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The Cardboard Box
by Sara Harricharan
2/19/2010 / Short Stories
It was a very ordinary cardboard box and it sat at the very top of the bookshelf in the family room. I did not touch it, I did not want to touch it and I pretended it did not exist. It was easier this way. I did not have to think about it if I did not see it.
Until the last week in March, that is. Work had gotten to be a terrible beast among the flowers, trampling my silken petals effort to waxen dust in the city streets. I was torn between my carefully ordered life of professional performance, instead of listening to the little voice in my throat, reminding me how awful I'd felt.
I never thought I would have to be sick in order to completely empty my mind of everything inside of it.
But I was.
I took every day of sick leave I had to my name and camped out on the sofa in my apartment, huddled beneath my grandmother's quilt and bargain-basement blanket I'd bought as an afterthought.
It was still cold.
I stayed there for awhile. I stopped counting the days I didn't answer the phone. Food was in the form of frozen boxes in the freezer and some days, I remembered to eat. The water in the kitchen sink tasted off, but I did not know what to do about it, so I did nothing.
The very act of doing nothing was the perfect incentive for my mind to empty itself and see nothing.
I was terrified. It scared me.
There was the imaginary mirror of life staring me down, right between the eyes with fickle humor and intense dislike. It showed me a picture I did not want to see again. I tried to close my eyes, but the image stayed, stamped inside my mind.
I could not see more, I did not want to. But I could not stop the images from coming. They danced before me, one after the other, memory after memory as they paraded through my empty, dark, living space and trooped up to the cardboard box perched on the edge of the bookshelf in the corner.
The imaginary mirror stood tall on the opposite wall, proudly reflecting the dreams and hopes dancing before it. Laughing at the choices I'd made when only two options were afforded me and neither of them were good. It laughed at me and I cried with it.
Cried for things I couldn't remember, places I'd never been and hope that had never been mine. The apartment became my cave. I did not venture out and I did not let anyone in. The few brave souls who ventured out to inquire of the state of my health were useful in procuring groceries for the days ahead.
It saddened me to realize they always asked of my health. Never of my head, my heart or my state of mind. It was as if they were scared to ask, scared to knowto know me deeper than just a face and a title.
They were scared of me, as I was of the little cardboard box at the top of the bookshelf in the corner. When I couldn't dive any deeper back inside of myself and the imaginary mirror had ceased to pass judgment on the remaining portions of my life, I began to build the stores of my courage.
This was easier said than done, for when you have nothing with which to start with, there is nothing. When you have something, you can make more of it.
Courage is not an elusive element. It is a fickle thing with a mind of its own. If it deems you worthy of its presence, it will appear. When you search for it the most, it will run, slipping through your fingers and melting into the distance.
When you cower beneath the blankets of security, swaddled in misery and misplaced hope, courage creeps over to sit on your knee. Like a child, with the utmost curiosity and innocence, it will beckon, reason and cajole you until you give in.
Caught in the clutches of courage, you are equipped. At least, I am, and enough to open the box at the top of the bookshelf in the corner. On shaking hands and trembling feet, I climb on the exercise bike and lean forward just enough, to touch the cardboard box.
It is faded from the sun on one side and covered with dust on the top. It has no flaps and no cover, because it is two halves of a whole, equal in size and perfectly rectangular. It is very light in my hands, my poor shaking hands, as I manage to climb down from the bike without breaking anything.
Diving back to the security of my blanket cocoon, I draw the covers up to my shoulders, twisting around to face the front windows. I am waiting to hear from courage, to know if I should open this box, if I should tempt this symbol of my old life. Of old memories. Of old things from so very long ago.
A cough and then a sneeze comes from my mouth and I am reminded of why I am sitting here in the first place. My stomach is steady and my hands are no longer shaking. Perhaps courage has left, but I do not need it now, curiosity has taken over.
Wiping the dust with the sleeve of my dirty sweatshirt, I painstakingly wiggle the top of the box from the bottom. It is a process more time-consuming than I have expected. I do not know why the box is so hard to open.
But wait! It is opening, and now it is open. There is nothing inside of me or outside, with which to brace against as I find myself staring inside at nothing.
The box is empty.
There is nothing.
This is a shock.
It has been so long I do not remember why I would put an empty box on the bookshelf. How strange. How very, very strange this is, but why does it make me ache all over? I feel this pain radiating from somewhere within me, as if, I should know the meaning of this.
My eyes close and I must rest my head to think.
There is too much going on in my head. I cannot remember this. But it is familiar, pushing through the fog, thoughts and new memories.
Memories that this imaginary mirror on the wall does not dare to laugh at. There is no mocking or taunting as these memories leapt from the box to join with the ones swimming through my head.
I remember now.
How to laugh.
How to sing.
How to breathe.
How to live.
Life is nothing if you are not living and you live, through Him alone.
Now I remember.
This box is empty, so I can fill it. I can give Him all the things that bother me and let Him take care of it. When I am empty, then He can fill me.
Into the box, I put things. The weight of failure. The pressure of perfection. The hopelessness of hope. I do not care what He does with them. I trust Him. He will do what is best.
When the box is full, I feel it. The cover is firmly pressed on and soon, I am standing on the exercise bike, placing the box on the top of the bookshelf in the corneragain. Maybe this time, I won't fill myself up with other things to be rid of the emptiness. This time, I will wait for Him to fill me.
And I know He will.
Sara Harricharan is a young Christian woman with a passion for writing for the Lord through faith-filled Science Fiction/Fantasy stories and pure words. www.fictionfusion.blogspot.com
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