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Broken Trapeze by Ray Printer Friendly

I wonder for a second if this is because there's something wrong with me. Shock? Am I paralyzed? I don't know, I don't want to know, not right now.

Right now, I'm at peace. Everything seems all right, as long as I don't start thinking too much.

I watch the blood drip onto the snow.

When I opened my eyes, it was the first thing I saw: slow drips, staining the white snow pink, then red. Eating through the crust like acid. I don't know how long I've been watching it, but there is no longer any pink, and the liquid has melted enough snow to form a strange little cavern of color in a world of white.

I can't tell if I'm warm or cold, but I'm tired. So tired.

Was I tired before? I can't remember. Maybe I was, maybe that's why I crashed in the first place. Or maybe I wasn't and maybe I'm badly damaged, and that's why I'm tired.

I know I should try to do something. I should try to take stock of the situation, find out if I can move, find out where the blood is coming from, find out if I can get help. But I don't care. The only thing important right now is the dripping blood, the cavern it's forming.

I imagine a tiny civilization finding the new cavern, little bitty scientists going all crazy, trying to figure out how it came to be, what it's made of. They run tests, but they don't realize that it's blood, because their little tiny blood is totally different from mine. They don't even realize I'm here, that's how big I am is that they can't even see me. I am their outer space.

My blood, it warms them, they come from all over their little tiny world to bathe in the cavern, they claim it has healing powers. Locals set up little souvenir shops on the banks, but it's tricky, because each time a new drop of blood drips, the bank is eaten away more, and any business too close to the edge is engulfed in the healing fluid.

Some little group decides to form a religion based on the red fluid, and some other little group decides that the first group has it all wrong, so they start a different religion, and then they start wars with each other.

They have no idea that all of their belief is based on me, the stuff dripping out of me. I find it fitting that they kill each other over an ocean of blood.

I feel warm liquid on my cheek, but I can't tell if it's tears or blood. I don't feel like I'm crying. But then again, I don't feel like I'm bleeding.

I sigh, and watch the cloud of my breath drift and vanish in the freezing air. It's an overcast winter day, another one, I can't remember the last time the sun came out. Three, four weeks ago? Everyone's getting sick and damn tired of winter, and you can't go anywhere without hearing about how someone's ready for summer.

Not me, though. The cold, overcast days, those are the kind I was made for. I thrive in this world that depresses so many others, I think more clearly, I feel better about life, and I catch myself hoping.

I try to stay out as much as possible on days like this, even though it's obviously not the safest thing to do. Out walking, out driving, it doesn't matter, as long as I'm out in it, away from the heat and the inside smells and the anger that's always there, but more intense in the winter.

How did I end up like this? I could probably remember if I tried--it's right there on the edge, but I'm not ready for that, not just yet. I'm still okay with the blank spots. I don't think about the civilization anymore, but I still watch the blood drip.

I can hear it as it falls, almost like a click as drop meets the collected. The bigger drop hits the puddle which causes smaller drops to splash out and begin eating the snow.

I think about how angry everyone is with the snow lately. How everyone is so sick and damn tired of it, that's what they all say when you ask them how they're doing, they're sick and damn tired of all this snow. Ready for some sun. Ready for summer.

I think about the little droplets of blood that splatter out as the bigger drops fall into the puddle. I think about how if the splatters caused puddles of their own, and if I could figure out how to drop my blood into those, as well as the main puddle, I could eventually melt all of the snow with my blood.

I could save the town with my blood.

I wonder if that's how Jesus started out. Just bleeding a little, thinking, "Hey, this isn't so bad. I saved a few people with a little of my body, I bet if I worked this right, I could save them all, eventually. I could be famous. I could be a hero."

All Jesus wanted was a book deal, and maybe a cameo in a movie. Instead, bang bang bang, nailed to a cross, hanging up there, "You know what? Fame isn't what I thought it would be."

These are not the thoughts you want to be having when you might be dying. I'm not sure if I'm religious or not, but entertaining semi-blasphemous thoughts about any potential savior just before you expire is probably a bad idea.

I hear a sharp click, and then a slight hiss. Dazed or not, I recognize the sound in a split second: the auto-reverse function on the tape player. This car is the first one I've ever had that has that. Every other car, I had to eject the tape and then reinsert it the other way. This one, it finishes one side, it just clicks and then starts playing the other.

Such a handy feature if you're out parking, listening to romantic music. You don't have to stop to flip the tape. Or worse, ignore the fact that it stopped, and suddenly the car is filled with the sounds of squeaking faux-leather car seats and awkward groans and your stomach growling because you're so excited that you're about to feel a boob.

The compact disc is going to take over soon--it'll take off like crazy once they figure out a way for the average citizen to record songs on a disc.

My step-father swears to me--swore to me--that this will never be feasible, because with CDs, you have to actually use lasers to imprint the information, "Think about that," he told me time and time again, "You want to make a mix on a CD, you have to have a laser. A laser in your home, just for music, can you imagine? And music, it just ain't the same if you can't make a mix tape."

He's right. About the mix tape thing, I mean. I don't know about all that shit with the lasers. I find it hard to believe that they would make a music medium that they didn't foresee would one day be able to be home-recorded. Because you have to be able to make a list, you have to be able to play it for someone for some specific reason. You have to have your heartbreak mix or your make-out mix or your drinking mix or your smoking-weed mix, which you call your chill mix.

You have to be in control of your music.

Is this where my thoughts are going? And why?

There's a touch, just on the edge of my mind. Of my step-father, yelling. About mix-tapes? Probably not. Something else, something that I can't remember, something I'm not ready to remember. Whatever's behind that curtain, I want no peek of it, time to think of something else.

Tom Petty starts up, him and the Heartbreakers, singing about how she's a good girl who loves her mama, Jesus, and America. I start screaming, I don't know why. I just want to, that's all. I just want to scream at the world, because whatever the hell is going on, my heart hurts, and yelling makes it feel better.

When I finally stop screaming, the world is quiet. All of the animals are still too nervous to make noise, and I've apparently crashed far enough in the middle of nowhere that even screaming doesn't draw attention.

More shit dripping off my face, blood or tears or maybe just snot, I don't even know. I have to get up soon.

Nobody's gonna come save me.

Small town, only one ambulance, and I know where it's at. Anyone who would be around to report my accident, they're in their warm little homes, talking on their warm little phones, listening to the latest gossip or spreading it.

Small town, news travels faster than EMS, talking to your girlfriend is practically faster than talking to the victim.

What are they saying, all the townspeople? All the gossips. Are they talking about the argument? The screaming? There was always an argument, and there was always screaming. Are they talking about the loud noise, could have been a gunshot? Are they talking about the kid who ran out of the house moments later, covered in blood?

I hope they are. I hope the story changes a million times, as it's transferred through phone lines and coffee shops, until there is no truth. Or until there are a million truths. I hope they talk it into legend and bullshit, because when everyone knows the story, that's when it's make-believe.

Tom Petty stops and Eddie Vetter starts. He's singing about how he recognizes my face. Tom Petty, Pearl Jam, what's next? Offspring. Type O Negative. Weezer. This would be the Chill Mix, then.

Of course that's what I was going to listen to. Throw in the Chill Mix, bust out a joint, and start working on forgetting the worst Christmas ever. Cops'll be wanting to talk, but fuck 'em, for right now. Right now, there's the issue of maintaining sanity. And the best way of doing that--what's always the best way--is to run.

Not quite ready to move, but the thoughts are moving in, and to run, you have to move, but I'm too cold or too broken. So I watch the thing in the snow, the blood-red cavern made with my blood, and I try to concentrate, but I just hear him yelling.

He always did, and usually it wasn’t' a big deal. My step-dad, he wasn't exactly what you'd call a hero, but I loved him. He had his flaws and he had his issues, but so what? We all do.

He could be a scary motherfucker at times. He'd forget his meds, you know? It wasn't that he meant to, it's just that when he felt good, he'd forget that he needed them. When he felt like a regular human being, it was too hard to accept that he needed medication to feel like a regular human being. He usually took the pills anyway, but sometimes he didn't.

I know why.

He believed, deep down, that one day he'd stop taking the pills, and he'd still be better, and then he'd dump them out on the table after a year or whatever, and he'd say, "See, I don't need them! I'm not a mental train wreck. Now let's just be a happy family."

But what would happen instead is, he'd start to get sad or mad or just generally fucked feeling. And instead of admitting that he needed the meds, he'd just grab a six pack of something, or a liter of something, and he'd drink and smoke, and instead of everything working out okay, it'd get worse and worse.

He'd yell and he'd break shit, and we'd try to talk him down, or we'd leave the house and let him work it out on his own. He'd eventually realize that he was going bugshit, and he'd take his pills and lay off the booze, and things would still be touchy for a couple of days, but they'd simmer down, and we'd start all over.

It wasn't a good routine, but it was our routine, and although none of us liked it, we were all comfortable with it. It was familiar. You bitch about the heat in the summer, but you're used to it, you're ready for it, and if summer ever rolled around and it kept on snowing, it'd throw you.

That's how it was with him.

We probably should have known that something was wrong when he came in so happy. He wasn't always angry, but he was rarely happy. He spent most of his time in the emotional null that the medication created, neither up nor down, just…there.

But it was Christmas Eve, so why shouldn't he be happy, right? His mood was contagious, and pretty soon the three of us were sitting around the table laughing and telling stories from the past--stories we all knew, stories we all loved.

The time I scared my mom with the rubber spider while she was cutting firewood, how she was so scared that when I started laughing, she used the toy to spank me, and I laughed the entire time.

The time she got so mad at him because she spent all day getting ready for his birthday party, and then he didn't show up until late. When she finally cooled down enough to tell him why she was pissed, he explained that his birthday was actually the 24th, not the 23rd.

The time he was going to surprise me with a new bike for my birthday, but when he went to the garage to hide it, he found me in there kissing Nikki Waters.

We talked until it was late, until we could barely get the stories out through the yawns, and we went to bed happy.

The truly evil thing about happiness is that it ends. Usually, way too soon.

I woke up this morning, I wasn't expecting that same sort of happiness. I'm not greedy, and I'm not stupid. Times like that, they're few and far between. I just wanted a peaceful Christmas morning. I just wanted us to sit around in our normal sort of stale, open our presents, eat a little lunch, and then go our separate ways.

I didn't get out of bed right away. I stared up at the ceiling until my eyes got dry, and then I closed them. Thought about what I wanted to do with the day, thought about maybe just going back to sleep for a while. I could smell bacon frying downstairs, though, and I knew my stomach would keep me from sleeping.

I climbed out of bed and put on some jogging pants, and was reaching for my shirt when I heard the dish break. I heard my mom say shit, and I kind of smiled and shook my head. But then I heard his voice.

It was so loud and full of hate that I froze with my hand on my dresser drawer. I'm not sure what words he yelled, or if there actually were any words. It didn't matter. What mattered was the rage behind the voice. What mattered was that everything was wrong, and my mom was down there with him, and this was different. This was snow in the summer different, and I was running down the stairs as fast as I could.

I heard her scream before I made it to the bottom. And I heard something else, something I had never heard in our house before, no matter how angry he got.

I heard him hitting her.

He was an angry man, probably a broken man. But he had never been a violent man, not where my mother and I were concerned. I ran into the kitchen and froze.

She was huddled down in the corner, crammed between the dishwasher door and the trashcan. She was curled in the fetal position, her back against the wall, a cheap plastic spatula raised in defense. My step-father stood over her, bellowing, spit spraying from his mouth as he screamed, his arms swinging wildly, his legs kicking her.

I didn't realize I was still holding my dresser drawer until I smashed it over his head. He stumbled away from my mom, and I shoved him into an over-turned kitchen chair. He tripped over it, screaming even louder than before. I grabbed my mother and pulled her to her feet.

"Run," I told her. "Go to the neighbor's, call the cops."

"What about you?"

"Just fucking run!"

I had no intention of facing him down, but I wanted to make sure my mom had time to get away. When I turned back, he was gone.

"Where did he go?" my mother whispered.

"I don't know, Mom. Listen, I need you to go, okay? I need you to go right now. I'm right behind you, I just want to make sure you make it there befo-"

Her eyes got real wide then, and her face got even more pale. I turned and saw him in the doorway. He didn't look like the same person, didn't look like the man I had grown to love, the man who had helped raise me, the man I had known for years.

He looked an evil version of that man.

And he had a gun in his hand.

I felt a hand on my arm, and my mom was suddenly dragging me down the hall. We almost made it. I tripped over my feet, though. Still getting used to this new body puberty had given me. I wasn't exactly clumsy, but it was a running joke in our house that if there were expensive things around, they should be put away before I passed by.

I tripped and fell, and my mom turned to help me up, but he was there, right behind us, and as powerful as her instinct to protect me was, I was a little stronger. I shoved her into the guest bathroom, pulled the door shut, and stood up in front of it.

I screamed at her to lock it, God Mom, please lock the door, and she must have realized that any other option would've been pointless, because she did.

I heard the click of the lock, and I felt the hand on the side of my head, shoving me away, shoving me down. I looked up from the floor, at this stranger who used to be my step-father, and I was too scared to move.

"Is this what you want, you fuckin' bitch?" He slammed the butt of the pistol against the door as he screamed. Spit mist in the air, covering the door, covering the gun as he hammered it. Blood on his knuckles, his or my mom's, or both. "You pushed me to this you made me do this you pushed me to fuckin do this you fuckin bitch!" He only paused in his tirade long enough to take a breath, and it made a slobbery wet sound because of all his saliva. "This what you wanted you bitch? You whore? When you gonna be happy?"

And mixed all up with his slobber, mixed up with the blood, I saw tears. And mixed with the rage was fear and misery and loneliness.

"I just want you to be happy," he said, and his hammering grew softer, so soft that I could hear my mother weeping through the door. He stopped hitting the door, and he leaned his back against it, slid down it, until he was on my level, and I have never been more terrified in my life.

He looked at me and smiled a horrible smile. A sad, defeated, horrible smile. And he said, "I'm sorry."

Before I could respond, he put the gun under his chin, and there was a a bang, loud, but not nearly as loud as I would've thought, and then his brains were all over the door, and his blood was all over, too. All over the wall, all over the carpet, all over me.

And my mom screamed and screamed and screamed.

I stood up, and I walked--slow, so that I didn't trip and fall--down the hall. Grabbed my keys off the bronze hook on the wall, out the front door, down the snow-covered sidewalk. I got into my car, started it up, and put it into gear, no matter that the windshield was still too iced over for me to see anything.

I drove. I don’t know where, or for how long. I just drove, trying to figure out what had happened, trying to forget it, trying to convince myself that it hadn't happened. Something.

And then?

I watch the blood drip onto the snow.

It's all blurry now, I can't focus like I did when I first woke up, And there are more colors, all the sudden. Red and blue, flashing against the white snow. And more sounds, people yelling, "He's over here!" People yelling "Clear!"

People yelling, "Hold on!"

But they don't know what it's like to try to hold on to nothing.

posted 12/02/09


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