It has been a long time since I have drawn anything. Not that I don’t want to. More like I don’t feel the urge to. I blame it on the pills. I roll one of them around in my palm, tilt my head back and swallow it dry.
The doorbell rings a few times, followed by a heavy knocking on the door. I finally budge and open it.
“Dad, ” my son bursts in, “Is everything ok? You should really give me a key to your apartment.”
“What, now they give voting rights the day after you are born in this country?”
He is worried for me and he has a right to be. After all, I had died once. Clinically. People always ask me how it felt to be dead. I usually say it’s a lot like being alive except your heart doesn’t beat… and for some of us the brain stops functioning.
I don’t believe in life after death. And have very little faith in life before death. I might have had more faith if not for the pills I have to take. I seem to have lost my drive since I started taking them but apparently that is what keeps me alive. So it’s either life or faith in life for me and I choose the former.
Most normal kids in class collected stamps or coins. Rich collected pills. Of all sizes and shapes and colors. And I was one of his chief providers. In the beginning it was simply a plastic bag with a lot of pills in it. Then he got really crazy about it. He would organize them and try to label them with names and expiry dates. We would hang around hospitals and pharmacies to not only pick any loose pills off the floor but also to study discarded cases.
He said he never swallowed any of the pills he collected but I knew he sometimes licked the sugary coating off them. One of the reasons why not only was his capsule collection pretty to look at but I didn’t feel repulsed by it. I knew he didn’t lick those.
I always thought Rich would either turn out to be a junkie or a pharmacist… or both. But he turned out pretty normal and boring. Even when he couldn’t realize his passion to be an airline pilot because of his bad eyesight, he didn’t spiral into depression.
Why did I remember Rich? Oh yes, these pills. Which my son is now reminding me about. He is also telling me his wife and kids are going to the beach and they want to take me along.
“I thought you would be excited, Dad.”
“Excited is something I don’t get. You , boy, sound like your mum. When she was not complaining she would tell me I should set a goal to get excited at least once a week.”
Truth is I am excited. One of my few joys in life are to watch my grand kids grow.
The moment I get in the car and sit next to the brats I say I want to do nothing more than step out again. I say I don’t want to play the clown in their high energy circus. They are excited and noisy. I could do with less of both. Truth is I am secretly enjoying their playfulness, the attention they are showering on me. Yes, kids, I am sure you can beat me in whatever new game you have discovered this week.
The beach is warm and inviting. There is a breeze that carries the light smell of the sea with it. I sit comfortable under an umbrella. Magically a canvas and a set of drawing pens appear before me.
“I have watercolors too if you are so inclined,” my son says.
“I will have a sausage for lunch instead. Thank you.” I say.
He smiles and shakes his head. He leaves all the painting supplies on the sand and goes to join his wife and kids kicking a beach ball.
I gaze at them and the waves behind them. There is a calmness that descends on me, as I watch the monotony in front of me, not being able to switch channels or flip pages.
The sky gets darker as the sun sinks in the horizon. I would normally admonish the family next to where I am sitting. They have packed and are ready to leave but have left some plastic junk behind. Not today. I am occupied.
Soon it’s our turn to pack and leave. My son packs everything except for the canvas which he holds up for everyone to see. The sketch is of a family kicking a ball on the beach with the sun setting behind them. It is as beautiful as I have ever sketched. It is not the pills. It never was the pills. That was just another in a series of excuses. Come tomorrow I might even go back to one of those excuses. But today I am going to bask in the pleasant shades in and out of the canvas.