The realisation that life is slipping through your fingers is a queer feeling. At first it’s like a thick gloopy papier mache glue slowly oozing between your fingertips and though it seems to be falling slowly from your hands in lumps, it’s just as sure as the light rain that comes next - glancing off your empty hands and often slipping through your open fingers as though they barely impede the inevitable rain. By the time you realise you’ve lost everything, you’re kneeling on the ground, your trousers torn open at the knees, staring down at your numb fingers, barely aware of the storm raging above you, or the rain pouring down on and around you.
You’re so lost that you are truly indifferent to living or dying. Your broken heart pulses in a lacklustre process, providing just enough pressure to pump cold blood around your plastic veins. Your sodden clothes cling to your skin, it would have been uncomfortable at any other time but you’re just beyond caring, and though your clothes cling so tightly to your skin, you feel naked, flayed in the street like a falsely accused rapist, with angry eyes tearing you open with every glance. Where your skin was only a shining reddy orange remains. All your defences have fallen like a curtain, crumpling on the floor and leaving you exposed, indifferently so.
The life that you once knew belongs to another man. His wife, his house, his family, his… happiness. You aren’t living. Your heart is beating (just) but this isn’t living. Everything is distant. You can just make out the ghost of your life, like a faint light at the end of a blindingly dark tunnel. You reach out your trembling hand. As your fingers line up with that dim light, you close them into a fist and for a second everything you’ve ever wanted is in your clenched fist, locked away from you by your own caged fingers. But when you open your hand, there’s nothing there, like a wisp of black smoke drifting to the sky, and to try and grab hold of it again would be just as pointless. The light at the end of the tunnel fades and it hits you with a slight coldness, like a candle blown out by the wind, that your life is long gone.
You’re dancing with her. A handsome, brightly lit hall, with chandeliers hanging from its high ceiling. Her arms around your neck. You can almost feel her fingernails brush the hairs on the back of your neck. Yours on her hips, firm but relaxed. You feel the warmth of her body, the soft fabric of her dress that almost floats upon her figure. Your feet lift effortlessly as you sway gently like a feather in the sky on a light spring wind. The floor you dance on barely feels there; you’re dancing on a cloud and you’d tear the stars from the sky for just another second pressed against her warmth. But she’s gone, her skin blisters and cracks, her body melting to the ground and rising in that same black smoke, till you’re left with only a yellowed wedding dress hanging limply in your numb fingers.The hall is cold and deserted. Spider webs arch around the high ceiling and dust covers everything in the room; broken, upturned furniture, shattered glass on the wooden floor also covered by a thick coat of dust, or maybe ash. The hall is dark, devoid of natural light. Only thin beams of light shoot across the ceiling, carrying dust in its beams, from holes in the roof. Your feet stop and your arms hang at your sides. You’ve been dancing on your own. The ring on your finger cracks and turns to ash. A faint band of pale skin remains, a reminder of what you once had.
It’s a bright summer day, the trees are in bloom. You’re pushing him on the swing. He’s too small to push himself properly but he kicks out his feet as he rises into the air. You see his bare ankles between his shorts and socks. He wears small brown shoes, kicking them in front of him as if reaching for the clear blue sky. But his height is only momentary; the swing falls back and soon your hands touch him, warming something deep in your heart. They push out with enough force to send the boy flying again. His back is to you, but you can imagine the beaming grin on his face as he yells ‘higher, higher, Dad!’ The boy soars forward and up, kicking his little brown shoes out ahead of him and your heart breaks as you realise he will never reach the sky. As if at that realisation, he is gone, gone in a blur of smoke. The smoke rises, heading for the blue but the smoke dissipates and fades, not making it ten feet toward the sky. You scream inside your head, hate and destroy yourself for not holding onto the moment for another second. The small wooden seat, hanging from the tree’s limb by two strips of rope swings back to you, empty. Your arms are still outstretched uselessly, but the swing passed by them and swings back out. It’s fall now and the leaves are falling from the trees. The child is long gone but the swing still sways in the wind.
With a crushing realisation, you finally understand. Your wife is gone, your son, your life. Everything you have ever loved or cared for has turned to ash and is falling around you among the black rain. Falling, light as feathers and you know that when they hit the ground they will be dead and gone forever. Your outstretched hands clench unconsciously and then open again. Though your heart and mind have given up, a trace of instinct, of muscle memory, remains. Yet this is only the final cherry on top, oozing blood red into the remains of everything, a cruel reminder that you are so helplessly lost, so forsaken by the world that time has ceased to exist. It’s irrelevant. Even in the second that your knees hit the concrete, tearing open fresh cuts on your already broken body, you’re completely and utterly lost and nothing else matters when this realisation finds you. It could be an eternity that you kneel there, your world falling around you but you are armed with one final defence, one last weapon, a shard of glass clenched in your desperate grasp; the knowledge that once your life has crumbled all around you, once you are truly forsaken, you know with every icy inch of your existence, that you have nothing left. And a man who has nothing left has everything to gain.