Friday, July 31, 2015

Down Dog

Down Dog

You are late again. The boss is waiting for you at the door to your office.  The look on your face is that of a dog who has misbehaved and is helplessly submitting. He shuts the door behind you and proceeds to go through the general rules of the organization. You watch and sweat as he writes up the pink slip and tells you that you are on probation for 2 weeks. You look like you are about to cry, but you attempt to hide it. This attempt makes it even more obvious that you are upset.  You wander out of the building after lunch time and , when you are beyond hearing distance, you call “him” up:  the one who has caused you to become something that you are not over the last two months.

He scolds you. You desperately search for an explanation. He is not buying any of it.  It is obvious that you are lying. He knows it and you know that he knows it. So you will play this charade until one of you backs down. It will be you.  That is clear from the current conversation. He has you cornered in more ways than one, so the only way out right now is to become another person entirely and drop your life as you know it. You had opened up too much to the person whom you should not have trusted.  He is used to it though. Most people do.  Can one really blame oneself for being manipulated?

I call the number.  It is the last thing I want to do.  My voice cracks as I tell him that I am not going to help him today.  I attempt to explain that I am ill, and I need to sleep. I try to tone down my normal enthusiasm and make my voice monotone and languid. There is silence at the other end of the line. Oh shit.  He replies, “I have another job for you. I expect that you do it. We made an agreement.”  The firmness is almost palpable as he says this.  “Please. I just can’t. I won’t do well, and I will blow the cover I have taken so long to create. Not today. I just can’t do it!”, I plead. I suppose I must sound desperate. But can he tell I am lying?  “2 pm. Markham Square. The man in the yellow.” That’s all he says. There are too many moments of silence that follow. I hesitate on how I should respond.

1:55 pm. You wait.  You have on the outfit you normally wear. You are The Man in the Red. Funny how this phrase can have multiple meanings. Did he give you this intentionally? You pace along the fountain’s edge.  A man walks up to you asking for change. You pace away, stumbling a little, eyes darting around hoping that no one saw this. You are determined. That is clear. But you are obviously nervous, and everyone around you is giving you sideways glances. You are calling too much attention to yourself.  Your backpack is heavy, and it is weighing you down. You start to slouch forward to compensate. The heat is getting to you today, but you are trying not to show it. You continue to pace:  back and forth along the circular path of the fountain. The lady that is sitting at the path’s center seems nervous and is watching you.  She is eating some kind of energy bar. She is wearing a tailored skirt and a floral blouse, all in accents of red. You could both be inside a store display window, you match so well.  “Sir, is there something wrong? You seem nervous. Can I help you in some way?” At least she knows enough to trust me. I haven’t blown that cover.  A spot of yellow leaps into your field of vision, and you are startled. You never respond to the woman.  You see the man stop in front of the hedge in the distance.

You watch precisely where he places them. He follows instructions carefully. He is calm and relaxed and does not call attention to himself. He deserves a medal.  A few minutes later, after he places the remainder, he walks away. He did not follow the plan. You stop and stand there in shock. Sweat pouring down your face. Now what?? The woman continues to watch you. There is a policeman walking down the sidewalk near the street. You sit down on the edge of the fountain. You are obviously relieved, and this calms your nervousness somewhat.  You watch as the cop turns the corner onto the next street. You catch your breath and appear to think on what to do next. You look down to the ground.

A quick POP is heard. Like a champagne bottle being opened. No one seems to notice. The hum from the crowd and the cars appears to have muffled the sound a little. You fall to the side. Or should I say “slump”. You remain in the same position, just horizontal instead of vertical. There is a far away look in your eyes as the red from your shirt appears to bleed into the surroundings. The fountain fills with your blood as if someone opened up a plug in your back to release it and drain you. Your expression is one of relief and calm, as if the disease has left your body. People start to notice and run around in panic. Your eyes close.

A sharp jab. The pain is unimaginable. So this is how it feels. He shot me. That was the plan. The man in yellow follows through without fear.

So, so tired. I’m going to rest now. My body feels lifeless, and I long to sleep. I will allow it to happen. Why fight it now? Relax and let the inertia take hold. I lie to the side to just feel the calm. I close my eyes and just... let it happen.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Richard's Death

They say it happened at 4:02 am. But how could they know that?  Lying in his own bodily fluids, his breath had stopped at some moment, but there had been no one there to see it.  If the sound of air flowing and the motion of the belly stops, and no one is there to see it, what then? As that night died away towards morning, Richard had lost his own life.  One could argue though that he had only had night towards the end.  He was lost in an oblivion of chemical delusion. Nothing was true or real to him. Like the madness of darkness and its uncertainty, his life became a Bacchanalian farce: hedonism gone completely wrong to the point of pathos.
The day before had been madness.  Clarissa felt something was different.  She was frantic that day, attempting to appease his wildly spinning thoughts.  First he was cold and shivering one moment, then accusatory and condemning as she brought him his blanket.
It was as if she was his guide towards death that day. As she comforted him and made his pain easier, he prepared himself for the uncertainty beyond.  Faith became something that was not to be relied upon.  To Richard, doubt became his faith.  Everything became doubt at the end, even the person with whom he had spent his last years.
She had found him when she awoke the next morning. She was pulling open the doors to let in the sunshine, when she spotted him flopped onto the staircase.  The position he was in was almost grotesque.  He was slumped over as if he were a doll that had had its legs pulled up to its ears.  His clothes were stained with vomit and his mouth was filled with foam and what looked like gastric fluid.  She ran to check on him, but stopped as she approached.  It was quite clear he was dead. She thought to herself how fortunate it was that his eyes were closed.  She dialed the police to come because, although she was sure of his demise (having been sure that this moment would come for years), she wanted the police to do a thorough investigation so that any talk in town would be based on facts, not hearsay.  In fact, no one had been at the villa to visit for days, maybe even a week.  She would give Richard that at least, protecting what little dignity he had left at the end.
When the police came, they noted the bottles all around in their report, with details included of brand name and amounts left in each bottle.  They noted Richard’s position and did some measurements of his body.  They took temperature readings and employed a few calculations to determine however oddly the specific time of death. There was an investigator making some drawings complete with lines of force and mass.  There was zero evidence of any blood.  Clarissa noted this in her mind as being an odd sort of crime scene. They noted the broken black railing and discussed this piece of evidence for a few minutes (merely neglect on our part without any other significance). They asked her questions about his mental state yesterday and whether he had taken any other substances besides alcohol.  They took fingerprint samples of the bottles, the house, the stair railing, the doors to the outside.  They asked her detailed questions about what they had done yesterday.  What time did they dine? Had they left the house? Had Richard alluded to his feeling odd or hopeless? They offered her counseling and gave her the card of someone who could help. Clarissa was evidently numb though. She did not cry.   I am sure that piece of evidence was to be included in the report as well. From the outside apparently emotionless, but what they didn’t recognize was that her insides were being torn apart, pulled inside out with every breath. Does she want the body sent for autopsy? She replied yes, if only to see the proof of what both Richard and she had gone through for years:  the effect chemicals had on his physical body and the strain that was placed on him, explaining his inability to cope, connect, understand, believe, and eventually survive.
The police left and the coroner came to collect what was left of Richard.  She shook his hand with a limp grasp, and he assured her that he would do his best to render the report thorough, leaving out nothing.  He gave her the information she needed about what to do afterwards, and she listened numbly, nothing really registering in her mind at this point.  The van drove down the hill, and she watched as he left her. She thought of him in that van. She felt guilty that she let him go off alone. This is the first and only time Richard had left her.  He stuck around with her for 15 years.  He had loved her, she knew, and she had loved him in his madness. He was 51 years old: a boy trapped inside a man’s body. She said goodbye to him for the first and last time.