A Day Like Any Other by Roman Jakubčík

The life of the city goes about its usual business and so does one wailing, run-of-the-mill ambulance car. To its sole passenger, an anonymous young man, things may, however, look quite different.

To live is the rarest thing in the world…

(Oscar Wilde)

Fragments of the rain-shrouded city were flashing past the ambulance window with the speed and quality of a psychedelic rush. Oh, what a drug it was. And what a drug she had been, only now, he knew, was she never ever to be felt again, except through the mysterious veil of his irrecuperable sanity. The screeching sound of the siren pierced into the cell of the medical vehicle with cheeky immediacy, but at that moment, and at that very state of his mind, there was nothing too loud to drown out the havoc inside of him. He was still there, an inhabitant of a familiar meat-and-bone shell, but the integral and defining part of him had already gone along with her last cool leave-me-alone peck. The taste of her lips was something never to be forgotten for him, yet he felt, way too closely, like the story that had barely come to its bitter end was already becoming more of a delusion, as if all that had definitely happened, all that was happening still, might as well have been nothing but a twisted fantasy of a sleeping intergalactic creature, that was, in fact, him.

Who was he, anyway? He remembered his name, his age, all the terrestrial paraphernalia people of Earth made such a strong point of, and yet some part of him kept telling him that all of that was just a massive hoax. Identity: what the hell?!

Everything about human existence he once believed he understood was crumbling before him like the morning bread he’d eaten and thrown up. He used to be such a good boy, well-directed and unshakeable, if, he had to admit, a bit on the naïve side. But, hey, who could have known what the world was really like, that the rules one gets taught at school do not exactly apply when the die is cast, and especially when it comes to love.

What a tricky word, this love. Speaking of relationships, he could hardly call himself ‛experienced‛, although, which he proudly reminded himself of, his cherry had long been slurped off. Still, he was convinced that when genuine feelings were at stake, all that he had to do was just go with the capricious flow of romance, wherever it was headed, and enjoy the ride. Oh dear, how fully and with what unbridledness did he do so! Just reliving it in his memory made his heart race like it was never meant to stop.

The ambulance was zig-zagging its way into the murky heart of Blackville. To what place exactly was of no mystery to him, just like it had been of no mystery to thousands and thousands before. Where else could he go? Family bridges had been burned to ashes a long time ago, he had no proper friends to speak of, and the only good resort he had now and then reached out to, drinking, well, that had already done its irreversible damage. She was the one constantly talking him out of it, however, what she’d never realized was the paradoxical fact that through all that she was, all of her mood and personality swings, those irrational and soul-debilitating reactions to pretty much anything he’d ever done, she was actually the one to get him started in the first place. Was he so weak, or she so unfathomably toxic?

On the other side of a bullet-proof screen ahead of him bobbed the turned-away head of the ambulance driver, as if suggesting that regardless of the delicate circumstances, a random guy’s life coming apart, for most it was still an unremarkable day like any other.

Time was no longer a thing for him. He had no idea how long he was sitting in that wretched jalopy for, and he couldn’t care less. He got his hand dealt very clearly: all he was to look forward to from now on was eternal vacuum of meds-sustained stupor, and in this prospect time really didn’t matter.

All of a sudden, the van came to an abrupt halt. Traffic lights, he thought, instantly recollecting the multiple occasions when he, in his own car, used to rush to meet his lover and was barely able to step on the brakes just as the red came on. Once he almost swept the whole pedestrian crossing. So eager was he not to allow a single second pass without being able to cradle her in his arms. And what was it for? All he could cradle now were bitter memories, the stubborn tormentors disintegrating him from the inside.

Before all of that, he’d never been to Blackville, let alone its infamous institution. Of course, he’d heard of it (who hadn’t?), all those hair-raising tales and what not, but now that he was approaching its sinister gates, fear began to creep up on him with tingling palpability. Why should he be afraid, he asked himself. What was there to be afraid of? After all, he’d lost everything. Could things get any worse? What did he know? But still, it was as if, to his surprise, the closer he was getting to his demise, the more he was beginning to desire salvage. Perhaps things might not end there. Perhaps there was still hope. Sure, now it was probably recharging its batteries somewhere in the interspatial realms of Karmatown, getting stoned with that sneaky bitch, Fortune, but still. There had to be something with the potency of tipping the fatal scales back in his favour.

Once the ambulance jerked back in motion, he was no longer sitting inside. Instead, a new, reborn man had taken his place: a man who finally, only after being set to balance on the tightrope of his very existence, saw through things as they were, and for the first time in many months heard the muted whisper of his suppressed self-worth. Oh yeah, he was still badly screwed, and in for an iffy period of unhuman non-living, but now he knew: he would make it.

When the van made its final stop in the courtyard of Blackville Sanatorium and the hospital’s orderlies, equipped with not-too-stylish straitjackets and just-in-case tranquillizers, opened the vehicle’s back door, there sat a serene young man greeting the staff with his silent smile. Upon the invitation to kindly step out, he slowly stood up on his feet and casually obeyed. Thy sky had cleared up and the ozone-induced air was fragrant with spring. A dog barked in the distance. No, it was not a day like any other. It was the first day of his new, happy life.

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