He lives in an old-fashioned house that aged accordingly. The spacious, rustic setting inside was saturated with a haze of chrome. Everything had a jaundiced facade, like a pencil drawing from a decaying book. Ever since the experiment began, he had sold most of his amenities.
There was a point in time when he was obsessed with paintings. He was a connoisseur of sorts and he’d amassed an impressive collection during his short lifetime. But sickness put his materialism in perspective, a turn in tide that washed ashore revulsion. The experiment’s ambiguity about his place in the treatment group or the control made him re-evaluate his life choices.
And he was forever transformed after that. He turned calm and mellow, like an austere monk who’s shunned worldly pleasures. The slightest displays of emotion make him putty. Just the other day, he found himself welling up to an old memory of his mother.
She held his sister on one arm and himself on the other. He was five and his sister two. He remembered looking at his mother. She was struggling to keep from falling, but she was laughing heartily. Smiling at her two gems. She was so proud.
His sister was giggling away the whole time. She still dons that smile whenever she sees him. A warmth radiates as her lips curve. It’s a contagious smile. A heart-warming smile. A virgin smile.
The only other woman who could evoke such emotion was his high-school sweetheart. Tall, blonde, and beautiful, he fell for Diane in an instant. Despite knowing she wasn’t single, he had persevered to chase his dream. Diane would be lying if she said she had felt any different. But she had decided to stay put, for she wasn’t a dreamer like him.
Well years later, here she is, barely rebounded from an ugly marriage. She now stays close to help him. And sometimes, she stays over. Her shattered life was beyond repair, a price she paid for choosing the nightmare over the dream. She needed him, as much as he needed her.
Their conversations were succinct. Preoccupied in their emotional traumas, they had hardly anything to say. They’d established a daily routine that left little need for it. Anyone watching their silhouettes on the window, as they sit in his study and ponder over the past, would mistake them for mannequins.
He never told her that he couldn’t love anyone else as much as he had loved her. It’s fascinating how little that feeling remains, despite being so profound once. His departure from the feeling was progressive, although slow.
But lately, his sense of morbidity accelerated its pace. He was growing increasingly distant from his past but not his memories. He’d find himself reminiscing but not longing. A life in technicolor reduced to monochrome.
He was uncertain if he should consider the ensuing years as his last or as the precursor to a new beginning. He missed the magic that once graced his life. He wondered where it went. So he set out to find the spark. The spark to a new flame. Seems like his outlook broadened, as his lifespan narrowed.
She, on the other hand, never told him that she’d seen his test results. That she secretly pitied him for being a ‘control’. That she felt torn apart between hope and truth.