Simply witnessing a horrific crime can also lead to prison (warning - graphic violence)
To be released
It’s been years since I watched the defilement. Silence still thumps in my ears; adrenaline driving a boot to the gut every second of every day, dissolving my muscles and bones like acid.
When it rains at night, or rather, when it pours, my narrative shifts to past tense and I feel clammy, overwhelmed, drenched in corrosive remembrance. I said nothing, just ran to my car, but I saw him, and I saw what he did. I might as well have held her down.
That next morning, I wept as I read the paper. He strangled her when he was done. From that moment on, my body decayed - still blindly gulping at air and swallowing gin, one to sustain and one to preserve.
Today’s paper said the parole board will release him for good behavior. After all, he was a man of God. Six years is the going rate for a life these days, and I served it with him every single day. He with his god and me drinking mine.
A halfway house, mere blocks from my dump, that’s where they say he’ll reside.
I need a cigarette, my seventh of the day. Another habit I picked up six years ago. They kill the taste buds and make the cheap whiskey smoother. Fits of coughing leave me red-faced and cursing Jesus. Just another self-imposed punishment - I being the judge, and I being the jailer.
The papers say he’ll be supervised in a home much like the one I grew up in - one I can no longer afford in this neighborhood. Brownstones with wrought iron rails and distinctive brick patterns.
When I was young, I was a comic book superhero. I could do no wrong, always there in time to save the day, save the girl. I had so much potential, my parents, actually everyone said, he’s got so much promise. The wind’s at his back and the world’s his oyster. All I had to do was choose. Choose the life of Superman or Spiderman or any altruistic do-gooder. A natural-born citizen in a god-fearing nation, born to preserve the truth and the good and the peace of my community and my fellow man, so help me Jesus. I was a good boy! But there must have been a hidden gene I didn’t know about. A strength I never acquired, a sin I buried without thought or apprehension. When my turn came, I failed. I might as well have held her down.
I’m barely alive. More than she can say. I exist as a primitive, hunting and gathering groceries. Maslow would be proud. Behind my eyes, I exist in a black balloon, watching my body from a distance. It dances like a peep show whore, arousing no one – least of all me.
I feel claustrophobic on this planet.
That night, in the rain, I watched the coup, my own body taking control of my weak and feeble mind. I stood and stared in horror, transfixed at the scene, a paraplegic. Feeling nothing in my limbs, nothing that might denote the presence of a normal man. All systems down, but for vision and memory, I drank it in like a snuff voyeur.
Before that day, there was goodness. Newspapers heralded acts of heroism, documenting the innate human ability to seize the moment, to win the day for the good guys. It’s part of us, I thought, an attribute we all share, separating us from the animals, making us deserving of a God. That was until his blessed emissary took an innocent, in front of me, while I watched.
Let us sing the praises of God’s mercy. The one who left me to exist without the courtesy of death. Left me in the sewer, forever the Prince of parasites.
“Oh, here’s what I would have done,” shout the beer toting heroes, proselytizing from their bar-stools. “He’d be dead before he hit the ground, the fucking perv!” Blessed words from Bud the Weiser. But where were they that night? Patrolling the streets in search of evil, as every hero should? Or philosophizing, secure in the vinyl booths of drunken revelry? It was up to me, Clark Kent, Peter Parker, me the superhero - to step up, to step out of the pages. To prove I was more than pulp and ink.
These days, I only venture out for food and booze, community groups fill the rest of my needs, ensuring I don’t die on the couch, near my newspapers and plastic cups and pills.
I’m sure I’ll see him every day, convalescing in the side garden of the halfway house. He’ll live between me and the liquor store on 43rd, halfway between Heaven and Hell.
Is it a crime if a dead man commits murder? I promise I’ll kill myself right after the deed, slit my wrists with a hunting knife. Ya right! Like I’ve got the balls. Still, jail would be an upgrade from this shit-hole, and I could finally sleep without weight on my esophagus.
I’ve dreamed about it, you know? Every single night for the past six years. I’d walk up to his front door and introduce myself, explain who I am and what I’d seen six years before, all the while plunging a hunting knife deep into his fat pious belly. I’d drag him to the couch where he could sit in comfort, watching himself bleed-out. Then I’d smash in his teeth and violate his mouth with the baseball-bat my father bought me at Sears when I was twelve. She was twelve.
If he survived, I’d lop his miserable balls and stuff them in his broken, bleeding mouth – duct-taping it closed so he could choke on them slowly. And I’d laugh at the motherfucker, and drink a whiskey toast, so sweet on the lips, sweet as revenge. Revenge I owe to a girl I never met.
And now it’s really gonna happen. There’s no stopping it, and no one will be there to protect him. Only five buildings from where I sit. He’ll move in this week, feeling giddy, outlasting prison justice and earthly judgement - beating the system. In the mirror, he’ll smile at the rehabilitated soul, ready to re-enter society, a loving member of the community.
I’ll make my way to his door and make everything right once again. Return some goddamn balance to this world. After six years of planning and preparation, there will be no mistakes. The knife and duct tape sit at the ready near my baseball-bat. I will do God’s work for him since his incompetence betrayed us both - me the living, he the dead. I’ll return God’s emissary to him, bloody and broken. A warning shot of what’s to come when I finally stand in the presence of my pitiful Lord.
Most likely, I’ll wait until September, after the priest is comfy and complacent, wallowing in pious perversions and planning his next atrocity. Or maybe Christmas, what a fucking gift that would be, the spirit of Christmas past, standing on his doorstep, sword of justice in my hand.
Or maybe Easter, imagine the irony, a Good Friday death with no resurrection, the ultimate price for one’s sins.
But it will happen. You can count on that. Someday very soon, it will happen. I promise, Christine.