Matter of Certain Gravity
||After who knows how long,
the faces ceased to be a comfort, and instead elicited a feeling of
unease. So I slowly started opening my eyes, afraid to do it all a
once – at an almost imperceptible rate, like a child pretending
to be asleep but still trying to peek at what was going on around
them. I noticed that it was beginning to get light again.
At first I thought it might be some sleight of mind, but it did in
fact appear that the sun was coming back to light my place in the
world. Which was heartening on one hand, but also frightening, as
I feared the return of the daunting disassociation with my physical
Instead another emotion trumped the disassociation. The ever-broadening
dawn brought on a sense of time slowed almost to a standstill. Or
rather, a sense of the enormity of time that stretched out before
me. Or maybe a bit of both perhaps.
Now it seemed that I would never get to where I was going, which was
odd considering I had no idea how far it was. Which wasn't to say
that I wouldn’t be able to physically accomplish it, but that
mentally the distance of the time it would take to get there was too
much to conquer. Had a watch been on my wrist, I'm almost certain
I would have looked at it every three minutes or so, swearing that
an hour had passed, wondering if the battery was running low –
that sort of sitting at your desk at work at 3:48 on a Friday afternoon
feeling of fatigued time. I knew this only because the sun refused
to rise at what I had deemed to myself as a sufficiently acceptable
rate. Worse yet, the mere thought of having to walk – no, having
to exist, let alone accomplish anything – was almost mind-boggling.
The sheer number of minutes, seconds to endure seemed insurmountable.
I tried half-closing my eyes in a vain attempt to visualize faces
again; any sort of distraction would be useful. But it was no use.
And I was becoming parched, almost dangerously so. Very few things
are more frightening than a mouth that refuses to maintain its naturally
saturated state – not being able to breathe being one of them.
Which, oddly enough, I had almost half-conquered. Oh I still had to
work at it but by some strange fluke of adaptability I was almost
becoming accustomed to it. Perhaps it was becoming less of a concern,
now that I was dying of thirst. Which was odd, considering that out
of any human necessity, air is the one we can do without the least
amount of time. But I guess I had all the air I needed.
In a fit of utter despair, and possibly unequalled self-pity, I actually
began crying. Which was no easy task under my dehydrated circumstances,
and frightening in it's own right. I knew what those tears were made
out of, and was convinced that I was feeding my anguish with the last
remaining water in my body. It was just that there was too much time
in front of me to bear, I was an anachronism in a modern world that
seemed to function with nary a minute to spare.
So there I was, a parched and whimpering wreck, somehow managing to
keep my feet stepping one in front of the other, left right, left
right, seeing the world around me, but not really sensing it, and
on the other hand feeling completely overwhelmed by the passage of
time. Too say that I had a headache, the epicenter being the bloody
spot on the back of my head, would be and understatement – headache
doesn’t even describe the throbbing that marched in time with
my heartbeat. My joints were all nearly numb from soreness, particularly
my right hip that seemed to have borne the brunt of my tumble. Even
the numerous scrapes and abrasions all began to hurt, a complete breakdown
of my capacity for pain. I kept reminding myself to breathe through
the thinly salty sobs.
I rounded a corner, and there was a parking lot. At first it seemed
a mirage, not so much an oasis in the desert, but rather the opposite.
A small cement square with about fifteen or twenty parking stalls
painted on in neat white rows, and a small outbuilding.
I stopped walking, and consequently stopped breathing until my lungs
protested, waiting to make sure it was real, and not just akin to
the floating parade of faces I had witnessed earlier. It remained
in front of me, somewhat comforting. But not even this sign of civilization
could ease my emotional state. Despair of that caliber was not salved
With a wipe of my wrist, I dried the tears off of my face, and began
walking again, not as urgently as you would imagine, but resolute
It was a quick descent down the small hill to the parking lot, which
held only one car. Working under the assumption that it was mine,
I walked up to it and tried the driver's side door. Even if I could
get in, there was the matter of what I would do after that. I had
no idea if I could drive, although I assumed I still could, but where
to go? As it turned out, the door was locked.
I took off my backpack and rummaged around, this time more thoroughly.
Sure enough, hiding down in the bottom corner of the large compartment,
was a single key on a plastic key fob. It read ‘Ford’,
which was the make of the car in front of me, so I tried it. The door
Tentatively I opened the door – I had a feeling of trespassing
even though it was obviously my car. I was happy to sit down for a
moment, marveling at the modern world held within this steel frame,
surprised that I had even made it back. Shortly I noticed a piece
of paper folded up on the dashboard, with a gold ring sitting on top
of it. I picked up the ring, eyeing it suspiciously, then unfolded
the paper and read the writing that was on it.
Which apparently was my suicide note.
After I finished reading it twice, I looked at the ring again. Looking
down at the ring finger on my left hand, I noticed a lightly indented,
polished smooth band of skin up by the third knuckle – slightly
lighter in color than the rest of my hand. I slipped the ring on,
and sure it enough it fit.
The note had been written to my wife. Among the profuse apologies,
I gathered that the world had been too much for me, that a constant
battering of daily life had worn down my resolve to the point that
it had come to the point where there was only one option. Suicide.
It was odd to be sitting there, holding the ultimate goodbye note,
a note of such magnitude, a note which I had no recollection of writing.
I looked in the rearview mirror and saw my face – the face,
for sure enough the man with the beard was I. The beard was gone and
the glasses, most likely lost in the fall, were gone, but it was the
same sullen face underneath. Suddenly a knock came on the window.
I hadn't noticed anyone pull up in the otherwise deserted lot.
I stuffed the note into my pocket, and rolled down the window. It
was a park ranger.
"Professor McNichols?" he asked.
I assumed that this was I, so I nodded my head. "Well, it looks
like I found you. Your wife had reported you missing, said you had
come up here two days ago for a hike, alone no less. Not a good idea
in the backcountry, ya know."
"I know," I
"Are you all right?"
I managed, "a little parched, but fine. I uh… fell down."
"Yes, down a ravine, but
I'm OK now. Somewhat. I think I'll make it." I managed a grin,
stretching my painfully dry mouth, which must've looked terrible because
the ranger's face grew more concerned. I couldn't think of anything
else to say, so we sat there in a silent stalemate, staring blankly
at each other. Then I began to cry again.
"I fell down."