A Short Story by Amanda Wyckoff Stone.
©2017. All Rights Reserved.
Tattered philosophers, defeated poets, famished musicians and tormented visionaries crawl by your front door. They create a constant current of bodies down your asphalt street. Oh, but you’re so comfortable with your couch facing the TV, your microwave, your favorite Technicolor fiction and your make-believe happiness. When you were young, you would have let them in. Now your door is locked shut. You add another padlock every month.
Do you remember your sidewalk chalk masterpiece washing away in the rain? When all you needed to do in order to make a new friend was say hello? Do you remember when Daddy came to pick you up with his new girlfriend and Mommy cried when you got home that night?
Now you do what the TV tells you to. Plan the next layout of your dining room with a generic hostess. You numb yourself to that burning thirst for truth and justice with another glass of wine. Justice is a child’s dream.
That dreaming child looks out at the world through your eyes and you suffocate her with Zantax. You know the difference between right and wrong, don’t you? At least… you used to.
You step out of your front door. Concrete becomes a living organism. It reaches out with stony tendrils, grasping at your ankles. Where did you live when you were a child? It wants to take you there.
You walk to the place you used to play as a kid. The empty lot that used to be three houses down is now a drug store. They’ve done some work on the street. But look, there’s still that old crack in the pavement with grass sticking out, breaking free from its man made captor. You always admired grass and it’s refusal to remain buried.
Do you remember when you fell off of your bike by that stop sign trying to catch up with the ice cream truck? The driver watched you fall, but kept driving away.
You used to catch Rolly Pollies and lightning bugs with your neighborhood friends. What happened to little Maria? Do you think she became a ballet dancer, like she always wanted?
First grade assignment, ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’ What did you write down? You wanted to be a famous comedian. That’s wonderful! What do you do now?
They all mocked you. They told you it wasn’t possible. You blamed them when you gave up, but the only obstacle that prevented you from accomplishing your dream was your own self-doubt. If you gave up on yourself, why should anyone else have invested in you? Now you’re too old to start anything. It’s too late.
Go on, turn away. Cry in the shower. Cry when you’re alone in the car on the highway like you always do instead of trying to fix what’s been broken. It’s worked before, right? If you leave this place now, where will you go? Your safe haven you like to call “home”?
Home is not found in an external shelter, it’s a feeling. You’ve sacrificed that feeling when you were young. Do you remember him? Home? He loved you and you were too afraid to believe it because you watched your mother crying every night after Daddy left.
You wonder if Mom and Dad ever had what you and Ryan had. You wonder if Dad ever looked at Mom the same way Ryan looked at you. If so, it couldn’t last. It couldn’t be real. Ryan would take the best ten years of your life and then leave for someone new, someone younger. Then you’d die alone.
Now look at you. You were afraid of that commitment, so afraid to experience that pain of loss that you ended the relationship. You were the one that pushed him away. Ryan never left you for another woman; you left him for another man… a man you didn’t even love.
Safe and sound? No. The painters and weeping mystics are here now, surrounding you on the street. Their lifeless faces peer down at you, pale and forgotten. You’ve put this off for too long and now it’s finally come for you. This is the law of the universe. You must take your own life.
All of your things? Don’t worry about those; you’ll be dead. The concrete caresses the souls of your shoes, guiding you to the pharmacy three houses away. When you first enter you’re afraid someone will recognize you. This is how neurotic and narcissistic you’ve become. You relax and make your way down the aisles.
Look around. Three boxes of sleeping pills should do the trick. Is anyone suspicious? Would anyone even care? ‘Warning: Do not exceed maximum dosage.’
The woman at the register doesn’t make eye contact with you. She presses buttons with her long, artificial nails and you cringe watching them. Each sound creates it’s own universe of regret. Each motion gives birth to an entirely new set of physical laws. It’s tragic that no one pays you or this discovery any mind.
The bleeding hearts and martyrs take hold of your arm and guide you away from your childhood home. Their hands are cold and brittle, nails yellow and cracked… cracked from clawing at your front door for so many years, trying to scrape through the wood. You remember their shrill voices calling out, begging for shelter. You would turn up the volume on your 50 inch television and pretend not to hear their eternal pain.
William Jelinski. Grandmom’s friend. You were six years old when she lifted you up to see him lying in his casket. The old man died of heart failure at the age of 67. It wasn’t Mr. Jelinski lying there, however; it was some wax figure, stiff and hollowed out, made up to resemble him. They had gutted him and filled him with stuffing so his family could pat him on his folded, clay hands and come to terms with mortality.
That was when you decided you wanted a peaceful death. You wanted to die alone so no one could see you at your weakest moment. Vanity outweighs sickness even for a child. You pretended to understand when Father Mike recited his trite lines during the funeral mass. His words were cold and failed to comfort any of his sobbing sheep.
Ryan is married with four kids. He lives in Arizona now. You haven’t spoken to him in five years.
Now you’re in bed, surrounded by the trivial things you’ve acquired. Your possessions are mocking you. You had put so much time into selecting the perfect comforter to match your curtains.
You still have that scar on your knee from when you fell off of your bike. You still have that scar on your psyche from when Daddy said, “I still love your Mom, I’m just not in love with her.”
Now you’re shaking. It’s not cold, but there is an infectious chill seeping into the marrow of your bones, saturating every cell in your body. You open the package of pills with unsteady hands.
The bed becomes a whale’s tongue, threatening to swallow you whole. You place five times the recommended dose in your mouth and chase it with a glass of your good wine, the one you saved for special occasions. You haven’t touched it since your sister Meredith gave birth to her first child. He has to be seven by now… or eleven… or thirteen?
Outside of your bedroom window stands the enlightened masters of every major religion. They are staring at you with black, deserted eyes. They don’t want anything from you, they’ve just come to watch you die. You recognize Jesus. He’s the only one you’ve read about.
Should you write a goodbye letter? That’s what people do when they commit suicide, right? Who would even bother to read it? Your face becomes warm and your eyes well up. It’s the end now and all you can think about is him. The way he used to look at you.
‘Dear Ryan,’ your hand shakes. ‘I love you. I’m sorry.’
You crumple up the piece of paper and toss it to the floor. What good is a confession now? How selfish are you that you would place your death on his shoulders? If you really love him you would do what is best for him and just die without interfering in his new and happy life. There are times when confessions are selfish and you must bear this burden in silence.
Self-pity, self-loathing, self-doubt and crippling fear. No one could ever love you. Even the enlightened beings are eager to watch you exit this world. You had your chance at life and you wasted it.
What of your family? They may discover your body here. No, they never visit. They’ve missed a few holiday phone calls and every birthday for the past three years. They won’t find you here. Most likely a neighbor will notice a foul odor and call someone to investigate. Strangers will find you here.
Lie down, rest your head. Today you woke up and it was the middle of your life. Now you go to sleep and welcome your life’s end. This is for the best. You’ve contributed nothing of value to your fellow man. Try to let go of the memories holding you to your mortal life. They serve only as obstacles to what you know must be done.
The tide is rising outside of your door. Streaks of blood are left behind as the starving artists and abandoned musicians scrape their bellies against the concrete. Their moans increase in density, threatening to pour through the threshold of your home, to burst through the glass in your windows, to seep through the cracks in the foundation.
They dig their nails into the street and pull themselves forward with what little strength they have left. They begin scrambling over one another in slow motion, weak with fatigue. Waves of them begin crashing against the bricks below your bedroom window. They’ve surrounded the house. They want to see the show.
Drowsiness kicks in. Your body begins to feel numb. Close your eyes. Remember when you were ten, you lined up your stuffed animals and told them jokes? You pretended your favorite tiger was your Dad and he was proud of you instead of pressuring you to do well in school so that you can go to college. You even took your Dad’s favorite hat and set it on the tiger’s head. Maybe you could have been a comedian…
What lovely colors cascading about. Such carefree sparks and flashes of light. This must be what death is like. It’s beauty and serenity calms you. This is the most peaceful sensation you have ever known.
It doesn’t last. The radiance is replaced with all of your faults manifested. Your insecurity, your arrogance, your fear, your hate, your paranoia. Everything you’ve done wrong is present, begging to be rectified. You want to turn away, but there is no longer a body to turn to.
For the first time in your life you feel a great will to live. To really live. You now understand that life is brief and far too valuable to waste away, busying your schedule with mundane activities. Life travels too quickly to spend it in fear. You want to live!
You realize this on your deathbed. It’s too late for life now. Living is not what dying is for. If only you understood this earlier, you would not have been a living corpse. You would not have become a dying newborn.
Original Artwork by Asya Yordanova.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.