A story by Tom H. Brooks 3
The automatic doors closed behind him with a WHOOSH, and with them disappeared the awful smell of antiseptic and sickness and death. He
hated hospitals with a passion.
His doctor had given him the final diagnosis- third opinion, no less. Terminal.
Inoperable. Game over. Thanks for playing, please drive thru. One to three months to live, at best. And all he’d get to think about in those last days of living, would be his his horrific and painful impending death. Why drag it out? Why lie around whining and waiting to die in that stinking hospital? He was
finished. No hope for recovery, however small. There would be no miracles here. For him, the hospital was actually more of a nightmare than his own rapidly approaching death. He was numb, shell-shocked, like an unreality, a bad dream. Yes, it all comes to this inevitably, one way or another. Any death was better than a slow, painful, pathetic hospital death…a falling brick, a speeding taxicab, a random bullet…ANYTHING.
He found himself walking towards the Brooklyn Bridge, looming gray and massive in the heavy mist, a monument to human endeavor and ingenuity. Many men had died building that bridge too. He thought about his life; what had he done? What had he really accomplished? Where had he found his success? He seemed to be coming up with a lot of zeroes. What had given him pleasure, satisfaction, made life worth living?…Well, the simple things, of course…the sun sparkling on the water like glittering diamonds, the vivid colors of blooming spring flowers, the sound of a cool breeze singing in the trees on a hot summer day. The smell of firewood when camping, the love of a beautiful woman and the soft velvet touch of her flesh on a cold, snowy night. He thought about sun and palm trees and the beaches of his youth. It seemed like a thousand years ago. Sights and sounds always overwhelmed him, with his poet’s heart. Everything made music if you listened closely.
As the mist turned into a rain, everything became more vivid, more intense. The colors burned into his brain with the memories. He thought of the good things and the bad, of all the beautiful moments he had ever lived, every great song he had ever listened to, the soundtrack of his life. He thought of all the people he had known, an endless sea of faces- friends, enemies, idiots, acquaintances, work associates, drinking buddies, and women, women…”love” come and gone again. Everything, a vast tapestry of multilayered experiences. His mind was flooded with a tsunami of imagery. He saw a small woman, evidently homeless and forgotten, sitting under an awning, shivering in the wet afternoon. She looked Central American, Guatemalan perhaps, that is to say, Mayan. She had a dirty gray shawl pulled over her head and a bright red scarf wrapped around her neck. Her eyes were enormous and dark and sad and they spoke volumes. Boundless melancholy permeates the world. She was a forlorn sight , a lost soul, like him. He stopped in front of her. Slowly, she looked up at him, eyes glowing with a dark light. Wordlessly, he gave her his coat, hat, scarf and gloves. Then he gave her his wallet, cash, cards and all. She smiled by way of thanks, such a bright, white smile, but he was already walking away, his eyes glazing over with tears of despair. He shuffled up the bridge walkway, thinking of it as a bridge to another world. There were no tourists thanks to the nasty weather. Solitude, blessed solitude… He gazed at the giant city all around him. He found a nice spot right in the center of the bridge and started to climb towards the edge, clambering across beams,
balancing and jumping in an intricate and awkward last dance, a dance with death. And then, there he was, right at the edge, of the bridge and this life.
He knew that he simply could not face prospect of a slow death, the deterioration, the wasting away- disgusting, pointless to try. Death had called his number and he heeded the call. He would embrace the end. He looked up at the gloomy, gray sky- leaden, forbidding, and the choppy waters of East River far below. He lost himself in the dramatic misty tendrils of the clouds above and his life was literally flashing before his eyes. He stared up and into it and let the relentless rain wash over him until he was soaked to the bone. He heard the sirens coming closer but paid them no heed. They were of no importance to him now, the things of this world. He was already looking into the
next one. His time here had come down to this final ending. He thanked the indifferent universe for his life with arms stretched out,like a rain-drenched Christ. He fell slowly forward, his speed increased, past the beams, past the rushing traffic, past white flying birds- a perfect swan dive, a falling angel. The water rushed up to meet him…and the tears came raining down……