He’d left her ratty, one-room place smelling like the coffee he’d made and the dump he’d taken, left her leaning against the door after him wondering what the fuck. He’d kissed her and smiled, an impish smile at one corner of his mouth. She’d returned the gesture with a gratuitous half-smile. She needed money. He offered, but she couldn’t take it from him. She needed way more money than he could imagine. What good would his ten or twenty do? Please. Even if she took extra money each time he came, she wasn’t good at saving up money.
She pushed off from the door and scuffed into the dinky bathroom to take a piss. She flushed the toilet and scuffed past the seven-foot strip of kitchen. She ignored the overflowing trash can, the dirty stove, the full ashtray and empty booze bottles on the flip-down table. She kicked some clothes aside and flopped down onto the mattress on the floor. Her head was killing her. No, the money would have to come in one whopping amount or not at all. She was waiting for a miracle to happen. She’d know it when she saw it.
It was a gorgeous day in the park. She walked over to one of the choicest park benches, one of the ones overlooking the water. She sat down and took note of an abandoned newspaper that’d been worked over and folded open to the Local News section. She recognized a man in one of the pictures. It was her old college professor, Darvor Alben. She picked up the paper for a closer look. At 75, he’d been found stabbed to death just a few feet from the steps outside his apartment building.
Professor Alben had been the most amazing professor in the English department. He was wild-eyed and so full of vigor and genuine enthusiasm it was infectious. The way he worded everything made you hold your breath until he took a breath. When he’d finished, at the end of each class, he’d bow slightly with his hands together in front of his chest. And we’d all file out of the room in awesome silence, reverence.
This professor, this beloved man, had won so many awards. He had been a champion of literacy and of ecological awareness before it’d become fashionable. He’d done so much for humanity directly and through his students and had come to this sordid end. How could that be?
Just last week Ruthey had read about the loathsome former CEO of Havershend Media. At the ripe age of 95, he’d passed peacefully away with his prodigious family members flowing in and around the chiffon curtains and lavish accoutrements of his bedside area.
But then, she’d also read about that wicked hedge fund manager, Dickie Garber, being shot to death by a psycho outside the Piggly Wiggly on 5th and Main.
It didn’t seem to matter. There seemed to be no correlation between how you died and what you did, who you were. That thought made her feel so painfully small, insignificant, irreversibly sad. Professor Alben deserved a lovely, sweet death, not to suffer being stabbed by a drug addict thirty-seven times before he finally, mercifully, died.
Ruthey thought about what her own death would be like. She was fully aware of the option she held in her own hands, to make that choice. But she didn’t. She didn’t because she thought maybe things would turn around for her, maybe go back up from down.
She thought maybe she’d get her old teaching job back, or maybe get a better one at a more prestigious college. She thought maybe then she could get her car back. And she thought maybe she could get her old house back, too, or maybe a nicer one in an even nicer neighborhood.
She didn’t make the choice about dying because she was waiting for a miracle to happen.
Little opportunities had dropped into her lap since she left the house, proof that God watches over the young and the stupid. Lord knows she’d had no clue what she wanted to do with her life, no practical thoughts regarding what means of making a living she might find fulfilling. There had been only thoughts of stars without the willingness to build a rocket ship. She fooled herself into thinking there’d be plenty of time for that. And no lack of material things gave her no cause to stretch past an easy reach.
Used to be, she just followed a string of opportunity, hand over hand, until it stopped. And when it did, she might float for a nanosecond before her hand would brush up against another string, a new string, a new beginning, and that was enough. It became not enough very sneakily, so apparently benignly over a period of so many years that she didn’t take it seriously. While she was denying, resentment was building. Resentment stirred rebellion, and together they pushed, moved, hand over fist, until, in one unthinking flourish, she cut the string.
CUT TO BLACK
VOICEOVER – Blackness followed. LeeAnn saw but dimly that she was floating in a thick soup of black, of extreme heat, then extreme cold, nothing in between. Much time passed. Material things waned. And no string was seen or felt, not even a tickle, or a suggestion of one. She made feeble efforts to locate materials to make her own string and expected God to do the rest like He used to, but nothing was happening. She guessed feeble didn’t cut it anymore, not now that she was no longer young and stupid. She was waiting for a miracle to happen. She felt relatively sure that she’d know it if she saw it…
Woman on park bench with dog, titled “devotion,” subtitled, “To my first pet, Birba” http://flickr.com/photos/58647476@N00/2053347832 from MadMärk’s photostream. See more of MadMärk’s work at http://flickr.com/photos/madmark/.