FOOD ON THE TABLE
He locked his screen with a heavy sigh.
Another night working overtime. Another night catching the last train. Another night without seeing his 10-year-old daughter’s angelic face before falling asleep.
He loosened the collar of his wrinkled shirt and stared blankly across the platform. The red neon sign in front of him flickered in a dull rhythm.
With each blink, it seemed to twist into the form of his ex-wife fucking the CEO on the desk of his former office in Silicon Valley. He quickly rubbed his exhausted eyes, praying the gruesome image would one day disappear from his memory.
Three months had passed since they’d moved back to Tokyo. Three months that began with losing everything. Love of his life. Well-paying IT job. 4-bedroom house. Adoptive country.
Except his precious daughter.
And everything else paled in comparison.
The images danced across his field of view, continuing to distort the Japanese neon sign on the other side of the platform in lifelike hallucinations.
Soon after he’d stumbled across the affair, his wife was quick to file for divorce and start a brand new life at the arm of her highly successful lover. In turn, his boss was also quick to lay him off, due to “unforeseen budget cuts” and “staff reduction requirements”. The emails flashed before his eyes.
What he hadn’t expected was the silent blacklisting he’d experience with every subsequent job application. Every last tech company in the area either was “not hiring” or had to “politely decline the offer”, due to lies, lies, lies. The emails flashed before his eyes.
Bad news travels fast, but influence travels faster.
As if to confirm his thoughts, he felt a hot blast of wind stick his shirt to his sweaty back as a train sped past behind him. It was exactly how fast she’d kicked him out of the house, daughter and all, on that traumatizing night in May.
The red neon sign morphed into the plane they had boarded hand in hand at San Jose International Airport. Then the Tokyo shuttle bus. Then their matchbox of a studio apartment. Then his current cramped office desk surrounded by burned out coworkers sleeping on theirs.
No matter how hard he rubbed his eyes, the images refused to go away. His heart rate increased with each one.
He forced himself to look down, his gaze now glued to the train tracks.
The static in his ears was flooded with the whizzing noise of the last train pulling into the station.
He took small, trembling steps towards the edge of the platform.
He could end it all now. He wanted to end it all now. He had to end—
The sound of the text message notification made him jump back from the ledge just as the train zoomed and came to a halt before him.
The sight of his daughter’s words made him burst into silent tears that trickled down his cheeks and splashed onto the screen.
The feeling of hopelessness and helplessness was replaced by love.
Overwhelming and overflowing love.
Featured image © Liam Wong
Visual Stories is a series in which I create fictional prose for photographs that inspire me. In other words – a made-up short story behind a picture that sparked my imagination.
Please support Liam Wong‘s breathtaking work by purchasing his debut monograph TO:KY:OO, following him @liamwong, and visiting liamwong.com. You can learn more about his otherworldly cyberpunk-inspired photography in his interviews for Forbes, BBC, Business Insider or My Modern Met.