One did not shoot themselves on the street. It would be indecent. To startle all these poor people, these strangers who flowed about him like a tide as he slowly shuffled down the street, that would be criminal. Strangers in strange dress with their iPhones and iPods and iWhatever else. That would be indecent and rude. Dangerous too because the slim bullets contained in the revolver he could feel resting comfortably on his thigh were not guaranteed to exit at the top of his head. He had heard or read, damn him he couldn’t remember, of bullets bouncing around inside skulls and exiting out the -- It was indecent. To startle these people so badly when all they were doing was going to work or how or wherever.
He’d have to find some quiet place. He’d considered his green house. To be surrounded by all his plants would be nice, but he rejected it because he didn’t want Jenifer or Vanessa to find him. One of them had died, one would find him, but which one had died? He couldn’t remember which of his daughters had died. It was a great black sorrow that chewed at him still, but he couldn’t remember which one was dead. He remembered sitting on the couch, either the spotted pastel thing Mary, his wife, had bought watching… something. And he’d gotten a phone call telling him Mary had been in an accident. Or was it Jessica? Or was it Vanessa? The problem was intolerable. Losing himself a piece at a time. The gun was still in his pocket, he could do this, he just needed to get out of this crowd.
He’d go to the park. The East City Park where he’d first kissed Mary. If the old rusty bench was still there he would sit down and end everything under the cool shade of a poplar tree. The would be preferable to this hell. Not being able to remember if Mary would be home to great him with a ham sandwich or if she had died years ago in a car accident was unbearable.
Trying his best to keep pace with all the people, he walked toward the park. At least he’d not been there. Car accidents were quick. Right? When Mr. Einrich died it took forever. The man had been a semi truck in life, but in those final weeks he had become a dried twig. His cannon ball arms reduced to slivers of bone with hanging flesh. The toned muscles becoming rags of meat. The mans hair, His Hair!, whitening to thin sea foam around his temples.
“You’re my best welder, Dan,” Einrich had said to him. The man had become weird before his diagnosis, selecting Dan out as his favorite employee, even though he’d never come out to the floor and couldn’t have known who was the best welder. One day Dan was summoned to the big office, given a raise, and invited to the boss’s “Vegas Vaction”.
“Good men like you are what this company needs! Good men!”
In the final hours, Einrich sent everybody away except Dan. His breathe rattled around inside him, but he was conscious and talking. He asked Dan about politics, about local news, about who had won the Super Bowl, about Dan’s kids.
“My kids,” Einrich said, “are all gone. My son died in the war. My two daughters won’t talk to me. They don’t even know I’m dying.” He laughed and that rattled too. “My oldest daughter had twins, so I have two granddaughters. I can’t remember their names. It’s a waste, Dan.”
A while later:
“Dan, I hate this. I never liked waiting even when I was small. This is taking forever. If I could stop breathing…”
A priest came in and Einrich refused to let Dan leave. So Dan watched the man’s last rites. When the priest came to the confession Einrich said, “Forgive me Father for I have sinned. I embezzled two hundred dollars from my company. I was going to pay it back, but I never did.”
When the priest left, he told Dan that he was truly a great friend to guide Einrich to the hereafter.
They were alone again and Einrich said, “Dan, I fired a man for looking at my secretary.”
“I fired a man for looking at my secretary wrong.”
“Yes. He delivered reports from the floor and I could hear them flirting from my office and so I told Brandon to fire him.”
“No! No! I was married! I would call her in so I could look at her. I invented useless tasks or tell her to get things off of shelves so I could look at her ass, but I was married! She was a fine woman, but I was a married man!”
“Why didn’t you tell the priest this?”
Einrich grabbed Dan’s hand and pulled at him. The grip was weak, but Dan leaned in to oblige the man. The rattling breath smelled like tar.
Einrich winked at Dan and said in a confidential whisper, “There is no God.”
The man had died, Dan didn’t remember of what, only that it was bad. After the secretary story, Einrich began talking about a tennis game he’d seen as a kid. He told this story over and over ending with, “Sorry, I’m rambling,” before starting again. His last words were too faint to hear.
Now it was Dan’s turn. The conversation with the doctor hadn’t been a surprise. He’d known something was wrong for weeks. No months. Something worse than forgetting where the keys were. He was forgetting names, meetings, addresses, faces, TV channels, the name of his dog, telephone numbers, he lost his place in books, forgot the plot of movies before they were done, he was forgetting names.
He remembered Einrich clearly, and his children. But when Jessica had died a few months back, he had kept calling her house and the doctor she’d married would tell him each time-- or did Vanessa?-- Would tell him each time in a cracking near falsetto that Jenifer had…
“Where is my daughter?”
Jenifer had brown hair, Vanessa had Mary’s red. So, the living daughter must be Vanessa. He would call her tonight if he remembered and ask the doctor if there was some medication that could help his condition.
But first he needed to get to the park where he had first kissed Mary. He would shoot himself there and end this hell before it got really bad. He was losing his mind. Being disassembled, brain first, a piece at a time. Einrich’s body went before his mind, but Dan was going the opposite way. Plaques and dead brain tissue. He knew how it worked. Jessica and Vanessa were both married and didn’t have time to take care of a foolish old man. They had both married doctors and had their own daughters to look after.
No. Only Jessica had daughters. Vanessa had married the carpenter and they only had dogs. A personal choice. But Vanessa had married the doctor and they had two children. Their names were--
He found himself in a park. The crowd had vanished, the strangers were gone. Poplars rose into the air and a crisp chill buffeted through his clothing, wrapped around his skin, and was away. This was the place where he had first kissed Mary. He moaned. There was the tree and the bench and even the old swing set with its peeling yellow paint. It hadn’t changed in years. Kentucky blue grass sprouted everywhere but the footpath. He should call Mary and see if she wanted to meet him by the bench. He could borrow a cellphone from one of the young couples walking down the path.
He sat on the bench. Mary loved it here. When she was pregnant with Jenifer, they would sit here for hours hand in hand. The light and shade mixed beautifully dancing around his head. Tomorrow he would call Jenifer and Vanessa and see if they wanted to have a grand old-fashioned picnic out here with him and Mary.
He shifted and felt a comforting weight. He reached into his pocket wondering what he would find.