I have this strange custom. Every morning I like to go to the park and sit on the same bench and just gaze at the sun. For as long as I can, until my neck starts aching or my head starts hurting. If someone else is sitting on the bench, I stroll around the park until they leave.
One winter morning, something happened.
A woman was standing in the middle of the frozen lake, her feet struggling to keep her body balanced. It’s been so long since that moment that I forgot what she looked like. But I remember that she had a beautiful smile.
She was in love, that I am sure of.
“Come on, Victor, don’t be such a wuss!” she said, but this man, Victor, who stood a couple of feet away from me, far away from the icy saucer on which his girlfriend jumped like a small child, shook his head with a vehemence worthy of a stubborn teenager.
“Rachel, it’s dangerous,” this boy, Victor, shouted, rubbing his hands together as if trying to set them on fire.
Rachel, the most beautiful woman I had ever seen, gave him a mischievous look, the one naughty children give their parents after they break something.
Victor shook his head one more time, and his lover laughed. She raised her hands toward the blue sky and closed her eyes.
As if hypnotized by her, I closed my eyes too. Under the thin blanket of my eyelids, her smile lingered in the aura the blinding light painted onto my eyes. She, as I already said, had such a beautiful smile.
I think we can both agree that I am coward, but for that smile, and for that smile alone, I would have walked into a burning building without any regret.
I opened my eyes and saw Victor take one step, one single, lousy step onto the ice, and we all heard something that resembled a tree breaking. Then a thousand trees breaking at the same time, and the woman disappeared beneath the ice.
Just for a moment, not more, the world stopped.
The frozen twigs stopped fluttering in the weak morning breeze, the sun became just a cold dot nailed to the sky, pale and powerless like a preacher no one listens to.
I wanted to do something because I knew I should and I knew I could. I swear I wanted to do something about it. But I was afraid.
No one can teach you how to be more than human, no one can teach you that maybe someday you’ll have to grab your lover out of the freezing water, that someday you’ll have to see life barely beating inside her purple veins.
I clenched my teeth as he drew her from the water. Her eyes were closed, her face seemed to be made of marble, her smile had faded away.
In that cold January morning, Rachel was sleeping and no one could wake her up.
Ice crackled beneath their weight, but Victor kept holding tight to that lifeless hand, praying to any god willing to hear his prayers. He just wanted for his lover to open her eyes.
It was so cold outside, yet the back of his neck was covered in burning droplets of sweat. But Rachel, a frozen version of Snow White, didn’t open her eyes. She was so stubborn, this Rachel.
He tried one more time to give her a little bit of his life. He wasn’t willing to give up. His lips pressed against hers, their hands intertwined, death and life put together by a cruel god. And now, just as I remember everything, and more and more details come to me in a hurricane of images and sensations, I can swear that I saw something glittering on her finger. An engagement ring perhaps.
With the first people who arrived to help them, Victor’s first tears slid down his cheeks and chin. With the first people who arrived to help them, his future was altered into something dark and scary, something he was going to be afraid of for a long, long time.
Victor collapsed on his back, pushed away by strangers who wanted to be heroes, who thought they deserved to save someone just so they could feel alive. In the palm of his hand, a few strands of hair, a color I can’t remember.
To be honest, it was the most I could have ever expected from a cold January morning in an empty park. The realization that I still had a soul.
I was the stranger who failed to jump on the thin sheet of ice and be a hero, but I felt pain in a way that you couldn’t understand. Because I knew I was broken. I was the one that didn’t want to help because I had been afraid. And I hadn’t been afraid that I might have died. Oh no, I am so sorry if you believe that I treasure my life in any way. No, I had been afraid that two people, just two people out of all the billions that inhabit this world, might be happy.
I am sorry, Victor, but if I am not happy, you shouldn’t be either.
When I got home, I did the only thing I’ve ever known to do. I wrote a new story.
A writer is such a broken creature. He takes what’s real and adds and cuts and changes and embellishes and makes everything a thousand times more painful. He writes in order to forget what happened.
He feeds on people’s tragedies, breathes pain instead of air and mixes nightmares, imagination, and reality together, always trying to write something that can make him feel worthy of living in a world that doesn’t understand him and most certainly doesn’t need him.
Jonathan Fisher does not intervene. I repeat, he never, ever intervenes. He just observes. He steals agony, pain, malice, sins, and then he mixes them up. He even adds a little bit of death, for good measure. And so he creates something he likes to call art. Jonathan Fisher observes, takes everything that might seem of interest, and then looks the other way.
That’s what writers do. Call it a coping mechanism if you want. They turn reality into fiction so they can say, “It never happened. It’s just a story. It’s just fiction.”