Why Did the Man Cross the Road?

Time slows.

My right foot falls hard on the pavement as I begin to gather speed. I can feel the thick, hot sensation of seldom used muscles being thrown into action as pain from that first jolt slowly crashes up my calf and thigh. The placement of every toe, the distribution of weight, the force put upon the joints; all this information is processed and disseminated as subsystems of my brain take over, quickly relaying data and instructions while attempting to keep them from being burned out by my singular imperative.


The torque of my hips sends shocks of pain up my spine. To delay weakening, my brain throws up thoughts and memories to spur my body into higher performance.

I am five years old. Small for my age. My sandals fly away from my feet as I run, faster than I have ever run before. The dog is catching me up. What cruel god has given this creature four legs and me only two? Rounding the corner, I see the fence. Was it that tall before? It seems mountainous. I sprang over it with ease from the other side not but minutes ago. I hear the dog round the corner. He's close; much closer than before. I hear his bark, smell his breath, feel his anger, his need. "Chase!" his instincts must be spilling into his mind as an overturned bottle of wine, intoxicating and relentless, "Chase! Bite! Tear! Chase! Chase!" I sense these thoughts, if that is what such basic firings of neurons can be called in the brain of this beast who has been beaten until forever crazed, as each one spills into his body as sharp as an unseen needle hidden within a favorite teddy bear. The fence is in reach. One more burst of speed.


I am eleven years old. Having convinced my mother that I am old enough to travel to the restroom alone at this strange, huge ballpark, I leave her side as confident as Arthur of legend, as self-assured as Alexander. In mere steps, my confidence has waned to but a fraction of what it was moments earlier. I do not know where the restrooms are, but my pride won't allow me to return to my seat and ask my mother such a simple question. Gathering the courage to proceed, I enter the river of fans traveling to and from concession stands littered around the ballpark. The giants swarm around me as if I am nothing. I feel like nothing. I feel small, weak, alone. A sign. The crude outline of a man appears in the distance. I carefully shift through the endless stream of giants toward this bastion of safety. The door feels oddly heavy as I throw my meager weight against it. It opens. The cool, foul air of the restroom smacks into my senses like a dirty, wet cloth. Despite the filthy leavings of previous occupants, comfort afforded by the solitude settles on my shoulders. Approaching a urinal, I perform the task I had come to do and turn to wash my hands. I am no longer alone.

In the doorway, a man stands staring at me. His eyes narrow as he bends down low to look under the stall doors. His behavior is strange, and I sense that there is no good in this man. Racked with confused worry, my brain sends a single signal over and over again: GET OUT. I move to the sinks to feign washing my hands at least until the man removes himself from the doorway. He does, but not in a manner of which I might take advantage. He approaches me directly. His hand lands on the back of my neck, and I attempt to flinch away from his grip. He has me by the back of my shirt. I writhe. If someone comes in, they will see this and put a stop to it. I scream and buck. If someone comes in, I'll be saved. If someone.


I am sixteen years old. My cheeks blush with every attempt at conversation. Even as I strive to think of interesting topics of conversation, I rack myself with analysis. Am I eating to fast? Too slowly? Am I sweating too much? Do I look nervous? Does she like me? Is she just being nice? We finish our meal. The check comes. The meal is much more expensive than I had anticipated. I have just enough money to cover it, but only have enough to give the server a thirty-seven cent tip. I blush in shame, chastising myself, "It was stupid not to bring more money! You're stupid. So stupid." I haven't been listening to her and now she is expectantly silent. I beg her forgiveness as one would beg to be taken back by his wife after a torrid affair with her sister. She laughingly grants me this precious forgiveness and repeats herself. She wants to know where we are going next. I hadn't planned on anything else. I stupidly tell her that it will be a surprise. I console myself with the fact that it technically isn't a lie because it will be just as much a surprise to me as to her. We get into my car. Again, I chastise myself, "You didn't open her door! Nice work. You've ruined the entire evening. Idiot."

We need a place to go. Shifting the car out of park, it comes to me. Park. We'll go to a park. We drive around frantically searching for a park that is both out of the way yet not a haven for murderers and psychopaths. As the car makes a sharp left through a residential neighborhood, I see it. A well-lit grassy park with a single swing set. Perfect. We walk around the grassy field for what seems like an hour until we finally sit on a bench situated between two tall lampposts. Falling into silence, I begin to sweat again as I contemplate my next move. I jerkily slide my hand over hers. She turns to face me, expectant. Inexpertly, I lean in too fast to kiss her, but slow my approach enough at the last moment to keep the kiss from becoming an embarrassing clash of skulls. As our lips touch for the first time, I feel my heart skip a beat. We pull away from each other slightly and smile awkwardly. My heart skips another beat. Another. My excitement over successfully pulling off the kiss is displaced by another feeling. Something is wrong. My heart skips again, then whirs into an unexpected and seemingly random rhythm. Her smile falters. She asks me what is wrong. My answer is nothing more than a croak. She understands. The world dims. Help. I need help. I need.


I am twenty-three years old. It is now. I cannot remember the last few moments. Or has it been only a single moment? I recall the pain of the first step, the torque of my hips, GET TO THE BOY. My hands are full of blood, bloated. What an odd sensation. Hair in my mouth. I recently had a haircut, but I like to keep it long. It reminds me that I don't have to conform to be successful. The day is hot. Is it unseasonably hot? Maybe; probably not. The boy. He is close, small. My fingers near him. I can see each of his hairs distinctly as they flutter in a short, hot breeze. The dog behind me. No, that was before. So long ago. A moment ago. The man who. No. Blood rushes through my ears. My heart skips, flips, somersaults. I ignore it. The boy. The boy. The boy. My fingers, so close. I can see the ridges of my fingerprint as the first few hills and valleys disappear down the back of the boy's collar. All at once, I have him. In a single fluid motion, I draw him toward me. The moment is unexpectedly intimate. I do not know his name. He is too young to even say mine. The crawl of time allows a thousand thoughts to cross my mind. What will he do? Will he disobey his parents? Will he treat his wife well? Will he even have a wife? Will he like girls? Will he like boys? Will he find love? Will he have children? Will he graduate from college? Will he be honorable in his dealings? Will he find value in friends? Will he like the taste of beer? Will he get a good job? Will he have a meaningful job? Will he be a good man? Please, God, let him be a good man. Let him be a good man. God. Let him. And my arms piston out, forcing the boy away from my embrace faster and faster and faster. He is away from me, now. He collides with a man I take to be his father. The father's hands close around the boy. The boy is safe. The boy is safe. The boy is.

The speeding truck connects. Shattering glass.



1 comment:

  1. The fears and fate of a hero. His prayer for the boy was answered in his own life. He was a good man. SwtD+