(Grayscale) Chapter 5

Philly taunted him. It was the ever-present reminder of things that were. The familiar places filled with memories. There were many and they were everywhere, always waiting, the blurred background that could be brought into focus with the slightest shift of attention.

Until recently, the memories kept to the blurred area. Quinton worked hard to co-exist. After years of dysfunction, there had been a long duration of inactivity. They were always there in the blur, but the last few years they seemed uninterested in presenting themselves in a more obstructive way. Each memory, a little scene, a vignette that played itself out next to flesh and bone vignettes with real people in real time, both in the same blur without seeing each other, because memories are personal. Quinton went about his life, eating and sleeping, growing older, functioning as normal as he could, living inside a bubble of recollection.

Philly and Quinton – it was a complicated relationship, like two lovers who after time, hatred had festered between them, yet an underlying affection remained that kept the connection afloat, however waterlogged their vessel. Love. Hate.

Philly had been Quinton’s home since the first day of college, and after that pursuit had come to an abrupt ending, he stayed. He remained because there was no leaving. There was a force that kept him there, and even when he managed brief exits meant to be a permanent escape, when at a point he had the fortitude to do so and did so often, he was always pulled back. Sometimes, travelling across oceans to get as far away as possible, then without much notice or clear thought, he was making arrangements to return to Philly and as quick as he made those arrangements, he was reunited with the bubble. Eventually, he stopped trying. His fate was to live beside the memories. He was to be where the joy once grew, and where it expelled from the atmosphere.

Quinton walked a lot - all over the city. It helped to clear his mind and make room for creative indulgences. Walking, people watching, the constant changing landscape, constant changing thoughts, the freedom to not focus on any one thing for any length of time, briskly moving past the memories helped to minimize the reversion to the things that lingered everywhere.

There were some places that held none of those phantoms. They were void of any memories. Quinton called those places limbo – neither heaven or hell. They were places for him to sit without worry of thoughts creeping in, rest for a bit, and sometimes sketch the images.

30th Street Station was one such place. Quinton would go and sit on one of the many wooden benches, always closest to the stairs. He enjoyed watching the hordes of people move hastily across the shiny floor, down the steps to the trains. Their footsteps echoed in the capacious structure. Its big, art deco features and an amazing coffered ceiling that was nearly one hundred feet from the ground made him feel tiny. Sometimes, he would sit very still and look up to the ceiling and let his mind clear to nothing. 

After the second trip to a physician to check on the hand wound, Quinton walked to 30th Street Station. It was a busy day. The wooden benches were packed with commuters waiting for the giant voice to call out the next train’s arrival. Everyone seated was staring at a tiny screen and that made Quinton smirk. So much happening around them, dozens of people walking past, each with separate lives and fears and pain and joy. But the tiny screen watchers saw none of that. The clock was ticking on their tiny screen lives and they were missing the show.

He sat on the edge of a wooden bench, the only free spot to sit in the entire station, next to an elderly couple who were smartly dressed with hats to complete the ensembles. They were holding hands. Quinton wondered how long they had been together. Was it a new romance late in life or was he next to a couple who had lasted generations together and after all those years their desire to show affection was thriving?

Quinton’s hand was throbbing. It felt like it was infected. The physician did not concur and told Quinton the wound was healing nicely. He felt weak, with chills, like a fever was creeping in. The physician did not concur with that diagnosis either.

Before Quinton left the physician’s office, Troy sent a text about the contract with Jonathon Thomas.

Hey Quint: Paperwork is all wrapped up. Your new partner will keep his distance, just wants to check in once a month to see how you are progressing.

Not too much to ask for--so be cooperative!

Quinton remembered that he had never responded and thought it strange that Troy didn’t text again to make sure Quinton received the text and was ready to work on the project.

Thinking about the text reminded him that he had the photos of the porcelain dolls with him. Early that morning, while organizing the new project, he couldn’t put those photos down. Allison could have chosen any photos to slip into the binding of her diary and she chose photos of dolls. It was a strange choice. There had to be significance. Before he left for the physician, Quinton put the photos of the dolls in his jacket pocket. Unsure why, he just wanted them close in case he needed to look at them again.

The artist looked up at the high ceiling and waited for his mind to be cleared to nothing. Nearly one hundred feet up. Thoughts slowly disappeared, one after the other. The mental canvas cleaned itself of any remnants of the world outside of the station. Thoughts were falling away. A one hundred foot drop into the crowd below where they would be gone like puffs of smoke. The last image to disappear, the eyes of one of the porcelain dolls staring back at him.

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