By The Torchlight

Justin Koop
October 8, 2008

By the Torchlight

The light of the single streetlight washed onto the deserted street; remnants of a large celebration could be seen. A series of small red, white and blue flags, held on tiny wooden sticks littered the patch of light cast on the dirty street. An old newspaper clung desperately to the curb underneath the lamp, damp with the mist that was falling. A half empty garbage can next to the streetlight was filled with newspapers, white printer paper with black words on it, and a few bottles of miscellaneous alcohol that were all empty.
A whimper and the odd cry could be heard from an alley to the left of the lamp. The alley, barely viewable for lack of light, was filled with moaning. A man in a blue parka and black dress pants sat at the opening, with his head in his hands and paper cup of strong alcohol to his right. His labored sobbing broke the silence that had been covering the area. There was a woman sitting on top of the dumpster located behind the man. Her legs were spread open, making her tight jeans even tighter, and her head was turned up to the dark night sky. Her expression was only visible for a split second as a car raced by on the street, splashing water from an invisible puddle outside of the rays of the lamp. The expression was one of torment. Her eyes were trained upon the sky; her mouth slightly agape and her brow furrowed in what must have been disbelief. I remembered her face from some short conversation that must have been held at congress. The flare and whooshing sound of bursting flames entered the scene as the storefront window of a shop down the street broke outwards, with flames spewing behind it. The bloody body of a man flew through the window after the flames had spewed forth, and a woman covering her eyes in a torn dress ran out into the street, her back on fire. She collapsed on the other side of the street, and the fire igniting her back illuminated another scene. A man held another up against the wall and punched him in the gut three times, before the man being punched drew something from his coat and hit the other man over the head with it. The blood splattered into the dimming firelight, which was now subsiding on the back of the obviously dead woman who had finished roasting. Black smoke now curled out of the broken window, and up towards the sky.
I watched these events unfold as I pressed my body up against the concrete wall opposite the streetlight. I forced my body to stick to the wall, and stay in the darkest place possible. There was no safe place for a known face like mine. My days in congress are now my biggest curse, if they were not before. I was public enemy number one. If anyone saw my face they could do anything from fall at my feet and beg to kill me in an instant, after hurling blame at me for the current state of our country. My careful slide in the shadows brought me past the dead man, and the smoldering woman and into a major intersection where the only light came from a police car that was on fire. I hid behind bus bench, which had bushes on either side. At this moment I remembered that I was still wearing my suit. My reason told me to take it off to disassociate myself with my past career, but something in me didn’t let me. I crawled out from the bushes and made the long journey around the intersection, without entering the light cast by the burning police car, and through the big broken windows on the first floor of the large skyscraper. This was the TD bank building; I had planned on coming here to see if Darla, the lady I was sleeping with, had a safe place for me to stay. She worked on the 49th floor and she had snuck me a passkey so I could come and visit her while she worked. I had never taken advantage of that for my reputations sake, but I was hoping she’d be there. I entered the lobby and slid the passkey through the car reader, and started to mount the stairs.
My ascent was a long and arduous one, but the elevators just were not an option. The stairwell was completely silent, save for my footsteps. I reached the 49th floor and opened the large metal door. All the cubicles stood in their proper order, and I walked down an aisle looking for Darla’s cubicle. She was sitting in her desk, with an unlit cigarette in her mouth, staring at the gray cubicle wall. She looked up at me and a weak smile appeared on her face. She said flatly “You’re not dead.”
“Not yet.” I replied.
She rose from her chair, and walked out of her cubicle towards the stairs. “I need some fresh air.” She said, a little more dynamically. I followed silently. We walked up the remaining two floors worth of flights of stairs and onto the roof. We walked closer to the edge and sat at it, with our legs dangling over the edge at a place where the safety railing had been broken off and cast down. She lit her cigarette and took a long pull at it. I pulled put a pack of gum and took one out and started to chew. She looked at me, grossed out by the sickly smell of artificial mint, and I looked at her disgusted with the stink of nicotine on her mouth. We turned away from each other and looked onto the city that became visible by the moons light, which escaped the cover of clouds to light the city just for us. It seemed like an awfully romantic moment, even though there was nothing romantic about it. I looked down at the city and watched a group of teenagers go into a building and come back out a minute later with boxes, probably filled with some sort of videogame that couldn’t be played anyway, for lack of power. I stopped myself and thought about my relationship with Darla. We met every Wednesday at her loft and had lust filled sex, void of passion. It was a mundane task that for whatever reason we both felt we needed on a weekly basis. I had been introduced to Darla at a party after a voting session. I recalled our discussion that had led to our relationship. We had both had a few martinis already and music with large amounts of bass was thumping in the background:
“Darla. What do you do for fun?”
“I don’t know. I’m a banker, I don’t have fun.”
“You ever screwed someone you just met?”
“A couple, back in college.”
“Weird, if you think about it… huh?”
“Yes. Want to come over right now?”
That was the conversation that started our ridiculous relationship. I remember it so clearly. I don’t even think we said very much to each other. I asked her “Do you know what my favorite band is?”
She answered me with a blank stare.
“Do you know what my favorite restaurant is?”
She answered with a raised eyebrow.
I turned my head away again. Our relationship was sad. She was looking at me I could feel it. I turned my head to look at her. She had dropped her cigarette off the building and had grabbed my lower back and bicep; she moved her head towards me and locked lips with me. The force knocked onto my back and I realized that this was the first time I could actually say that I had felt any sort of passion from Darla. She kept the kiss very long, with an open mouth but no tongue. She then pulled her head back from mine, looking back at the city while I lay there on my back. I stared up at the dark black sky with what I imagined to be a quizzical look. She stood up, took two steps back, and kicked her shoes off the building. She then proceeded to take off all her clothes and toss them off the building. I turned to look at her, and didn’t feel any sort of arousal as she turned to me and said, “You know… Oh never mind.” And for the first time in my life, I really wanted to know what she had to say.
She took two steps forward, and fell off the building. I scuttled to the edge on all fours, and looked down. By the time I got to the edge, she hadn’t landed yet. Then she did. I watched as the group of teenagers carrying more videogames into a van looked at her mangled body and stopped moving. One walked over to her body and put down his box, and sat on it. He sat there and looked at her for a moment. In her battered body, I saw myself. A life lived for image, in a world where my image is my downfall. I might have loved her, if I had put some effort into it. I saw all the things I missed, all the things my life could have held. I looked up to the sky to look at the moon, but it had become hidden by cloud once again. The teenagers vanished, as did the body. I sat for quite sometime, just waiting for something to happen. I sat there until the sun started to rise, indicating morning. I stood up, took two steps back and kicked my shoes off the building. I proceeded to take off all my clothes and throw them off the building. I stood naked on the edge of the skyscraper. I felt the wind in brush against my body and had an overwhelming feeling of clarity, like the world fell into place.
I’m falling. Each second that goes by seems to be so clear and focused. Each second brings another epiphany. Each second brings me closer to the ground, yet I’m not thinking about how I’ll land, I’m thinking about how I’m falling. I feel free.


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