Incredibly violent crime fiction is the first building block to most forms of mass entertainment, whether we are talking TV crime dramas such as the nihilistic True Detective or big screen hits like Sin City. In order to be noticed as a fiction writer of any merit catching the attention of the Mystery Writers of America is a pretty good start to mass media glory. That process involves being published in a select list of prestigious places such as Spinetingler Magazine. I now have a story published there. It’s a heartfelt tale of suicide, loss, mass murder and a touching connection between two strangers in a dingy diner in nowhere Delaware. Enjoy.
Velma and Jeff
It was my understanding when someone has finalized their decision to commit suicide they obtain a kind of euphoria about the conclusion they have made. The heavy baggage that magnetizes to us during the journey we call life magically falls to the wayside. Everything is crisper and a bit of pep develops in your step, knowing your days are numbered and you are the one that is going to do the counting is empowering.
It was with this assumption I thought I would have been able to write the warmest, most heartfelt suicide note in all of human history. Rather than clawing around the cold, rocky gravel that comprises clinical depression, I expected a narcotic-like finale to my death and thus find the energy and inspiration to pen one of the finest works of short literature known to the western world.
For weeks I haunted the Philadelphia apartment my wife and I shared for most of our eighteen year marriage. It was a beautiful place overlooking Rittenhouse Square. I remember the day we found it and the look on her face. All of the comforts in the place she and I built together were now hungry objects just waiting to take another bite from me as I passed. Photos of happy beach days, the bed we shared, the table she insisted we get, all of it growing so large and frightening I was unable to move freely in my captive space. The pain was so great I could no longer go to our bedroom because it still smelled like her.
Investment in another human being is a losing prospect. All relationships end badly. Even happy marriages come to an end. I just expected mine to end at a minimum twenty five to thirty years later. No one should die at forty two unless they want to. I kept telling myself that. I believed that, during the chemo treatments, the nausea, the vomiting. I demanded that from God. He owed me at least that. But there I was, holding a lifeless hand listening to the flat hum of a heart monitor. The strange thing was I thought her father was a prick, our whole relationship he treated me and everyone around him with disrespect, but the look on his face from across the hospice bed when he knew his daughter was gone was so complicated and horrific I still have yet to truly grasp what a massive concept pure loss is. I knew if an insensitive bastard like that could barely stand up from the open howls of agony that shook his body then I stood no chance.
I was right.
I don’t remember much of that day, or much of that week. I don’t recall much of the funeral. I tried ducking out of my own life for a while.
An empty body I no longer recognized broke down from the system of tasks that organized my daily life. Work. Groceries. Bills. Hygiene. Everything drifted from me gently. I was possessed by another version of me that was buckling from the weight of the host body that it carried. The real me, the old me, also died in that hospice bed. What remained had sense enough to know it couldn’t hold on for long. It couldn’t keep this machine I called a body going.
Finally, in the turning autumn leaves I stood in my pajamas and bathrobe in the middle of the park that faced our windows and I felt a soft breeze swirl. As if a switch was turned on, I could hear my wife’s heart machine beep from above somewhere. I opened my eyes. The falling leaves frolicked and danced. There was another beep, then another. An idea had presented itself on the wings of her heart beeps.
I was going to kill myself.
It was real and it was plain. For the first time since my wife’s death I was present. I was in the park. I was in control of my feet and hands. I could walk. I did walk.
There was a moment of that pep that I did feel. The idea formed and grew into a fragrant flower that opened and made me dizzy. Those rocky shores and grey skies were far now. I signed the car rental papers. This idea took me over and I could ease back as I saw the skyline fall behind me. In a way I knew she was waiting for me in those beach pictures. Almost every year we made a trip south for a long weekend in Virginia Beach and played in the surf and sand. God, those sunburns were epic. She was there waiting and I couldn’t be stopped.
The problem with my idea was that much lauded euphoria I was promised never materialized past the initial bump I had in the park. I traced the same route we took almost every year. I hit every snack shack gas station down route 13 in Delaware. If anything, the drain of energy extracted from my body as I went farther increased. There was a growing hint of her as each mile eroded. I was losing my will to drive the rental car. I had to stop and write my suicide note before I was completely gone again.
I find the hardest part of writing is starting the process, summoning the spirits if you will. Given these were the last things anyone on earth would have to remember me by I knew I better make them epic. Big time writers always drone on about being over the edge or deep in the abyss or something alluding to lunacy and genius, or hell and brilliance, all of this noise comes together as the source of good writing. Well, here I was writing a suicide note with a headful of burning abyss, now all I needed was the genius. Where was it?
Pen in hand, I sat at the counter of one of the foulest roadside greasy spoons on the east coast. This was saying something if you consider most of the I-95 corridor. But no, I-95 lost out by a wide margin to this shit shack. We accidentally stumbled on the place during our first trip down. It came by way of a piss panic. I already began pissing myself by the time I got to the rest room. Once I was done I almost vomited from the stinking villainy of the eroded facilities. It was such a standing joke my wife and I made it a mission to stop into the place, watching each year the facade and frame rot a little more, placing bets when it would be condemned. It never happened. It out lasted her. I despised the place for that.
The greasy orange counters had faded gold speckles in them. The seats and booths looked the same. Burned coffee and the sizzle of the grille mist coated every inch and the smell imbedded itself into the fibers of our clothes until we tore them off hours later and hit the beach sand. I smelled my robe, the grille mist and coffee had yet to sink in. All I could smell was my B.O.
My coffee cup was empty. I stared at it, I don’t know for how long. I wanted to form the words to ask for another cup, I wanted to climb to the bottom of the cup and ask for a refill and see if I could drink my way out or drown trying.
The cup was bigger than anything else I had ever looked at. I took in a breath and tore my eyes away to the waitress behind the counter. It was so strange. My ears had been turned off for so long I couldn’t remember how long I’d been sitting there looking at that cup. From the looks of her face I may have already died a long time ago and was not informed that indeed I did cross over. Maybe I was a ghost. She leaned against the pie turnstile head against the wall almost climbing up it. Her eyes shrieked in terror. Her lips were wide apart and shaking. It was all I could do not to ask her if I was dead. Maybe I’d already killed myself. That would be a relief. That would mean my epic suicide note had been penned and I was waiting for the ride to my wife.
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