Monday, August 09, 2010

The Long Walk, Part 1

My attention moves away from the television and to the window and street noise beyond. In the courtyard below, children are playing with a football. One child throws the ball, and many try to catch it. The result is noisy kids near my small garden by the back stoop. Sometimes they are in it. Normally, I would yell for them to clear out, but not now. Now my focus is on the closet, and the cord within.

From where I am sitting, on a steamer trunk near my bedroom window, the inside of the closet is mostly hidden in darkness. But because I know that a white, 6 foot long extension cord is hanging from a hook in the back, I can see it. It is looped twice and plugged into itself. The faux antique clock near the door reads 9:14pm. Now that the television is off, the flat is quiet. The neighborhood, however, is buzzing on another hot July night.

With a sigh, I rise. Annie looks at me, her tail now wagging in the hope that I mean to take her with me on my walk. I do not. A few pats on her head, and I reach into the closet and take the extension cord, fold it, and tuck it into my pants. With that, I begin to head for the back door, but not before pausing and considering the night I have planned.

Suddenly there are tears, but they disappear just as quickly. My plan is to find a tree and hang myself from it. I've no desire to be stopped. This is not a "cry for help." How many times have I been to a psych ward? A dozen times, perhaps? Each time there are countless questions, numerous assessments, four-point restraints, locked doors, medication, and an "aftercare" plan. Once there was shock therapy. In the Men's dormitory at The Arbour there were fist fights, of no consequence. People at the limit of what they can endure, seeking kindness, or any sort of interaction. Even if that be a punch in the nose.

Tonight, however, I have no appetite for a new beginning. No desire to start again. As the high, weak aura of sunlight disappears from sky, I find comfort in knowing that I'll never see another morning. For what must be the 10th time in the last hour I wonder how much hanging myself will hurt. I don't think it will hurt very much at all. Not at all.

Down the stairs and out the door I go, first heading toward the Mystic River, and then back toward Davis Square, Somerville. In my mind, the Mystic River bank is a perfect place for a suicide. As I get closer to it, however, an odd fear grips me. The riverbank is impossibly dark. Black. The water is unheard and unseen. My eyes refuse to adjust, and the moon is hidden behind a sliver of low clouds.

In addition to the practical concern of how to commit suicide when one can't see three inches in front of his face, a sentimental thought creeps into my brain. It occurs to me that I should see something beautiful again before I die. For some reason, that place is the recently renovated, historic Somerville Theatre. With her green owls with red eyes, and the smell of popcorn pouring through the door on an air conditioned breeze on a hot, summer night. Yes, I'm going to see it before I let gravity strangle me. On the way I can go see 5 Cameron Avenue, as well.

Five Cameron Avenue as a place is hardly special. Just a two story house set amid countless other two and three decker houses. It only matters to me because of something that happened there 16 years ago. A young lady who had my attention invited me to a party there. She was, and perhaps still is, an artist. Her Bohemian world entranced me, and I wanted nothing more than to get lost in it. Lost amid the artists of Somerville.

It was a cold night in November, and I left my flat with a bottle of Fat Bastard wine. The party was a pre-Thanksgiving shindig. Turkey without the family. A baggage free meal more about the future than the past. We enjoyed ourselves, laughed heartily, and in the end threw food about like children. It was magnificent. And the woman I had my eye on? She laughed at all my jokes and seemed to enjoy my company. The world can be a fine place, and sometimes is.

With an extension cord in my pocket, I walked the mile or so to Cameron Avenue. The house looked the same as it did in my memory...pretty much. For two or three minutes I took it in, and then began walking to The Somerville Theater nearby. It didn't take long. These were steps taken while deep in thought. Distance was measured in preoccupation, and I was preoccupied with thoughts of friends and family, life and death, and countless useless memories. One thought brought Craigie Street to mind. Another party, more women, and the company of friends.

For now, however, I stood in front of the wide open doors of the Somerville Theater. Green owls, eyes glowing red, were perched above my head on either side of the marquee. Magnificent to my eye, countless couples passed beneath, uninterested. Cold air. The smell of popcorn. And a movie poster boasted about a 35th anniversary showing of Jaws, in the main theater. I smiled.

The cord was still in my pocked, against my sweaty leg.

On I walked, half looking for a good tree to hang myself. Between Davis Square and Porter Square I began singing The Internationale to myself. At the subway station in Porter Square, I sat down. My muscles contracted and I felt my ass conform to the bench, and I knew I'd be there for awhile. It felt like it was getting late, as the crowd came and went with the train, like a pulse. Here, then gone. Here, then gone. Here, then gone. I was at the heart of something. But people didn't live here. With the exception of an old woman nearby, everyone seemed in a hurry to go elsewhere.

A few minutes later and I was up again, walking into the city. Boston.

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