Why did I have to open that door?
These words kept tumbling through Isaac’s mind as he sat there, a defeated man, his hands going through his matted hair, slightly squeezing the flesh on his skull as he moved them onward towards his neck and shoulders. His naked elbows rested on the face of his dark wooden desk, stained through many years of use, while his eyes darted across the surface and all his belongings placed on it, his favorite pen, papers containing many scribbles and lines, and a spot of dried up dark ink. He avoided the center of the space and the envelope in front of him. It was surrounded by a hastily cleared open space, surrounded by dozens of sheets of music spread criss-cross around the area as if thrown there in a bout of rage. It was addressed to him, allegedly the city’s foremost composer and the impeccable off-white envelope showed the stamp of Garben, the king’s adviser. Next to it lay the card that had been hiding within, and on it, in beautiful black ornate letters, a request to produce and perform a new piece of music, in honor of the King’s birthday, which was coming up soon. Too soon, he thought while closing his eyes.
Little did the outside world know Isaac had not actually created anything, let alone a new piece of music, in a long while. What he had written in the years before kept everyone quite busy and Isaac was, in a way, pleased with that. No questions from anyone meant he did not have to confront himself about why nothing had come from his mind in a good while. That is until this request arrived.
Truth be told? Isaac felt empty. Whenever he sat at his desk, with his pen in his hand, ready to write down notes from inspiration, or new ideas, all sounds stopped in his head. The garden carefully cultivated for many years, the one place he could see with his eyes closed, only contained the shadows of the once beautifully trimmed bushes. The big open spaces between the paths were devoid of flowers, and the trees at the edge of the garden stood there, silent, as underdressed scarecrows. Winter had come, causing every plant and animal to retreat, holding out, waiting for a time to return.
If they were to return at all. Under a cloudy sunless sky, Isaac walked along the paths, both hands stuck deep in his pockets, eyes locked on a point a few yards ahead of his feet. Periodically his head slowly swivels around, staring at the many empty places where he once knew there was the soothing singing from a tiny songbird, or the creaking of a mature branch holding on to the trunk of the oak tree, for the sake of all the twigs that grew out of it. Right now he could hear no sound as he stood next to the majestic tree, no coming and going of birds, or a gust of wind playing with the leafless branches.
The lifeless scenery caused Isaac to shiver, wanting to open his eyes again and be at his desk once more, to leave this now deserted place. Usually it was just a matter of creating the image in his mind of retreating from his garden, but however hard he tried this exact moment, he could not. His mind remained void of the thought of his study, of the bookshelves and the smell of old music sheets. The connection was not there, as if he had forgotten how to keep it alive.
Is there even such a place? Does that person even exist?
The hair on his arms stood upright when he saw that the out of place shadow on his path kept wriggling around as he was standing still. The sides were bulging rhythmically as if something wanted to escape him and kept pushing outward from deep within, throwing itself at his skin. It was growing bigger every passing second, pulsating angrily, wanting to erupt. Sweat started forming on Isaac’s forehead, and inside himself, he could hear his brain pleading at his body to react.
Please turn around. Go. Run away from here!
The words wrestled hard to make it past his subconscious and did not make it past his lips, however, with every last grain of self-control Isaac still possessed, he pulled himself around and started stumbling towards the gate of this desolate garden. After a few steps, trying to coordinate his feet as if yelling and pleading at them through a misty haze, he broke out in a full run, once he heard his shadow raspily breathing and howling behind him.
As he neared the metal gate set between tall green hedges he could hear knocking, a fast rapping sound, coming from far away. Reaching the doorway, Isaac grasped for the metal handle of the rusted metal gate and grabbed it to pull it open. Once the crack was big enough, Isaac slipped through it, every fiber of his being keeping himself from looking around at the scene behind him. The only thing that was on his mind was to get as far away as possible. A confrontation was the last thing he wanted right now.
Isaac’s eyes opened abruptly as the gate clicked back into its lock. It took a second for his study to once again become a familiar place while focussing on the smell surrounding him, and the moving shadows thrown around by the lamp at his side. There it was once more, the knocking. It came from the hallway beyond the door to his study. Isaac stood up and walked stiffly toward the door and further onward to the big wooden front door. As he reached it, he could hear the sound of traffic on the other side, carts being pulled by oxen, their drivers yelling for people to move out of the way, while salesmen were trying to peddle their wares to bystanders. Listening to the world beyond the door, wiping the sweat off of his forehead with his sleeve, he noticed he was out of breath. It wasn’t real. It’s all just in my head he kept repeating to himself as he pulled the handle and the sound and smells of the street rolled inside his house. Peacefulness was a foreign concept in this city as life went on day and night. It’s for this reason Isaac often retreated deep within, longing for a house out in the countryside, to get away from this busyness. Yet he never really came around to looking for such a place.
Looking outside, to see who came knocking, he could see Louna observing the street, her blond hair sticking to her forehead due to the midday heat of the city, when there was no escape from the sun beating down from above. Her hands were folded in front of her as she waited patiently, unaware that the door had opened. Isaac pushed his shoulders back a little and tried to ignore his heartbeat increasing. An unexpected moment of happiness had come this day.
“Hi Louna, I didn’t expect to see you here.”
With a little yelp of surprise, Louna turned her head, having to squint a little to make out Isaac in the dark doorway. “Oh hey Isaac, yes, I was around and thought, you know, to come by and see how you were doing. I haven’t heard from you in a while.” Looking back momentarily at the street, at a scene where two burly men were trying to coax a goat from off of the top of a stall, she laughed and turned towards Isaac. “I bet you are up for some tea, no?” But before he could answer her, she already had passed him by into the house.
“… Ok,” a little perplexed, and truth be told, just like she was he was also a bit pulled in by the scene in front of him, where one of the two men was trying to climb on top of the stall. After a moment Isaac closed the door gently. Walking towards the kitchen, he ignored the doorway to his study, instead, following the sound of opening cupboards and the clanging of a kettle. There she was, throwing logs into the stove before standing back up, cleaning her hands on her apron.
“What have you been up these days..” Louna’s voice trailed off as she saw Isaac’s face.
Talking helps. Not always. Not every time. But maybe today it will.