The Dark Ages: Two February Pieces Conjured Up Solely from a Then-Despairing Mind

posted Apr 20, 2013, 4:36 AM by Terrence Moss   [ updated Jul 18, 2014, 5:48 AM ]

I had some dark moments (namely, all of February) during my as-of-now short-lived stint in San Francisco. From that darkness came two rather stark pieces. The first one is definitely the graver of the two. It’s about a suicide attempt. The second one is a monologue about a rather unorthodox approach to talking someone off a ledge.

They were originally published to the former Storylanes website. They can now also be found individually on my Howwwl page.

None of these are based on anything more than what was conjured up in my brilliant mind.


"Well, it's all over," Donnie says to himself as he sits on a bench overlooking a small green field. "I don't know else to do."

The weather is warmish, as if spring is trying to cut the winter short on this late Sunday morning -- in February.

"That was a waste of my last vicodin," Donnie thinks to himself. "I don't feel anything."

Donnie walks to an ATM on the next block to withdraw what he thinks is his last twenty dollars.

Insufficient funds.

Donnie shrugs and walks around the corner to a liquor store to purchase a small bottle of pills and a pint of cheap vodka. With whatever is left in his account plus the dollar bills and change in his pockets, he somehow has enough.

Yes, he is going to do this. This is God. This is ordained.

Donnie walks back to his park bench, happy that no one is sitting there.

Yes, he is going to do this. This is God. This is ordained.

Donnie takes out his journal and pens a note:

"I want my organs harvested and the rest of my body donated to science. If they deny me, then just cremate me and throw my ashes into the nearest body of water. That's how I really wanted to die anyway. I was just afraid to go that route. So I opted for pills instead because I don't like needles. Knives are too messy. And I've never held a gun in my life, so why start at the end of it? DO NOT BURY ME. Signed, Donnie Charleston."

Donnie opens the bottle pills and the pint of vodka. He pours a few pills into his left hand, tosses them into his mouth, swallows and takes a swig of vodka. He pours another few pills into his left hand, tosses them into his mouth, swallows and takes another swig of vodka. He does this few by few and swig by swig until both bottles are empty.

Donnie takes a deep breath and smiles faintly. He lies down, stretches out on the bench and stares blankly up into the clear blue sky…

Four days later.

Donnie's eyes open slowly and scan the dimly lit room. Slightly confused, he wonders if he's dead or in heaven...or in hell. He begins to hear beeping and turns his head to realize that he's in a hospital room.

"Damn it," he whispers dryly and sadly to himself.

One year later.

Donnie hands a customer change and a receipt from their just-completed transaction. He places their groceries into a bag, hands it to them and flatly wishes them a good day. He greets the next customer with the same flatness. He doesn't smile. He doesn't engage. He simply does the work. There's very little life and even less excitement in his face, his eyes or his body. He just goes through the motions of existing.

The life he wanted didn't happen and since he didn't want another life, he tried to opt out. But his request was denied and he didn't try again. He doesn't try anything anymore. He doesn't do anything anymore. He doesn't go out. He no longer answers phone calls. He no longer sends or receives text messages. He no longer sends or receives emails. He doesn't watch TV. He doesn't date and doesn't express any interest in doing so. He's alienated all of his friends and most of his family, but he doesn't care. He doesn't care about anything. He doesn't want to be alive anymore but he wasn't allowed to die.

So Donnie just goes to work, does his job, takes his breaks, keeps to himself, goes home and goes to bed. In between he eats just enough to survive. The way he sees it, that's now his lot in life -- to just survive, but not to LIVE. The result is an alarmingly lean frame, which serves as a striking contradiction not only to his rather robust gene pool, but to his own history of weightiness. And since he won't buy any new clothes, everything hangs ridiculously loose on him. But he doesn't care. He puts just enough effort into his appearance to look presentable as a cashier. And he puts just enough effort into his work to not get fired.

Donnie walks into his mother's apartment. She insisted he move in with her after his attempt. He didn't argue. The money he makes at the grocery store, he gives to her because he doesn't need it or want it. Regardless, she doesn't spend it. She simply deposits it into a savings account she opened for him in the event he ever comes back to life. Everyday she hold out hope that he will.

His mother hugs him when he walks in. Donnie hugs her back, but he's distant. She offers him food and he eats. He thanks her, excuses himself and goes to bed. His mother's eyes sadly follow him. Donnie closes the door to his bedroom. She silently bursts into tears. 

Donnie once heard his mother talking to a friend of hers saying that she didn't know what was worse -- almost losing him to death or actually losing him to life. He finds it hard to watch her watch him. And so he doesn't. Because he can't. That would require him to live a life he's not interested in.

So Donnie just undresses, crawls under the covers and goes to sleep until his next shift.



Mark sticks his head out of the 40th floor window of a 45-story building. He looks up at the rest of the building, down at the street below and then over to the young man sitting on the ledge with his legs dangling.

"Hi, my name is Mark. Mind if I join you on this here um...ledge?" Mark says to the despondent young man.

The young man, Luke, looks back at Mark with incredulity.

"I'll take that as a 'sure, if you must'," Mark says.

Mark slowly climbs out of the window and onto the ledge. He situates himself a few feet from Luke. Luke lifts up his legs and, using the building for support, rises up to a standing position. Mark, scanning the downtown area below, sees this out of the corner of his eye.

"Don't worry. I'm not here to tell you not to jump. If I were out here, I'd be out here for a reason -- and the last thing I would need was anyone telling me that it gets better or life is worth living or that you're loved and people care about you. It may be true, but it's also bullshit. If people really cared, they'd be out here with you. But most people live in a sunshine-and-daisies world. They're always thinking positive and looking on the bright side. Fuck that shit. The world sucks. People suck. And it's become harder and harder to eke out even a shitty existence. They don't tell you that because you're still young and they don't want you to get prematurely jaded about life. But I'd rather throw jade your way up here now than ten years from now. This way you're better informed to make a decision about what you want to do up here. There's no right one. There's no wrong one. There's just yours."

Mark takes note of the look of confusion on Luke's face before continuing.

"Think about it. If you had a chance between a life of uncertainty or a tap-out now, what would you choose? If someone posited that to me, I would tap out before God got the news. Why risk the unhappiness? Most people would come out here and be all like, 'Choose life!' Well, sometimes it just isn't worth living. Sometimes it's worth avoiding. But people don't like to admit that. And those are the people who medicate -- coffee, alcohol, cigarettes, sex, drugs, etc. It's all survival, but who the hell wants to just survive? Surviving is for animals in the wild. We're humans. Humans shouldn't have to fight for a shitty life just because it's life. It's like believing in God just because he supposedly exists. Do you believe in God? I used to. I have no reason to anymore. But a lot of people do. Sometimes I feel sorry for them. I would never tell them that though. I say let people believe what they say they believe. I believe that God's lost control of the world and is just peacing out in Bermuda sipping on a mai-tai. Bottom line, it comes down to a choice: to live and see what happens -- good, bad and indifferent because all that will be at play -- or just go to Bermuda."

Mark looks at Luke. Luke looks at Mark.

"I haven't decided yet. That said, it's cold out here so I'm going back inside."

Mark backs his way through the window and into the sparsely furnished, largely unoccupied room Luke broke into. An officer catches Mark as he falls back.

"Where's Luke?" the officer asks.

"He's deciding."

"Is he going to come back in?"

"We'll find out."