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VOLUME 2, NUMBER 21    <>   MONDAY, MAY 28, 2001

ordinary lives

sudden epiphanies

Dania wandered by the alley. She’d fled from her home to escape what was her — her things, her sadness, her life. She stopped at the intersection between the main road and a concealed back street, and looked at both of her views. She felt like Janus, standing in the doorway of her existence. What should she choose, the dreaded familiar or the perils of the unknown? She glanced at both again.

On one side glimmered the stars, glinting points that pierced the sky. Dania could see the road from here, straight and vast and interminable. And on the other side, what could she see? The sky was shielded by a rusted awning. There were no roads, no exits or escapes. Just an alley leading to nowhere but the present, this place, this moment.

How did she get here anyway? Damned if she could even remember.

The sadness had crept into her spirit without warning, without fanfare. One day she had started crying, and then the next, and the next, and the next. In the car, in the supermarket, behind her computer at work. In the evenings she’d climb into her cave of blankets and rock herself to sleep. When she awoke it’d be hours later, that much more time she’d have endured.

Stand under the shower, she told herself one morning, let the hot water remind you you’re real. The droplets will clean your body and carry your sadness away. She stared at her feet, the mixture of soapsuds and dirtiness that swirled down the drain. She could smell the pungent coffee in her urine, feel the slimy clumps of monthly blood that plopped from between her legs. They slid down the drain with the rest, but still the sadness remained. That’s when she realized she had to be cleansed from the inside, not with water or soap or tears.

Yet nothing had worked so far. Not the internist, not the psychologist, not even the shrink. Her only option was medication, they said, or maybe the moods would pass. Which evil should she choose? Already her efforts had taken a lifetime, lived in frenzied flashes. But that was how it worked, she knew. Those sudden epiphanies were the moments that moved you forward.

A shadow shifted in the alley. It was a man, crumpled under torn newspapers. Dania could smell him from where she stood, the rot of garbage and decay hidden under the stench of straight whiskey. He looked cold in his cave built of rubbish, cold as he rocked himself into a stupor.

Dania looked back at the main road, then again at the huddled man. But for a twist of circumstance she could be someone else, someone healthy, happy, alive. But for a twist of circumstance she could be him. She took off her coat and placed it on the man, then turned on her heel and found her way to the road home.

Tomorrow she’d try the pills.

Vanitha Sankaran is currently writing a collection of vignettes to be titled Ordinary Lives. Her current work can be found in recent issues of Prose Ax, The Paumanok Review, and Mindprints. “Sudden Epiphanies” first appeared in The Independent Mind.