I felt so STUPID. I sat on the overlook, staring down at Latah Creek and High Bridge Park. I could see people moving about the lawns, partially obscured from my point of view by towering evergreens. I could hear the gurgle of the water and the happy cries of people enjoying the day. They seemed a thousand miles away rather than the couple hundred yards that separated us. Occasionally a car would pass on the street behind me, they paid me no mind, but then again, it’s not like I was waving or anything. I was alone, but in a way that would isolate me even in a crowd of friendly revelers at a party. A condemned man is what I was.
Jesus. I just couldn’t collect my thoughts. I couldn’t make sense out of the simple information I’d been given. It’s like I heard the sound of his voice, I understood what he’d said. I just couldn’t seem to make it mean anything. That one single word. The one that stood out like neon in darkness. Glowing and glitteringly bright in its presence, yet it sucked the meaning of everything right out of my mind. Right out of the atmosphere. It left me stupid and questioning. That and pretty damned unhappy. Three words. Three stupid little words. Songs always talked about the three little words, crooning about love and requited desire. Three little words that took happiness away, sucked it from me like a vacuum. No one had said “I love you” to me. No, the doctor said a whole different three words. “You have cancer.” he said.
And all of a sudden his words were just noises, the wonh wonh wonh of the teacher in a Peanuts cartoon. What else did he say? I can hear him still. I can hear him clearly but the words may as well be coming from an extraterrestrial. Might as well be the grunts or huffing of an animal for all I understood. I heard those three words and then everything after them was unintelligible. I don’t remember leaving the hospital. I don’t remember coming here. I only just now realized I had tears on my face, their tracks cooled by the warm breeze coming up from the canyon. I lay backwards, looking up into the sky. Nothing there. A hawk wheeling on thermals, clouds in shapes of things recognized, a plane high aloft leaving contrails as it carried people to an unknown destination. I didn’t see any of it. There they were but I looked through them and sighed heavily.
A shadow. Then a puppy, a terrier of some kind, I think. It came snuffling up to me, eyes shining and alive with joy and life. It licked my cheeks and wagged its tail so hard I wondered that it didn’t shake apart. “Petey! Bad dog!” said the girl with fraudulent anger. “Leave the man alone!” Petey just waged some more and kept licking. I lay there and let him. The girl clapped her ands and called to the dog again, and this time Petey sprang into action, short little legs pumping away frenetically carrying him off to investigate other things. I closed my eyes and remembered him from moments ago, feeling something. Wanting to feel something. But the dog was gone and with him that moment of clarity. Now, what was I doing here? What was I just thinking about?
Time passed in a strange way. I marked the passing of time as it dragged itself from moment to moment, almost in complaint it moved so slowly. But time had flown. An hour. Two? Long enough to feel soreness in my back. The pain… yeah, the pain and what the doctor said. Three little words. They explained everything. They explained nothing. Christ. What was it he said? Upright again I noted the shadows grown long in the park below. A few people still moved about, the occasional shout drifting up. A meaningless sound. I just heard the words. The three words. Three stupid words and now nothing was the same.. Nothing would ever be the same.
A discard. Life had thrown me away like a used tissue. Why was that so profound a revelation? Why had I thought I mattered? People came and people go. Birth, death, infinite circles drawn over and over. What was that song? Shorter or breath and one day closer to death. It sounded so sweetly when sung. It didn’t seem so sweet now. Jesus Christ! Why hadn’t I stood in bed? I could have missed my appointment. I could be here in blissful ignorance, smiling along with the people playing below though they’d be unaware of me. Just minutes ago …was it hours? Just …earlier, I was happy and liking the way the sun felt warm n my face. My mind thinking about the coming summer. Now. Now it seemed so very long ago, before everything stopped making sense or having meaning. Back when things mattered. When I mattered.
God, why can’t I think? The word shock flittered through my mind, catching it for a brief second before it disappeared, leaving me again wondering. What was I thinking about? Three words. Oh, man. Oh, man. I don’t want this. I don’t want this future. Look what’s happened to it. My future is now just rubble; a trailer park after an F5 tornado. My brain’s belongings spread about, mixed with shattered boards and tufts of insulation. This can’t be my life. This can’t be…
I stood up. Erect, I felt as if I’d dragged myself upright, as if it took all of the strength I had. I stood, knees weak and shaking and still nothing made sense. There was something I was supposed to feel. What was… stages. Yes, stages. Shock, denial, anger… what else? Where were they? When did it start? Why didn’t I feel anything? Why didn’t anything matter? I took a stumbling step, caught myself and then took another. Another after that.
This. This is the way I’ll do it, I thought. Just one step at a time.