl?”

“Thank you. A girl,” answered Joe, with a chink of their drinkware. “Liz was hoping for a boy though.”

“Hah! Why is that?”

“How do I know? The logic of a woman!”

“Oh, shush!” Mark frowned and snapped, “You sexist prick.”

Joe swallowed the jibe with his gin heartily. Far from being slighted, he welcomed any change of mood from the good lad.

“Decided on a name yet?”

Joe shook his head. Merely weeks ago, he was still pleading with Liz to abort … the foetus. How could he ever bring himself to name … her?

“I’m really happy for you,” said Mark, genuinely.

Joe cleared his throat with another nip and slumped slightly in his seat. “It’s quite embarrassing to admit … that I came here in the hope of cheering you up.”

“Appreciate it, boss. I do feel better, no less.” The lad had resumed his usual, amiable demeanor. “I’m just another nameless victim crushed beneath a 21st-century ‘Big BOB’ management.”

“What do you mean? ‘Big Bob’?”

Bigly Overpaid Bigots. And, no, Joe, that doesn’t include you, as far as I see. You’re too hopelessly nice to be promoted.”

Joe laughed until he started coughing. Deep down, he could scarcely disagree. Instead of being humbled by their flaws and vices, people in power nowadays rather took pride in acting and speaking like jerks. Gone is the esteem for integrity, unselfish vision and respectable behaviour, he sighed inwardly.

“Hey, boss,” presently, the lad interrupted his musing and pointed at his pocket, “Rocky’s tenderising the rib-eye.”

Without checking the phone’s screen, Joe instinctively knew it would read “anonymous”. He picked up the phone, and, to his own surprise as much as to Mark’s, impulsively put it on speaker. “Guten Tag, Mr … Weeee-ba.” he spoke, with a mock-German nasal and a smirk, before pulling a wry face at Mark.

“WHERE ARE YOU, DUMMKOPF?” The VP’s voice was dangerously deafening. Joe thought himself clever for not sticking the phone to his ear. “Don’t you know I’ve been waiting for over an hour?”

Meine Güte! I’m so sorry to hear zat.”

“20 minutes. Consider zis my final warning—”

Danke, but no.”

“Vat?”

Thanks to the Dutch courage, Joe caught his tongue springing to life with explosive vigour. “I said ‘no’. Did you not bloody hear it? Nein! Non! Neen! I’m not coming to the bloody office. I’m not bringing you any bloody sushi—”

“Vat’s zis attitu—”

“Oh, shut up, Jeff. When have you given a shit for manners?”

As Joe began to raise his voice, not only Mark was inching to the edge of his seat, but even the barman had turned down the background jazz in order to eavesdrop on the ruckus.

“You’re … you’re … fired!” said Jeff, resisting a quiver in his voice.

“Blimey! What a shame.” Joe replied with a frivolous laugh. “I hope there are still plenty of fish in the sea.”

“I’ll spread ze word. I … I’ll make sure you will never ever set foot on zis industry again.”

“Right. As though the industry has actually cared about people and credibility any more than ‘good numbers, attractive numbers, irresistible numbers,’ huh?”

“I am credibility, Joe, as ze VP in one of ze largest of our trade in ze world—”

“Your world is too small, Jeff, and it won’t last long. Good luck and … Foxtrot Oscar.”

With that, Joe hung up on Jeff Weber, for the first time and the last time. He then turned to Mark, who was applauding him to the echo.

“Well,” he mimed a hat tip, “Big Bob’s your uncle!”

***

2018.08.14 The Curtain 3Joe couldn’t sleep. He used the toilet again and dallied on the corridor. Liz had left her door ajar tonight. He stood in the doorway and allowed his eyes to adapt to the dark. As his wife’s curvy silhouette gradually materialised, Joe was astonished by how plump her hips had become. Her round belly, on the other hand, was not obvious from behind. It’s too pointy for a girl, he reckoned, if ever the midwives’ saying were valid.

He thought of the early days when Liz would end the night with a series of warm, sloppy kisses, whereas the kisses, in turn, would serve as a mere hors d’oeuvre to the feast that followed—and, occasionally, a scrumptious buffet that persisted overnight. Such appetites they used to have!

That all stroke Joe as memory from a previous lifetime.

Ever since they gave up trying for a baby, they seemed to have lost their passion altogether over time. For a while, her “honey” endearment had survived as a bluntly truncated “hun”—with its sweet connotation gradually replaced by the coarseness of Attila—before that also was dropped by and large in recent years, when Joe would rather have the silent treatment than any spirited welcome—consisted of hostile words and futile arguments, as well as irreparable damages to furnishings and mementos. Amidst talks of separation, divorce and whatnot, it was an utmost mystery—and irony—that Liz got pregnant out of the blue, which Joe, during one of their counselling sessions, scoffingly dubbed their now greatest “misconception”.

Joe lit up a cigarette while speculating, for the 31st time or so, if Liz had cheated on him. Or else, he must have been desperately drunk.

Liz was awakened by the snick of his lighter and heaved herself up with a grunt. “Are you mad,” she hissed, “to poison your own child?”

“I’m sorry, Liz,” said Joe, fanning the smoke away with his hand. “I … I was wondering if we could talk.”

“Talk? With a cancer stick pointing at me?” She rolled her eyes and shoved him out of the bedroom. “I tell ya, at this rate, you’ll be talking to a lung doctor soon.”

“I already did—”

“Oh, really?” Liz didn’t believe him, apparently. “Guess the fag must be on the prescription then,” she remarked, before banging the door shut.

Joe turned around with a sigh. He stared at the fresh cigarette, hesitant about using it, and, after a moment, decided to put it out in the ashtray. He popped a painkiller and leant back on the sofa. Outside, the snow had subsided to a drizzle at last. But the warmer air had alleviated neither his wheezing nor his chest pain. He doubted he could sleep before the biopsy scheduled for the morning.

If the tumour is found cancerous, Joe ruminated, will I live long enough to meet my child?

He opened up a large window and gazed down from their 13th-floor apartment—thanks to the taboo by which the extortionate rent was a tad discounted.

Debts, soured relationships, office politics, illnesses, getting old, grieving losses, making ends meet, making everyone happy … Living isn’t just a pain, he groaned, it’s often a near impossibility. If I love my child, why would I wish her the suffering of this piteous life?

Liz never understood his propensity to abort the pregnancy, nor did she care to know. “You’re a selfish prick,” she condemned him. “A coward. That’s what you are.”

His late mother used to call him that also. He could vividly remember how she screamed at him one Christmas Eve, “A prick just like your old man! Why don’t you go live with his whores too?” Before the vulgarity was grasped, the preteen Joe would therefore tell others that his father had taken up residence in a stable with his “horse”.

Joe lost his mother to ovarian cancer nearly two decades ago. The diagnosis came too sudden and too late. He was taking an exam in his university, halfway across the country. A damned rainstorm impeded his journey; she left before he could say goodbye.

He never met his father again since his sixth birthday, not even at his mother’s funeral. Joe was thus his own teacher and taught himself to be a man. In his adult years, he had no one to love, and no love from anyone. So when Liz entered the picture, she was, quite literally, the love of his life, although, sadly, that now had changed as well.

For a while, he embraced his job as a noble distraction from the trouble and strife. He gave all his heart, effort and ideas to the company, and nurtured Mark and other novices with all the TLC he could offer. But, at the end of the day, a distraction was a distraction, nothing more. People came and went. No one, be it board members or clients, superiors or underlings, was obliged to reciprocate his loyalty. It sure was liberating to be rid of Jeff Weber for a change; yet, even moving on to pastures new, there would always be other Jeff Webers waiting to ensnare his career.

What’s the point in all this then, living from one pay cheque to another?

Unfelt by an unfeeling world—a world so far from perfect yet never tired of demanding his perfection as son, husband, employee, manager, tenant and taxpayer—the older Joe had got, the less it made sense to him.

He felt nothing but fatigue, the kind that couldn’t be cured by rest or sleep. He wished he could talk to someone. But … who could he talk to in the middle of the night?

Perhaps, the inaccessibility of help and companionship, he conjectured, might be the reason for most suicides to occur at night.

Wait a minute … is that what I’m contemplating?

Suicide?

Joe felt a chill down his spine upon realising his legs were dangled in the air. He had no recollection of how and when he climbed up and sat down on the window sill.

What will happen if I edge my bum forward by a couple of inches?

Will there be an afterlife? Will there be heaven? Or hell?

Does one end up in hell by taking one’s own life?

What is hell? A lake of fire? An eternity spent burning with the likes of Jeff Weber?

The thoughts turned his legs to jelly. He coughed and retched, eventually doubling up in pain.

Isn’t this hell enough and already? he argued, indignantly.

Joe watched the drizzle beneath his feet grow into a shower, then a downpour, rampantly pelting the streets with its crystalline beads, muffling even distant claps of thunder. The street lights flickered in the torrents for a moment before dissolving completely in the rising flood. He could hardly believe his eyes. The deluge hungrily engulfed one block after another, then one floor after another, surging and rippling like a giant curtain in the wind. No, in fact, as it arrived at his floor, Joe was amazed to discover that it was indeed a curtain—a pearly fabric woven from an ethereally fluid element.

Feeling strangely weightless, Joe stood up, defying gravity, with his back to the sky and his face to the curtain, perpendicular to the facade of his apartment block. As soon as he did so, the raindrops froze all around him, like minute icicles hanging in mid-air, reflecting the glare cast by a fork of lightning likewise suspended in time. Everything was stock-still, except for the curtain, still gracefully waving and rippling, as if beckoning Joe to touch it.

And he did.

2018.08.14 The Curtain 1Joe wasn’t disappointed at all, for the enchanting fabric gave him the most peculiar tactile sensation he ever had. Whilst lighter than air but more solid than diamond, its seamless material was so delightfully silky to which his fingertips became instantly addicted. However, regardless of his effort, Joe could find neither edges nor partings. There was no way to peek into it, not to mention drawing it open. He tried to pull it, press it and crease it, to no avail. He then went all out with brute force, ripping and even punching it, of which his bruised knuckles made him quickly regret. He scratched his head, wondering what he should do.

All was silent, surreally so. And, albeit the curtain’s translucence, Joe couldn’t tell if anything or anyone were behind it—despite the creeps given to his instinct as though he was being watched. No, he knew he was being watched.

“Hu … hello?” Resisting to quaver, he uttered softly, “Anybody?”

To his amazement, Joe spotted a small bulge impressed from the other side of the curtain. Although he gasped and backed away under the initial shock, he soon realised the impress belonged to a handprint—a tiny one, no bigger than a cherry. He braced himself and inched closer.

“Hellooo?” he whispered again—this time cooing in baby talk.

The tiny hand patted on the curtain in response.

Joe gently stroked it. In return, the hand gripped his fingertip and wouldn’t let go.

The curtain softened between them. Joe scarcely felt the barrier in his touch. As he tucked the tiny hand into his palm and caressed it with his thumb, his insides slowly swelled up in a curious flutter. He was unprecedentedly graced with an affection independent of attraction, a resonance beyond reason. For the first time in a long time, he felt admired, trusted, relied upon.

It’s a special kind of love.

Before long, Joe noticed more hands, of various sizes and shapes, had also surfaced, pressing and pounding on the curtain. In particular, one adult hand with slender female fingers seemed especially determined, even hysterical, to capture his attention. He reached out to hold it and felt strangely familiar. The hand squeezed him eagerly and pulled him closer, as though offering him an embrace. Joe couldn’t hear any sound from the other side, but he sensed that the hand’s owner was weeping with a mixture of joy and sorrow.

Suddenly, it dawned on him.

“Mum?” cried Joe, “Is that you?”

The hand shook up and down in a frenzy as reply.

Joe recalled the last time his mother held him with such intensity. He was 15 and had been hit by a car. Although at the end he received no more than a minor fracture in the leg, he was thankful for the brief moment of closeness with her en route to the hospital. Directing his gaze towards where her face would be behind the veil, Joe could almost visualise its display of the same anxiousness and concern as it did on that ambulance. He searched his mind for the many things and grudges he wished to confess to her on her funeral, but they all seemed too trivial or irrelevant now.

“Thank you, Mum … for everything.”

That was all he could gather to say, surprisingly.

Joe suspected this was just a dream, but the soreness in his bruised knuckles and the warmth from the hands suggested otherwise. Up to this point, it would be stupid of him to not realise the supernaturality of his surroundings, where the deceased and the unborn were only a heartbeat away, on the other side of the magic curtain.

Later on, Joe “greeted” many others, some he recognised, like Professor Kitchener, who lost half an index finger, and his childhood bestie Stephen, with whom he shared a secret handshake, but most he didn’t. Some folks tried to spell their names or messages on his palm, but the curtain, having a will of its own, hardened like concrete whenever they did so. One hand, after giving Joe the finger, even got smacked by a giant ripple, big time.

Fascinating as it was, with the meet-and-greet wearing on perpetually in the timeless realm, Joe was eventually exhausted. For a breather, he lied on the curtain as he would a hammock. He was kept well awake, however, by the many more hands that came to pat on his back—some having landed quite naughtily on his bottom too.

Then, as abruptly as the mystery emerged, the frozen world began to thaw.

First, the giant lightning bolt faded, rendering Joe’s vision in total darkness. As its deafening thunder rumbled past, he also heard the resuming of the rain’s pitter-patter. Meanwhile, feeling the yank of gravity, he frantically scrabbled at the window for a handhold. Following the split second of utter panic and chaos, it at last occurred to Joe that he hadn’t bidden his mother farewell.

Not like this, he gasped, not again!

“Mum, Mum!” Joe called out, with one hand gripping the window frame and the other reaching down dangerously towards the curtain.

By the intermittent flashes of lightning, he saw his mother’s hand had already stretched out eagerly for him, whilst the curtain, presently surging and swirling wildly, threatened to recede in any second. Regardless of how hard they tried, their fingertips were, at best, an inch shy of touching.

“No! Not like this!” Joe burst into tears, sobbing like a child. “Mummy! I’m so sorry. Mummy! Please don’t go!”

As a last-ditch attempt to bridge the gap through a proxy, his mother picked up the baby, whom Joe first greeted, and stretched out her cherrylike hand towards him. Joe quickly grabbed it.

“Bye, Mummy!” he bawled.

As soon as he finished, the curtain cracked like glass and shattered into a cloud of powdery droplets, silently sprinkled onto the peopleless streets like icing sugar. Notwithstanding 13 storeys of empty space beneath his feet, Joe, still reminiscing the brief reunion, was too overwhelmed with emotions to take in the sky-high horror. Without much thought, he stepped on a protrusion in the wall and clambered up the window sill. After he rolled into the room, lying flat on the floor, panting, sniffling, shivering, soaked in cold sweat and rain, he was at last caught up by the maelstrom of grief, wistfulness, fear and relief.

He wept and wept … and, in time, wept himself to sleep.

***

2018.08.14 The Curtain 4“Why are you sleeping on the floor?”

It was Liz.

Joe got up, shivering. “What time is it?”

“Still early,” was her answer.

He looked out into the ebony sky and drew a deep breath from the dry, crisp air coming through the opened window. “That was quite some rain and thunder earlier.”

“Was it?” Liz seemed taken aback. “I saw only a drizzle.”

“Maybe you missed it in your sleep.”

“Not really. I was up all night, after … shutting you out.”

“Really?” It came to Joe’s turn to be flabbergasted. The strange encounter was all but a dream, he determined, somewhat let down.

Liz nonetheless mistook his perplexity—over the illusory storm—for a sign of concern. “Yes, I was,” she said, subtly warming to him.

Albeit secretly mortified, Joe decidedly played along. “Erm. What kept you up all night, my dear?”

She rolled up the bottom of her blouse, exposing her round, naked belly. “This,” she replied.

“Bad digestion?”

“No! ’Course not!” She feigned frustration over his sick humour, only to betray it with a coy smile.

Joe smiled back. “May I?”

Liz nodded. “She’s been waiting for months, Daddy.”

Having abstained from physical contact since time immemorial, Joe awkwardly placed his hand on her belly and began groping for the baby. Her waist certainly felt different, no less; and as for its balloony skin, now superhumanly stretched and thinned, he worried if it might actually pop, should he be not gentle enough. Eventually, with Liz guiding him by the wrist, Joe could slowly map out the baby’s bum and legs behind the delicate velum of her womb.

As he bent down and whispered into the belly, “Hellooo,” to their surprise, and Liz’s agony, the baby kicked and pushed and elbowed and jumped with incredible excitement.

“Ou-ou-ouch!” Liz yelped in pain. “She’s been like this the whole night. Unbelievable.”

“Somehow,” Joe was thoughtful for a moment, “I’ve got a feeling she knows my voice.”

He gave Liz a tickly kiss on the belly and, in an undertone, pledged to the life within, “Imperfect as I am, darling, I’ll love you as long as I live.”

The baby, as if listening and pleased, became calm again.

Liz was beyond curious. “What did you say to her, honey?”

Joe laughed and looked away. He squinted at the glimmering horizon, relishing the imminence of a glorious sunrise.

2018.08.14 The Curtain 5

*** THE END ***

 

Colin Lee

colin-lee-small

Thank you for reading, my friends. I hope you like the story, which was conceived and outlined almost two years ago, during the threat of a cancer scare and the anxiety of expecting a quite unexpected child (for an entirely different reason to Joe’s, thankfully). Such personal experience had certainly tinctured the composition of this scribble. Now, in a season when new battles are rich and overwhelming, it’s almost therapeutic to revisit this backlog and flesh out the yarn at last. I was initially tempted to pleasure in finishing the tale with some form of divine justice, say, for a reinstated Joe to find himself replacing his disgraced superior, and/or that the tumour turning out as benign; however, while gravity can be defied in the supernatural, I can’t contrive reality to serve a fairy-tale ending of which none can assure. As much as my own battles continue, Joe must fight on.

The completion of this backlog was in particular prompted by the recent death of singer-songwriter Ellen Joyce Loo, a rather high-profile suicide here in Hong Kong. Not unacquainted with life’s dark valleys myself, I’m disappointed at how often the society dismisses a suicide as a straightforward tragedy, like a statistical number, or an opportunity to feel good by feeling sorry, while ignoring the psychological dynamics and underrating the personal struggles behind that very loss. And, clearly, folks who have never been to the valleys will never understand (and often don’t know when to reach out or when to shut up and listen). In this story, I’ve tried my best to identify Joe with those of us struggling and fumbling for a way out of the dark valleys. I pray you’ll endure until the glimpse of a new dawn, and I hope you’ll find solace in knowing that none of us are alone.

This is, obviously, a work of fiction, and I hope the symbolism of the curtain and its characteristics has come across clear and encouraging. “Big BOB management”, in case you’ve wondered, or Googled (look no further!), was my own coinage. Jeff Weber’s overbearance was inspired by a couple of bullies I’ve dealt with in my career, one of them happened to be an Austrian-American; I have nothing personal against either nationality but sheer fondness. My apologies if anyone feels offended in any way through this characterisation. I’m very much against smoking, to the point of being flat-out hostile. (For Pete’s sake, you smokers should quit it already!) As for the other elephant in the room, I don’t support abortion in general, but I do sympathise with the pro-choice and their agony in making those unspeakably hard choices.

To close, I shall include a special thanks to my dearest wife and heroine, for her everlasting love and unfailing support, to my confidant and chum Marcus Lam, for constantly reminding me of my goals and keeping an eye on my emotional health, and to my big-hearted blogger friend Ms Gina Gallyot, for her gentle nurture of my fragile passion during this creative dry patch. Here you have it, my first “official” (not so) short story in its stark naked first draft.

Photo Courtesy: Pexels
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18 thoughts on “The Curtain

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  1. I saw this last night but could not finish reading, just did now and what can I say my friend, this is a spectacular story, the depth of emotions, the individuality of the characters and the engaging story that just drove itself forward. This is like a movie script! I will be reading it again because it is just too good to leave as a one time read, so much more I want to delve into. Thank you for the mention but these words are all yours and they come from a very informed and brilliant mind with the biggest heart!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I’m so thrilled you took the time to read it, Gina! How lovely also to hear that it put you to sleep last night. (Haha!) Given it’s my clumsy first attempt on storytelling, you’re far too kind to not reject my mention. But, even so, I must express my gratitude for your encouragement and listening when I most needed them. Thank you also for spoiling me with your generous compliment and sharing. Utterly flattered to be called your friend — priceless! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. yes I was reading and had printed it out actually so I could read in bed but the day got the better of me, I was happy to continue in the morning with fresh eyes. it did not read like a first time attempt Colin! My compliments seem so weak against the quality of your writing. It is excellent! I am in return very honoured to be your friend. if I was there as encouragement please know that the poem you wrote some time back when I was grieving had lifted you to the level of very important person! blessed weekend ahead and bask in your wonderful achievement, your wife should be so proud of you!!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. You WHAT? Printed it? That makes it my first (hard) copy of any creative work since school days. You are not just kind, Gina, but truly one of a kind! 😛 I’m tickled pink, really.

        It always warms my heart to know my words have brought you comfort once. 🙂

        Wifey read it and replied, “Nice story. A bit spooky.” A jolly good sign … comparing to the “what did I just read?” which I used to get a lot from her. *phew*

        Thank you and hope you had a lovely weekend too. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I can appreciate the difficulty you might have felt in writing this emotional story. The symbolism felt in the curtain fit well in a transition of the main character’s depression to one of hope.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for reading my story. I asked myself for whom could I live for if there were no one left for me in this world. And I thought of the loved ones in our memories, and the future generation who will need our nurture and guidance. This somehow inspired me with a refreshed sense of purpose and courage. 🙂

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  3. It’s been awhile since I came to your blog, so I was thrilled to discover this story. Gina is right. This does not sound like the work of a “beginner”. You are highly skilled in your word usage, and I could picture every scene as if it were a radio drama. Sad reality that some work situations, and marriage situations, end up so coarsely and full of disdain or indifference. Glad you ended with optimism…

    Liked by 1 person

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