After we talked last I didn’t think I’d see him again. As soon as the words had left my mouth I knew they were a mistake. I remember his hands shaking and I saw his eyelids flutter. For a brief moment there was still silence. No one breathed and in my mind I could just barely hear the start of a motor. The sputtering of a gas engine before the Toyota Camry he calls a psyche went full throttle off a cliff. In all the years I had known him I had never seen him look so terrified. I’d never seen any animal that reluctant to be alive.
In the five eighths of a second it took me reach for his hand, he had bitten it off. It is possible that he hid it behind his back, but somehow he made the movements look painfully similar. What can you do when you hurt someone so badly that all they can do is hurt themselves? How can you rectify the wrong you’ve wrought by making something right.
Before the second syllable of an apology has been expelled from my lungs, he chuckles and chokes on his own throat. He doesn’t think this is funny. He’s laughing the way someone laughs when they can’t hold their breath anymore on the second floor of an almost pile of ash. It’s a sound that signals the end. He’s running now, out of my room, and I’m seeing his eyes, wide with those bad chemicals Vonnegut was always going on about. I hear the door slam and I lie on my bed, wondering where he was looking when his eyes unfocused. I didn’t worry about what I did wrong. I remember what I said.
When I saw him again it was at a drinking party. I don’t know what everyone else was wearing but he was wearing black and green. I turned to leave the drinking party and I moved quickly. I don’t remember when he caught my arm but I know he was fingers and thumb were clamped by the time I reached the door. It took a second but I focused on the words he was repeating while he shook me gently. “Why did you say that?” he was saying, “how could you say that?”
I told him I could say that because it was true, and I thought he should know. He told me he wanted to know why it was true, why I couldn’t be with him. I paused for the time it took for me to take his hand from my arm and hold it in both of mine. I leaned forward then,
and I whispered your name into his ear.
The right thing to do will be the wrong thing to have done. All things change with time.
Right now he’s left bleeding in an alley, dying of cancer or aids or whatever he’s contracted this time. His whole body is cold in a way he’s never felt before, he whispers to me, over the phone. His lungs aren’t doing what they’re supposed to and he swears he’d feel sick to his stomach if he could concentrate hard enough to feel pain.
He’s telling me now how his stomach is ripped a little bit and he can’t keep his teeth in his mouth. Likewise, it seems he can’t keep the words in his head. Thoughts pouring out like blood from a ruptured stomach. He’s talking now, blabbing really, about how he’s sorry. Every time, it seems, he’s always sorry.
This time it’s the selfishness. This time its how he couldn’t shut up about his problems. He’s telling me how he realizes now. But it’s too late. I’m only understanding every third word, because of the blood or bile or whatever he’s choking on this time. It’s not that I’m listening too intently. I’ve heard these same stories hundreds of times before.
Finally he gets to the good part. He’s crying now, hard and fast. He’s telling me it’s his fault, he deserves this. He tones down his hyperventilation, idling, waiting for me to disagree. When he hears only silence, he apologizes again and once more exhales the slow shallow exhale I know so well. silence.
He’s gone now. Lying alone, dead in an alley. Of a gash in his abdomen, or a concussion. I listen for another five minutes to the sound of him not breathing. I like him this way best.
People think its dangerous to live “on the edge.” Parents spend years conditioning their kids not to run across the road without looking both ways. Law makers invent crazy laws to protect the innocence and naivety of children, adolescents and adults alike. Too often however, it is not living on the edge that does us in.
Some times perfectly legal, acceptable things coerce us to leap over the edge all together, into the void. In these cases, the fall is only made worse by the knowledge that every event and sentiment driving us toward that lack of eternity was perfectly okay. Natural and justified by its own existence.
I can’t explain why sometimes doing the right thing creates problems. I can’t explain what the right thing is. God only knows.
I remember when I first met him. He was always so lively, jumping around and yelling names at things without names. He laughed like a maniac and cried like a maniac and in both instances he was fantastic. He could make you say anything or do anything with that smile of his.
Then he got hit by a car and died and I feel so alone I could cry.
This woman was alone and she knew it. I know she knew it because though she was surrounded by people, she felt completely comfortable. She could laugh and dance and smile and wink in the presence of a mass of human beings. She didn’t feel like she had anything to prove, and so she didn’t.
She was never once lonely in all her life. She was not attached or bound by the company or even the approval of others. She was free of the looks one gives to an outsider because she was to far outside to see them. She created her own world out of recycled pieces of the wreckage society made from dreams and never looked back.
There is no need to say that society wanted her back. Firstly because it is obvious. No one can beat the destructive cycle of broken lives. No one can escape the horror of being one in seven billion perfectly identical, totally original human beings. Secondly, She will never return. Why dwell on the fact that we desperately need her in the way one desperately misses their beloved sister? It doesn’t bring back the sister.
Home is not a place where the walls shake with voices. Home is not a confining space with few windows and fewer choices. Home is a world that is open to the stars and the large ideas that accompany them. A house is not a home in the world I come from and home is not where I live.