Reaching The Summit

Entry by: writerYNKGHTYLDE

24th April 2015
TEETH glinted from the smug smile, all shiny and white.
Pinstripe dark blue suit, pink tie, crisp brilliant white shirt.
Black, shiny brogues pointed from crossed legs next to the mahogany table complete with the golden glow of the half empty whisky glass.
This was a pose he had struck for no longer than 60 minutes.
But it was cast now for all eternity. His finest hour. His hour of rites, passage completed, ambition achieved, finally reaching the summit he had striven for so single-mindedly for so long over years, decades, captured in a matter of minutes, by a famous portrait artist.
He, it, had been an award winner. Best in exhibition at a prestigious portrait society show in London.
The great and the good of London's art scene had gushed in front of his face at the champagne opening. Kisses and compliments. All pomp and circumstance.
Twelve months on, the exhibition came around again, but he, it, had long since left the scene.
His wood-panelled office was now home to the smug smile.
In front he sat. Weighed down by the imposing figure behind him.
His teeth were jagged, faded, yellow almost. His suit was showing signs of wear.
The red light flashed from the answerphone on his desk. It was the figure '4'.
He sighed and pressed.
"David, where are you, when will you be home. Please call. Let me know you are ok. I love you."
David lowered his head into his hands, cupping his fingers over his eyes.
There were no tears.
He pressed '7' for delete, and took a deep breath.
The he played the next message.
"Dad, can you pick me up?. And can you take me to Vicky's later. Make sure you bring me some money. I need £100. Message me."
He pulled at his hair. It was wild and curly, not the groomed, fixed look of his portrait.
He bowed his head again and massaged his temples, before rubbing his eyes.
Still no tears.
Delete. Play.
The penultimate massage.
"Dad, please come home. I miss you so much," the young voice on the other end of the phone then started breaking up, and he could hear the sobbing, the intake of breath.
It was then he broke down. Tears started rolling down his cheeks.
His shoulders started shaking. His stomach churned violently, like claws digging into his flesh. He retched.
He picked up his phone and started flicking through the photos, tears hitting his desk, and occasionally having to rub them off the screen.
When he'd started out, climbing the ladder was everything.
"Work had, play hard," his dad had always said as he dropped him off at school.
He'd tried his best at everything he did. Promotions, higher salaries, came easy. He went with the flow, happy to soak up the champagne moments along the way.
Wife, children, house, car, he didn't have to try too hard. It all fell into his lap.
And he just kept on climbing.
"Don't work too hard David," countless colleagues had said to him as they left various offices, in various locations around the world, to go to their own homes.
On work friend in particular took him to one side one evening working late in the office.
"No-one ever wants to put it on their gravestone you know. No-one ever says 'I wish I had spent more time at work'."
Looking back, that was the moment he could have turned back.
He could have slammed on the brakes. Wound down the windows. Taken a deep breath of fresh air and given himself a slap across the cheek.
At that moment, he could have woken up to what was going on.
He could have turned car right around and headed back to his loving family.
But he didn't listen.
He drove on.
And in so doing knew he has gone beyond the point of no return.
The air was thin up here. It was like being above the earth.
Like his annual solo trip up Scafell Pike, reaching the summit and looking down on the world below, not wanting to go back to the green fields, and narrow lanes below. Once he sat in the car in the National Trust car park surrounded by walkers coming to and from their walks, groups, couples, romantic couples, and just sat in his car motionless, not able to turn the key, not able go back home.
Photos on his phone showed a happy life. Smiling faces, children, family having fun, on walks, by swimming pools, by famous landmarks around the world.
How did he get here? How did he become so separated?
A red '1' flashed in front of him.
He knew who it would be from.
The same person who has emailed him more than 30 times that day alone.
The same person who has left so many voicemail messages, the texts dominated the whole home screen of his phone.
He took one more deep breath.
He reached in the draw.
The rest was a blur.
Then nothing...
Just darkness.
At 10pm the door opened.
The office cleaner put her head round the door.
She saw David slumped at his desk.
Then she looked up at the portrait, which is when she saw it.
Dripping from his white teeth, red liquid dripping down onto his lips, his chin, and his white shirt, his face also splattered.
Her scream pierced the air all across the office floor. Still the red '1', now splattered, flashed on the desk.