rough, first draft of the beginning of a short story. please send reviews
| This will be my last confession. It’s been a life that’s witnessed many, and I think this one might set things right. That I might go into the afterlife, and leave this world with a calm mind, I will tell you what I’ve done. If, that is, there is indeed an afterlife. Otherwise, I’ve strived a lifetime, to achieve calmness of mind, before the light flickers out? And all humanity has done the same? Ah, but not all think as I do. Some do, but few, and we are miles apart, and I’ve never seen one before. All the same, I have come to see death as merely a change, and it doesn’t take a leap of faith to see that daylight, to come to that horizon.
I’ve killed men, and women, and corrupted helpless children during my time here. Back long ago, I lived in a tenement flat in southern Philadelphia. I live a few buildings off Broad Street, and early in the morning when there were no cars you could see straight down to City Hall, to old William Penn atop the building. I had bodies strewn about my room, and no one ever came in and so no one ever saw them. These were things I thought about, at least. There were no bodies, and I’ve never killed a man but, ah, what a strange thing to proclaim something false, true in your mind. The mind becomes confused so very easily.
But how can a single entity confuse itself willfully, (to be sure I am not insane, I maintain control over myself, I only lack self control, but if I fail to control myself, than who am I who fails?) how can it be? It must be because I am two people, or more. It’s funny how we discover our opinions as we think, here as I write. What, then, of opinions?
No, I lived a boring life. But boring implies a failure to stimulate oneself. And were I in a steel room with no doors and no windows and only I was in the room along with nothing else, boredom would become defunct, as a descriptive word. So it was instead an emptiness that consumed me, and every waking minute of my days.
Until I began to become grateful for the moments when bliss overcame me, and I felt safe. Those moments when my thoughts were occupied, with the television, with the television screen. With a song stuck, circulating in my head, or when I found myself debating politics silently, as perhaps two others nearby argued aloud about one thing or the other. When I was safe, simply planning what I would eat next, or what I might do that day. How I would pass the time. The unbearable time, knowing what I knew.
And so that was how I began to think. Life would not change for me, I was trapped in my surroundings, in my ways, in my fate, and this fact became an obsession, with my every action, every step, every decision and every thought falling under its ominous shadow. I could not move. I was paralyzed.
So I was determined to feel. In bed and staring at the ceiling one evening, I thought to myself, if I cannot not transcend, cannot move vertically through life’s experiences toward some purpose, I will move laterally across the breadth of life, and if the situation calls for it, smash through brick walls like a wrecking ball on my pendulum-like way. I lowered my head, walked through my front door one fine Thursday morning, and charged like a raging bull.
It was early June, and so the season coincided with the rebirth of my spirit. My days were numbered though; I knew this was a path of self-destruction which rendered me a walking corpse. But people would indeed notice me, and with some luck not realize that I was already dead. I went to work.
Disdain is a word which fails to describe the extent to which I disliked my job. The fact that I had not left by then had been a symptom of my former apathy. I worked at a hospital. I was one of the custodians. It was not the work that bothered me, far from it. As you could guess the work occupied me, and so passed the time with relative purpose. It was the other employees, the ones who fulfilled the buildings real function, helping the sick, injured, and dying.
I hated them. I could not help but glare as they walked by, and they often took notice, and said “Hello, Ash.” My full name is Ashton, but this was their way of being familiar. Well, I used to think, how would you like to be called the by-product of fire? Not the fuel itself, or even the heat, but the crumbling waste, that’s what they thought of me, if they thought of me at all.
What bothered me was this: the lot of them- doctors, nurses, surgeons, et al, were devoid of passion. And if this was the case here, it must be the case in all hospitals, everywhere, and here are the men and women whose chosen purpose in life is to help people. And help they did. Some of them saved dozens of lives in a day, but they did it not with compassion, no, but with their own survival instinct, which in the emergency room included the survival of any given hemorrhage victim. They yelled, “Stay with me! Christ, stay with me!”, not “I love you, don’t walk toward the light yet, I love you.” They were cold… robots even. Machines could have performed their vital work with the same ruthless efficiency.
The symbol, for me, of their detachment was the defibrillator, those paddles of electricity with which flatliners could be shocked back into existence. I often stood outside an ER astride my mop and bucket, and watched these scenes. It was either, “Clear!” “Shit.” Linen over face. “Call it.” Or it was “Clear!” and awhile later, with a feigned warm smile, “Welcome back!” They might tell you that constant emotional involvement is the death knell of many a good doctor. But then I might ask, why do you do it at all?
“To save lives” they would say.
“What is so good about being alive?” And there would be an awkward silence, and they would walk away, with me muttering, “Love is…”
For these reasons, and their displayed inability to appreciate me as a human being, let alone the man who made sure they did not slip in a puddle of the same stuff they were running down the hall with in a transfusion bag, I could not stand them.
That day a certain Dr. Ren approached or rather accosted me with the demand, “Ash can you get that.” as soon as I had walked through the automatic front doors of the hospital. He was referring to a pile of vomit in between a couch in the waiting lounge and the magazine table, presumably left for me by a druggie forced to wait a minute too long.
“Yeah…Yeah.” I said, startled out of staring at the floor and dragging my feet. For as long as I can remember, hearing my name aloud and spoken to me by another person has often resulted in a mild shock. I don’t know why. I walked wearily to my office across the lobby. I pulled the light on in the six by four foot janitor’s closet, which smelled like dirty wet soap. I filled a bucket with hot water from the tube attached to the low sink, poured something in it (I’m not sure if I even grabbed the right floor cleaner), and turned the light off before I had opened the door. In the darkness, I reached for the doorknob. For some reason I let my hand rest on it. It was cold, and I let my hand fall to my side. My forehead then came to rest on the door. I couldn’t see a thing, it was that sort of thick darkness that one usually only experiences in the middle of the night.
Oh lord, I thought. I became mildly nauseous, but for no apparent reason. I realized that I could not bear it, that in the coming moments it was going to be incredibly difficult to leave this room and re-enter the hospital. I blinked my eyes several times deliberately, and opened the door. My back straightened, and I rolled my head around several times on my neck as it creaked and cracked.
I could see the vomit from where I was standing on the other side of the door.