Wednesday, August 25, 2010

H.C. Klingman

He sits pensively in the hush of his rented room, scarcely noticing the gathering darkness. A black veil over the horizon dampens the twilight, parodying his own descent into night. His despair intensifies in the gloom, and he can no longer control the state of his mind as anguish over recent events destroys all reason.

Still bitter over the divorce, he thinks of all he has lost, his house and family, his job…all that made life worth living. And now…, everything is so hopeless.
Occult voices whisper sinister thoughts, grinding deeply into his unhappiness, crowding out all else. He is trapped in a black hole facing a life of misery. Could he ever regain something like his old life with all the comforts of home that had made him content?

No, insinuates a witches chorus, it cannot be…cannot be cannot be…
He reflects that his life had not been large enough for his wife’s cravings, and so she had backed out, finding solace with a man who wanted to marry her. The unholy choir mourns "…your son… yes your son, they’re even taking little Marty" His head drops, and his sobs are crys for help. But the chanting voices morph gradually to a basic existential proposition, "not to be, to be, …to be or not to be?" Yes, yes, he thinks, that is the real question. His own sea of troubles is as hopeless as that which had plagued Hamlet.

What would it be like not to be? Would the torment cease? Would it bring him peace? How would Marty react? Would he suffer in grief? What would Marty remember about their life together? He thinks about the finality of suicide. Surely there can be no more pain when life stops. But what about the brief moment before the bullet crashes into the skull? There would be that instant between life and death, that moment after pulling the trigger with his senses still alive for a nanosecond before his brain explodes. His body shudders in dread.

Next to him, on the night table, the Colt 45 lays lethally beside a glass of water and a box of pills. The doctor had said the medication would make him feel better. But he has not taken them, and doubts they are any more than mood changers, of no help. Why take them now?

Presently there is a pounding on the door that intrudes into his reverie, and he wipes his eyes, considering…but why bother answering, nothing matters anymore. The banging increases and he hears an urgent shout, “Dad, Dad, it’s me, Marty.” Marty’s presence is unexpected. It demands attention, and it has enough energy to create a small fissure in his mind-set. The voices pause. He visualizes Marty’s pleading face, his tears. Taking time to reorient himself, he wonders vaguely if his dilemma could have another outcome. Emotionally drained, he is ready to crack.

Through the window he can now see a sliver of sunset glimmering below the rising clouds, and the thought that he might be looking at the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel seems, paradoxically, quite funny. He almost wants to laugh, but there is too much heaviness in his soul. He decides he cannot face his son just now, and waits until the knocking stops and the outside door slams shut. An unearthly earworm is trying to wriggle back into his brain, with a muffled "…to be or not to be not to be…"

He picks up the weapon. Hard and heavy, it smells of oil. Holding it up he thumbs a catch and ejects the magazine. Sliding out the cartridges one by one, he clicks the empty magazine back in. He knows there is still one bullet in the chamber. Daring himself closer to the edge he takes off the safety, and lays the gun back, next to the pills. He picks up the pillbox, absently rattling its contents, then puts it back down..

He remains sitting quietly in the darkness for the longest time. Then he calmly reaches out to the bedstand and chooses his solution.