One Perfect Dive

January 28, 2011
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My world is crumbling all around me, being blown to bits. On the outside I appear to have a perfect life. I am chief firefighter. I’m always ready and love my job. Everyone admires my extreme devotion.
The moment we’re notified of the fire, I race to the site of the blaze as fast as possible, zooming through the streets in the fire truck like a NASCAR driver. The pressure’s on as we arrive, hurriedly setting up the hose, and attaching it to the brilliantly red fire hydrant glowing in the light of the flames. Water pumps through and gushes out in a fierce jet to fight the monstrous beast of red devouring wooden structures hungrily. A faint cry is heard, and I rush in, heart pounding, sweating not from the heat, but from fear, hoping I’m not too late. At any moment I could be burnt to a crisp from the great gouts of flame erupting around me. Before I open each door I feel first to ensure a fire isn’t waiting menacingly behind it. I know all too well that if a warm door is opened, a great fireball burst out. First it will suck the oxygen out of my lungs, suffocating me. Then I will be completely burnt up from the explosive flames and never live to see the light of day. A falling beam could catch me on the shoulder and crush me from the weight all the while slowly singing my clothes, and then me. Danger lurks around every corner.

I stop and listen for that faint cry, and run towards it as soon as it sounds. Can I make it? Yes. In the corner of the room is a sniffling little girl, tears running down her cheeks. She seems to be around six or seven. The flames are surrounding her, and I grope for a plan that will result in neither of us being injured. Before I have a chance to consider any options a beam falls behind me crashing to the floor in a burst of light. Time is running out. I leap over the fire and grab the girl. Her stuffed animal she is clutching to her chest falls to the floor, but there is no time to retrieve it. I leap back over the fallen section of the ceiling and charge down the hallways, retracing my steps exactly, hopefully leading us to safety.

Yes! We emerge from the doorway just in time to see the entire building collapse behind me as if we were in a movie. Even better, the news reporters have arrived just in time to capture it on film. I glance back, and a flash of grief fills my face, but then I turn and look at the cameras, quickly regaining my composure as everyone approaches eagerly to hear my death-defying tale. The girl is taken to the hospital and makes a full recovery and returns home to her uncle; coincidentally, her parents perished in a fire earlier that year.
These adventures are regular occurrences; they happen all the time. But now I can’t take it anymore. It’s too much. My guilt weighs me down. To save myself, I am going to escape. I tell everyone I am going on vacation to a beach on the east coast, and come back in about a week, keeping my face calm and devoid of all emotion other than pleasure at the idea of a nice break from the stresses of firefighting. At least the first part is true. They all believe me, and their innocent faces stare back at me as they wish me safe travel and a nice trip, not having a slightest inkling of the truth.

I now find myself perched at the top of a lighthouse taking one last look at this beautiful world around me, wondering how something so beautiful can become so corrupt and human. I stare out at the endless waves, crashing one after another in a never-ending cycle. From a distance they all appear the same like a crowd of people, but when inspected more closely, each one is slightly different, bringing in items to lay on the shore, some priceless treasures lost, and others minor trinkets. They lay in wait until either someone finds and pockets them, or they are swept out to sea. The sand seems to go on forever stretching from edge to edge, horizon to horizon, each infinitesimal grain sparkling with it’s own beauty. No matter how many waves crush them they remain standing strong, persevering through the elements from cliff to rock, rock to pebble, and finally resulting in this resolute little grain of sparkling splendor. No matter how many times they are swept to sea, they always return back to their origin. I enjoy the refreshing scent of the salty air blowing a cool breeze into my face. This is nothing like the scorching fires I usually face. There, I feel a certain thrill, and a bit of excitement. Now I feel completely relaxed and on top of the world like I could do anything! But no! The guilt presses down on my shoulders.

A single thought runs through my head, one perfect dive. One perfect dive to end my suffering rather than deal with a world crumbling around me. One perfect dive to escape the corruptions of this planet. One perfect dive into the dark bottomless ocean to freedom. One perfect dive to break the tether that binds me to this earth. But I swiftly snap back to reality as I look up. A storm looms on the horizon. Thick black clouds roil with lightning and rain. Thunder booms in the distance. A dog barks. “Why am I doing this?” I wonder. “What have I done that could be so terrible?” I think of the girl, whose family perished in that fire, what her life could have been, how far she could have gone, but I ruined it, ruined her life. I know it was my fault. The guilt has brought me here.

I start the fires.

I do it to gain the glory that comes with rescuing and appearing so courageous. I plan it all, so I can’t possibly be injured. I choose who dies, who lives, why, and how. I am a ruthless murderer. I am going to pay for it but not by another’s hand. I won’t let someone else tear their soul in two, when mine is already dead. The guilt gets insufferably worse, like I’m holding the Earth on top of my shoulders, and I have to hold it together so it doesn’t fall apart. But now I’m letting it go, letting it fall, with one perfect dive.

One step, two steps, over the edge.


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