Him (Low)

“You’d probably have to do a pretty precise swan dive, but you could get the job done,” He said.

He was leaning over the railing on the six floor of the parking garage. The open-air floor; the one outside.

“Nice use of a semi-colon there, Few people even know how to use them anymore,” He said as He turned around to look at me. “Your talent for writing and $2.75 will get you a small latte.” He walked over and sat beside me leaned up against the elevator lobby.

“You thought you’d written me out of your system. Yet here I am.”

“Here you are,” I said and dragged on my cigarette.

“I thought you were trying to quit smoking,” He said and produced His trusty flask from His black cloak. “Well, you made a pretty noble effort to start the year off anyway.”

“I thought trying to quit smoking with nothing but time and access to the outdoors would be a fool’s mission,” I said.

He drank from the flask once, then again.

“Well you’ve certainly got the ‘fool’ part nailed,” He said before gagging and coughing the last pull of cheap vodka up onto His shirt. He cleared His sinuses loudly, then His lungs and spat on the wall of the lobby where the vile mixture slithered down to the ground.

“What was it you texted Dan? You decided long ago that you can’t kill yourself,” He asked.

“That’s right,” I said.

“Personally I don’t see why not,” He raised his eyebrows as it was a legitimate question in His mind. “I mean, every job you apply for turns you down. The job at QLI, the wheelchair thing, and now even your own company won’t transfer you because of the DUI. And that was three years ago. Face it old buddy, this economy, this corporate climate, and every human resource director in the world has no time for prodigal sons. These days, if you don’t get it right the first time, you’re screwed. Nobody wants to give you that second chance. Might as well prove them right.”

“What does that mean?” I asked and turned to Him.

His lip curled up just a little. He knew He had touched a nerve.

“You’ve been saying since you started this bullshit that you were going to be one of the 10% who never goes back out. So what if you did, though? I hear you say all the time one of the best things about the program is y’all don’t shoot your wounded, right? So what if you’re not in the 10% ? Big deal! You go out after work to that strip club down the road from the airport, no one you know will see you there. You get tanked, maybe a lap dance, and you go home all smiles. Yeah, maybe you’ll be filled with shame tomorrow, but how will that be any different than you feel right now? At least you will have had that two or three hours of false happiness. Shit man, you deserve at least that right now. And it ain’t like you’ll cut your chances at a new job if you do because, well, let’s be honest, you’re not gonna get a new job anytime soon and people pull that stuff at your job all the time. Might as well enjoy yourself for a night.”

“I wouldn’t enjoy myself,” I said softly.

“Oh,” He said and finished the flask. “Why not?”

“Because I’ve already played the tape out in my head,” I said and looked at Him square in the face. “I would feel worse. A lot worse.”

“Tell that shit to the tourists,” He said. “You texted Dan and told him it shouldn’t be this hard. Well you know what pal, people got it a lot worse than you and if all of them jumped off a parking garage when stuff got hard, there’d be cars backed up to Pittsburgh behind all the ambulances. Maybe your uncle with two crappy legs from polio since he was 8, or your cousin with Tourette’s Syndrome and macrodegeneration. Or your friend getting her second divorce with two kids and $2 to her name. But you’re oh-so-special, this shouldn’t be that hard for you. You had that sickness. You came back from it and are trying to make sense of why. You don’t have a wife and kids so nobody will miss you except you’re sainted Irish mother and father and they have to, right? So get it over with already, you’re boring me with the melodrama. Either get drunk or jump off the ledg – where you going?”

I stopped and turned at the door into where the elevators were.

“You forgot the third option,” I said and straightened my tie. “Soldier on and live to fight another day.”

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