Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The Long Walk Ends: Young People

My legs are tired as I make my way across the street and around the backstop of the baseball diamond in the park. The field itself is as black as pitch. Impossibly dark. Darker than the midnight sky itself. As my eyes adjust and I listen carefully, I realize that the field is also empty of people. From what I can discern, there are no young couples out for a walk. No bathroom trips for the dog. I finger the extension cord and consider my thirst. A drinking fountain sits near the entrance to the field.

After a deeply satisfying drink of warm water, I find myself spread out on the newly cut grass. My shoes and socks come off as is my sweat-soaked t-shirt, which I'm now using as a pillow. A thin summer shirt is on now, and is mostly dry, and the cool night air is sweet. At this moment, I'm something close to happy, and even peaceful. The extension cord is next to me and is waiting to be used. Like a gun under a nervous man's pillow, it seems to compel its own use. It nags.

I feel so alone in a metropolitan area of 4.5 million people, but at the moment not lonely. There are some clouds, but the stars are mostly visible. My focus is on a star, or perhaps a planet, glowing past in the firmament. I stare at it and my memory turns to a time not too long ago when El and I visited a nudist colony on Cape Cod. There were shooting stars that night, and we were together, holding hands in the dark, naked. It took a long time, but we finally saw one. It was spectacular. As Walter Benton once wrote, it was like, "God lighting a match on a cathedral ceiling."

There are tears now, and I let them come. They are no bother. I've known love, and love isn't permanent, and it is time to move on. Before I stand, I consider the time and distance between myself, my life, and that star up there. My whole life is in that distance, like a long trail of smoke. The fire that burns and makes the smoke will soon be out. But all those moments...where are they now? It pleases me to think that they still exist, between here and that star. As if that star and I are margins with my entire life in between.

Things move quickly now. I put my socks and shoes back on, although I'm not clear as to why. One end of the six foot long extension cord is now tied firmly around my neck. In the darkness, I find a tree behind a small bank of bleachers. Within seconds, the other end of the cord is tied around a thick branch. My neck is bleeding a bit, although I'm not sure why. Perhaps the cord is a bit frayed in places. I'm ready to commit suicide by hanging. All I have to do is drop to my knees and I'll be unconscious in seconds. Dead within minutes. I'm not afraid of pain, as I know how fast I'll black out. It will be over for me after perhaps a brief moment of fear.

Here I stand for one minute. Then two. Then three. After that, I lose track. All the while a comfortable breeze stirs the leaves of the trees in the park. My eyes lock on a chair that is sitting near a door behind an indoor skating rink. It feels like an omen. Like I should get the chair and engage in a more traditional suicide? Like in the movies?

Then I realize that I do not want to die. Just like that. While the thought of going through another night of racing thoughts full of remorse, self-loathing, disgust and regret is agonizing to consider, I don't want it to end like this. It's reasonable to think that something in the future is worth living for, or people, or a person.

Within the next 60 seconds, I decide to take the cord off and put it back in my pocket. As I leave my t-shirt behind in the park, the sprinkler system comes on and I laugh, genuinely. So much was considered in those minutes, so many people and experiences remembered. Tchaikovsky's violin concerto came to mind, when I saw it performed with my father by the Concord Symphony Orchestra. And the first time I made love to a woman, a tender, lovely memory. Our eyes locked in the darkness while she guided me inside, her thighs squeezing me, her face shining with a joyful smile. It was a moment of pure joy, with Nina Simone playing on the CD player and the smell of her Gauloises cigarettes permeating the bedroom.

Music and friends and lovers were in my mind the most. My brother, and the way he can laugh so loud, and that we find the same things so damn funny. Every time I wake up in hospital, be it from a seizure or suicide attempt, he is there. He is everything I am not; stable, wise and thoughtful. Impy, a cat I rescued from under my neighbors back stoop, came to mind, too. There she was, in the pouring rain, curled up in my hand, her blue eyes radiant. Sheherazade by Rimsky-Korsakov was playing in a corner of my mind. Those waves rising and falling, roused by a storm.

My mother was there, as well. Her painful bout with cancer, that eventually took her out of the world. She suffered cruelly. She loved the sea, and that is what I'm thinking of in this field, at around 1:30 in the morning.

Unclear as to what to do, I strike out into the night, towards Boston.

At some point I stumble upon a group of young people, spilling out of what used to be the Tír na nÓg bar, but is now Bull McCabes. In Irish mythology, Tír na nÓg is a happy place, full of young people. It's a tiny bar, and I had a drink with a woman there years ago. Another fond memory.

Music is pouring into the street along with the sweaty young people experimenting with alcohol tolerance. Everyone is confident. Many know they are getting laid soon. Smiles and laughter abound. As I pass slowly, to take in the spectacle, a woman who looks like a young Kathy Bates asks, "Are you okay?" and points to her neck, then my neck. It is then that I realize that I'm bleeding a little from where the cord scratched me. Sweat and blood have mingled, producing the illusion of a large cut.

Theatrically, I stop, smile, turn and say, "I'm fine, beautiful woman. 'Tis but a scratch. Know, however, that your concern means worlds to me. I'm having a night of heavy-breathing...contemplation. This scratch is due to the hangman's lack of skill. Always use union help when possible." The words just tumbled out. It was so good to speak to another human.

At that, she laughed. Not that it was funny, but she was in a frame of mind where just about anything could be funny. Out of my left eye I noticed her friend sizing me up. I ignored her. A feeling of unease enveloped me as a couple of other people in the crowd took notice, loudly. Some shouted unkind words in mockery. But I didn't take it to heart.

At last I turned, but this time towards home. "Good luck with all that" the tall woman shouted, smiling. Happy. For some reason, I spun around and yelled to all assembled:

Consider how much more you often suffer from your anger and grief, than from those very things for which you are angry and grieved.

Some laughed, most people ignored, some just looked. "Mark Antony said that," I said, and then very loudly, with the cord in my hand, I shouted, "Will anyone grant Mark Antony an honorable way to die?"

Three people laughed, many ignored me, many more just looked at me. All the while the music flowed out the door of bar, like songs and witty stories. I found my way home after that.


Anonymous said...

Awesome story and very glad with the happy ending.

Anonymous said...

Good stuff, man. Is it true??