Red is my favorite color. The thought’s inclination makes your decision. Stepping into the ring of red light, everything sinks into a frightening night. Blind for the moment, you swing about and find a nearby wooden bench standing against walls that feel like those of a narrow corridor. When your vision returns, you see the corridor stretching long and white, with cement walls that lead to a door with a neon exit sign above it. It’s probably an exit. Idiot. Although the past five days’ events have been quite grim, quite disconcerting, and quite mischievous, an openly-lit hallway with a clean bench seems like a nice place to rest. The obviousness of this runs through before it is realized to be another shortcoming. You have nowhere to call home.
That hurt, but rather than taking the pain as a fault of depression, you attempt to use it for motivation. This nagging voice is your voice. I can talk it away. I can take control of it.
Taking a spot on the bench, you begin to breathe intentionally. Strumming your finger against the underbelly of the seat and breathing feels like an accomplishment. Where am I? That hole just left me here without any explanation. Well, that’s fair, if you think about it. Magic holes don’t need to be labeled. If anything, it would take away from the magic. But still… maybe a pamphlet. Or at least someone to meet me here. The cement hallway has repeatedly been echoing the noise of your strumming and forced breath. Good acoustics. Like that.
The continued noise helps as you slowly confront a question you’ve continually postponed. What will you do? I’ll go home and paint: I’m a painter. And after that? Do you just keep painting? What’s the plan here? Because it seems like every choice you make leads to disaster. It’s not my fault. Whose fault is it? Aydin or Thomas, it’s their fault. They put me on that stupid boat... I guess. You guess? I know. I know that’s true. It just feels like it should be a bit more specific. Specific how? I don’t know, specific in an affirming way. Part of me feels like I should have more control than this. Control over you. Maybe you never had any control; maybe life is just reacting to all of the things that can occur. So, you’re saying I have no real choice in the matter? I’m saying ‘control’ is overrated: ‘the matter’ is too big to handle. Especially by someone like you. You sigh. I just want to be someone that feels good. Every moment is an experience: a prerequisite to what you are. Given your experiences, what do you think you are? Someone that should feel good, or someone that should feel like you?
Your inner monologue turns you gloomy. Staring down the white hallway, you hope to think of something that makes you happy again. Hopefully you’ll find something clever and rebound out of this slump. Nothing good happens.
A large metal clang breaks the silence of the room. You turn to see the door at the end of the hallway open. A tall black man wearing jeans and a green winter jacket walks down the hall. The corridor’s narrow size makes eye-contact unavoidable. The two of you stare at each other as he walks.
“Do we know each other?” you ask.
The man stops and thinks for a moment. “Well, obviously not.”
“What do you mean ‘obviously’?” you continue, slightly offended at his reply.
“If you need to ask if we know each other, then the answer has to be no,” he says. The strange man has a discernible accent: nothing over-the-top, but it’s apparent he’s from New York. The croon from his voice rolls over his lips and breaks into a hustle well-known in Brooklyn. In this accent, his logic seems remarkably sound.
“I mean, do you know me?”
The man shakes his head. “No, I don’t. Do you know me?”
You consider thinking about the man; but decide against it, suspecting the conversation will go faster if you and he remain strangers. “No.”
The man looks at you and then at the exit. His expression looks inscrutable: maybe happy, or confused, maybe some East Coast affect—impossible to tell.
“What are you doing here?” he asks.
“I’m trying to figure that out, actually,” you reply, voice trembling as you speak.
Seeing you’re upset, the stranger sits down on the bench beside you. “What’s to figure?” he asks. “You got a place to go?”
“Then find a place and stay there. Not that hard.”
He gives simple advice, but gives it honestly. You can’t help but think of the conversation you had with yourself. “And then what?” you ask. Without thinking, you continue: “Lately it feels like everything I do just goes wrong... like every move I’ve made has led me farther away from what I want.”
“Do you mean further away?”
“No—or, maybe. Actually both.” God this is confusing.
“Well,” he says, “then what do you want?”
“I don’t know anymore! I thought I knew, but now that I’m here, what I wanted—what I still want—it just doesn’t seem plausible. Or even necessary.”
Once more, the man shakes his head. You can feel him rocking the bench. “That’s kind of a good thing though, right?” he replies. “Not a lot of things in this world that you really need. The faster you figure that out, the better,” he explains with a smile, and then looks you in the straight in the eye. “No. What* you* need is a purpose.”
“Yeah. A belief. An idea of why you want to do what you want to do, instead of just what you want to do.” He takes a deep breath. “In Islam, we believe we should help and raise those in need. Make lives better as we go along. That’s why I make music—I believe that.”
“I’m not interested in becoming Muslim,” you tell him, he just laughs.
“I’m not trying to convert you: I’m trying to raise you. Don’t ask yourself what you want to do, but why you want to do it.” The turn of phrase feels a tad confusing, but you follow the last bit. Turning inward the question comes alive. Why do I want to do anything? You have no answer to give. Lacking any response from your depression, you believe this question may help you gain some control over your life, even if you’re not sure how to do it yet.
With that, you rebound, if only slightly, out of your slump. “Thank you.”
You present your hand to the stranger. “Yasiin. The name’s Yasiin,” he answers. You shake hands.
“My name’s Icarus.”
“Yeah,” you say. Yasiin gets up and starts to leave.
“Hope I see you out there,” he opens the door at the end of the corridor. Loud music pours inside. Cheers can be heard and as Yasiin disappears into the next room.
It couldn’t hurt. Besides, I like rap music. Rising to your feet, you immediately fall through the white floor. Whiteness blinds you now as you take another plunge.
(go to Nineteen.)