August 6th, 2012. Simone remembers that day like their own name. They had been out in the white soccer field fooling around with their friends, when suddenly their brother appeared with his own friends, there to bully them again, like he had for years. They ran at Simone and their friends like raging dogs, and suddenly, Simone felt the ground disappear from under them. Did I faint? Did I slip? Soon enough, Simone realised that none other than their very own brother, Chars, as they used to call him, had pushed them down. Laughing. Grinning. Simone felt the excited waves of their brother’s exultant joy as he saw his brother fall down like a fly; laughing with his friends. Now Chars had really stepped over the line.
Fast forward to June, 2020. Simone remembers that day like it was yesterday; a day of peace and quiet, made into something so ugly. They had not talked to their brother after that day: not a single word. They were both adults now, having grown up and moved out of their parents’ apartment long ago. Simone’s brother was an airplane mechanic, working most of the year. Simone, on the other hand, was still looking for their own path, searching for something that would really interest them. They would take random job sas they opened up, hoping to get some extra income. More often, not having anything to do, Simone would dig up their childhood sketch book, and start drawing what they saw around them in the form of cartoons. Thin, gray streaks made by a worn-down pencil. They would have pages made even months apart, but still something. The annoying dog barking and its owner running after it, on one page. People waiting in line to get the newest Apple phone, or tablet, whatever, on another. Having lived in an apartment for most of their adult life, Simone had gotten accustomed to watching those tiny figures dance around the city, in a way; always in a hurry somewhere. One day, Simone decided that they would visit a café nearby, Rob’s Coffee, where their childhood friend worked. Simone was walking down the street with their cartoon book in their hands. They always carried around the notebook when they were trying or meeting someone else; it helped Simone see the world around them; peaceful and still, sublime perfectness of every situation.
Just before turning onto Streak Road, Simone suddenly bumped into someone in a hurry; I mean, at 8 o’clock on a Monday, who wasn’t? Anyway, before Simone had time to jump to the side, they felt hot streaks of coffee on their t-shirt, the brown color marbleizing the serene white t-shirt.
“Excuse me,” said the person who had bumped into Simone, before the person disappeared around the brown tiled corner.
Reorienting themselves with tens of people running around them and pushing past them, Simone noticed that their notebook was dripping with a thick, brown liquid; the tears of the painful images captured in those cartoons. Noticing this, Simone ran to the nearest café and asked for the bathroom.
“Where is it?!” they asked, before running off like they were never there.
In the bathroom, Simone tried everything, paper towels, blow dryer… but nothing worked. With early coffee goers bustling right outside the bathroom door, Simone couldn’t help themselves. They fell to the ground, whimpering:
“What have I done to deserve this? I mean, really,” they kept on repeating.
Not noticing that the bathroom door had opened, Simone was startled to find an older man standing in front of them.
“Are you alright? Do we need an ambulance?” the person asked, evidently shocked at the sight of a crying person.
“No, no it's alright. Something of mine just got ruined by coffee. Thanks, though,” Simone replied, ready to leave the room.
”What are those? Cartoons?” the man asked.
“Yeah,” replied Simone, already reaching for the disgustingly wet door handle. “You know, I used to have one of those,” the person said.
“Cool,” Simone said, the aching and loneliness vibrating in their voice.
Half way out of the door, the man called out:
“You know, the first ruined hundred pages don’t make cartoons what they are.” “It’s what you can create on the 101st page, that’s what’s important.” Having just finished his sentence, the man could no longer distinguish Simone’s figure from the crowd of people yelling at the stressed out barista at the coffee spot.
“We’re having dinner Wednesday evening, if you want to come,” the message read. Simone had seen the message from their dad when they got up, but hadn’t bothered to read it before they got to the subway. “Will Chars be there?” Simone replied, hoping that they would not need to stand their brother for another minute. After a few minutes, the high-pitched ting! broke the expected silence of people sitting in the morning subway with their headphones on. “Yes, and we hope you will come, too,” the message read. Simone hadn’t seen his family in about a year; had felt ousted since he left home. “Fine, but just this once,” they replied, feeling the silly clash between their memory and their heart inside of them. The subway stopped, right at Streak Road. Simone closed his phone and stepped into the seemingly ever-lasting bustling life of the inner suburbs.
Trees paced by, their green covered branches remitting the sounds of the forest. Simone was driving steadily to their parent’s house, not in a hurry; right at the old wooden cottage that had been abandoned long before they were born; right again at the rusty old gas station; up the gravel road, and there it stood. A seemingly old house, not too big, covered in the blossoming vines all over. The birds in the trees around the house welcomed Simone into the parkway with their high-pitched, sometimes irritating, sounds.
“Welcome!” their dad yelled from the front door. “Come on, quickly!” their dad said. “How long you stayin’?”
“Hey dad,” Simone uttered in a quiet voice.
Simone stepped inside. They’ve renovated it, it seems, Simone thought to themself. The brown ceiling with white streaks brought some light into the room, with huge windows by the fireplace. “Come, sit,” their dad yelled from the table, where everyone was seated, even Chars. Chars seemed much taller now, compared to a few years ago.” Simone sat down at the right side of the table, opposite to their brother. “Got to endure this just this once,” Simone thought, and took some food.
Breaking the awkward silence, Chars asked: “How are you, Simone?” Simone didn’t even look up, uninterested in their brother’s empty remarks. Taking some more potatoes, Simone remembered what the old man had said: “The first ruined hundred pages don’t make cartoons what they are. It’s what you can create on the 101st page, that’s what’s important.” Keeping this close to their heart, Simone replied, nervous yet relieved of a sort:
“I’m alright. How are you?”
the 101st page
BY pepe pyykkö