Three Hundred Steps

How many steps are there, I wondered, gazing up. Two hundred? Three? I would make my way up slowly, take in the view. I pulled my hat low over my ears to protect them from the icy cold wind and took the first step. Perhaps I should count them. It would give me something to concentrate on. A distraction. I was always trying to find some way of distracting myself. It was easy enough at work, but now that I was away I had a lot more time to think. I had to keep my mind occupied, stop it from wandering onto things I did not wish to think about.

Eleven, twelve, thirteen…

I couldn’t stop myself, the thoughts were creeping in already. Had he noticed I was away yet? Would he notice at all? I knew he would not ask me if I had enjoyed my holiday when I returned. He never did. He never asked me anything about my life, despite being a naturally curious person. I just wasn’t interesting enough to be curious about, I suppose. I was insignificant. And yet…no, mustn’t think about it. Keep counting.

Twenty-one, twenty-two, twenty-three…

I watched some children race up the steps past me, shouting out numbers. I smiled. How many of us were walking up those steps simply for the purpose of finding out exactly how many there were? Perhaps it was just me and the children. I longed to be carefree like that, to not be weighed down constantly by… no. Stop now. Stop letting it catch up with you. Got to keep going.

Fifty-one, fifty-two, fifty-three…

It was my birthday a couple of months ago. He sent me a present. I should have been pleased, but I wasn’t. I was confused. If I hadn’t know better I might have thought he cared about me. It still made things difficult though. I was doing well, distancing myself, and he had to go and do a stupid thing like that. It was a nice thing to do, a lovely gesture; I almost hated him for it. How do you forget someone when they keep sneaking their way into your thoughts? I tried to work out what it was I was feeling on my way home that day, but I didn’t really feel anything. Even now, I was numb. And I wanted to stay that way for as long as possible. I wanted to hold on to that flat, hollow feeling. If I didn’t the pain would surely return.

Seventy-six, seventy-seven, seventy-eight…

I stopped for a moment to take a photograph. I was taking lots of photos, everywhere I went. I took one of my feet, because it was childish and it made me laugh. It reminded me of when I was a kid and I used to take pictures of shadows and clouds and people walking away.

One-hundred-and-eleven, one-hundred-and-twelve, one-hundred-and-thirteen…

It had started to rain heavily. Most people were turning back now but I kept going. I could feel something creeping in, something I had tried so hard to keep out since my birthday. I feared I would start crying, but then I reasoned that it wouldn’t really matter since it was raining. I tried to stay numb but the ache in my heart had become too much to ignore. I started to count out loud, the words coming out as half sobs. I could feel my arms and chest shake with the effort and I walked faster, afraid that if I stopped I would simply collapse. I was running now, running faster and faster, until I was too out of breath of to cry.

Two-hundred-and-ninety-eight, two-hundred-and-ninety-nine, three-hundred.

I stood alone at the top of the steps, looking down. I was soaking wet but I didn’t care. I turned my face up to the sky, felt the rain on my skin. Soon I would have to go back down, but not yet. I would stay at the top for a while, until the pain had washed away. The rain would stop, the tears would dry, and I would ignore what had just happened. Then I would go back down and on my way, I would count the steps again…just to be sure.

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