I realize now, as I stare at my face in my apartment’s bathroom mirror, that I’ve never thought about who I really am on this earth. I’ve never begun to take into account all my actions–the actions of what I’ve truly done. Of what has happened around me, for reasons that in my own sorry mind before now, this very morning, this very instant…have been censored as an array of unfortunate “accidents” which have all occurred, strangely enough…in my presence.
When I was only twelve years old, I watched (in horror?), as Greg Bartley, the boy-scout second to the last in line, in front of me, “slipped” on the trail and fell to a long and horrifying, howling death down into the billowing depths of the massive Grand Canyon.
I remember the features of the morning quite clearly now, whereas before, they have always been nothing but vague tufts of gray outlined by a weird sense of nostalgia.
Beatrice Forsythe shared a similar fate as that of Greg. She used to take dance lessons near the “Y” where I used to hang out as a young teenager. I watched her show up every Thursday afternoon, walk into the building next door, do whatever one does when taking dance lessons, then come out again and wait at the corner for her dad to pick her up. Sometimes he would be late, and my stare would always linger on Beatrice on those days. I would memorize silly things, like what she wore, how her hair was done up, what color her backpack was…
There was always a lot of traffic on that avenue, where Beatrice stood, waiting. Big traffic; city-bus and garbage-truck kind of traffic. And one day, when Beatrice’s dad hadn’t shown up on time, and I had all but memorized every color of thread on that girl, and because I felt the urge to take a walk over by her…
Beatrice fell into traffic on that day, dancing one of her routines right off the curb in front of a passing steam roller…
They’ve always been the critters. But hey, they’re just…critters. Right?
Sam Mallory was the night janitor at the office I worked at. Religiously, that man showed up each night carrying a 7-11 Super Big Gulp full of a concoction of Mountain Dew, Sprite, and Iced Tea. His wife learned how to make tamales from their neighbor Gloria Estevez, and Sam always brought those tamales for his lunch on Mondays and Fridays.
How is that my mind introduces me to all of these subtle details about people with such lewd clarity? Such, raw talent, without me having to think much about them. And why is it that, when I look at people, and stare them in the face like I am now staring at mine through this mirror, I see things which no person in their right mind would ever want to see?
Sam always brought those tamales for his lunch on Mondays and Fridays.
I had been working late on a project, wanted to get it done before the weekend. It was late, and like clockwork, Sam came bumbling into our office with his vacuum cleaner, and push-cart of all-things-janitor-related when, sure enough, we got to talking. Sam and I always got to talking. He sat in the cubicle next to me as he was often wont to do, offered me one of those cold tamales, which I’ll have to admit, tasted wonderful, then began a long ramble of how him and his wife were on the back of his Harley last weekend, cruising down 101 near Malibu, when they thought they had seen what looked like a pod of killer whales out in the water. Sam was in the middle of telling me this story, and I was interested in it, truthfully, when suddenly…he began to choke on his tamale.
He had a big piece in there, I could tell. Stuck in his gullet, a mouthful of cold dense cornbread, and chicken. Spices and lard. A whole bundle of each of those delicious components found in Gloria’s recipe all jammed up in Sam’s trachea, while he sat there in that chair gasping for air, staring at me with those desperate eyes, waving his hands, holding his throat, running purple and…fading fast.
Slowly, I reached over to the desk he was at and retrieved his Super Big Gulp, my eyes locked with his the whole time. Sam was frantic; I thought he was about to stand up. Taking possession of his drink, I then sat back in my chair, cold tamale in one hand and 7-11 concoction in the other, and quietly consumed those items as I watched Sam Mallory die.
Old Sam wasn’t the last, though. Not nearly the last.
I see myself now. I see myself in this mirror, and finally, after all this time, I know who I am. Why I am here. The answer we all seek within this meager lifetime afforded to us, has arrived to the forefront of my perception with such…lewd clarity.
But can I believe it? Can I truly believe this revelation I am having?
Beginning at 5:00 a.m., Chris spends the only available lot of solitary time he gets in a day feeding his addiction to writing. If he’s lucky, he’ll get two hours in before “they” wake up, after which he lives a wonderful life as a family man. His stories have been accepted at a number of publishers including The Horror Zine, Short Story.Me, Bete Noire, The Absent Willow Review, and Underground Voices. He can be reached at email@example.com.