“Hey…haven’t seen you lately. How’s life?”
I just looked at my neighbor, sitting there with no cares in the world except whether his bar-b-que was going to burn and could think of only one answer.
“Cruel. Always cruel.” I answered smiling the best smile I could under the circumstances and enjoyed the dismayed look playing across his face before walking on. That was dramatic, a good final statement for him to remember me by….a good way to begin an end. Now it was time to kill myself.
Walking down the road with a short length of rope wrapped around my arm I contemplated how much my life sucked. I was lonely, had a stagnant internet business, a recent divorce, a failed attempt to quit smoking and now I had just found out I wasn’t even good enough to work at a second rate tacky gift shop in the mall. Life sucked indeed, and I was getting out.
A small voice in the back of my head was trying to squeak out some new age crap about things being the darkest before dawn and how kids in third world countries didn’t get two meals a week but I told it to shut up. I didn’t care anymore. I never get a dawn, things are always just dark. People say I’m lucky because I always wind up getting what I need at just the right time, but I don’t feel lucky. Anything I ever really want never happens.
So I trudged on, stifling happy thoughts and trying to be as bitter as possible. When one is about to commit suicide it’s best not to have happy thoughts. Why I even had any to stifle was really pissing me off. I couldn’t even be depressed and angsty properly. I should have worn black. I even failed at being emo. That’s as bad as it gets.
Coming up on the empty lot I trudged my way through the clods of dirt and broken glass left over from a recent demolition job. If only I could have been in the house when they tore it down, bulldozers running over me and crushing me in a wreckage of splintered wood.
But then I wouldn’t have found out that I was worthless at finding a job and I probably would have tried to save myself because I would naively think there was still some hope left for me. That wouldn’t have made a very good suicide. Plus the thought of splintered wood turning me into a living shish kabob didn’t sound appealing. My plan was much better.
Coming up on the dock I stopped for a second and looked out over the water. A pod of dolphins were frolicking in the smooth surface, springing magically from the bay to shower each other in glittering spray. I could hear the breath escape from their breathing holes as they arced back down to vanish beneath the cool water, smiling faces that seemed alive and wise.
“Stupid dolphins.” I muttered, and I turned away to find my rock. A pile of broken concrete lay heaped near the dock, leftovers from whatever patio had once graced the former house. I imagined people like my neighbor sitting there watching the dolphins, cold beer and a smoking grill the jewel in the crown of their life. Now all that remained was a pile of rubble lying like leftover carnage from a giant’s rampage.
Surveying the pile, I selected a big chunk of concrete with plenty of ridges to keep the rope from slipping. I uncoiled my bit of rope and lay it flat on the ground and rolled the concrete awkwardly onto it. Kneeling down to wrap it I felt the rough ground bite into my bare knees. What idiot wears a sun dress to kill themselves? I really should have worn black. I was going to look really stupid floating under the water dead in a sun dress.
Concrete tied up tight at last I struggled to pick it up. I had picked a good heavy piece; no way I wasn’t going to the bottom attached to that. Grunting and ignoring the dirt that was sticking to my sweaty chest I carried my prize to the dock and stepped on. My footsteps had a hollow sound as I waddled to the end, the dirty weight I cradled slipping lower and lower against my body until I half dropped, half rolled it to the end. The chunk hit the dock with a loud thud.
Panting I sat next to it and started wrapping my ankle in the loose end of the rope. Double knotting and then a second wrap and knot. No way was that coming loose. I shoved the concrete to the very edge of the wood leaving white trails of dust ground into the boards and stood next to it. Looking over the edge, the water was black and empty; my face peered back at me equally empty. Taking my final look at the day, I prepared for my demise.
One last time I thought of how pathetic my life was, and how much better it would be for the world to be rid of me. The dolphins continued to play in the waveless bay, oblivious to the mortal drama that was unfolding so close to them. Ignorant and uncaring of my pain, the fact that my bruised heart would soon stop beating leaving a hole in the world where I once was.
“Stupid fish! I hope you all end up in a tuna can!” I shouted and with that last defiant line I shoved the concrete off the end of the dock and ended my life. The chunk of patio hit the water with a splash and I had an instant to acknowledge the cold, wet slap against my feet as I saw the rope slide off over the edge and become taut. In the next second my foot was jerked out from under me and I hit the wood hard, slamming the wind from my lungs.
Over the edge my legs went, jerking me to the water like a helpless puppet slung by its strings. My head knocked the edge of the dock with a ringing thunk as I went completely over to vanish in the water, mind dazed from the unexpected impact. I gasped and sucked in briny bay, flailing out my arms and legs and briefly wondered if it would hurt to die.
Suddenly I was back in the air, the bright sun flashing off the water and blinding me as I thrashed in the waves. Survival instinct took over and my flailing limbs began to work against my intent and struggled to keep contact with the air. I sputtered and choked, blinking against the salt sting. Automatically I began to tread water as I looked around confused. Why was I still breathing air?
Head bobbing above the surface, I pulled at my tied leg experimentally. The rope was still there, pulling my leg straight and making staying afloat difficult. Comprehension dawned suddenly; my concrete chunk hadn’t sunk as deep as I thought. I had tossed it into a shallow spot.
“I hate this world!” I yelled frustrated. “I can’t even kill myself right.” Pinned in the water, chin deep I wondered what to do now. I couldn’t just float here forever like a cork on a string. I tried to bend down to undo the rope holding my ankle, but buoyancy and my own knots defeated my efforts.
“Hey! Do you need help?” My bar-b-que eating neighbor was standing above me on the dock looking confused. “Um…I fell in and… got tangled in something.” I muttered, feeling stupid. “I’ll get you loose.” He said and he slid over the side into the water. Dunking beneath the surface I could feel hands move down my leg to grope at the rope on my ankle. After a half minute he came up for air.
“Dang…you got tangled good!” he gasped. “I’ve got a knife…gimme a sec.” and he vanished again. Once again I could feel his hands grope down my leg to the rope, and then the vibrations on my ankle as the rope was being cut. Suddenly my leg was free and it fell into time with my other extremities to keep me afloat. Dogpaddling towards the shore grimly I wondered what my neighbor would say.
I waded my way up onto the little beach and turned around to face him, sullen and dripping. He followed to stand next to me, panting and pocketing a folding knife. “Good thing I heard you yelling.” He said, looking at my ankle. I just stood there feeling foolish. “Looks like someone tied that.”
I just looked back, not really knowing what to say. The whole situation suddenly seemed so ludicrous. “Well…you know…” and my voice trailed off. “Thanks.” He looked from my incriminating ankle to me for a long moment and said nothing. I looked away to see the pod of dolphins far up on the bay now, still leaping joyously.
“I got a few steaks on the grill. Want a beer?” I looked back at him, smiling at me and wondered what he was thinking, and then realized I didn’t care.
“Yea, sure.” I said and couldn’t help grinning. The whole thing suddenly seemed comical and both of us laughed before picking our way back through the gutted house to his patio.
NOTE: Tonight we’re breaking away from the usual fare with a short story. I wrote it in one of those depressed moods we all go through at times, and in the middle of my funk I realized how funny my pathetic-ness was. This story is the result.