Thursday, March 1, 2012


“So this is it?”  Rain poured down his face as he placed one foot on the sidewalk and submerged the other in the gutter.  A barren street, splattered with liquid bullets from on high, turned tombstone grey in the crepuscular light.  It was cold, but not too cold.  Immediately upon pondering this question, the bald, hatless man standing in the rain with a shabby black overcoat and no ostensive purpose knew the answer well enough.  How could he not?  He had intimations of this moment for years, if not since his adolescence.  The scenery was just as his dark imagination portrayed it, give or take a few details—the rain, the gutter, the time of day, his physical deterioration, his state of mind.  In fact he had daydreamed of this moment probably every waking hour of his melancholy existence.

He had had a lifetime to prepare for this “vanishing act,” but his mind—no, his consciousness more broadly—was ill equipped to take the necessary precautions; he left many boxes unchecked, but in his defense, there is no preparation.  This final act of surrender seemed so far off when he was younger, yet even then he knew that, when the appointed day came, it would arrive all too soon, as if the intervening years were mere minutes.  It’s better this way, he thought, for one cannot show tears in a torrential rain.  And what good is self-pity?

A voice on a hilltop told him when he was a teen that he shall ever bear about him both a regret and an unanswerable question, the former recurring and intensifying over time and the latter remaining steady in the backdrop of his mind.  The black oracle proceeded to disclose to the disturbed youth not only the twin demons that sat upon his heart; it revealed to him, as through a dark glass, the final act in his passion play—namely, standing in the rain at twilight on a desolate road.  So the accursed sixteen-year-old boy descended the hill with the knowledge of his fate buried in his psyche.

Decades later the wizened man in the black coat stood at the precipice.  He hesitated for a few minutes, yet he had no doubt that the time for thought and reflection, passion and regret, let alone life’s pleasures, was over.  The end had come without fanfare, without a trumpet blast.  The heavens did not part, the world did not end, and no deus ex machina was in sight.  He went to his knees like a supplicant, the stream of rain water gushing all around him.  “Yes,” came the inner voice in response to his query.  The man dutifully laid himself down, down into the gutter.  He positioned himself prostrate on his back, in accordance with the oracle, but he soon went into a fetal position.

It was getting dark, and the rain was unrelenting. Few vehicles would pass through this street tonight, but the headlights of a few exceptions would illuminate nothing remarkable on the side of the road. Through their frantic windshield wipers, drivers might espy a supposed discarded sack of garbage or hapless woodland creature that had ventured too far.  Someone walking his dog spotted the man’s body the next morning, drenched and extinguished, face down in the murky water.  First responders arrived within a half hour, but he was already dead.  Curious onlookers followed in their wake, local yokels who had nothing better to do.  Another mental universe expired, and civilization rolled on.