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The Third Bank on Melrose
I held his heart in my hand. He blinked as he stared across the counter at the young, well-dressed teller. His old wrinkled hands struggled to sign the check, and shook as the pen slipped out of his hand. His heartbeat was slow, but slightly erratic, with random beats thrown in here and there amidst the rhythm. His grey hair bristled as he furrowed his pale, dry brow. His hand reached for the pen again.
The doors burst open with a rattle. The entire crowd turned on a dime, staring at the empty street. All the sound ceased, save for the wind howling through the door and the old man’s pen rolling. He continued signing his checks, his beat unchanged. The guard drew his gun, and slowly walked toward the open doors. He was young, and his footprints oozed inexperience, as he followed the motions of countless heist movies he had seen. The entire bank shook with anticipation, as the guard stepped outside.
It must’ve just been the wind. He closed the doors, and the bank resumed its normal business.
The old man glanced forward, his eyes glazed with age, at the teller, who was waiting impatiently for the man to finish. The line was extending out across the room. Waiting in line by the old marble columns was a young woman, earphones in. She suddenly looked toward the wall, as if she had heard a sound. She felt the smooth wall next to the column. Finding nothing, she got on her hands and knees, and looked under a nearby couch. Her movements became more frantic and urgent as time passed, and she put her ear to the floor. She pulled out her earphone to listen more closely, and her expression became puzzled. She pulled out her other plug, and looked around, embarrassed. Only a few of her fellow patrons had seen her search. As she looked at them, they turned away. She put her earphones back in.
An overwhelming feeling of paranoia and nervousness had spread throughout the bank. The closing of the doors had done little to relieve the tension that filled the room, and all the people were shaken. People stared at the backs of each other’s heads with mistrust; they knew something bad was going to happen, something tragic, it was in the air. But they didn’t know who would be responsible.
The old man signed the last of his checks and with a shake in his stride, walked toward the restroom. The security guard glanced at him and looked at a man near the front of the line who was jittering apprehensively, and toying with something in his pocket. Something long and cylindrical. Shaped like a gun. The guard took in his surroundings, he could easily take this man out, he had the tactical and psychological upper hand. He waited, gun ready to be drawn. The man, while glancing around himself, and hyperventilating, did not to seem to be searching for the guard. Instead, his motions were random and erratic. The other patrons started to edge away from the man. Suddenly the man pulled a short red object out of his pocket, and held it up. The line scattered. The guard took his aim. The man held the object to his mouth and pressed down on the button on the top. The blast of corticosteroid filled his lungs and condensed. The man breathed deep, and relaxed. The line reformed, though more on edge than ever.
The guard put away his gun. He walked back to his spot near the door, still flustered, but he was calming down. He leaned back against the cold marble wall. The voices of the crowds started to crescendo back to its former level.
The old man walked out of the bathroom, down the hall and back into the crowded foyer. With a slight limp, he walked slowly to the door. He was halfway there.
I clenched my fist. Suddenly, he gasped for air, and reached for his chest. Then he collapsed.
Call 911, the young woman with her earphones shouted, as she ran over to the heap of limbs. The nervous asthmatic pulled out his phone and dialed. The guard ran over to the body, and grabbed its cool wrinkled wrist. He dropped the arm and got above the body, arms outstretched, and started compressions.
One. Two. A man just collapsed at the 3rd Bank on Melrose. Four. Five. I’d say he’s in his… Nine… eighties. Eleven. Twelve. Thirteen. Fourteen. No, I don’t know, he was just walking out. Eighteen. Nineteen. Just like 20 seconds ago. They’ve been performing CPR. Thank you. Thank you. Thirty. Breathe. Breathe. They’ll be here in 2 minutes. Five. Six. Seven. Eight….
Sirens blared outside. The doors burst open with a rattle. Paramedics wheeled in a gurney, slicing through the thick crowd. They put a ventilator on his face, and brought out the paddles. Clear. The body shook. Charging. Clear. It shook again. They put the ventilator back to the mouth. Charging. Clear. They shocked the body a third time, and a fourth time. Again and again. Time of death?
The old man’s time had run out; his yarn had been cut. With a stroke of my hand, I had finished what I started, seventy-six years, three months, thirteen days, and nine hours ago. Two and a half billion seconds, and I ended it all in one.
The paramedics lifted the corpse into a long blue bag. They zippered it up, past his withered legs, his cold wrinkled arms, his chest burnt by the repeated shocks. It stuck for an instant at his chin, framing his pale face, his purple lips seemed to be curled in a content smile. Two and a half billion seconds, time well spent.