You don’t have to do this, they told me. You don’t have to go this way. You don’t have to do this. That’s what they told me. That’s what everybody says. But how come they’re never there when I need them? How come they’re not here, on this bridge? The lights are so bright, I can’t believe nobody has seen me. It’s a Saturday night, everybody is too busy having fun. Too busy having a good time. Too busy to notice me. That’s what everyone said. I was the least of their problems. Divorce, counseling, and boyfriends came first. They had their priorities, but I was never one of them. That’s cool, I’ve got one priority right now. These next two steps. They’ve pushed me away, ran from me, called me crazy. All these years I put up with them. They never really cared about me. They weren’t pressed about having a real family, they just wanted to have fun.
That’s probably what they’re doing right now, having fun. Where am I? Who knows, I don’t even know. I just remember we came here on a trip and I decided to make a final decision.
“You should take care of yourself” they told me. “You should stand up for yourself.” Coming from two dudes I barely saw, I found that hard to replicate. They were never there for me, when I fell down. When everyone around me was two and three inches bigger in every sense of the word. When I got beat down at school, which was daily, they have me ice packs. When I got arrested for drug possession, they asked me if I liked it. When I got drug raped in our hotel on one of their vacations, they told me to practice more often. They said “I’d get used to it”. That’s all I’ve ever done. Well, I’ve gotten over their fantasy marriage. I’ve gotten over the neglect, incest, and excellent care I’ve received from those two. When I say excellent care, I mean eating food whenever, having clean water to drink maybe, and getting a safe night’s rest “if I was good”. Of course, thanks to my doctor who said I was “bad”, my parents took full advantage of me. No wonder I’m always sick and in the hospital. That’s what happens when you play pretend with the human body.
I’m getting sleepy now, and I know if I go to sleep I’ll be found, brought back to my parents, and probably have at least six of their “friends” waiting for me. I don’t want that to happen. I was going to put an end to that. Maybe they’d find a new toy. Maybe they’d start using themselves. That would be funny.
One more step. They say that your life flashes before your eyes in these moments, but there’s nothing to flash before my eyes, except for scars, hospital trips, and morning sores.
I hear a car nearby. I look around, and I realize it came from under me. Crap. I’m standing over a street. I don’t want to get hit by a car. I might live. I don’t want to live. Live to see another big D on my paper, and in my room. Live to see another beatdown on school property. Live to see another “vacation” in which I get left at home for nine or ten days with barely anything to eat or do. That’s protracted death. Kinda like what they do with cancer patients. Give them all those meds that will supposedly cure them, and then they still die. I’ve had enough. I’m an American, however you spell that. I have my rights and my freedoms. Wherever they came from. Spain I think. I can choose when to live, and when to end, and I’ve chosen to end it all. Nobody else will. Not my sick parents. Not my teachers. Not my friend, who really wanted to get under my sweater. So if nobody else has the courage to do it, ill do it.
Overlooking the bridge, there’s a two way traffic circle. So appropriate. Some people take one turn, and others take the opposite turn. I was in the middle of that circle for a long time, 14 years actually. But not anymore, I’ve made my turn.
One more step.
The night air is cold.
My bare feet are free, finally.
I put my hand against the railing.
Let it go.
No tears, no sadness. This is the greatest gift I’ve ever been given.
Close your eyes.
Screeching. A carseat flies out the side window. Then silence.
I made my choice.
And two others with me.
(Author’s Note: This is my personal adaptation of the The Timekeeper, written by John Holleman)
Daniel, at the age of 22, will meet his wife-to-be at Arrowhead Stadium during a Kansas City Chiefs game after accidentally spilling slurpee on her.
On July 1st, at 22 years, they will be married in a small ceremony among family.
On February 7th, at the age of 23, they will have their first child as the Chiefs win the Super Bowl.
On December 31st, at the age of 85, Daniel will rest at his wife’s side.
I speak truth because I am here to make sure he trips.
A Time Keeper: one unattached from time to ensure others’ lives happen according to the plan. Normally my assignments aren’t so involved, but truthfully I would welcome a little involvement. Here I am, joining two lives and making them one, while I’m forced to live this life of solitude. I’ll be here for the next few minutes, oversee the plan, then jump off to another life and do the exact same thing. I’ve been doing this for eternity, and it wears at my soul.
A football game. What an odd place to find your future partner. Then again, not everyone is blessed with perfect conditions every day. On a warm fall day like this you’d expect people to be more calm. Not in this house. The fans are jumping, screaming, crying, shouting, and banging their seats. Very uncomfortable for a person like me. I need quiet, as I must focus on the plan.
Cue the bride-to-be – right on time, sitting down next to me with two hot dogs in her hand. She’s hot as hell, with a curvaceous body, fiery red hair, and wearing an Eric Berry jersey. Apparently Daniel will find her cute enough, considering their timelines don’t part after this.
I watch her. She has to feel my eyes on her.
She looks prettier sitting next to me. She seems excited, as if she knows her fate. Or it’s the game. Whatever, I sure wish to trade places with her. If only she knew what would transpire in the next two minutes.
It just isn’t fair. Why should I arrange love while I meander in loneliness? Why can’t someone find love for me? Maybe I shouldn’t trip him? It is my right to go through with the plan or not. She already knows loneliness, and like everyone else she will learn to live with circumstance. Not finding Daniel wouldn’t change her life much.
Daniel must have heard me because there he is, walking towards us. Little does he know the power I have over him. I have determined his fate. These two. Mere strangers, and could be that forever, but look, she catches his eye and smiles.
He returned her smile: touchdown. He is walking towards us. This is it. I am here to keep the plan. Responsibility takes hold. My foot extends quickly. He trips. The slurpee falls on her. He curses, then quickly apologizes while grabbing a handful of napkins from under his seat.
Game over. Finally. I get up, and quickly disappear, off to the next assignment.
I was feeling alone.
Sickly lost, and craving completion. My heart yearned for satisfaction. I had tried everything: sleeping in, gorging on French fries and spicy chicken wings, downloading as much pornography as my browser could handle, gaming until I thought this really was Vice City, and every drug I could get into a straw.
My flaws overblown, my conscious overthrown, my healing unknown, and my therapy always postponed.
I needed help. When you can’t go a half an hour without popping a couple pills just to put on a smile, or a few drinks just to help you remember your coworkers names, you’re deeper down the rabbit hole than you would like to believe. Maybe it was god’s plan that they let me overdose tomorrow, and not today, but I had made it close to a year at this job I had gotten working insurance. For reasons I lack the memory to put into even the smallest words, I was liked well enough to even get a raise. It’s funny, considering I don’t even know what I’m doing half the time. I just wing it and hope nothing goes wrong. Most companies have dress codes that expect you to be clean, but considering how many times I’ve shown up with long white stains on my khakis, it is really no surprise that showing up to work high, drunk, or both on multiple occasions, raises no eyebrows. Everybody acts like a zombie here; I guess I don’t stand out all that much.
That is, everybody except to one. The one with the flaming red hair in a bun. The one that shows up to work consistently with dress shirts undone. The one with the makeup overdone.
She was always correcting me, always telling me how to do something. There wasn’t a day that would go by without her commenting on how frazzled my hair was, or why I was always drinking coffee although claiming to adamantly hate it. She was always telling me how to live. I hated her because it, but, with an odd twist of fate, I also had an admiration for her. After all, she was the one who not only referred me for the job but trained and helped keep my sorry ass at this job. I respected her for that, but there were other things too. She always asked me out to lunch, and while I not-so-politely declined, I’d always have something on my desk at the end of the day. A cream cheese bagel, a smoothie, something. She also offered my rides to and from work, since I couldn’t ever keep a car for longer than a week or two at a time. Once, I actually acted human and brought her to my home for dinner. With the smell of every kind of drug, street, black market, you name it, and pin-up magazines scattered throughout, I expected her to touch the threshold and run out screaming. Shockingly, she came right in and actually let me make her dinner. It was merely some fried chicken and peas I had bought earlier and warmed up, but she ate it as if it was the meal of a queen. She stayed for at least four hours, and we had some conversation. I don’t remember much from that night, but I do remember how she was always smiling. When I told her why my home looked so wretched, she didn’t even criticize. Before she left, I remember her saying, in the sweetest of voices “every man has fallen, but every saint has risen”. She thought I could change, which struck a chord in me. It was the polar opposite thought process of my wife, who’s leaving led to my addictions. After just six months of marriage, she was fed up with my antics. She said I was socially useless and too quiet and reluctant to throw myself into the fray to be a husband. So she packed what she did have and left, right there. “I’ll come back when you come back to me” were her last words. That was six years ago, and I haven’t recovered since. Why do I bring her up? Oh, that’s right, my coworker reminds me of her in every way possible. My wife, after we had become newlyweds, was the most considerate person I had ever known. Even when she saw my browser history, I told her I was just getting ideas for her, and she believed me. It took a couple days, but by that weekend, I was dying without her. I couldn’t function without her. I didn’t know how to cook, shop, or do any of the little things women do to keep a home running well. I missed her, and I had to find her.
I didn’t know how, but the help I needed didn’t come until now.
It came in the most inconspicuous way imaginable. On Saturday, my day off, I got an email. It was from my coworker. In italicized print, it read:
“If you want to find her, or anyone, go to the source of your relationship”
It seemed odd at first, but she had a habit of always dropping words of encouragement, so it really wasn’t that out of character. Since I had the whole day off, and needed something to do besides lay on the couch and watch Pretty Woman again, I decided to follow the advice. “It would be easy”, I thought. I had met my future wife for the very first time at the gallery downtown. Who knows, maybe she was there right now? I hopped onto my bike and rode as fast as I could. It didn’t occur to me that I was following the advice of someone I didn’t even know, and this could all be some hoax, but I didn’t care. The chase, the ride, the adventure…it was just another high to me. I got to the gallery, but to my revulsion, nobody was there. I checked in every store, but I could find no sign of the woman I used to call my wife. Bitter, I rode back home and swore never to listen to my coworker again. Throwing myself on my couch, I went to light up a cigar when I got another email, from the same sender, but a slightly different message:
“Silly, did you think it would be that easy? You have to clean up your life”
Angered, I threw the cigar onto the floor, watching it crumple and fall over. I got up, grabbed a stool from underneath the kitchen table, and smashed it into the TV. The glass shards went everywhere, but I didn’t care. I took an armful of magazines, half-empty bottles, and triple-X rated DVD’s and smashed them into a trash bag. I repeated that step at least fifteen times, since I had so many of each, before I had filled up my trashcan to the point of overflowing. Then, I took the drawer where I had stashed all my drugs and paraphernalia and dumped them into a trash bag. Much of it had cost as much as some bills, but cost mattered nothing to me now. After two hours of manic cleaning, I crashed onto the floor in exhaustion. Tears streaming down my face, I nodded in submission, as if god was there, standing above me. After years of collection, ignoring, and addiction, I felt free. I felt some glass scrape against my face, but I was tired to get up. There, I spent the night.
That’s how my life was for the next five months. Time not at work was spent cleaning out my house, making it a home again. I went back to therapy, and got the help I had been avoiding for so long. I started taking baths daily and dressing well. I even got another raise. I lost about forty pounds, too. Slowly, but confidently, I began taking my life back. All of this without a single email from my admired coworker, either. Then, one Thursday in December, I came into work, but she was gone. According to my coworkers, she had quit the week before. “She had moved on with this part of her life” they told me. I finished the day, but I was crushed. She was the only person in my life who understood me, and she was the one who pushed me to change. I went into work the next day as if everything was normal, but it wasn’t. I didn’t have anyone I could talk, no one I trusted. Of all those lunches she brought me, I had nothing to give back to her. I didn’t even have the chance.
On Saturday, the six year anniversary of my marriage, I put on some sweats and a t-shirt. The last couple of days had been hard, and I needed to do something and release the stress. I drove up to Lincoln Park in northern Maryland and started jogging on the trail. Though at a steady pace early, I started to run with anger as the trail lengthened. Each footfall, each kick of dust, was symbolic of everything I had accomplished in the last five months. Each breath I took was symbolic of the life I had taken and abused, but continued to be given. After a mile of running, I stopped near a creek and tied my shoelaces on a rock. I felt my phone vibrating in my back pocket, so I quickly pulled it out and read the email.
It was from her, the first contact I had with her since my change.
“If you want to find her, or anyone, go to the source of your relationship”
I froze. My hands trembling, and eyes holding back tears in vain. This date, the park, the ground I stood on. This…this was where I had proposed to her. Where she took my hands. Where she said “yes”. Where we kissed for hours. Where our love…began. I was back here, all over again.
“Daniel, you came back” I heard from through the breeze behind me.
I turned slowly, unsure of whether to be joyful or in fear. I saw flaming red hair in the bun, makeup rushed and overdone, and a dress shirt, half-undone. It was her! She had been working with me all these years, waiting for me to change. “That’s what she meant,” I thought to myself. “She wouldn’t come back until I changed”
“Where do begin?” I asked, humbly.
“Here”, Britney replied.
(This is one of my few short stories, but I feel it is a call to hope in restoration for those who go through troubled times)