The Dying Flame
The flame started to dim as the candle began its journey of the last centimeter to darkness. Lights were out, and the sheer dimmed yellowness of what was left of the candle in almost center of the room spread on the walls all around. The door was locked. The clock had struck one just a few minutes ago, as the night had entered doom with a hope of a dawn in a few hours. Unfortunately, this hope of a dawn was not shared by all that was there in that room.
Just beside the plastic plate in which the remains of the candle rested, sat the remains of a person who was once a vivacious being; his voice would melt the hearts of those who heard him sing, just like the wax dripping from below the flame, as he would stand on the stage holding his guitar and surrounded by a crowd cheering his name. What was his name? He had forgotten every bit of its essence – he could still spell it maybe, but apart from a weirdly familiar combination of alphabets, it meant nothing.
What he felt that night was not only new to him but was extremely unbearable, even for a guy like him who had not lived a normal, well-adjusted life anyway. He had tears running down from the corners of his eyes while his mouth was wide open. To someone watching him, he would have appeared as he was screaming at the top of his voice, yet there was not voice. It was as if someone had cut the sound or pressed a “MUTE” button. As if he had his tongue fallen back into his throat. He couldn’t let the peep out; he couldn’t risk it at all, not that anyone was going to hear it but him, but he didn’t even want himself to hear it. As if it would wake him up from a dream. As if he would start screaming right there, in the center of his stage and people would at first enjoy the eccentricity to his performance but on realizing it was not a performance anymore, but a state somewhat similar to a break down, they would start to leave. No one was there cheering for him because they loved him, as many of them even claimed they did. The whole experience of being in that crowd and hearing him sing was some sort of an escape from their own lives; their own individual break downs that they had shook off and left outside the hall that night. Watching him lose his mind would remind them of their own silenced screams, their own miseries – as if it would wake all of them up from a dream as well.
Coming out like that in front of people about his state of mind would have brought a few intermingled emotions. Firstly, there was shame – he would have felt like undressing in front of the crowd, exposing his wounds and flaws, everything that was so thoughtfully and neatly wrapped and packed, and presented to them, like a beautiful present. Then there was helplessness – the wounds that would never heal, the flaws that would never go away, irrespective of how much he would try. Losing control over things is terribly painful, but what’s painful even more is to accept that the control has been lost. He could almost realize that those wounds and flaws were not there just because of the circumstances; he felt a little responsible for them.
At first, it used to be fine – the use of drugs. It helped him with the otherwise improbable routine of studies while following his passion in music. It had never been easy, as the studies that he did was just to get grades good enough to get the degree which was all his father wanted. His father, his only confidante in an otherwise disrupted family, was very worried about his future. His mother had left them a couple of years ago, wanting more for herself than his father could provide. Wanting more is all we humans usually do; we are hardly ever happy with what we have, which is fine because this is what keeps us going. Problems occur when our wants are either unrealistically huge, or we do not tend to contribute any effort whatsoever to fulfil those wants. The latter didn’t matter for him, as the mere fact that his mother had left him, and his father, was enough to make him hate her. He had no intention to empathize with her at all. Being the only son, and that too born late in the marriage, he and his father had a significant age, as well as emotional, gap – despite being closest to one another, they had problems in understanding each other’s needs and wants. All his father wanted was to be sure that he can survive on his own even after him, and to him, that survival was strictly based on acquiring a professional degree that he could use to get a job. On the contrary, the son’s motivation for the degree was satisfying his father because although he understood his father’s concerns, the degree was never instrumental to him for his survival. He never worried about survival, as all that mattered to him was music. And music paid his expenses as well. Focusing on his passion for music would keep him away from any other emotional distractions that there were, or well, it was the only way to distract himself from an otherwise empty and meaningless life. So yeah, the drugs helped.
The addiction, however, ruined him. What he needed earlier just to help him manage his routine was all he needed now just to breathe. His immunity to sentimental burden had weakened so much that every event that led to fear or even a teeny tiny uncertainty required him to be high. It helped him perform in front of audience, to behave in public, to sleep, especially to sleep. He had significantly lost his weight in the last few months and had started to remain sick mostly. With this deteriorating health, he had started losing strength to perform at concerts. Besides that, he was on the verge of failing his semester, and wasn’t sure of what he could do to save him. He had no friends to help – some had left because he wasn’t that popular anymore, others as he was always high, the rest few he pushed away because either they would make him feel suffocated or he felt ashamed around them. The most that bothered him those days was the fear of disappointing his father, so he started to try to do better in studies, at least as much better as he could do on his own.
He now had new wants, and they were many. Mostly, he wanted to make his father happy. For that, he wanted to do well in the upcoming exams to avoid failing the semester. He wanted to look normal and happy around his father as well so that he wouldn’t worry much. He also wanted money. For that he did not want to bother his father, so he wanted to perform more. Consequently, he wanted more contracts, and time, and health. He wanted friends, he wanted crowds to cheer for him, he wanted to sleep, and he wanted to wake up satisfied. But the most of all, he wanted to be certain, to be fearless, and for that he wanted drugs. Perhaps when we find ourselves wanting everything, it is because we are dangerously close to wanting nothing. And well, he was almost there.
What served as the last push to wanting nothing was a very recent update. His father died. Sometimes some things happen for no reason, or for reasons that we can’t assess. He couldn’t assess how, or why, or even when it had happened, but as he entered home that night, he discovered that the power was out. What guided his way was a dim candlelight coming from his father’s room, walking into which he found him lying on the floor. His skin was pale, there was no blood. After shaking the body and shouting at him uselessly, he stood up, shaking himself. Out of impulse, beyond any reason, he ran to his room and took the candle with him. He locked the room from inside, placing the candle on his bed, standing by the door breathing heavily, as if he feared of another presence in the house. There wasn’t any.
As few minutes passed and he realized what had happened, he lost his temper. He paced towards his guitar and picked it up and slammed it the wall beside him. He didn’t hurt himself, but his swing touched a glass which dropped on the floor and shattered like his life did a few minutes ago. Now he had nothing, and he wanted nothing.
Sitting on his bed by the candle that shined really bright while breathing its lasts, he was awfully still, yet running tirelessly away from his life, screaming with a voice that no one could hear. And the screaming stopped. It was then, that a shred of glass fell from his hand beside him, followed by a series of dark colored drops forming a stream.
The flame went out.
Written by: ASAD TARIQ