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James Boice

Location: Washington, DC
Email: dropsy@hotmail.com
Web Site: http://www.geocities.com/dropsy13/


AN AMERICAN SUICIDE

Part 1

 

My best friend is dead. My best friend dead. Joshua is dead. My best Joshua is friend. Joshua, my best dead friend. Dead Joshua, my best friend. Joshua, my best friend. Dead. Joshua, the friend who is best dead. Joshua the dead friend at best. Best, Joshua is dead friend. Friend dead Joshua best is my.

They found him in his closet. It was his mom. She found him in his closet. He was blue and puffy. Didnít move. Now he lives in his motherís sleep. Sleeping. Only eyes were open. Big thick blue sleep. They have a picture of the family over the fireplace. That pictureís wrong now. Gone now. Goodbye.

I am at school and the principal says over the intercom "pardon for the interruption," and their hands cover the gaping holes in their heads. Everyone looks at each other.

-- Iím sorry. So sorry. So sorry. I am so sorry. But I just saw him yesterday. I sat

next to him freshman year.

And they let me go home. So I go. I walk. Itís warm out and sunny. Itís September. The grass is green. The sky is a pristine blue. There is no wind. The streets are silent. I am the only motion.

TV and potato chips.

Phone calls. "This is Mr. Somethingoranother from some newspaper or something." He sounds like an old man. He is sorry about Josh. I wait for him to go on. He says nothing.

"This must be so awful for you. Is everything okay? You are his best friend, right?"

"No."

"No?"

"No."

"What do you mean?"

"Not Ďare.í "Was.í Heís dead now."

More silence. "Did he tell you why he did it?"

"No."

"No?"

"I choose not to communicate with the dead."

"I mean before he died."

"No."

"Does anyone know why?"

"Doubt it."

"Didnít you see it coming?"

"No."

"No?"

"I choose not to look into the future either."

"I mean, werenít there any signs?"

"No, not really."

"You shouldíve seen it coming," he says.

"So should have you."

"You donít seem very emotional about your best friend killing himself. You must still be in shock."

"His momís probably the one in shock. Sheís the one who found him."

"His mother?"

"Yes. He was blue and bloated."

"You saw the body?"

"No. You can just imagine it. If someone hangs themselves, theyíre going to get puffy and blue after awhile."

"Thatís all I need. Thanks."

Click.

Television. Experts. Suicide experts. Experts on suicide. Experts of how to kill yourself. People experienced in the field of killing themselves. They know. They swear they do. They know everything. They have the degrees to prove it. If I went to college, I would study suicide too. Josh studied suicide. Suicide. Sue a side. Hey, lawyer, pick a side and sue it. I have a snake. I keep it in a cage. Every Saturday I feed it two white mice. I open the box the pet store put them in and look inside. Itís strange to think that theyíre going to die. They are going to die. I pick them up by the tail and drop them in with the snake. I hear them squeal as the snake lunges at them and kills them. Then they arenít alive anymore. Then their box is empty. Suicide.

The Parents come into my room. They donít knock. They are awkward, nervous, uncomfortable. This is not an ordinary ordeal because they havenít been in the same room in months. They sit next to me. The Motherís hair is gray. The Father speaks first.

"Hi, I am your father, how are you?" His voice is unfamiliar, but it smells like liquor.

When I donít say anything, The Mother says "Hi. You may not know me, but I am your mother." When I donít say anything to that, she goes on. "You should go tell your problems to a stranger."

"A stranger," I echoed to myself.

"But donít worry. Heís an expert."

The Father jumps in and barely manages comprehension with his slurred words, his face turning a slight crimson. "You donít honestly believe that anyone actually really cares about you unless they get paid, do you?"

"No."

So I go. I go to see somebody who can help me. Somebody who can listen to me. Somebody who will help me to kill myself too. The name on the door says "Dr. PhD in Whatever-ology." He makes his living by smiling and asking me how I feel.

"Sit down, Harry," he says with that smile. "My name is Dr. PhD in Whatever-ology. I am very experienced in these kind of matters. I guess you could say I am expert. I see youíve found interest in that magazine there. Do you like to read?"

"Sure."

"What kinds of things do you like to read?"

"Magazines in shrinksí offices."

He looks at me, waiting for me to say more. I donít. He writes in his notepad.

"Tell me, Harry, how do you feel about Joshís death?"

Josh? To be honest, I havenít even thought of it. We were friends. Me and Josh. My friend best at dead. I think it would be funny to say I feel relieved.

"I was wondering when the bastard would drop dead."

No, he doesnít like that. He writes in his little notebook and says "I see." Doesnít smile. He doesnít get it.

"Harry, you donít seem very affected by Joshís death," he says. Is that what my name is? Harry? God, that sounds strange. That canít be right. That canít be who I am. Harold. What a strange name. Sounds very old. Iíve never met another Harry except for The Grandfather. Will I be a grandfather? I need to have a family first. A wife I love and kids I make. How odd. Making kids. How strange. A family. The family is The Mother, The Father, and The Harry. The Father drinks a lot. We had a portrait taken a long time ago, but I was little and grouchy. I threw a fit and wouldnít smile and the picture was ruined. The Father was drunk and hit me right in front of the photographer while The Mother did her make up. Grabbed my arm and squeezed and called me a spoiled brat through his clenched teeth. I was four. Spoiled brat. Thatís when he was in the military. All fathers in the military hit their kids. Thatís because fathers in the military are professional shit eaters who hate to be alone in their misery.

When I was five, The Mother took me to get my picture taken again but I ended up throwing up on myself and the picture was ruined. The Mother wouldnít talk to me the whole way home.

Iíve never considered myself a Harry. I wouldíve named myself Suicide Expert. I know everything. This office looks like a dentistís office. This is awful. Through the window I can see that clouds are moving in across the horizon. You know nothing. You know nothing.

I remember when The Mother used to bring me to a dentist when I was six. When I was good and had a good check up, the dentist would give me a toothbrush and a prize from a little treasure chest in his office. One time The Mother brought me, but I had a cavity. I asked the dentist if I could have a prize from the little treasure chest, but he shook his head and said No. You have a cavity. You canít have a prize. I cried all the way home and the rest of the night.

"You know, Josh, I canít help you unless you want to be helped."

Did he call me Josh?

"You havenít said a word this entire session."

I must have misheard him.

"Come in next week and we can talk some more about Harry."

Harry? He must have said Josh.

I leave the office and go out into the late afternoon. The sky is pink. It will be night soon.

Part 2

The day is dying embers. I walk home in the impending darkness past now vacant toy stores and empty playgrounds. Few cars zip by, their headlights casting my shadow on the pavement.

I was thirteen once. I noticed then that some kids are dark inside. They would turn to me with a sinister grin. Do you want to come with us and have a cigarette after school? I donít smoke. You donít do anything, do you? No. Want to come with us and climb trees in the forest? No. Don't you have any adventure in your life? Guess not. Iím sorry I ruined everything. So sorry.

A cigarette. I donít smoke. Donít I have any adventure in my life? Donít I do anything? Donít I know you? I enter the gas station and ask for a pack of some brand or another. "Youíre 18, arenít you?" Sure am.

And I leave, having done things. I try to smoke like Iím used to it, like I do it often. I recognize myself. I look awkward and foolish so I give it up and throw the pack on the ground. Iíve been recognized many times before. Donít I know you? I donít think so. Do you go to my school? Yeah. Whatís your name? Harry. Iím Jamie. Hi. Now what do we do? Now what do we say? This is a catastrophe. Iím sorry. I ruined everything for you.

And then The Fatherís face when I told him there was no god. Everything.

BANG!! QUICK! GROUND! ITíS ALL OVER! But itís not. A figure runs from the door of the gas station. He looks at me. Frantic eyes. White. Scar on upper lip. Black hair. Paper bag. Gun. I know he wants to kill me. This is what it feels like to be wanted dead. He points shaking gun at me slowly and unsure. Swallows. Looks inside gas station. Looks at me. Swallows. Sirens. Says "Fuck." Throws paper bag in the air. Money like rain. Swallows. Brings shaking gun from me to is own head. Looks to sky. "God hath forsaken." Closes eyes. BANG!! Crumbles to ground. Pool of blood and money.

I watch it all. And as the sirens grow louder, I watch it all.

And when the police finally arrive, I am standing, the full pack of cigarettes at my feet, watching it all. Watching it all.

Who are you? What are you doing here? What did you see? An ambulance comes and soon the mess of body, blood, and money is covered with a white sheet. I see the blood soak through. I hope they donít notice the cigarettes. I hope they donít ask me about the cigarettes. Whatís your name? Spell it. Address? Would I get in trouble for the cigarettes, I wonder? No, of course not. There are more important things for the police to worry about. But still, I canít be sure. I kick the damned cigarettes away nonchalantly. There was a railroad track by the school I went to when I was thirteen. After school in the winter, we would make a dash for the tracks. Certain kids would pull from their pockets cigars and cigarettes stolen from the nearby drug store. Everyone would take one except for me. No, Harry doesnít smoke. Cheeks were red. Breath was visible. Hands were crippled with cold. Once a police officer appeared on the tracks. Everyone threw down their cigarettes and pretended to be casual. You know, itís not safe to play on the railroad tracks. Yes, officer, sir. You know, a train could come anytime and you wouldnít know it. Yes, officer, sir. Say, youíre wearing uniforms. Yes, officer, sir. You guys are just Catholic school kids, arenít you? Yes, officer, sir. Thereís no way Catholic school kids would be up to any evil like smoking cigarettes. Yes, officer, sir. All right, then, run along, you kids. Yes, officer, sir. And stay off the railroad tracks from now on. Yes officer sir. The next day we were back again doing the same routine.

The Parents are in the same room again for the second time in months. The Mother approaches me like I am a bomb she doesnít want to set off. The Father stares at me like I am a broken carburetor that needs to be fixed.

The Mother: Hi Ė Iím sorry, whatís your name again?

Harry: Harry

The Mother: Thatís right. Harry. The Father and I are slightly worried about you.

The Father: Thatís right, Harry. You havenít reacted to anything thatís happened to you.

The Mother: First, your best friend kills himself Ė

The Father: Then you see that guy kill the guy at the gas station then kill himself Ė

The Mother: Whatís going on, Harry?

The Father: Have you no emotion?

The Mother: Donít you care?

The Father: That shrink we sent you to says you had some interesting things to say.

The Mother: He said you were glad that Josh is dead.

The Father: How can you be glad your best friend is dead?

The Mother: Surely you canít be that sick Ė

The Father: and that twisted.

The Mother: Tell us, Harry.

The Father: Speak, for godís sake!

The Mother: Tell us how you feel!

The Father: Say something, goddamn it!

Everyone is dead. Everyone is bloody and blue and bloated. Red white and blue.

I remember when me and JoshÖ

I found a fly trapped in a spider web. He tried to get away. He flapped his wings and tried to twist. I pulled his wings off carefully. He didnít try to get away anymore. I saw a spider coming down the web.

I remember when me and JoshÖI havenít heard from Josh in a long time. Never will again. I remember whenÖI think I remember whenÖ.

I am a fly on the web. All is quiet in here. I see The Parents talking, but I canít make out their words. Itís so dark out. So cloudy. Like Christmas in an old book. How long has it been since Christmas? I remember Christmas. I told The Father that I donít believe in god. He was drunk. He threw his empty glass at me, and it shattered right above my head. He grew red in the face and began spitting curse words. He told me I was no son of his. He told me I had ruined The Family heritage. He told me to get out of his house. So I left. In the name of god.

Dear God,

That was a funny prank you pulled now give me my fucking friend back.

Sincerely, Harry

Dear Harry,

Why should I? You donít even remember him.

Sincerely,

God

Jesus, Josh. Iím sorry. I donít miss you. I donít even remember you.

I fall asleep. My mind melts into a mad dream. Traveling fast. Rapid images of black and white. Subway stations. Men with briefcases. Insane homeless men. Women leaving babies on doorsteps. Wolves. Snakes seizing mice by the faces. Twisting. Suffocating them. Mouse eyes protruding from skulls in death. Images over and over. Gaining speed. Blur. Madness.

And then I end up in a big white room. The room is bare except for a single window. A sign on the window says in foreign symbols, "Do Not Open Under Any Circumstances." But it is getting hotter and the air is getting thicker. I feel sweat on my face like rain. I try to tear off my shirt, but it is part of my skin. I need air. I must open the window.

It opens with a touch. And, for a moment, fresh cool air enters the room, and I can breathe again. I look outside onto a beautiful countryside. Sun shines on a green valley and birds fly in a pristine blue sky. I am glad I have opened this window. I am glad I can breathe again.

But in the distance, black storm clouds fly in over the valley in time-elapsed speed and the valley grows dark. Thunder crashes like a gunshot. Rain pours over the valley without mercy. From over the hills a black tidal wave clumsily crashes into the valley. Behind it is an endless sea of black water.

I try to close the window, but it canít be done with the strength of any man. There is no hope. I am to drown this way. And the foreboding sea of darkness sounds like an army of demons on horseback as it rushes across the valley and towards my window. And it hits the outside of the room like eternal damnation, and rushes in through the window. I watch in horror as the black water covers my feet and slowly rises over my ankles. There is nothing to be done. There is nothing to be done.

And I watch in horror as the black water rises to my chest, and then to my neck, and then to my chin. I gasp for breath as it closes in on my upper lip. I flail my arms helplessly, searching for a savior of any kind.

Up to my eyes in black water. My flailing arms strike a solid object in the water. My hand grabs hold and drags it over. I pull it from beneath the water. In front of my eyes. And I stare in horror, for it is the blue and bloated head of Josh. The eyes are closed and the lips are tight. And I feel nothing.

And I feel nothing.

I jolt awake from my nightmare. Madness. Nonsense. I wipe the sweat from my forehead. And I breathe. Outside, the sky is charcoal gray and the trees gently sway in the wind.

I go downstairs. Nobody is home. On the kitchen table is the daily paper. On the front page is a picture of Josh. I read the article:

SMALLTOWN, USA. Today or sometime this week a teenage boy named Josh hung himself in the closet and no one knows why. He didnít leave a note. His parents should have seen it coming. Everyone should have.

And the worst part is, his best friend, Harry, seems to be showing no signs of remorse or grief at his friendís suicide. Harry, who also witnessed the Gas Station Murder/Suicide the other day, is expected to testify in a civil suit filed by the family of the gas station clerk against the family of the killer.

-- Mr. Somethingoranother

Staff Writer, Smalltown Times

I put the paper down and go to the window. Flocks of birds fly through the dark gray sky, fleeing the chaos for a warmer place. Looks like rain.

And up in the sky, a single bird leaves the flock, and begins to circle my house. I watch it from the window coming in and out view as it goes around and around. I keep my eyes on it as I open the door and step outside.

And I watch it fly. And I wonder what it would be like to fly too. Just that bird and I, flying around together, circling houses. Drawing circles around houses. Then we would fly higher and higher. And they would all be there: Dr. PhD in Whatever-ology and Mr. Somethingoranother from some newspaper or something, The Mother, The Father, the killer from the gas station, and Josh, all down on the ground below me, shaking their fists at me. Come down, Harry! they say. Come down from the sky! But I would wave to them and just fly higher. And just fly higher.

I will not go. First they try to bribe me. They offer me things that they think I might want like goodness and well-being. But they are frustrated when it is discovered that I want none of that. So they try to tell me that I have to. I tell them they are wrong. They tell me I am wrong.

"Harry," they say. "Everyone needs help."

"Harry, do you hear us?"

"Harry, answer us."

"Harry, weíre your parents. We demand some respect."

"Harry, answer your father."

"Harry, Iíve gotten help before. Believe it or not, I used to have a drinking problem."

"What was that, Harry?"

"What did you say, Harry, you son of a bitch?"

"Watch who youíre calling a bitch, dear."

"Sorry, honey."

So I go. Anything to get out of this awful house and away from this nonsense. And once again I find myself staring at the door that reads "Dr. PhD in Whatever-ology."

"Good to see you again Harry." He puts his hand out in the air, but I pretend I donít see it and leave it there unanswered. "Have a seat." I do. "Seems as though youíve gotten yourself into another sticky situation, havenít you? How do you feel about that? Harry? Are you going to answer? Harry? I thought last time we agreed that we would talk more this time. Stop looking at that magazine. Look at me. How do you feel about Ė Harry, goddamn it, put down that magazine. Now tell me, how do you feel about seeing Ė Harry, for the love of God! Put down that fucking magazine! Jesus Christ! Iím trying to help you. Okay. Iím sorry. I shouldnít have lost control like that. Itís just that there is a certain amount of respect that should be given to me. Iím your therapist, Harry. You know? Iím trying to Ė Harry. Youíre trying very hard to piss me off. If you donít stop looking at the magazine and start talking about your goddamn feelings, Iím going to get angry. Is that understood? Okay. You know what? Fine. Okay. I give up. Iím going to go get a drink. While Iím gone, you can go ahead and read that stupid magazine. And when I come back, I fully expect us to have a conversation about how you felt watching that man blow his brains out in front of you. Okay? Good."

He leaves and I am all alone in his awful office. I put down the magazine and walk to the window. I look out over the mid-afternoon city. Men in polo shirts and khakis walk in groups of five towards the harbor to drink Coronas and bark at girls over the AC/DC in their motor boats. Businessmen in suits and ties walk briskly to board meetings to talk about finances. Nuns walk back and forth on the sidewalks selling their religion and handing out sandwiches. Existence is so fragile. Fragile and necessary and relentless. Like a snake. Like an empty box full of mice and empty and empty. Empty of life and full of mice. Empty of boxes full of life. Like a box.

Iím going outside. Try to open the window but it wonít open. And if it does it will flood. Got to get out of this office. I canít breathe. I canít breathe in here. Iím going to die in here. Good God, someone let me out of here! Dr. What Ė whatís his name? What the hell is his name? No time for that. No time for anything. I must open this window or surely I will die in here. Dead. Just like Jo Ė Iíve got it! A chair! Itís going to be loud, but my life is danger. Drag the chair over. Lift. And heave! Itís a miracle! I shall live!

"Harry, what the fuck Ė "

Itís him. No time for that. Must get out and away before the flood comes. Before the black water brings in the head of Ė

"Get back here, Harry! Seriously!"

And down the fire escape and to the street.

"Iím not mad, Harry! Harry! Come on! What am I going to tell your parents?"

And run and run and run and run. Never stop running when the flood is coming. Head for the hills. Head for the hills.

Part 3

Eden. Like a shelter of some sort or an idea of utopia. But surely this darkness holds no potential for this. Surely enveloped. Like dreams. Of floods. The air is getting colder and black clouds cover the sun. The American flag clangs against the flagpole in the wind. Clang. Clang. Clang. In perfect rhythm. Everything is in time with the wind. Everything is born, grows tall, then rescinds. Like a picture of a family.

The Lord will separate the goats from the sheep. The goats will burn and grind their teeth and the sheep will share in the glory of the lord. And the goats will say to the Lord, "Why then didst thou make us goats?" And the Lord will answereth, "If there werest no goats, who wouldst the sheep be comparerdeth to?" And the goats understood. And the goats saw how it all worked.

The events of the recent days flash through my mind like portraits. Harry in a classroom with his classmates. Harry and The Parents in Harryís room. Harry and Dr. PHd in Whatever-ology in the awful office. Harry and the dead man posing in front of the gas station. Harry and Joshís head smiling for a quick picture amongst the flood. Harry smashing the window of Dr. PhD in Whatever-ologyís awful office.

What time is it? What day is it?

I find an empty playground amidst the chaos of the city and sit down in a swing. Itís getting too cold for this tee shirt. I feel the wind begin to chew at my skin. Where are the kids? Donít they play on playgrounds anymore? The only time I ran away from home I didnít know where I was going. I packed some things into a backpack and left in the middle of the night. It was summer and damp. I walked down major highways and all the way across town. When I came home they were enraged. They asked me why I did it and I told them I didnít know. They asked me where I went and I said I didnít know. I still donít know to this day where I went.

That was so long ago. Sometimes I wonder if it really happened to me or if it was something I saw on television.

The cars on the streets have turned on their headlights. The woman walks down the street. Holding her hand is a little child walking next to her.

"Mommy, whenís Christmas?"

"Not for a long time, dear."

"Mommy, you know what I want for Christmas?"

"Christmas is far away, honey."

"A camera. I want a camera for Christmas. Okay?"

"Okay honey. Be sure to tell Santa."

The memory of Christmas comes back to me. At one time in my life I was a little boy who had rose cheeks. And I walked along my mommy and told her what I wanted for Christmas. And she smiled, and I smiled too because I was sure Santa would come through for me. But all I got for Christmas was a shattered glass next to my head and the solitude of the winter.

I think itís starting to rain. I think itís finally going to rain. And I wonder where the children have gone. And I wonder where I am. And I wonder why I never even thought to ask Josh if he was okay.

Josh. I think I remember someone of that name. I think I remember a face.

The gray wolf prowled through the forest in search of his pack. He roamed over the snow and sniffed into caves to no avail. He felt lonely. He felt cold. He felt hungry. Soon he came to a clearing in the woods. There was his pack, their throats cut, lying dead in the snow. The wolf sniffed and nudged, looking for signs of life. There were none. He looked into the moon and howled. And from the wilderness, the wolf howled.

A figure walks into the playground and towards me. He is tired and destroyed. He speaks with effort. "You got a dollar? I need to get something to eat. Iíll wash your car or something, man. I just need to get something to eat. God bless you."

His eyes have seen things. I can tell. Certain eyes say things like that. I give him my last dollar. I donít know why. I donít know where I went. I really donít.

"God bless you. This is a tough city. I just got out of the hospital. See? Look there at the back of my head. Somebody done hit me with a pipe. Knocked me out. And see? Look at my teeth. These three are gone. Know why? Iím sitting in a pizza parlor eating pizza and this guy walks in and spits on my head. So I stand up and say ĎWhat the fuck you do that for?í And he takes out a pipe and knocks me clear across the face with it. A tough city. A tough, tough city.

"You might say, ĎBenjamin, why you stand up and say ĎWhat the fuck you do that for?í But thatís how my daddy raised us. Yes, sir. Benjamin Franklin Sullivan. Heís dead now. Know what he died of? Bad heart. Iím Benjamin F. Sullivanís baby. Yes, sir. Iím the baby. This stomach here is Benjamin F. Sullivaní stomach. Yes. Iím the baby. Iím the baby.

"Used to work on the railroads. They used to say ĎThere goes Benjamin F. Sullivan, King of the Railroads.í But he had a bad heart. You been to Fairfax? Nice place. Fairfax. Thatís a nice place.

"I be up at the 3:30 in the morning. I be shaking my ass in bed. Wake up! Time to get up! Time to get your exercise! I be shaking my ass like this. Butt-naked. Wake up! Gotta wake up! Ainít gonna be no sleeping around til till noon. You gotta get up. Everybody up! I be sitting on the steps of work at 3:30 waiting for the doors to open. Gotta get your exercise! Yes, sir. You gotta wake up.

"Hey, you got another dollar you can loan me? Iím trying to get my eat on at KFC. Iím real hungry. No? Alright, then. God bless you."

The gun said bang. Evil. God created the serpent. God created the garden. God created man. God created woman. Man and woman sinned. God created sin. God is responsible for evil. If there was no evil there would be no sin. God is responsible for evil. If there was no evil there would be no good. The good are good at the expense of the evil. God created the evil. God knows all and knows what we will do. What we will do is decided. We have no will. We have no choice. We have no say. God is no choice. No god is choice. Choosing is choice. Choosing a god is no god is choice. Someone please tell me whatís going on. Please. Please. Please. God hath forsaken. Pool of blood and money. Money like rain. Money like rain.

Harry! I found him, dear! Harry! Sitting out in the rain like a fucking dog. That son of a bitch. Jesus, Harry! Just who the hell do you think you are, destroying Dr. Bensonís window? Harry, you havenít said a word in two days. And what are you doing sitting in the rain? Trying to get pneumonia, for Christís sake? You are really trying to push it, arenít you? You owe us explanation, Goddamn it! Harry? Oh, look at his eyes! Harry? Do you hear me? He doesnít even see us. Harry? Answer us! He hasnít said a word in days. Here. Carry his legs. Iíll hold his arms. Letís get him out of this storm. Weíll call Dr. Benson when we get home.

When we get home.

Part 4

Dig dig dig. Dig all day and dig all night. Dig until the morning light. Dig when youíre here. Dig when youíre there. Dig in your nice clothes. Dig in underwear. Dig when you think. Dig when youíve thought. Dig when youíre sure. Dig when youíre not.

Iíve been digging for days. Digging and digging and still standing above ground.

Weíve tried everything, Dr. Benson.

I know you have. So have I. He canít be helped.

Whatís going to happen now?

Oh, I donít know. Heíll probably just sit there and stare.

Isnít there a pill you can give him? Thereís a pill for everything.

No. I donít think thereís anything to do. Weíll just have to wait and see.

"Is that all the evidence?" the judge asks the lawyer.

"Yes, your honor."

"Very well. Then itís time for a verdict. All rise."

They do.

"After reviewing the evidence placed before the court, I have come to a conclusion. You know, Harry, fate is a funny thing. Just when you think itís sealed, it can be torn open again and dumped all over the table. And when you think your fate can be torn open again and dumped all over the table, it is really sealed. Now you seem like a good boy, Harry. You come from a good home with a nice family and a good upbringing."

-- Harry? Itís your mother. Can you hear me? I donít think he can hear me.

"Itís good not having visited, Harry. It all used to make sense to you. Everything used to fall into place in perfect order. Used to, Harry. But after reviewing the evidence that weíve subjected you to, itís all become very clear. All that remains is evil. All you are is a bum in a tough, tough city, Harry. Stumbling around, begging for change, getting the shit kicked out of you at every corner. Youíre evil, Harry. You are all that remains. Evil. You show no remorse for your best friendís suicide. Hell, you donít even care."

-- Harry? Itís your father. Your motherís outside talking to the doctor. Listen, you probably canít even hear me, but I just wanted to say that, you know, I hope you come out of whatever youíre in. Thatís it. Okay. Iím going to get a drink now.

"Now, weíve heard testimony from various witnesses regarding your fitness for returning to the world. They said you should get help. They said you should talk to someone. Not necessarily a psychiatrist. Just someone. Your parents want you to have everything and to be happy. You should know that if you want to tell them something they are there to listen to you. Yet you donít. Your sin is one of pride. You are too proud to hurt. You are too proud to suffer. You are too proud to grieve. You are too proud to flinch. You are too proud to even feel at all. And knowing this, the court has come to conclude about you, Harry, that you are too proud and, therefore, too numb to be a part of a world which bases itself on humility and sensation."

-- What happened?

-- I donít know. All of a sudden, he just sat up and started screaming.

-- Iíll get him some tranquilizers. Probably just muscle spasms.

"Harry, while you are soaking in all of this, the court has another observation to make about you. The observation is, of course, that you seemingly cannot be broken. Here, we have put you through such horror and such hell, trying to break you, trying to make you a part of this world, and you have remained in tact through it all. To no avail, we have put you through torment after torment, trying to make you fit for the world. And, to our dismay, you have remained. And, as Iím sure you know, Harry, all that remains is evil. That leaves the court in a position to make another conclusion about you, Harry. And that conclusion will be taken into consideration when we decide on your sentence."

-- How has long has he been doing it?

-- Four or five hours now.

-- And nothing has worked?

-- Nothing.

-- Okay. Give him EST. If that doesnít work, I guess all we can do is get him a bicycle helmet so he doesnít knock himself brain dead. And make sure itís one of those Styrofoam ones. We donít want him to put a hole in the wall with his head.

"Do you have anything to say in your defense before the court sentences you?"

"Let me out. I want to go home. Iím sorry! Please! Let me out of here!"

-- Jesus! The bastard bit me!

"Oh, so now you feel remorse, Harry? Now? After all the horrible things that have happened to you, you feel remorse now? Of course you do, Harry. Itís easy to feel that way in a situation like this, isnít it?"

-- Strap him down.

"I never hurt anyone."

-- Put this between his teeth.

"You hurt yourself, Harry."

-- Donít you think we should get a doctor to do this?

"After considering all the evidence and testimony, the court has decided on a verdict."

-- No, itís all right. Iíve done it before. Plug this in. There. Itís working.

"The court has found that due to his callousness and pride, Harry is unfit to live in the common world."

-- Goddamn! Is that supposed to happen?

"He has proved this by his unwillingness to be affected by his friendís suicide and the recent gruesome events at the gas station."

-- I donít know. I think so.

"If the court were to let Harry back into the world, it would be putting the well-being of everyone, including Harry himself, in danger."

-- Heís not breathing! Call a doctor!

"The court hereby sentences Harry to three days of seclusion starting now. Court adjourned."

Bang! The gavel strikes. And the bang echoes off the walls. The blank walls. Bang. Bang. Bang. Softer and thinner each time. Bouncing off the walls, spiraling down and down and down. Deeper and deeper. And then all is quiet.

PART 5

A big white room. Again. Silence and solitude. Bare naked walls. This is what it is like, I conclude. How strange and wondrous that I have ventured into such a state. This odd dimension. This alternative universe. This place previously unexplored by any man. The blankness is pure and virgin. Unmolested by adulterous hands or feet. This is true sanctity. And I shall make a happy home here.

This place is just like the dream I once had. Any moment now the windows will burst open and I will proceed to drown. Any moment now.

The Family. So far away now. As is the rest of the world. Canít believe I was once part of them both. Both are such anachronisms in a place like this that I wonder if they really even existed at all or if I was just dreaming it all up. That is the power of the mind. Man doesnít know its ability. Man can say certain acts are not within the power of the mind, but that could be just a trick. Convincing us that itís not powerful enough to do what we suspect it of. It could all just be a trick.

There is a song being sung outside my room. I can hear it only so faintly. Slightly louder than a whisper. It struggles to my ears, as it has journeyed great distances to reach them. And there is a door in the immaculate white wall to the outside. And I open the door. And I step outside.

Endless snow. Soft gray sky and endless miles of white snow. It is beautiful as it travels out from beneath my feet, traces easy hills, sinks low into valleys, and raises itself up again to meet the sky. Perfect. Silence. Emptiness. Wonderful solitude. A cool wind touches me softly like a mother and beckons onward her child. And so I follow. And my footsteps in the snow are the only sound. And my breath before my eyes is the only thing in the world that changes. All is well. Tell my mother. Tell my father. All is well.

And the songs grow stronger as I follow the wind. Their sounds struggle less and less and meet my ears with greater and greater ease. Soft sounds of my feet gently destroying the purity of the snow. Crunch. Crunch. Onward I march. Follow the wind.

There are thousands of them. Singing and dancing with one another in the snow. They are truly joyous and their red faces are permanently broken with smiles. They sing la la la and gather hands and dance and dance. I see Josh. I see the man. This is where the wind has taken me and them like a mother. Tell my mother all is well. And tell my father too.

But I do not join them. I cannot. So I stand back, watching them dance and sing. Listening to their play. Watching their merriment and feeling that all is well.

Then it grows dark. And they cannot see to dance. And they cannot see to sing. So the joy must stop.

"Here, Harry. Hold this." It is Josh. He hands me a lantern. And there is light. And he rejoins the others.

And so I hold the lantern, casting the light on the dancers so they can continue to dance. And they dance and they sing. And all is well. Just standing there in the snow, the lantern holder amongst the darkness and the cold, holding the lantern for Josh, the man, and the thousands of others so that they can see as they dance and sing in the night.

And all is well.

I think heís coming out of it, doctor. Harry? Thereís definitely a response. Could just be a reflex though. Harry? Blink twice if you hear me. He blinked. He definitely blinked. Harry, youíve been unconscious for quite some time now. Three days. Weíve been really worried about you. Where are his parents? Been in the waiting room the whole time. Get them in here. Tell them thereís been a change. Tell them things are looking good. Tell them that Harryís awake.

PART 6

Itís a good day to be alive. Itís a good day to walk outside, carrying the lantern, feeling the like sun. Iíve been noticing things like that lately. How the sun shines and how the air tastes and smells and how the trees are perfect against the sky. Every now and then Iíll step outside for a minute or two and just stand there to feel the cold air and to watch the sky, like Iím waiting for something or waiting for someone to arrive. And Iíll breathe again and again and know.

Itís one of those days today. This time Iím walking. Down my street. In slow motion. Waving to the neighbors. Holding the lantern. And the birds sing. And they are alive. And the wind blows. And it is alive. And the people wave. And they are alive. And the world turns. And it is alive. And it is alive. And the neighbors raise themselves from the gardens they tend. And they smile and wave back at me. Slowly. And slowly. As I walk. Slowly. Down the street. The world is alive.

My best friend is dead. Josh, my best friend, is dead. He hung himself in his closet. His mother found him. He was blue and bloated. He died in his sleep.

And now I hold the lantern.

The truth is what is beautiful. And what is beautiful is the truth. And what is Harry is walking. And what is Harry is waving. And smiling. Holding a lantern. And what are the neighbors are waving. Back at Harry. Because he sees beauty. And feels beauty. The sun shining. The birds whistling. Cars drive by slowly. Slowly. And they wave.

Hello, Harry. Hello, Harry.

Confetti. Parade. I wave. Like JFK. In the back of a car. With Jackie O. Waving and waving. Smiling. Hello. The sun shining. The birds. Alive. I am. So. And alive. And alive. And alive. And alive.

God, I am so alive. I am alive as I exit the car. And I am alive. As I face the crowd. And I am alive. So alive. As in the mid-afternoon. It is a sunny day. A fine day. For life. And this is what the sun reflects off of. And casts a vicious glint of light. That blinds the people. And they stop waving. And they stop smiling. And they stop. And everything stops.

And this is what it is. And the birds. And the sun. And the dreams. And the rest. And everything.

And in the dead hanging air. A sound like a bursting dam.

And I am alive. When. It. All. Stops. And I am alive. When there is silence.

And I am alive. When the warm sun shines on my colorful face. Laying on the sidewalk. Holding the lantern. In my hands.

And I am alive.