One Man's Window

February 7, 2008
By Emily Schlackman, Seattle, WA

His brow was sweaty. Wiping it with his even sweatier hands didn’t help stop the drops that cascaded down his face. Nervous? No. The room was dark; the only shadows cast by the blue light that strained to enter through the shaded windows. A small spider made its way up the blinds. The clock ticked. Outside a child shrieked,- but other than that, it was silent. The ticking of the clock rose above the silence, small clicks turning to pounding. They drilled into his head, jabbing at his brain, his conscience, his sanity. He covered his ears. He bit his lip. Still, the clock ticked, each noise beating his ears like a drum.

“Stop.” He said out loud, “No.” His legs began to twitch to the beat of the clock. He struggled to keep them down, but had to give in. The door hung open. Not the door that led outside, to freedom and little things that could distract you from the monster inside. But to the other door, that led to the only real way out. The light was on upstairs, drawing him towards the open door. One foot. That wasn’t so hard, was it? Second foot. Seven more steps to go. Still covering his ears, he stumbled up the stairs towards the little room.

The room contained quite a few things. A desk with a computer, a couple of aging file cabinets, stacks of papers, an unhooked TV, folders of pictures; memories to never be relived. And the one thing that had started the whole monster within him -that flared up unexpectedly and rendered him almost insane- lay on the floor in all its glory. Dropping to his knees, he picked it up as gingerly as he could. His eyes welled up as he felt the smooth, hard surface of the broken guitar pick between his fingers. What good times those had been, and when it all ended, it was the day the music died. He pressed the pick to his forehead, feeling the rigid edges where it had snapped. His eyelids closed as he remembered that night, sitting next to her on the bench, the guitar on his lap and her hand resting on the wooden body. She had smiled at him then. And the sound- the sound of the pick as it snapped over his strings, her laughter at his shocked expression, and then their shared glance at the remains of the pick on the ground. He had picked it up, stored it in his pocket- stored their memories in his pocket- forever.

It was gone now, she was gone, and all he had left was this small shred of the past in his hand. A small tapping noise brought him back to the present. He looked up. He saw the window, still closed, but calling his name. Calling for him to open it. He gave in, stood up, crossed the room in a hurry now. The pick dug into his hand as he clenched his fingers around the base, pulling upwards. With a sickening splintering noise, the window lurched open. He swung one leg over the sill. Looking down, his stomach rolled over twice- it was at least thirty feet to the ground. He placed the guitar pick in his mouth. His second leg made its way over the sill, joining the first as they dangled side by side, bumping lightly against the siding of the house. His hands still gripped the windowsill, not yet ready to let go. Wind beat at his face, his mouth was dry, his eyes stung when he tried to blink. The city stretched out in front of him. Thousands of lights in the night, thousands of lives behind those lights. His pants fluttered in the gusts of wind being thrown at him, his chest was bare and cold- as bare and cold as his heart was turning. He felt the pick in his mouth, almost reassuring. It was with him, always with him. He looked up. The almost-black liquid sky seemed inviting. Seemed to be affirming him to do what he was about to. He threw his head all the way back, pressed the guitar pick against the roof of his mouth, and let go. Finally, let it all go.

What had the world lost? Was it a man or a boy? Monster or kitten? Lover or loser? No one- especially she- would ever know.

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