Written for this prompt at r/WritingPrompts.
The comment is here on the sub.
Naomi scrolled through yesterday’s accumulation. They were darker today than usual. Almost all of them were depression, uselessness, fear, nervousness, frustration. The spot below the hairline on the back of her neck tingled. She reached behind and rubbed as close to the spot as possible, taking care not to touch the cable that connected to the source of her emotions. It felt like a large lump of hair being shifted around if it touched anything while she was plugged in.
Warmth seeped through her fingers from the mug of coffee. Opening a new window, she began a list of the lightest emotions that had come in. The first on the list was a tiny amount of frustration. The donor was a regular. He got frustrated really easily but could let go of it just as easily. He’d made five separate donations yesterday alone. She’d spotted a burning shade of red anger and wondered if she wanted to experience that again. A singular experience had left her entire flower bed in ruins.
If she could feel exasperated by herself she would have sighed, at least, according to what she knew about the feeling. She sipped her coffee and continued to scroll instead.
At first, it looked like a very light shade of gray in comparison with the other colors. Against the black backdrop of the screen, you could hardly tell two grays apart unless you saw them side by side. She looked at the donor’s name. A regular again. But something was different.
She checked the directory. The particular donor had been sending it stuff like pitch-black uselessness and bucketfuls of tar-y regrets for months now. Most of them remained at the growing pile of rejects. Perhaps releasing all those stale emotions had helped somewhat?
Naomi added it to the list, and that was when she realized that it was pure white. She blinked, trying to process what was going on. She checked it against a color chart she’d stopped using years ago. it turned out to be happiness.
If she were normal, she thought, she might have been excited.
Arranging her choices from darkest to lightest, a trick she’d learned the hard way, she closed her eyes and waited for the well in her heart to fill up.
Rage was blurry and insane. Naomi was barely aware of what she did and why. A cricket chirping could make her want to tear her hair out. She’d have tears in her eyes and not know what for. She’d be tying up all the curtains in the house because one got in her way. Sheer exhaustion pulled her down into her armchair like gravity does an apple as the last of the boiling feeling ebbed away.
Then, frustration took the form of impatience as she cooked lunch. Why did food take so long to cook? Why did the vegetables she chopped turn out disarrayed? She was so hungry there was a lump at the base of her throat. Though they tasted like dirt, she’d eaten four raw potatoes by the time pasta was done.
Sadness and regret were her enemies in disguise for the rest of the afternoon. They snuck up on her when she least expected them to be around. One instant of letting her guard down, and one or the other would be eating her inside out. She watered her flowers, trying to keep them at bay.
She still had to work on controlling the emotions. Sometimes she could swear they were their own persons, with separate personalities and mannerisms. They became too heavy a burden on some days, and she wondered if something was always better than nothing.
Each of them looked different in her mind’s eye, felt different in her heart, even though they worked inherently in the same way. They pierced into the very center of her heart, spread all over her body with every steady beat. Sometimes the heightened her senses, sometimes dulled them, sometimes withdrew strength from her limbs and wrung out her insides. They tinted her perspective with different colored filters. Sometimes a gray of regret, sometimes the darkness of depression.
It was evening when she began to feel different. Every moment, every agonizing day spent, every ruined meal, every labored breath seemed to have lead her to this instant. It was triumph because she’d managed to live this long, gratefulness to whatever forces controlled destiny for allowing her to see this day, contentment because every breath now made her lighter and she couldn’t think of anything she could ever want more than this.
With a gasp she understood. Not just that this was what it meant to be happy, but also why it was so rare. She couldn’t know the statistics of how many people out of the billions actually lead happy lives, but it made sense that she’d only had this one instance of it in the sixteen years since setting up the donation system.
No one would ever want to part with a feeling so beautiful.
But then why had the person given it away? Naomi almost tripped over herself in the rush to get to the computer. She had to know. Why?
She’d given up reading the donor’s comments years ago. Having background info made the emotions more intense. She didn’t want to go to bed with sleepless eyes every night and wake up with yesterday’s feeling still churning inside her. Now, she logged on, feeling the happiness almost creating whole new emotions inside her out of thin air. It took her a bit of poking around to figure out.
From the day I found this, read the comment, I believed that someone was out there, reading every word I type, sympathizing, helping me dig out the strength I needed to carry on. If you are there, then you know me better at this point of my life that anyone else I know. I’ve given you my sorrows, my regrets. I’ve given you a piece of me with every transaction. I feel it would be unfair if I didn’t share this with you as well.
Today, my life got better. I’m no longer obligated to spend my life with someone who respects me as much as a trashcan. My daughter doesn’t have to be afraid of the very person who is meant to be her protector. She doesn’t have to worry about things which are her rights. Undue blame will no longer be thrown my way. Now, I can choose my own destiny, and I can teach my daughter to do the same.
Naomi could feel it in the ache of her cheeks, in the tear tracks running down her face. Freedom.
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