The dentist’s lot was full. There was parking around the street. Behind the dentist’s glass window of the waiting room was the high-school Johnny went to when life was still vital and “Death” was a four-letter word instead of Law. His incidental experience of acute inner-silence gave him such hypersensitive perception that an intimate warmth was spurred from the slight bubbling of the water-cooler down the hall.
Someone set a white paper bag on the receptionist’s desk. Johnny’s mind whirred with vivid fantasies of lifting a granule of morphine or cocaine out of it. He half-noticably looked down and sideways.
A middle-aged woman came out from the dentist’s office and into the waiting room to meet her girlfriend. The couple in the office talked with the receptionist about Thanksgiving dinner. They talked about baking the turkey and staying in town to see family. Johnny thought back to everything he wished he did differently. He wished he could have been more available to Jacqueline, the woman he learned too late was in love with him.
The dental assistant brought Johnny in as he held back tears and poorly faked a smile. Johnny sat in the chair, fibbing about how great things were going at the college he’d dropped out of. In all honesty, it was an impossible and brave act for him to hold on in his state of complete and utter alienation. Nobody would ever be able to share the lobster he’d cook for himself or the eggs he’d make for himself. He would clean up his apartment with nobody in the world to be impressed by it.
The Sting song “I’ll Be Watching You” started playing on the radio. A tear dropped from his right eye that he could not hold back. It filled his right eardrum with a tiny pool of water. He flashed back to the one person who took him in from the cold.
It was when everyone left his apartment building. He was all alone in a project. His old girlfriend left him. Johnny was face-first down in the gutter and looking up at the homeless crack-heads with their faces like parts of fun-house mirrors.
Like an angel, the dark-haired girl helped him up. She took him to the nearby hostel and made him a cup of coffee. His eyes watered. She looked deep into his frowney-wrinkles and the weathered face that looked 50 years older than his age of 27. His random flab around his cheeks was transparent to her as she looked at him like a hurt bird or cat.
Tears ran down Johnny’s eye as he heard the song that took him back. He couldn’t hold back that one tiny tear. He tried to but the misery was too evident to him.
After going through the polite formalities of the dentist’s office and making another appointment, Johnny walked to a burger joint that wasn’t there when he grew up there. He ordered a cheeseburger and chocolate/peanut-butter shake.
He took the rest of the milkshake to the beach. He sat down on the bench and inhaled the e-cigarette he bought so he could quit smoking.
He walked to the end of the beach near the train tracks. Observing those tracks at the bottom of the cliff, he imagined himself going “splat” like a cartoon character and deliberately getting himself run over by the train. It wasn’t a morbid suicide fantasy at all. The way he imagined it, he was flattened like a pancake and the red gore gushed out of him like paper crimson streamers. Maybe he was just trying to keep his sense of humor.
He walked back and sat. It was sunset. No-one was around. He was alone, like always.
Johnny took the butterfly-knife out of his anklet and set it on his arm, not in deliberation or threat. He was just calculating where and how to cut to ease the pain. He wouldn’t cut for attention or pity. He needed a release that the loneliness in his life could not give him. He examined the knife on his arm and about 90 degrees from an avoidable vein as if he was practicing a cartographic course to travel.
As he looked up at the sunset he remembered that person who rescued him. He might have not had much to live for. Everybody abandoned him and he grew up homeless or between foster-homes. Johnny had something to live for now though. He had one drug left. He needed a fix of the woman who rescued him. He knew one day he’d run to her, just to get coffee. That day he’d be complete. The only thing he wanted was a glimpse from her. When he wanted that, everything else was completely irrelevant.
For her he’d be strong. For her he could stop every kind of delinquent behavior. He would never perform that action anymore. For three years he’d quit. The butterfly-knife was folded up and put back into his anklet calmly as the sun went down, saving him the unkindest cut of all.