Broken Pen

by Graeme

He sat at the table, pen in one hand, the other scratching three days’ worth of stubble on his chin, staring angrily at the blank sheet of paper in front of him. An empty bottle of scotch lay discarded next to the takeaway pizza boxes, but he ignored them, as he’d been doing for several days. A single incandescent bulb highlighted the scene, casting harsh shadows across the accumulated rubbish.

He’d been told that this would help; that putting words onto paper would allow him to move forward. With narrowed eyebrows and pinched lips, he glared at the whiteness of the paper as if it was the cause of his problems. It was time to find out if writing would make a difference.

With an angry slash of the pen, he wrote the first line:

They claim that mere words can heal my shattered heart,

He wanted to shout it on the rooftop, or cry it in the depth of the night, but he knew it would make no difference. His was a love that had gone beyond a mere broken heart, beyond something that could mend over time. His heart was gone, destroyed in an instant. He foresaw no such healing hope, but he promised he’d try.

He was alone, in more ways than one, with only his fury at the world to keep him company.

If only I knew how to make that process start.

His head slumped forward as the rage was washed away by a flood of despair. It had been three weeks and things hadn’t changed. He’d lost someone he loved and words were not going to change that. He was still going through cycles of anger and anguish, and he didn’t know how to make them stop.

Life wasn’t moving. He was stuck in one place, and it was somewhere he wished he’d never gone. Struggling against the emotion that was ripping him apart, he dragged the next line out of his soul.

I look out at the night and I can see no stars,

He smiled for the first, though it was bitter and twisted. The image of darkness, never ending, was one that fitted his mood to perfection. There were no stars to guide, no moon to shed a soft glow, only a blackness of spirit that was drowning out any joy he’d ever felt.

He wondered if he should descend into the darkness, embracing it, letting it fill him. Or, stay where he was, holding onto the red glow of aimless anger that was filling him again, but illuminated nothing.

Only the deafening noise of the smashing of cars.

His fist clenched reflexively. A single drunken driver had taken his son away from him. To destroy not one life, but a whole family, had taken only an instant. Unable to cope with a husband that was privately drowning, and seeking answers for herself, his wife had left to return to her family. He stayed behind alone, making himself remember with each glance around the house, a home no longer, of all the times his boy had brought light into their lives. That light was crushed, and the hollow that was left was bigger than what went before.

Staring at the front door, he recalled the sight of the policeman standing there, telling him that his boy, the shining star, had been killed in a road accident. The officer had tried to express sympathy, but he didn’t understand; he couldn’t appreciated the empty gulf that opened up as those few words dove through the centre of a father’s heart, destroying as they passed through, indifferent to the damage they caused.

He scowled down at the paper in front of him. The handful of words were driven deep into his soul; so deep that this attempt at writing seem doomed to failure. He knew that the simple utterance by that uniformed stranger would stay with him until his dying days. Trying to expel them by putting his feelings down onto paper seemed a useless exercise.

Forcing himself back to his task, he scratched out the next phrase.

He had barely begun, when life told him ‘no’,

His eyes lost focus as he sought through his memories for the picture he wanted; the day his son had graduated from high school. Bright-eyed, naive, and with plans to change the world, his boy was a joy to behold. It had only taken two months for those plans to end in nought, nothing, zip.

Without realising what he was doing, he snapped the pen. It was only when he noticed the drops of ink scattered across the page that he hurled the remains across the room. Raising himself unsteadily out of his chair, he took the few steps required to retrieve a new pen. He collapsed back into the seat and glared at the desecrated paper. With a sense of perverse righteousness, he continued writing on the stained page.

Leaving behind love with no place to go.

A shudder tore through the man’s body for the first time. A crack had appeared between the anger and anguish, and something was forcing its way through.

As he started to write the next line, his hand started to shake. He stared at it, incredulous that it wasn’t obeying his will. Gritting his teeth, he forced his recalcitrant limb to submit.

Time doesn’t dim memories, lying crushed underneath,

His vision became blurred as the grief he’d been holding in was finally released. The pen slipped unnoticed from his hand as his head dropped down onto the table. Tears that he’d thought unmanly could no longer be denied. He sat, oblivious to the world, as he finally made his farewell to his son, through tears of pain, tears of anguish, but also tears of joys sourced from memories of a life lived in love.

The last line of his poem was never written. The phrases he’d transcribed from his heart were smudged into obscurity by the tears that fell unrestrained, but that was a matter of little significance.

The words had done their job.

Copyright Notice — Copyright © September 2005 by Graeme.

The author copyrights this story and retains all rights. This work may not be duplicated in any form -- physical, electronic, audio, or otherwise -- without the author's expressed permission. All applicable copyright laws apply.

Disclaimer:All individuals depicted are fictional, and any resemblance to real persons is purely coincidental.