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TRUTH LIES

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When everybody wants to be your lover
but nobody wants to be your friend
go incognito and stay undercover
waiting for tried patients to mend

When all want to know your private business
but none care to see who you are inside
you stand by silently and bear witness
to the stitches that leave scars on your hide

When the somebody’s no longer know you
and the anybody’s call you by your first name
you forget what you thought you once knew
but you can never remember who’s to blame

When anybody else you would prefer to be
and this body is skin you’d kill to shed
to be free of the cage requires a key
the one locked deep inside of your head

As everyone fades the falling snow melts
looking hard at yourself… you don’t recognise
it isn’t you – you became somebody else
lost in this place where strange truth lies

– Copyright Dec 2015 ORP

POSED FOR GREATNESS

 

His presence presents the essence of the highly fanatical
posture proposing imminent threat he projects
the fantastical pretence of all he pretends.

Poking with pointed insistence, joking about coincidence
and the way it’s double-jointed fingers, arthritic and disjointed
feeling for the ointment in a jar by opened door creaking.

Self-absorbed by reflections and representations
meaning implied by infected inflections that shrink and swell
racing down middle of road to hell in a hand basket.

Tracing broken lines laid out before him, driven to the edge
of the event horizon, framing the hole that is home to his casket.

Forgiven for blaming all but the guilty, not unlike Quilty in the novel Lolita
loving the one he is hurting, doing a version of aversion therapy, a vision of virgin territory’s immaculate blanket of pure white snow confection.

A fairy-story with a sting in its tale told by bells ringing at midnight, pealing layers away one by one: smoking gun stealing unspoken prayers.

Tailors show up holding tape-measures in damp hands.

Drunken sailors look for sunken treasures, seek exotic pleasures, dream erotic visions, depressed by pushy pressures down under water deep, embracing the perversions of solipsistic decisions.

Snaking down long padded hall turning round every corner.

Insinuating numerical challenge by way of a question that defies all description, waiting for him to concoct a solution.

Locked out of the answer safeguarded by the protection of cryptic encryption.

He strikes up a pose in a state of repose – striking a certain chord in the skull.

Trying not to suppose or assume, leaving plenty of empty room he’s let go of deceiving history and design a solution to the impenetrable mystery, start a revolution, or resign to the numb of his contagious cancer and the problem it poses, flicking at his head a long stick of chalk like a finger sweeping past face fast as clock’s second hand sucks Time and air from the room into slowly receding scarcity underscored by straight streak scratched on blackboard background backdrop to snowing dust, black shadows ink while velocity keeps speeding.

Calculating numbers of advanced mathematics, drumming digits on countertop.
Demanding self-respect in the form of resolved problem – conundrum solved – absolved in summation – confident in certainty… in the entity of absolution… and like his head on impact under stress overload… unlocked in shock.

TRINITY 015The code exposed, but still not cracked.

– Copytright 2016, ORP

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REMEMBER TO FORGET

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WHEN THE PARTY’S OVER

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“Just home from a party I had no plans to attend, nor any memory having been invited. I didn’t have any desire to go in the first place, but my friend, John (hello John, if you’re reading this!), wouldn’t let it lie. He kept on about it until I gave in and agreed to go with him. I’m thrilled to say that I’ve never been to a more life-changing, mind-clearing, enlightening event.”

The Increasing heaviness of gravity’s pushy hand pressing down interrupted Adam’s Z’s, depressing him like a button beneath finger. With a surge of resistance, he manages to muster the will-power required to pull himself

Out of the frying-pan… he groans aloud

out of bed

and into the fire!

and vertical.

Sweating profusely, mouth dry as dirt, lungs gasping for fresh air, he thinks fuzzily it’s too hot for clothes, stumbling around the dark, two-bedroom apartment drawing curtains to reveal a brooding, overcast sky. Cool air cross-draft feels good against skin.

“At the time I wished I hadn’t. For a while I was on the fence. Now, I’m glad I did. Glad I kept my promise. Thanks for your persistence, John, in your insistence that I go to the party. Helped me get clarity on a new perspective, and for the most part, I had a wonderful time.”

The blackness of dreamless sleep now banished by a couple of long, deep breaths, Adam finds himself faced with the usual line up of questions: the one’s that were always lurking there, waiting to greet him every time sleep slips away.

“Ever notice the way certain songs on the radio sometimes take on a profound meaning when you’re deep in the midst of something important? Like that part in a movie when the song playing in the background perfectly fits (describes and points toward) the scene unfolding in front of your eyes. Well, it’s like that right now.”

Blurry-eyed, he ignores the questions, feeling his way round the kitchen, eventually managing to switch on the coffee-maker.

In the living-room, he turns on the computer. Looks at the picture of his wife beside the screen. Voice creaky from disuse, he says

Good morning, my love… or whatever time it is!

“An old song by a guy called Johnny Nash (not Johnny Cash but a different guy called Nash) is on Pandora right now. ‘I Can See Clearly Now (The Rain Is Gone)’…”

What time is it? What day is it? Are you a man of your word?

“I can see all obstacles in my way / gone are the dark clouds that had me blind / it’s gonna be a bright / bright / sunshiny day…”

A habitual part of his brain (the part that keeps insisting on imagining a future) suggests he gets himself a pet if he wants someone to talk to, maybe a dog. After all is said and done and you end up in a place where everyone’s gone, a dog is a man’s best friend.

“What would a suicide be without a suicide note?”

Maybe so, but pets are not allowed in the apartment complex. If he lived in a house with a decent sized yard, he’d get a Labradoodle, a big one he could wrestle. More than their looks, their friendliness, or their hypoallergenic ‘hair’, he simply loved the sound of them.

Abracadabralabradoodle!

“Like getting a birthday card from an old, rich aunt with no money inside, just her unmistakable, Alzheimer’s-spidery-scrawl and best wishes underlined with a crooked row of O’s and X’s.”

Magical.

“A friend of mine successfully committed suicide last year but failed to leave a note. I remember thinking: What a rip off! I felt a little overlooked somehow. Cheated in a way.”

Screen flickers. Fan purrs. Facebook loads. He’s made three new friends, he sees.

People I don’t know from Adam!

“Nobody saw it coming and, so far, nobody’s come up with a reasonable explanation.”

A sound escapes him: a bored sigh combined with a rye split-second of a chortle, maybe a guffaw. He wasn’t sure. Who’d ever have thought that you’d call complete strangers ‘friends’?

“I’ll be taking my life (soon, all accordion to plan!) and with a view to making things easier for you, in an attempt to make sense out of what I can only imagine seems meaningless.”

Adam reads the writing on the wall.

“I’ll try to supply a reason, explain my behaviour so you might understand, and at best, think of me as brave… or at worst, not judge me too harshly and feel bad whenever you think of me.”

A mouse-click opens Pandora’s jukebox – the site that plays tunes at random to the user’s predetermined theme – the one to which his wife had grown addicted during their first winter in this apartment together. Unnoticed at first, a scent wafts in from the kitchen.

Taking my life. Funny phrase, when you think about it. How can I be losing my life if I’m taking it where I’m going? And how can I go there if still in possession of my life? Only a person believing in an afterlife (heaven, hell, reincarnation – is Limbo still on?) would come up with a phrase like that.”

He thinks about the time he asked his wife what it was exactly she loved so much about Pandora. She had said, as if letting him in on a secret: Because I always know there’ll be another song… but I never know what song it will be. He had loved it when she shared that… and the rare times she sang along under her breath to certain songs, never knowing (or believing him when he told her) that her voice was beautiful. Hated the fact it was getting harder to hear her voice in his head. Or to get a good, steady picture of her face in his mind without the aid of a photograph.

“Unburdened by belief in the supernatural, I think the sentiment would be better expressed this way: I will choose to stop living soon.”

He smells the coffee. Goes in search of his fix, he chants

a shot of caffeine in the main vein of the brain

like a mantra or words he was praying.

Black Gold

“Many of those left in the aftermath of suicide are consumed by an urge to understand, get hold of tangible meaning, fearing if they don’t, they’ll go insane.”

One gulp swallows it down – shortsharpshockan ice-pick in the forehead! and quenches his thirst. A burst of energy enervates him.

Liquid shock-therapy

“Or, maybe they think if they don’t solve it like some sort of mystery they can feel good about before filing away (To Be Forgotten) in the basement of their mind, it will cause them to do the very same thing. And that is unthinkable, isn’t it?”

An unexpected sound fills the silence. Adam starts, spine rigid, head tilted. He hadn’t heard his cell’s ringtone for so long he didn’t know what it was at first, nor could he name that tune. Upon realising it is his phone, he follows the sound into the spare bedroom, into the wardrobe to no avail, then inspects the pocket of his black leather jacket hanging on the chair in the corner. Was he expecting a call? Who could it be? He doesn’t want to answer, but it won’t stop, and he isn’t thinking straight.

‘Hello?’

“There’s this phenomenon known as the Werther Effect – the way it appears that suicide, like a virus, can be contagious, and clusters of copy-cat deaths can spring up out of one, leaving an entire town scarred.”

‘Ah, Adam, the first man himself! Howzit goin? What took you so long? Did I interrupt you in the middle of a wank or what?! Howzit hangin, mang? Howzyer li’l friend?!’

It’s Richard – has to be: who else his age talked like that? Who else called Adam ‘the first man’? Who else still did bad impressions of Tony Montana from Scarface?

‘Richard! Hey – how are you? Haven’t heard from you in a while – ’

Richard was the only friend Adam still had from schooldays: they’d been like inseparable twins for most of their teens. When school had finally (and not a second too soon) finished, career paths took them in different directions and they lost touch.

‘Yeah. But no – I’ve been mighty busy!’ Richard says, as always, talking fast, sounding cheerful and enthusiastically urgent. ‘Idle hands and all that, ya’know. No rest for the wicked, eh?  And yourself? How’ve you been keepin… y’alright, I mean…’

A few years ago, not long after Richard’s return from his European travels, empty-pocketed as he was upon setting out, their paths crossed again and they struck up their old friendship. For the first three years they met frequently to play poker in Richard’s about once a month, or in Adam’s about once a week to play chess. Somewhere along the line, probably after Adam’s wife’s accident, the card game had ceased to be.

‘Sure, no point in complaining, isn’t that what they say? I’m okay. The world keeps turning. Was just sleeping there when you called… couldn’t find the phone.’

Lately, unable to sync schedules, they played chess, less frequently and at a much slower pace over the internet. Sometimes weeks went by before a game ended. Richard, only occasionally beatable, was always a challenge in chess (always a challenge, full stop!), offering Adam’s brain badly needed short breaks from bouts of stupefying solitude, useless thinking and mind-numbing navel-gazing.

Adam couldn’t remember whether or not they were in the midst of a game right now.

‘Sleepin? In the daytime?’ The mocking incredulity in Richard’s voice is audible. ‘You’ll have plenty of time for sleepin when your dead, mang!’

The unmistakable sound of a long, deep inhalation and Adam knew Richard was back smoking again. He said nothing, not wanting to send Richard into one of his monotonous monologues of improvised justification – they could be there for hours. When you gave Richard your ear, he took hold of it firmly and would not let go.

‘It’s time to live a little.’

‘Umm…’ Adam’s voice trails off into mumbles.

‘It’s all good, yeah? – because the party we’re goin’ to ain’t stoppin’ ‘til the Bank Holiday’s over!’ Richard laughs so loudly it causes Adam to yank the receiver from his ear, wincing.

Richard’s last name is O’Shea. Growing up, other kids tried to (and often succeeded) in teasing him about it, calling him Ricochet. Adam never called his friend that. When Adam was annoyed at Richard, or was simply bored and in need of an activity to amuse himself, he reverted to calling him Dick! He was never sure whether Richard got the joke or not.

‘This time tomorrow night, my boy, you’ll be glad you recharged your batteries, if you know what I mean!’

‘No, Richard.’ Adam is confused. ‘Actually, I don’t know what you mean. What party?’

‘Wait now! Are you tellin me you forgot?’ The teasing tone is tinged with a hint of panic. ‘This is The Party, man, The Only Party In Town! Don’t tell me you don’t remember.’

‘I don’t know.’ Adam stares at his wiggling toes. ‘I don’t remember you telling me about it. Sorry.’

‘What do you mean sorry? You don’t have to be sorry. So what, it slipped your mind. Big deal. That’s the past, man. We’re setting our sights on the foreseeable future, the inevitable outcome, and all the instant gratification we can handle on our journey down the yellow brick road.’

Truth was – then and now – Richard was a dick at times.

Adam listens distractedly, picking at a burst blister on his big toe.

‘I’m sorry, Richard, it must have slipped my mind.’ Adam hopes this will let his friend down gently. ‘But I have other plans…’

Slipped? You want to talk about slipping? Okay, here’s the deal, my friend – slip into the shower, wash your hair and change your mind, then slip into your best gear, pour the Jack and skin up a big one. I’ll pick you up around 7:30. Roger?’

This tactic – selective hearing problem – no longer surprises or entertains Adam. Richard has always claimed to be partially deaf in one ear, but Adam can never remember which because it changes from one to the other as often as Igor’s hunch moves from side to side in the movie Young Frankenstein.

‘I don’t know.’ Adam is suddenly heavily tired. ‘Are you saying we arranged this? When?’

Richard’s problem – if it was a problem at all – was only one for other people, not for Richard: it gave him license to hear what he wanted and deaf-ear the rest. He used and still uses it shamelessly. A characteristic Adam had found amusing at the beginning of their acquaintance when they were around ten, but like all spells, over time, it had worn off. Now, it just wore him out.

‘Arrange this?’ Richard echoes, impatient.

Adam recognises this as a rhetorical ruse – one Richard often employs when stalling for time, searching for the right words. Adam imagines he hears the machinations of Richard’s mind in motion.

‘Sure, isn’t that what we’re doing? Pay attention, mang! Picture this party as a hot piece of 20 year old ass in a too-short skirt barely hiding a pair of panties with your name on them. First base, we get a bite, maybe Nando’s. Second base, we go for a little foreplay and hit a tittie-bar, down a few brewskies. Third base, ninja-style, we make our move, penetrate the party… and you fuck that chick! Think about it – deeply.’

Adam struggles to do so. Barely manages a weak response.

‘You paint an attractive picture, Richard… like an artist or something… but… I don’t think so… I…’

The pause goes on so long this time, Adam wonders if they’ve been disconnected.

“There’s also Werther’s toffees, if I’m not mistaken and just making it up. Could these two Werther gentlemen have been related? Or, even better, one and the same person?! I can see the commercial: A short and strikingly unpretty Asian woman leans into the camera and says: Tinking to commit suicide on self? At a special tyne like dees, you want go out sucking a Werther Original. Sweet juicyness last long tyne!”

‘You still there, Richard?’

“Meaning. Perhaps when I finally let go into knowing how little I truly understand, and that some (maybe all) things don’t really have any meaning, enlightenment might rain on my head, making me sane.”

Richard replies less enthusiastically, voice slower, tone lower.

‘Remember how you got really pissed off at me when I didn’t come to your wife’s 40th?’

‘Well… yeah… sort of… why?’

‘And do you remember how angry and disappointed you were with me?’

‘Oh, come on, Richard, I thought we’d moved past that – I wasn’t upset with you personally, I was just upset you couldn’t be there. What’s this got – ’

‘And do you remember why you were so angry and disappointed?’

Resigned to being led to wherever this was going, Adam admits he doesn’t remember right now.

‘Because, you said, I had broken a promise.’ Another deep drag of a cigarette – or whatever Richard was smoking. ‘You said people should only make promises they’ll keep. You even wondered aloud, repeatedly, how you could be friends with someone who couldn’t keep a promise.’

He’s put me in position, Adam thinks. Check.

‘I’m sorry, Richard. I said I was sorry, didn’t I? If not, I am, sincerely. But, I don’t get it – why are you bringing this up?’

‘I just wanted you to know before you make your final decision that when I told you about this party over a month ago, you said you’d go, but I didn’t think you meant it and said so.’ Richard clears his throat harshly. ‘And you know what you said?’

‘Enlighten me, Dick.’

‘You said: I give you my promise.’

“What’s the meaning of a rose in full-bloom if a human isn’t there to see it and give it one?”

Bested, Adam shakes his head. Check-mate!

‘What time did you say you’d be here?’ he asks: the only move he can make without ending the game.

‘7:30! Weren’t you listening, mang?’ The partly annoying, partly infectious over-the-top cheerfulness has returned to Richard’s voice. ‘I’ll be there on the dot – I promise.’

‘We’d better synchronise watches, then!’ Adam laughs. ‘What time is it, anyway?’

Richard laughs, too. ‘It’s 5:22! You’d better get a move on. Later!’

“Man is a meaning-making machine wrote Victor Frankl, compelled to invest everything with meaning even though the return, given time, will be meaninglessness. Like our tenuous hold on life and sanity, meaning has value because it’s ephemeral… you never know when you’re going to lose it.”

Adam opens the sliding doors in the living-room and steps out onto the 9th storey balcony unaware of his nakedness – bare, save for a lost-with-nowhere-to-go-and-nothing-left-to-lose expression. Caught in the dim spotlight of the sun’s closing eye, he moves about madly, freely, as if the last man on earth possessed by dancing demons, starring in the only show in town in a theater full of empty seats, with not a ticket sold:

The Greatest Story Never Told.

“If I claim to be sane I suppose there’d be those who would use that as proof to the contrary. Conversely, if I claim I am insane – Catch 22! – they’d say that proved I was sane, on the grounds that I must be sane to be able to recognise my insanity.”

Overtaken by a sudden out-of-nowhere urge, he leans on his arms, hoists himself up, and gracefully maneuvers into a standing position. Poised steadily on top of the glass barrier, it’s as if his presence is challenging its two main purposes – namely, stopping people falling accidentally or jumping deliberately. The strip of metal underfoot is 6 inches wide and its cold, smooth hardness feels good against his soles.

One momentary loss of equilibrium and its 6 feet under

“Therefore, I will make no claims. No doubt, in time, you’ll come to your own conclusions.”

Face turned skyward, Adam slowly raises his arms by his sides until he takes on the shape of a man nailed to an invisible cross. Breathing deeply, filling lungs to capacity, he bellows a challenge with unwavering voice

If you exist, show yourself! Show me some of that Omni-mercy it’s said you possess. Whip up a wind! Prove your compassion. Blow me away!

A growing erection (caused by a gentle breeze tickling his balls) grabs his attention. To anyone staring from the block across the street, he must look surreal: like a naked, erect, crucified tight-rope-walker.

Nothing more than a gentle breeze – that the best you can do? Since you’re not there, it doesn’t matter. But if by some chance you are, you’re pathetic, and it still doesn’t matter.

“One thing I want to make clear is that I know that death is not the only choice available. I have specifically chosen to die at this time (rather than at an unspecified, unknown future date) because, out of all the options, it’s the best on the whole. It’s the one that makes most sense.”

Adam reposes for a time he cannot be bothered to gauge. A passing rain cloud veils the sun, covering his face in shade. He crawls down. Feet safely on ground, he gazes down (along with his now flaccid penis) at the strangely empty street below. He likes its white stripes dotted along the middle and the circles of light running up and down both sides. And also – especially – the lack of people… and the noise they brought with them wherever they went… in the city, the country, inside of the mall… The presence of people can make anyplace unattractive.

The street look so inviting in the almost dark… of late… and the way it seems to be moving like a conveyor-belt warming up… he’d never noticed before.

“Unless, of course, your church tells you that my soul / spirit / being / isness / essence will live on and I will be punished for not believing in your god. Punished for taking my own life with eternal torture (replete with the unpleasant gnashing of teeth) for my finite (and in the big scheme of things, not very serious) crimes.”

Everything was (almost) planned out, dealt with, laid to rest, so to speak. Save for the day… the time… and the way. Adam’s in two minds as to why he hasn’t chosen these things yet: one part says its because he’s scared, because he’s a coward, the other part claims that a deadline – coupled with whatever would be the effect on his mind knowing the manner of his death too much in advance – would unnecessarily increase the heaviness he was already under, making things harder than they already were or needed to be. His idea of how his last moments would be spent did not include clocks or watches, just him in-his-own-good-time zone. So why, he wonders, this nagging feeling of something left undone? What was it?

Speaking of clocks and watches…

“I say your church instead of your god because I’ve read the bible and nowhere in it does it say thou shalt not commit suicide. You could cite the ten commandments where it plainly says not to kill, but that’s a little vague, wouldn’t you say?”

By force of habit, Adam checks his wrist only to find it bare for the 100th time. The clock on the computer screen tells him to get his rear in gear. Richard would be here soon.

“I understand you may not like it, but I feel good about my decision, made free from the burden of overwhelming emotions and whimsical feelings. I am confident in its correctness.”

An unwilling man following unwanted instructions, Adam moves in the manner of a sleepwalker. He slinks into a steamy shower. Brain blasted by hot liquid shrapnel – fireworks memories of his wife’s 40th birthday celebration exploding. His beautiful wife. The only meaning in his life ever had.

“Be assured – reassured even – that it was not a mistake you might imagine I’d correct if given the chance. Or even that, had you somehow known in advance and had the chance to speak with me before the deed was done, you could have saved me.”

The sound of the shower and the water rolling down his face masked all signs of crying and sobbing.

“Nobody could have saved me but myself.”

Watching suds swirl down the drain, Adam wishes he’d spent more time with his wife, before thoughts drift to his job… the one he used to have.

“The only person who could decide whether or not I was worth saving was myself. And for what would I be saving myself for? Or what from?”

It was true: he’d done exactly what he’d set out not to do. He had lived to work, worked to live, invested everything he possessed into a life that, in hindsight, was mostly a hectic blur.

“Those answers could only have come from myself.”

Twenty five years round the clock – practically all 40 if school years counted.

Maybe the old saying is true and schooldays were the best of times, even though at the time they seemed the worst.

“One thing’s for sure, we can all be united in this certainty: I am not going to regret it.”

And maybe that old saying is true: Life begins at 40. Didn’t John Lennon write a song called that? Yes, Adam was almost certain he had. And if memory served, it wasn’t long later, at 40 years of age, Lennon’s life ended at the hand of a man intent on stealing his fame.

“Of course, we take this to mean not to take the life of another human being for no reason. Killing is justified in war, right? Sometimes in self-defense – or in defense of another.”

Standing before the mirror shaving, Adam avoids eye contact with his reflection, keeping gaze fixed on the razor.

“What about picking an apple from the tree and eating it? We do not take the commandment at face value – we do not take it literally… except maybe for those weird and whacky fundamentalists!”

A few months ago (he couldn’t say how many for sure – not that it mattered), Adam had been informed by email that his position with the firm was terminated. Just as the fax machine had given way to email, he had been made redundant. The idea early retirement washed over him in a baptism of relief. Taking off his watch, he rubbed the naked wrist as though a tight handcuff had been removed. With full attention on the office clock above open door, the one to which he’d been a slave for way too long, he raised his arms, aimed the back of both hands at the clock, and double-flipped it the bird. Aware of his co-worker’s silence, ears cocked and eyes locked on him, he waltzed through the door. Pausing suddenly, frozen momentarily on the threshold, he looked back over his shoulder and made snap-shot eye-contact with each desk-jockey before breaking into a wide-eyed smile.

‘I’m singing in the frame…’ he sang, ‘just singing in the frame / what a glorious feeling…’

“It’s a matter of interpretation. I interpret that commandment the way I interpret it, and a loving, merciful god would understand that. I say this to make it clear that if there is a heaven and hell, I categorically do not want to head south!’

A sharp turn of the razor nicks his chin, draws blood.

“I may be choosing to die, but I’m not choosing to go to hell! Whatever anybody claims.”

Returning to the memory, he realises he’d stopped short of the song’s next line. He just couldn’t sing it – it would have rung hollow. Eyes meet in the mirror. He’s at a loss to name the look in them.

“I choose the black, inky nothingness of a REMless sleep. Complete absence of awareness. All something negated by the all nothing.”

He would never be hap-hap-happy again.

Taking extra care, he continues shaving.

“In fact, ironically, not wanting to be in hell is the overwhelming reason for putting a stop to everything.”

Standing in the office doorway singing, the words gave way to a burst of hysterical laughter at the assbackwards irony of the situation. He had bestowed his employer a gold watch (the only watch he owned) as a retirement gift, a small token, maybe. A reminder of times shared, times that wanted to be forgotten, and for the most part, were. After that all he could remember was the sound of the door clicking closed… and as he splashed cold water on his face, it echoed repeatedly and loudly in his head.

“I’m in hell now… and I want to get out… and I can. Sure, I could end up right back in hell, I know. I don’t believe it but I guess it’s a possibility. But so what, it wouldn’t be out-of-the-frying-pan-and-into-the-fire: it would be out-of-the-fire-and-into-the-fire. So, what’s to lose?

“Nothing.”

Adam follows Richard’s 3-step plan with twenty minutes to spare. Sitting on couch, doobidge ready in ashtray, glasses on table beside bottle of Jack, he stares straight ahead, emptying mind, gazing at nothing… wondering

What would it be like to feel nothing?

how one would know. It was more than he could begin to imagine… but he’d never find out as long as he was curious, right? Because being curious means feeling something – and that was a long way from feeling nothing.

Adam finds it difficult to describe what he feels. Imagine the feeling that comes when everything you once knew and relied upon is suddenly invalid. Uncertainty. Knowing nothing anymore. Emptiness, hollowness – the fragile feeling of an egg-shell about to crack.

“Please, my friend, if you’re feeling at all sad or sorry for me, don’t. I wouldn’t want that. Who would? There’s no need for it and nothing good to be gained by it. As hard as it may be for you to get this right now, I’m feeling good as I write this.”

Bathing in the calming quiet and the setting sun’s final rays of orange light, his mind (recently resigned, too, but not redundant!) begins to unwind.

“Springsteen is on Pandora’s box.”

Adam is not only physically ready to go, he’s also mentally and emotionally ready, when Richard announces his return by depressing the doorbell button and not letting go.

“We made a promise / that we’d always remember / no defeat / baby / no surrender!”

‘7:30!’ Richard exclaims, pointing at his watch.

‘On the dot!’ Adam grins, inviting his guest in.

“I can’t remember the last time I felt more in control and on purpose.”

They talk boisterously as the doobidge goes up in bluish smoke and the Jack goes down like liquid gold. Maybe it’s the sweet Lebanese, maybe the Sour Mash… the conversation, the music from Pandora’s box… whatever it is, the effect is trans-formative. A hellacious amount of joking and laughing is shared between them, as easily as it had been when first friends. Before anything bad had happened.

“It is said, in life we are in death. Can I say that in death we are in life? Right now, as I write this, with the night about to give way to morning, I am exhilarated. Full of clarity and energy.”

Half a bottle and three joints later, they were moving at speed, singing along raucously to Richard’s mixed CD blasting through fuzzy speakers. Cruising down the road lit up by city’s bright lights.

Heading for the only party in town!

“If pressed to say, I think most people would describe me as a quiet person, someone who didn’t have much to say or didn’t say very much about anything. Kept his thoughts to himself, was pretty agreeable, affable even.”

At the party (a semi-detached house surging with what seemed to be a hundred sweating bodies of all shapes, sizes and ages), the temperature’s too hot. The music’s too loud.

“Since society agrees that one should not speak ill of the dead, I think now is as good a time as any to free my thoughts. Because if you say I didn’t think much, you’ll be speaking ill of me – untruthfully, at least.”

After a half an hour sitting in the corner, fending off falling bodies, Adam gets up, slips carefully through the tight mob in search of Richard.

“I intend to get a few of them down here before my time runs out, for whatever its worth.”

Standing by the entrance to the kitchen, something pokes Adam in the back, accompanied by a familiar voice.

‘One false move, and you break my finger!

Relieved at having found him, and amused to some extent, Adam hadn’t heard this one in decades. It brought back memories and put a smile on his face. They’re both laughing as they face each other. Richard leans a shoulder against the wall for support, demanding to know where Adam had disappeared to.

‘Snap!” Adam shouts, and answers by pointing at the couch by the fireplace, .

‘Sitting over there in the corner. Watching the posers and the phonies go by and uprighting the one’s keeling over. Kind of like The Catcher On The Couch.’

Either uninterested or failing to hear, Richard looks the other way.

“See them?” he asks. Now he’s the one pointing. “Those two babes dancing together over there?”

Adam squints and sees nothing more than a blur of writhing bodies through a thick cloud of smoke.

“Yeah, sure. What about them?’

Richard says they are beautiful, sexy, and couldn’t be more than 21 years old. Friends. From Lithuania. And, the best part is, they came only with each other. His enthusiasm fails to infect Adam, who can only muster an Uh huh. Richard proceeds undaunted, claiming the girls were theirs for the taking.

‘Look at them… they’re really up for it, wouldn’t you say?’ Richard can’t stop staring. Perving is the word that springs to Adam’s mind and he shrugs.

‘Maybe some other night,’ Adam says. ‘I’m thinking of heading home.’

CC Sunset 012 (1)

“Right now, as a matter of fact, I could reverse my decision. Further proof, if you need it, of my rational and sane state. I mean, if some new bit of knowledge comes along and persuades me that staying is a better choice, I’ll take it, no problem.

Richard’s wide-eyes beam on his friend like headlights.

‘Well, that’s great, Adam. Thinking’s a good thing, you know. Can’t get into trouble thinking, right? Doing. Now, that’s another thing entirely.’ Noticing Adam’s without a drink, Richard pretends he understands why Adam’s considering leaving. ‘I’d want to go too if I didn’t have a drop to drink! Where are my manners? Let me go get you one.’ Richard turns in the direction of the kitchen as Adam grabs his elbow and tells him not to bother.

‘Bother?’ Richard winks. ‘It’s not a bother. It’s my pleasure – and the least I can do! Now, stay put and I won’t be a minute.’

‘Well,’ Adam shouts after Richard. ‘How long will you be?’

“Who knows – if I do change my mind, maybe someday, over a drink or three, I’ll let you in on one of my dirty little secret – how I was going to kill myself one time, but didn’t.”

A young girl, Adam guesses to be around 24, appears out of the blurry crowd like an hallucination – holding a tall drink, wearing a shy smile – and stands at a right angle to him. Her appearance focuses his wandering attention and rivets it in place. Looking him in the eyes, her shiny red lips part, and she says that she hopes he won’t consider it too forward or presumptive that she was wondering, having seen him a couple of times throughout the night, if he was having a good time.

Adam says it’s okay to ask, and yes, he hasn’t been having a bad time. It’s hard to tell in the dim and shifting light, but he thinks he sees the pretty girl blush.

‘What makes you ask?’

‘Oh, I don’t know. Curiosity. I’m very curious. You look really sad or something. Lost maybe.’ She smiles ruefully. ‘Sad and lost.’

Adam asks what it is about his expression that makes her think that. Her eyes jump up to their left before returning with the answer. It was a combination of the way he held his mouth and the distant, searching look in his eyes. He says he hopes he doesn’t look that way now and she reassures him with an emphatic no and a touch on the arm. Bringing her mouth close to his ear, she tells him in a small, secretive voice, that her name is Amy. Stepping back, she holds out a hand for shaking and he takes it without hesitation.

‘I’m Adam.’ Her hand is dry and he likes the way it feels in his.

‘Well, Adam,’ she says, eyes gleaming with excitement and curiosity. ‘Were you feeling sad and lost?’

He shakes his head slowly from side to side, gazing blankly at her feet, part of his mind wondering why she wasn’t wearing shoes.

‘You must have pretty good eyesight. And pretty good insight, too! Yes, I was feeling sad and lost.’ He gets a good look at her eyes, a mixture of hazel and green, and sees that they are also pretty. ‘Oddly enough, I don’t feel that way now.’

‘So, Adam.’ Amy’s smile broadens causing her eyes to squint. ‘What do you get up to when you’re not partying?’

‘Well, Amy’ he replies seriously. ‘I work on my list.’

‘List? What kind of list is that?’

‘I made a list of all the things I want to get done before departure.  Everyday I try to put a line through as many as I can.’

‘Oh, I see,’ she says. ‘Where are you going?’

‘I don’t know specifically. All I know is that I have to get away from here.’

Here?’ Her oval face scrunches up with puzzlement. ‘Where? This party, you mean?’

“But, since you’re reading this, I guess that’s never going to happen, is it? These are the last words you’ll be hearing from me… but you won’t be hearing them in my voice, just your own internal one. Unless, of course, you’re reading it aloud to someone else. Or having it read aloud to you – you’ll be hearing my words in their voice. Weird.”

Richard’s back, a beverage in each hand, offering one to Adam. Adam takes it with a thank you, and introduces Amy.

‘Amy!’ Richard nods. ‘Why does that name ring a bell?’

‘You know the host of the party?’ she asks.

‘Frank? Sure. He’s a fiend of mine.’

Amy giggles.

‘He’s my older brother.’

Slapping palm against forehead with a loud sigh, Richard tells her it’s no wonder he didn’t recognise her: last time he’d seen her she’d had short hair and braces on her teeth!

‘This calls for a toast,’ he exclaims, holding glass high. Amy and Adam follow suit. ‘Now, in the name of good friends and in the spirit of partying, let’s honor this moment by tossing down our drinks in one gulp! Agreed?’

‘Agreed,’ Amy and Adam say in unison.

Richard whoops ‘To the party!’ and its bottom’s up.

Wearing a sour frown as he fights a gag-reflex, Adam asks Richard what the hell was in his drink. Richard smiles mischievously.

‘If I told you I’d have to kill you!’ He gives Amy a playful wink. ‘Let’s just say it’s my own secret recipe. Now, my friend, let’s you and I go find Frank. I want to introduce you. He’ll like Frank, right Amy?’

Amy shrugs her shoulders.

Adam finds the young woman he’s been talking with intriguing, so much so he feels like a magnet in the grip of her attraction. Adam declines Richard’s invitation, says he’ll stay and finish his conversation and that Richard is perfectly capable of finding Frank by himself.

‘Okay, but you’ll be here when I return, right?’

Adam nods.

Richard leaves and is immediately swallowed up in the swirling sea of people.

“Maybe you’re having it read to you by (or reading it to) someone who can’t read it for the tears in their eyes, or someone too old to make out my micro-penmanship, or someone who can’t stop laughing enough to hold the pages still.”

Amy tells Adam that she’s not supposed to be at the party – that Frank will kill her if he sees her – and that she’d better go. The strength of disappointment that comes over Adam upon hearing these words surprises him, leaving him tight-lipped and crestfallen. She whispers in his ear again, saying he can go with her if he likes, and before he can answer, or even knows what his answer is, she slides her hand into his and leads him towards the hallway. The word Slalom comes to Adam’s mind as they zigzag between the obstacle course of weaving bodies. Repeating it over and over, he comes to wonder if it’s really a word. Slalom. At the bottom of the stairs, Amy hesitates in taking the first step, asking Adam if he’s sure it’s okay not to stay put like he’d told his friend he would.

‘It’s not a problem,’ Adam says, squeezing her hand gently. ‘I just changed my mind.’ A grin curves his lips. ‘I mean, it’s not like I promised him or anything.’

Going up the stairs, being careful not to step on anyone, knock over a drink, or spill an ashtray, Adam gives into his rising curiosity and asks where they’re going.

‘I don’t know specifically,’ Amy says in a deeper, serious tone. ‘I just know we have to get away from where we were!’ Seeing Adam’s confusion, she adds, squeezing his hand, ‘Don’t worry. We’re going to a place we can talk without all the chaos.’

And they did. And it felt to Adam as if Time had ceased to exist.

“Unless real life is like one of those terrible TV movies where a character reads a letter from a loved one and hears it like a voice-over playing in their head.”

Adam descends the stairs alone, wondering if what had just happened was real or just a dream he was having. Maybe the whole thing was a dream and he was still asleep at home. He’s moving all right, he can see that, but can’t feel his feet touch the ground. It’s as if he’s floating.

“TV. Sounds like a transmitted disease. If there has to be reasons for my demise, then I’ll be happy to cite TV as one of them. I used to think that vacuum cleaners, of all household appliances, sucked the most.”

Much to his surprise, he was not having a terrible time. Mingling, which never came easy, is a breeze, and conversations flow as plentifully and effortlessly as the booze. Good spirits, he thinks, drinking his fifth, sixth… (he’s lost count) drink.

“I was wrong. TV has far surpassed them, and unlike vacuum cleaners, TV sucks for the wrong reason.”

The sounds are great, the people are excited and friendly. The atmosphere feels like it’s charged. Tingling electricity. With every new person he meets and talks to, he feels as though he’s gone deeper into a state he hasn’t been in for years. What was it? Euphoria? Happiness? Ecstasy? Wait a minute! Ecstasy? That’s it! That drink Richard had given him before going off to find Frank. The fucker had gone and spiked it with an E! He wouldn’t put it past him. He’d give him a piece of his mind… but in this state of mind, what’d be the point? He’d probably just keep grinning as he tried to sound annoyed.

“I do not own a TV. One day I just kicked it right in its big hypnotic eye and killed it. The sound it made as it landed at the bottom of a refuse cart in the basement was music to my ears.”

‘There you are!’ It’s Richard and he appears to be pissed off about something. ‘Jesus Fucking Christ, man. I’ve been looking for you for the last couple of hours. You said you wouldn’t go anywhere. Where were you?’

Adam’s response – an involuntary gut-laugh – is so loud that heads turn.

“I see whatever I want to see on the internet. I also see a lot of what I don’t want to see. Can’t win ‘em all.”

Adam had a pretty good time for the first four hours or so, but somewhere along the increasingly crooked line everyone was helplessly and mindlessly following, things had taken a less entertaining direction and enjoyment had turned to discomfort, giving way to a growing longing to be in his own bed, window opened to cool breeze and silence. Receding deeper into endless blackness.

“I would guess, having once been in your position, that you want an answer, right? You want to know how an educated, employed, healthy 40 year old man with the second half of his life ahead of him (well, you’d be wrong there, eh?) could do such a thing. The religious among you likely wondering how I could commit such a sin.”

People are acting like animals, Adam can’t help noticing, as though the place has metamorphosed into a zoo. Scanning the room, he sees wild animals, wounded animals, abused animals, ravenous animals, animals in heat. The feeling that he’d managed to escape with Amy for the last few hours had returned, changing the way things appeared to him. It didn’t look like such a great party after all.

“Suicide. It happens all the time, you know… all around you, if you opened your eyes and ears, you’d be aware of the steadily increasing numbers.”

Realising that, for him at least, the fun was over, Adam goes to find Richard to tell him he’s really going to call it a night now and go home. Had he any inkling of the conversation that would follow this announcement, he’d have left right then without saying a word.

“Did you know that we live in a country that is number three on the list for suicide in Europe?”

‘What do you mean you want to go home?’ Richard demands.

‘I mean I want to leave, go home, Richard. I’ve had my fun. I’m tired now and want sleep.’

‘Oh, come on, man, the party’s just starting. All the fun is yet to come. Don’t be a party-pooper!’

‘Maybe so, but I am pooped! I’ve had my fill of fun – ’

“Suicide is commonplace (in relation to other forms of death – less popular than some, more popular than others) but it seems to always come as a big shock to friends and family of the ‘victim’.”

‘Hey, listen… I know what – you need a drink. You’re running on empty, man. Hold on a minute, I’ll get you one. What is it – rum and coke?’ Richard doesn’t wait for an answer.

“They call them that, don’t they? A suicide victim. About to become one myself, I think it is a misguided misnomer. I mean, what person in their right mind would turn themselves into a victim of themselves?”

Richard shows up, shoving an iceless, slice-of-limeless drink into Adam’s hand.

‘I wasn’t looking for a drink, but thanks anyway. Cheers.’

‘Ah, go on, drink up. Celebrate good times, come on!’ Richard raises his drink and clinks it against Adam’s. ‘To the good old days!’

They knock back a mouthful of their preferred poisons and stare at each other.

“You’ll make meaning of my words, you can’t help it, but I am aware that in the fullness of time, they will mean nothing. I have no problem with that. It seems right to me. I hope you’re okay with it.”

‘No, seriously, man,’ Richard pleads. ‘You’re just kidding around, aren’t you?’

‘About going home you mean?’

‘Yeah.’

“Not that it really matters one way or another.”

‘I’m not kidding. It’s no big deal.’ Adam takes another swig. ‘You stay and have yourself a good time. I’m going to make like a banana and split when I finish this.’

‘But I thought we were having a good time…’ Richard’s gaze falls into his drink. ‘What’s wrong?’

‘Nothing’s wrong,’ Adam sighs. ‘We were having a good time. Now you’re having a good time and I’m not… so I’m going home. It’s no big thing. Tired. Got to get up early. It’s cool, mang. You don’t need me to have a good time.’ He hopes this line of reason will be acceptable, even though he knows it won’t.

“Have you ever noticed that some of your best decisions were made in a state of rational calm when you were completely honest with yourself about everything? And some of your worst came as a result of seeing things in a distorted way, overwhelmed by emotions, or panicking to the beat of a ticking deadline?”

‘Well, no, actually,’ Richard states, an audible sulk in his tone. Thrusting his hand in his jeans pocket, he pulls out a small pill bottle. ‘I got these for us. We were going to stay up all night and party, man. What’s your problem?’

‘Oh!’ Mock surprise visible in Adam’s arched right eyebrow and crooked half-smile. ‘Let me guess. Ecstasy?’

‘For shit sake, you’re acting like an old man.’ The accusatory tone in Richard’s voice is underscored by disappointment. ‘And nobody’s saying you’re the life of the party… but you’re good to have around. At least you used to be. Aren’t you having a good time? Didn’t you see those Lithuanian babes over there?’

‘I see them.’ Adam looks to prove it. ‘Think of it this way: with me gone, you’ve got them both to yourself. Imagine that.’

“And that’s it, isn’t it? Nobody who commits suicide can be in their right mind. Come on, let’s admit it. As you know, I’ve had to deal with a suicide myself, and before I came to understand, that’s what I thought, too. A person capable of that would have to be playing poker with a stripped deck. Or a game of chess with the queen missing.”

`Come on, man, stay. What do you want – you want me to get on my knees and beg?’

‘No. I don’t want you to do anything except stay and have a good time. Take your pills. Give some to the Lithuanian babes, why don’t you?’ Adam does his best to sound reasonable, attempting to resist the blooming yawn pushed upon him by the heaviness of Gravity and the restless boredom setting in. ‘You’re right, the night is still young and the party is just getting started – already has by the looks of it – and just because I’m going to go now as soon as I’ve finished this drink, doesn’t mean you have to. Stay. Party on, dude… but let me go, okay?’

“The left behind almost always claim that the dead person was not in his/her right mind and suffered with something – depression, guilt, grief, isolation, desperation…”

‘Listen, man, my friend went through all this trouble to put this thing together, and if I can be totally honest with you, I think you’re being a little rude, you know? And selfish. You’re bringing me down.’

Here it is, Adam tells himself – the guilt-trip.

“Another anagram comes to mind. Desperation rearranged becomes ‘a rope ends it’. A rope. Hanging. I thought about it, but not for long. As you already know, it wasn’t my cup of tea.”

Rude?” Adam’s taken aback. “I don’t know how you figure that. This guy was going to have this party with or without me. I didn’t ask to be invited. In fact, he didn’t invite me, you did. Anyway, it doesn’t matter because when you were getting my drink I called a taxi. I’m going home. Thanks for the invite. I enjoyed it up until a few minutes ago. It’s a good party. And, you’re right, those Lithuanian babes are pretty sexy!’

“Whatever happens I want this note – this multiple Dear John letter, if you will – to be read at this gathering. As for my last will and testament (I exercised my right to refuse to encourage the occupation of ‘solicitor’ by hiring one!)… well, you’ve no doubt found it in the notebook on my desk.”

‘All right, then, be like that.’ Richard sticks out his lower lip. His silhouette, what with his big bald head and jowly face, reminds Adam of a TV show he used to watch as a child: The Alfred Hitchcock Hour.

“Some of you may want a traditional affair, but it’s my party and I want it to be fun!”

‘Don’t let the fact that I’m not going to have a good time bother you in any way, you know? Don’t think of me or anything. Just go to bed early like an old man!’

Patiently, Adam grins.

‘I’m going to get another. You want one?’

‘I appreciate the offer, Dick, but I’ve had enough.’

‘Suit yourself.’

“Speaking of fun – did you know that ‘real fun’ is an anagram of funeral? So, let’s not have a funeral, let’s have real fun!”

Their circular conversation continues for a further half hour when Richard brings back a beer in one hand and a large whisky in the other. Running out of angles and approaches, Richard empties his drinks into his finally quiet mouth. After a long swallow, he peers into each glass to see if there’s anymore. There’s a drop at the bottom of the whisky glass and he tips it into puckered lips, draining it.

“When it comes to dying, I have only one thought: No pain. Who needs it? In life don’t we have enough of it? Death will be the end of the pain.”

It is still dark when Adam gets home, having left before the taxi arrived. Without turning on the lights, he sheds clothes in a heap on the living room floor, and hearing a song from Pandora’s Jukebox he likes, turns it up. Lights a candle in the middle of the coffee table with no idea of the time, not that it made any difference anyhow.

Humming along with the song, foot tapping. Content in the now. Still tired, but without the nagging tug of sleep.

His mind had been bright and free from the darkness of suicidal thoughts since coming up on the ecstasy: their shadows sloped back into view as he walked home from the party.

“I’m open to the idea, but I do not believe there is anything after death. If it’s true that energy never dies, then I guess mine will dissipate out into the ether and go on to have further experiences of its own, without one iota of my persona, identity or consciousness to be aware of it.”

Adam sniggers, wondering who wouldn’t have suicidal inclinations after having had to put up with Richard’s harangue. And he senses – lighting up a joint and blowing a slow, fat smoke-ring – that it is only now – for the first time – that he is totally connected to the idea. It resonates. The more he thinks about it, the more he knows it is the obvious next step.

Transfixed by candle’s hypnotically dancing flame, the ripples of his consciousness slow down, flatten out.

“This person (which literally means mask, persona) you think you knew, is gone. As absent as before I got here.”

He hasn’t taken a shit in days… but the rumbling down below says that’s about to be fixed.

In the windowless bathroom he sits on the toilet in the posture of Rodin’s Thinker, giving great consideration to the usual line-up of questions

Is today the day?

“As you read this, I am now… nothing.”

By what method?

“As I write this, I am not afraid. I have, at times, been afraid of some things.”

Was I really in Amy’s bedroom for two hours?

“But why should I be afraid of nothing?”

And, if so, what was I doing in Amy’s bedroom for two hours?

“And there’s no reason for you to feel afraid either. Talk to each other. Tell stories about me and laugh. Let your hair down, get your spirits up, and celebrate. Can you do that for me?”

They’d smoked a joint, hadn’t they? Yes… maybe two or three. In the memory of his mind’s eye, Amy’s beautiful, curious face is sideways… so they must have been lying on her bed talking. She wanted to know more about his list, and when he’d told her, she seemed disappointed. She’d thought it was a list of ‘dreams’ or ‘big things’ he wanted to accomplish in his life, not just a row of bulleted To-Do’s. She shared some of her dreams… to write a novel… visit Tibet… make love to a man who she felt something for – a man who made her feel sexy and horny and impossibly beautiful… With a little teasing and a lot of coaxing, she got him to share some of his. To write a long Dear John letter… find out how it felt to fly, free as a bird… have sex with a beautiful woman while on ecstasy… a woman who – even though he didn’t know too many facts about – he had an inexplicable affinity for… She had kissed him then, softly, sweetly, saying she hoped he thought that she was a beautiful woman. She had gasped, he had moaned: fucking like it was their first and last time. For the last few days he’d had a sneaking suspicion that something had been overlooked. Since leaving Amy’s bedroom, that feeling was gone.

“Nobody is to be sad or scared or worried.”

All that was left of her was the scent on his hands, the pictures in his mind, the loosening in his chest.

“Bearing in mind that many of you consider yourself good Catholics… well, I have a challenge for you. If you are not going to go along with my last wishes and be in grief and cry, please let the others know that you are crying for yourself – whatever the reason is: unhappy that my death only serves to bring your own into sharper focus… or that you feel sorry for yourself that you didn’t say or do the things you would have liked to have said and done in relation to me while I was still in a fit state to have them said or done to me… or that you feel bad because you have strong feelings for me (maybe you loved me, maybe you hated me) and haven’t yet accepted that you can never be with me again.”

Pushing and straining, lost in thoughts, waiting in the dark for the penny to drop. Condensation has traced the outline of his feet on the tiled floor.

Since nothing means anything, does anything matter?

“Unless, of course, there is a heaven… we might meet there. So, here’s the challenge: Act in a manner congruent with your beliefs – knowing I will get what I deserve and justice will prevail.”

An unexpected resounding ‘plop’ in the bowl splashes water on Adam’s buttocks. He shakes his head, grin growing.

In the morning what goes in counts, but at the end of the day…

A hand fails to stifle an eruption of laughter (howling like a loon at a rubber-moon water-balloon bursting) he blurts out two words

Outcomes matter!

“Celebrate the fact that I am in a better place now – all pain and suffering gone. Basking in the eternal life and light of god’s love and mercy.”

In Sunday pre-dawn silence, with the falling moon about to call it a day, Adam sits at his desk, back upright, feet flat on floor, engaged in a session of Zazen meditation. It is all about the acceptance of what is, his brother had told him once when teaching Adam how to do it. It’s about turning away from regrets of the past, worries for the future, letting go of all resistance until thought-forms loosen their grip. No struggle or effort. Being and breathing. Detachment. No trying.

The way it had been in Amy’s bedroom. After they’d both come and were still panting side by side from exertion and pleasure, she had brought up again the subject of his departure, wondering what he’d meant when he’d said he had to get away from here. She hadn’t put it to him as a question, so he hadn’t answered, waiting for her to carry on with her thinking aloud. Perhaps what was more important, she said, was why he had to get away from here. He lined up his reasons and was about to tell them to her when a memory from years ago surfaced for the first time and played like a film on the movie-screen of his mind.

His wife and himself lying in bed together smoking and whispering in the dark. Without warning, she’d started crying. Alarmed, Adam slid closer and put an arm around her, hugging her wet face to his chest. It took a number of invitations before she gave in and told him what had set off the waterworks. She’d been thinking about her dog, Einstein. Adam understood. Einstein had been a crazy-haired poodle that she’d had – when he was a puppy small enough to fit into the palm of your hand, and she was an 8 year old girl still in pigtails. Einstein was in nearly every memory she had. She had loved him so much that she feared she would never overcome the grief she now felt since he’d died. Adam stroked her hair and rubbed her arm, feeling helpless and ineffectual. He mumbled words intended to soothe, but instead caused her to weep more violently. She told him that she loved him – through chokes and sobs – so much. So much that she was afraid. If anything ever happened to him. If he died. Her grief would surely kill her. Or she’d kill herself. She couldn’t imagine life without him. Didn’t want to. She apologised for the scene she was making and sat up to blow her nose. Adam sat up, too, and took her face in his hands. Looking deep into her watery, bloodshot eyes, he spoke to her in a hushed, sombre tone, telling her many things. That her love made him so happy. That she gave his life meaning and purpose. That it had never dawned on him to imagine his life without her… and now that it had, he knew it wouldn’t be one he’d like to live. As he talked more urgently, he felt his heartbeat speed up and pound like a fist in his chest. Tears fat as raindrops spilled out like exclamation points marking his words of love. That he wouldn’t want to live without her. That he would rather end his life, too. She asked if he’d really do that for her. I promise you, he said. They held each other tight, kissing softly until sleep came.

Something shifts. Adam feels an overwhelming rush of an unnamable sensation – not just around him, but also inside him.

What if?

He asked his wife’s picture

What if insane or sane doesn’t really exist – and that people are just the way they are… and as long as they aren’t harming anybody else, they’re just accepted for who they are, not judged and labeled?

He gave her a generous thirty or so seconds for her reply, listening closely to what he imagined she’d say.

You think it’d be good? Because people would feel better about themselves. Yes, I think you’re right. I read somewhere that all the troubles in the world are caused by unhappy people. It’s a sweeping generalization, but it has a grain of truth in it. Thanks. You always were a good listener. My true companion.

“On second thoughts, if you really believe in what your church tells you, then you believe I won’t be going to heaven. That being the case, the only chance we’ll have of getting together again is if you join me in hell. Heh-heh-heh! It’s another type of Catch 22, isn’t it?”

Now, he thinks, placing a piece of blank paper on the desk and grabbing a pen, whatever time it was, he understands everything. Has arrived at all the answers.

It’s time to write the letter.

“Whether a member of my family or a friend… if you love me and want to demonstrate that with respect, I ask you to do your best not to judge me too harshly, not to agonise over this or feel in any way sorry for – or, god forbid, pity – me. Don’t let my behaviour affect you negatively.”

Having had no proper sleep for ages, Adam’s eyes succumbs to Gravity’s pushy fingers and slide closed. Before falling into a dreamless sleep destined to last for less than fifteen minutes, he becomes aware of a warm, relaxed sense of satisfaction.

“I respect myself and my decision. I am not in any agony or experiencing sadness or regret, or any negative feelings. So, why should you? Of course, you shouldn’t!”

He recognises the sound that wakes him this time – his phone. It could only be Dick, again (who else), but this time he won’t answer.

Head muzzy from alcohol and ecstasy, he considers the pool of spittle he’s leaked onto the glass top of his desk as the ringing continues. Pen still in hand, he figures he mustn’t have finished the letter. Today indeed was the day. And there’s no time like the present.

“Through a lot of questioning, I checked if this choice of mine was something I could initiate and maintain. I used Cartesian Co-Ordinates just to be sure, asking myself four very useful questions. The answers only confirmed what I already knew in my head and heart.

“Q: What will happen if you commit suicide? A: I’ll be going home. Returning to where I came from. Finally at peace. I’ve been dead on the inside for quite some time now, just walking around aimlessly waiting for the outside to catch up.”

A three step plan of action forms fast. First, he’d complete the suicide note. By then, he’s certain, the way would reveal itself. He’d better hurry though if he planned on going down before the sun came up.

“Q: What won’t happen if you commit suicide? A: This unsatisfactory, chaotic life. This all consuming sense of pointlessness, tediousness and boredom.

The Beatles Flying comes on Pandora – and strikes him as oddly appropriate. And instructional.

“Q: What will happen if you don’t commit suicide? A: Just more of the same. The same old same old. Same shit, different day. It’s not like I think we’re going to be together when I die or anything like that. We’ll just no longer be apart: the ache caused by her missing will stop.

He stands and stretches, appreciating against his bare skin the sensation of cool breeze coming through the open balcony doors.

“Q: What won’t happen if you don’t commit suicide? A: This game will not stop. This game that I didn’t ask to be part of. This game and it’s rules of which I have no understanding…  and do not enjoy playing because it’s rigged and I know that ultimately, I cannot win.

He turns the music up loud, and humming along, grabs the hip-high dining-table and carefully drags it out onto the balcony.

“Well, this supposed Dear John letter is turning into something approaching unwieldy and unnecessarily verbose, and I’m so tired… so, this is as good a time as any to love you and leave you.”

Clearing the coffee-table, he slides it across the floor and positions it about three feet from the dining-table.

“Looking out at the sky I am pleased to see it is clear. Stars shine brightly. And, I muse, if I didn’t know better, I’d say that one of them is winking at me.”

Back at his desk, he speaks one last time to his wife

“I bet you like your life and want to have as many happy years on this earth as you can get – and I say, go for it! Be happy and love every second for as long as you can, okay?  And if possible – if you ever find yourself thinking of me – I hope it brings a good feeling to your heart and a smile to your face.”

I’m keeping my promise, my love

“If you believe in god, and if he really is all merciful, we may eventually meet again. And if there really is such a thing as progress, won’t it be even better next time around?”

and kisses his fingertips before touching them to her mouth.

Facing the balcony, he takes a deep breath and starts to run.

“I am simultaneously the most tired and the most excited I’ve ever been in my life. Now that I am approaching peace.”

He jumps, lands with left foot on coffee-table, then right foot on dining-table, and like Superman taking off, or a bird spreading wings, he raises arms above head, palms pressed flat together, fingers pointing skyward, he launches himself into space over the balcony, an image of his wife’s beautiful face fully formed in his mind, wondering where the road below will take him.

For a brief moment that felt like forever, he was flying.

“All my love and best wishes to you and yours.”

Gravity’s pushy hand takes hold, increasing the speed of his fall.

“I’ve got to fly.”

Later that day, white tape traces the outline of where his body landed on the tarmacadam.

“Your once upon a time friend, son, brother, uncle, drinking buddy, pen-pal, Adam.”

It was a bright, bright, sunshiny day.

LwUA0Kj0a6Zp9xCTQfRfbuv847DP-Y2Co9vxO2sHX-2t=w315-h190-p-no

FISTED!

fat-finger-mistake

Law’s crooked arm reaches back in time

Fat red fingers feeling for clues

Fixing evidence to fit the crime

Rewriting history for the news

sweaty hand

You’re held in its sweaty vicelike hand

Cold bracelet biting into your wrist

When you stand under you’ll understand

Your face smashed to bits by its fist

fist

© Dec 2014 ORP

CHANGE

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the teacher who won’t learn what he teaches
the preacher who doesn’t practice what he preaches
the authority figure who demands to be respected
the inspector who refuses to be inspected

the person who asks you not to ask questions
the close-minded friend shut off to suggestions
the self-proclaimed victim in search of sympathy
the dangerous ones who are strangers to empathy

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the gossips who talk behind your back
the ones quick to point out all that you lack
the boss who pays you less than you’re worth
the lover who promises to give you the earth

the writer who tells stories but never writes
the voter persuaded by empty sound-bytes
the woman who always has to be in control
the holy man who wants to save your soul

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the argumentative type who won’t be debated
the tax collector who fingers what he’s confiscated
the salesman who offers you guarantees
the priest who wants you to get on your knees

the brother who pretends it’s his wife’s decision
the surgeon who cuts without precision
the gambler who’s afraid to roll the dice
the poet who offers dubious advice!

When my love goes away
the sun’s light grows strong
I wish night would just stay
heat of day lasts too long

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But whenever my love comes
dark raincloud pours over me
Beating soft as distant drums
cooling me like a shady tree

© 2013 WW

He fails to realise his self-delusion
Due to living in the dark of denial
He watches helpless in confusion
As he disappears in downward spiral

Inability to trust fills him with doubt
Numbing alcoholism empties his cup
Burning desires turn him inside out
Forever falling keeps him downside up

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He’s a jumbled up mess of contradictions
So selfish he only shares his pain
Imprisoned by pressing predilections
Losing it all in his blind search for gain

Too paranoid to let the outside in
Affects a smile when he causes a frown
Drowning in a filthy bucket of sin
Believing the whole world is upside down

– 2014 WW