Growing up in the countryside is considered a blessing by many people. The clean air and open area, not boxed in by buildings. A clear sky at night not blinded by the endless lights of the city. You never value the things you have, as did I with my upbringing in the countryside. The big city was the exciting place I longed to visit. No longer just two shops that stored only the same products all the time anyway. Finally food of varying origins and quality and most importantly the anonymity. You see, in the countryside everybody knows everyone. A curse for an antisocial person like myself. You are not able to walk outside your house without some neighbor greeting you and wanting to talk about your school day, how your parents are, or what you are up to. I could not wait for the day I finally moved to the city. In hindsight, I wish I never had.
My flat was small, but it was what I had expected and wanted. I didn’t care how small or filthy it was. It might have been tiny, run-down, and infested with god-knows-what, but it was MY tiny, run-down, and infested with god-knows-what kingdom. The building housed many different kinds of people. Varying in age and relationship status, which had the nice side-effect that everyone minded their own business. Everyone preferred to be left alone and that’s why I felt so much at home, I think. There were some downsides to this, seeing as nobody was thinking of taking care of some small things like trash lying around in the corridor. But that’s what you have to expect, everybody thinks someone else will surely take care of it. And of course I wasn’t going to be the one.
University was what I had expected and hoped for. Huge crowds of anonymous people in every lecture. The further you sit in the front the more isolated it gets. So guess who went straight to the first row. Students would usually meet and drink heavily at every day of the week, but they never asked me to join in, since nobody knew me. I was a face in the crowd. There and gone again. It was perfect. This, however, did not stay for long.
One day, another person was sitting in the front row of the lecture hall. I made sure to keep my distance from him. He seemed kind of like me, though, enjoying the solitude. Each one of us sat at the respective end of the row and listened to the lecture and afterwards we got up. Never crossing eyes or even acknowledging the other’s presence. I can’t tell you what made me talk to him one day, I guess I felt drawn towards him, but I couldn’t tell you what took hold of me to get up and actually catch up to him after the lecture.
I asked him about some lecture-related stuff and he quickly replied and dashed away afterwards. The next day, however, he asked whether he could sit next to me and I said he surely could. We never talked during the lecture or afterwards at lunch for a long time. None of us saw this as awkward silence, but pleasant silence. Then we began touching on surface level topics like music, books, and movies. I found out that he was a hobby-writer and only studied, because his parents didn’t want an artist in their family, so he had to become something with a little more prestige. I also talked about my parents and my childhood days in the countryside. He understood my love for the anonymity of the city and soon we both discovered our joy of late night walks. And so we decided to meet for one the following evening.
It was a beautifully cold night and the people were either at the club or still at home getting ready to go out. Shops were already closed and you could enjoy the spectacle of the cleaning ladies in every bigger store performing their nightly ritual of purity. We didn’t speak this was how it’s supposed to be. Walking through the city, the only sound being our own steps and occasionally another person busy to get somewhere. We didn’t pass by any restaurants, but kept to the little side-streets and glanced into the windows, be it a shop or a private home. These nightly trips soon became my highlight of the day and the dark could not come soon enough.
After a while we began talking about other things than the usual chit-chat, seeing as we both hated small-talk. I told him about my slut of a sister and the boys she would bring home. Of course, the entire village knew about it, but there are some things that are kept quiet in mutual agreement. His situation at home was not much better, he was an only-child and alone for most of his life. He had read books throughout his entire childhood which lead to his enormous library. Every book I mentioned was usually met with something along the lines of: “Oh, I’ve read that too. It was quite impressive.” Later he had started to write and while he had competed in many online contests, he´d never made it above the 5th rank. The response always praised his ability to adopt the view and mentality of different characters, but his stories lacked originality. I asked him if I could read some of his stories, but he declined, saying I could read one when he felt comfortable with the end result. But I can see where his praise came from. I felt understood. He never seemed to say anything I would find offensive or out of place.
I was talking about my sister one night when a man suddenly stepped in front of us. He didn’t move or say anything. He stood there and fixed us with an unwavering smile. We had preferred the side-streets to the main ones again and this time it might not have been the best idea. I was terrified, shacking with my whole body. But my friend remained oddly calm. The man demanded our money, phones, and anything else of value that we had. I gulped and tried to mentally stable myself, always telling me that I would just give him what he wanted and he would leave. None of us would benefit from the two of us dying here. The man would be prosecuted and his gain very short-lived. So I emptied my pockets. But my friend had no intention of doing so. He stood there, unwavering with a blank expression on his face, staring the man down. The man screamed at him, drew out a knife and threated to slit my friend´s throat, but nothing seemed to affect him. Then he made a step towards the man saying that it would be easier to cut him if he was actually within arms-reach of him. The man was puzzled, but still kept his knife raised. Yet, his bewilderment was his downfall. With a swift move my friend disarmed the man and held the knife to his throat and kindly asked him to leave now. The man cursed, but realized that he had lost and ran off into the darkness.
My heart slowly calmed down and I picked up my belongings from the ground. My phone had gotten a few scratches from the pavement, but I was just glad I was still alive. At that moment, I felt a terrible pain in my shoulder. I fell over and clutched the origin of the intense pain, feeling the blood run down my hand. When I looked up my friend held the bloody knife in his hand and stabbed down again. This time into my stomach. I curled up in agony, catching glimpses of his faint smile. I tried to reach for him, but he stepped on my arms with each of his feet, pinning me to the ground. I started to scream for help, I screamed about a fire, like a rape-victim is supposed to do. Then my friend bent down to me, coming close to my face so I could feel his breath on my cheek as I was shacking with terror. “Nobody will help you. You said it yourself, they all think someone else will take care of it. This is such a big city, somebody will surely get off their ass and call the police or at least check for you, won’t they?” Breathing was becoming harder and harder. I was starting to lose the grip on reality and slowly my vision was blurring. My world was fading out, only my friend remained, standing above me with an ever so faint smile on his face. “This is what you love about the city, don’t you? So many people and yet you are still alone.”
How can I write this when I am dead you ask? Well, just let it be said that this is not an un-common stylistic device and people have always told me I was good at adapting the view and mentality of others. Of course the narrator might have been a bit unreliable, dear reader, but up to his last moment I think our protagonist thought of me as quite reliable. Do I need to make it clear that nobody helped him, I don’t think so. Sure, his parents will miss him, but they are far away. To this city he was just another face in the crowd, missed by no one. I usually make a point of never converting personal experience into writing, but I felt that this one was worth keeping, if only for practice sake. Now, before I take a walk tell me, dear reader: Was my plot original enough or do I need to try harder next time?