Sharon McClellan Thomason
“Look Up,” Conclusion: A Short Story by Brent J. Walker
Whoops! That was one of my what I like to call “knee-jerk reaction” thoughts. Depression is a bitch that way. I know all women aren’t bitches. I hate when those kind of thoughts spring into my head. I don’t want to feel that way about women, but when literally every single woman I have ever been involved with has screwed me over, and by very little fault of my own, it makes me bitter. Well, losing my first girlfriend was partially my fault, I guess. Looking back at it now, I could have been a better boyfriend, but come on. It was my first love. I didn’t have enough life experience to be a good boyfriend.
I’ve made quite a bit of progress walking, and my casino isn’t far off now. There is another casino nearby that is doing its own private show, much like the private fireworks show, only this one is different. Every so often, its giant water fountains will shoot up waves of water about 50 feet into the sky. A crowd of bystanders is watching as the wave reflects into the casino’s giant windows, making it appear as if two simultaneous water shows are going on at the same time. I look up at it for a while but keep walking until the show runs its course. I am now at the door of my casino. I enter. There are dozens of people posted up on various slot machines, but the bulk of the populace is at the card table games. All but one or two tables are completely full as people nervously clink their chips while they play Blackjack, Poker, Roulette and Craps tables. For whatever reason, the late-night gamblers seem to prefer the tables. I guess because it’s much more interactive. A great way to socialize and stay awake for those people that aren’t quite ready to call it a night yet.
I walk through the crowd, peeking at tables. Some people have approximately the equivalent of my yearly income in chips in front of them. Must be nice to have so much money you don’t even bat an eye once all those chips disappear, and eventually, more often than not, they will. Around the corner are the elevators that will lead me to my room. I head over to them and stop. There is something I have always wanted to do but never quite had the guts to. I pull out a hundred-dollar bill and laugh to myself. Why the hell not? I walk over to the closest roulette table. About three other people are placing their bets, which means I can still place my bet. I give my hundred to the guy in charge of spinning the wheel.
“One hundred dollars coming in,” he yells out loud to the camera or pit boss currently watching him.
He has to make sure all big bills he gets are accounted for so he can keep his job. Or maybe it’s so he won’t get an arm broken. This city was created by the mafia, after all. I have to believe there are still mafia type rules in place even in this day and age, and God forbid what will happen if the owner of the casino gets shorted! I mean, how is he supposed to feed his family with only billions? The dealer, or maybe in this game he’s called the spinner, gives me ten chips worth $10 each. Most of the tables at this casino require a minimum of $10 to play. This roulette table is no exception. I grab all ten of my chips. For some reason, people seem to think you should always bet on black at these tables. Apparently black is lucky, I guess. That’s the stereotype, right? Anytime you tell someone you are coming to this city, they say, “Put some money on black for me while you’re there.” Have you ever heard anyone ever say, “Put some money on red for me?” I sure haven’t. Wonder why that is? But screw everyone and their advice! I grab all my chips and put them on red. If the ball lands on red, I double my money; if it lands on black, I lose it all. It’s a 50-50 shot, but in a casino, that’s about the best odds you can hope for . . . which is ironic, considering my chances at a normal life are the same.
“No more bets, please!” the spinner yells. Once everyone takes their hands off the table, he spins the giant wheel.
“Damn, high roller over here huh? I’m down to my last ten bucks,” the gentleman on my right says.
“Not exactly. Just always wanted to do that. It’s super intense watching right now, though; that’s for sure.”
“I’m sure it is. Can’t imagine ever having the guts to do that myself,” he says while chuckling.
Bouncing all over the wheel is a little white ball. It lands in number slot after number slot, but because it’s still at top speed, it doesn’t stay in any number for more than a split second. After what seems like forever, the wheel starts to slow down, and the white ball stays in a number slot for almost a full second now before jumping to the next number. It seems to have completely stopped in a red square at first, but the wheel has just the tiniest bit of centrifugal force remaining. Just enough to push the ball into black 14 before coming to a complete stop.
“Yes, yes! Hell, yeah, I can’t believe that just happened!” the man who called me a high roller earlier screams joyfully.
Turns out he put his last ten bucks on black 14. Because there are 36 numbers on the board, this will pay him 36-1. He just won $360. No wonder he’s excited.
“Congratulations, man! Big win!” I say.
“Thanks. I’ve never won this much in my entire life. My bad, dude, sorry for celebrating in front of you like that when you lost all your money on red.”
“Not a problem; I’m glad at least one of us won. Besides, I actually went through with that. I have bragging rights now.”
“True. I like your optimism, man. Better luck next time,” he says.
I start to walk to the elevators, smirking. He thinks I’m an optimist. How ironic.
I reach the elevators and hit the up button. I wonder which of the eight doors will open first. It’s kind of a fun game to play because you never quite know for sure. I’m surprised they don’t have a way to gamble on it. Maybe someday they will. A middle-aged man comes around the corner, stumbling a bit. No surprise he is wasted out of his mind. His eyes have that glazed look of someone who has had far too much to drink and is possibly blacked out. He isn’t so much looking at me but looking through me. I doubt he will remember anything tomorrow.
One of the elevator doors opens, and we both enter. He moves to the corner, using it as a crutch so he doesn’t fall on his face. I have only been that drunk a few times in my life, It was a scary feeling, but somehow I always managed to make it either home or to the safety of a friend’s house. Funny how that works. I’ve heard that being blacked out is the equivalent of being comatose, yet somehow my body always seems to still work just well enough to get me to a safe spot to pass out.
I hear the beep of the elevator as it stops on floor 12. My room is 1205, which means it is right around the hall. I prefer having a room near the elevators. After a long night of partying, it’s hard enough to make it to the elevator, let alone walk to a room way far away from it. I reach into my wallet, pull out my little key card and stick it in the slot which turns into a green light. I can’t help but wonder when it was that damn near every hotel in America switched from keys to cards. Fricking technology! If somehow our entire computer systems went down like people thought they would in the “Y2K” scare of 2000, I’m pretty sure the world as we know it would collapse into a quick apocalypse, and good riddance when it does.
My room is freshly cleaned. The maids serviced it while I was gone all day. I throw my backpack from Sergio onto the bed. I have a bottle of whiskey in the fridge, so I pull it out. I take a good long chug of it. On a table next to my bed is a piece of paper and a hotel pen. I light up a cigarette, not caring that it is a non-smoking room. It’s the last one in in my pack, which is perfect. I grab the piece of paper and the pen; the cig stays perched in the corner of my mouth, and I begin to write. Dear Friends and Family,
Please do not feel responsible for what I am about to do. It is not your fault. This world is shit, filled with nothing but pain and sorrow. I’m done with it. There is no justice, no morals. It’s a world run by evil, greed and money. Nobody cares about their fellow humans anymore and will step over and crush each other to get ahead in life. I am convinced that only bad things happen to good people while evil people thrive. My whole life I have treated others the way I want to be treated, with trust, compassion, kindness, and empathy. It has gotten me nowhere. I am 35 years old, working the same dead end job I did in high school, at risk for a disease that has been called the worst disease known to man, and I have no wife or lover to help me through it. This is not where I was supposed to be at this point in my life.
When I was a young, optimistic man in my 20s, I had certain expectations for my future self, none of which have come to fruition. While I do not know whether or not I have Huntington’s, at this point I do believe I am symptomatic. After seeing Dad slowly decline and die over the last decade, I have decided that I will not go out like that. Even if I don’t have it, I will still have to watch my sister die of it, and I cannot bear to watch her suffer the same fate Dad did. The only thing I have ever wanted in this life was a good woman to share my life with, however short or long that may be. Sadly, at this point, I have completely given up on that ever happening, which makes this life pointless. I am truly sorry. I love you all.
A little long, but I think that will do. I snub my smoke on the desk. Who cares at this point? Add it to the credit card I used to pay for the room. I unzip Sergio’s backpack and pull out the pistol. I have no idea what model it is. It doesn’t matter; it will get the job done. I pull out the bullets and put them in the chamber. I learned how to do it by watching a YouTube video. I stare at it while I sit on my bed, take another giant chug of whiskey, and then I grab it. I put the muzzle in my mouth. Fuck this shitty world. I put my finger on the trigger as the steel clanks against my teeth. It’s a weird sensation. In the back of my mind, a thought comes out. I remember hearing a story of the failed suicide attempt of a man who tried this same method. How he survived, I do not know. I think he somehow missed his brain. I’m not taking any chances. I move the muzzle of the gun to my temple, where it is a direct shot to the brain. Can’t miss from there. I am crying and shaking. Most people like to say a prayer before their impending death. I will not. If God does exist, He sure hates me; He has done nothing but torment and tease me my whole life with this disease. I press my finger down on the trigger and pull it….
I look up and see myself in a mirror before I can complete the act. Didn’t even know I had a mirror on the ceiling. How could I have missed it? When I see myself in it, I think, “Who is the poor maid that is going to service this room tomorrow and see my brains splattered all over mirror?”
Some things can’t be unseen. Something like this will traumatize her forever. Some poor maid, one who probably makes minimum wage and works 70-hour weeks to support her family, will have to see the mess. I can’t do that to her. My empathetic nature strikes again, but for once, it has helped me.
Jesus. Fucking. Christ! I can’t believe I almost did that. I open my hand, and the gun falls on the bed harmlessly. Oh, my God, OH, MY GOD! I almost went through with it. I almost fucking went through with it. I put my hands over my face and cry. I don’t know how long I cried, but eventually I come to my senses. First thing I do is grab my suicide note, crumple it up, and throw it in the trash. Then, despite shaking badly, I grab the pistol from my bed. It feels like it weighs 50 pounds. I don’t want to touch it. It’s poison. But I must. I unchamber the bullet and put it back in the backpack. I’m shaking so badly it takes both hands, but I stick the gun back into the backpack and zip it up. I strap the backpack on again. I have to get rid of this thing. I see my suicide note on top of the trash. Not good enough. I grab it, run into the bathroom and flush it down the toilet. Much better.
I practically run to my door and open it. Back in the hall again. I speed walk towards the elevators and hit the down button. After what seems like hours, an elevator opens, and I enter it. There is no one else on it, and I am glad. I hit the lobby button, and away I go. I look up. There is a mirror on the ceiling here as well, but that is pretty common for elevators. I see myself. I look scared and frantic, which I am. But I must calm down. I look too suspicious. I take a few deep breaths, and I feel a little more relaxed. Eventually the doors open. I quickly scurry out. I am speed walking past the roulette table I just played not ten minutes ago. It feels like days. Very few people see me. They are too engaged in their tables, and the few people that do notice me probably just assume I am running late for a flight and trying to catch a cab as quickly as possible. I don’t slow down until I reach the door.
I exit into the cool, crisp air. I know where I am going. Not far from the door is an alleyway with a giant trash bin. No one is around now. I take off running towards it. I open its giant blue door, rip off my backpack, and toss it in hard. It sinks towards the bottom, but that’s not good enough, so I start grabbing empty bags of trash and toss them on top of Sergio’s backpack, burying it completely. Then I shut the lid. I’m breathing heavily, so I bend down and touch my knees to catch my breath. It’s an old trick from my younger days when I was still competing in sports. Don’t know why it works, but it does. I do that for a couple of minutes. Tears are streaming from my eyes the whole time.
Eventually, I catch my breath. How long it took I will never know. I stand up and wipe my eyes with the back of my hands. I feel composed enough to head back into the casino. I begin to walk. There doesn’t appear to be anyone in my vicinity, and I am grateful for that. I think I look normal again, but without a mirror, I can’t say for sure. I look up as I walk. The sky is clear and beautiful. It really is a nice night in this fantastic city. Back to the casino door I go. I enter, and nothing seems to have changed. People are still gambling, drinking, hitting on cocktail waitresses, just having a grand old time. Nobody has any idea that not long ago I was going to be a dead man. My life has changed forever in the last 20 minutes, and for these guys, it’s like no time has passed at all.
I take a seat by a slot machine and put in a $100 bill. Why not? I already pissed away $600 for a product I never even used. What’s another hundred? As soon as I put in my money, before I even spin once, a cocktail waitress comes around, and I order a beer. Maybe my luck is finally changing after all. About time. I have always considered myself one of the unluckiest men on the planet, but after tonight, my perspective has changed. It has to. Tonight I am one of the luckiest men on the planet. How many people take their lives every day because they don’t stop at the last second like I just did? How many friends and family members are grieving the deaths of someone right now for that same reason? This act is often viewed as selfish. I can see why. People who take their own lives are freeing themselves from ever experiencing pain again, while their loved ones will suffer eternally. But the people who make that criticism have clearly never experienced severe depression like I have, and they most certainly have not seen Huntington’s disease at work.
Lucky for me tonight, I have chosen life, even if it was at the last possible second. No one ever said happiness comes easy. It seems like the majority of my life I’ve been dealing with one trauma after another, but as the lyrics to one of my favorite songs so poetically say, “It’s better to feel pain, than nothing at all.”
The time is now. I must gain my strength and go through with testing. When you have a 50-50 chance of inheriting Huntington’s disease, it feels like you have a gun pointed at your head with three bullets and three blanks. You just spin the damn chamber and hope you get lucky. It’s a terrible decision that no one should have to make, but 50 percent odds are a hell of a lot better than the near 0 percent I would have given myself had I pulled the trigger just minutes ago. My road to recovery will be long, and it will be tough, but damn it! I’m going to fight with every fiber of my being, and I won’t fail. I can’t. I owe it to myself, my family, my friends, and the countless thousands of other people affected by this dreadful disease to keep fighting. I have to believe that a cure is coming and that I will be alive to see it. Perhaps that is my purpose in life. It’s been a 20-year battle with that bitch HD. I am sick of fighting it, and no doubt I will lose many fights along the way. I already have. But rest assured, I will win the battle. If I ever consider giving up again, I will think about this night, and most importantly, I will look up.
Your perspective changes immediately when you just look up.
For an interview with author Brent J. Walker, listen to the archived episode of “Help 4 HD Live!” at http://www.blogtalkradio.com/help4hd/2017/01/18/an-interview-with-brent-walker-author-of-look-up.
If you or a loved one are considering suicide, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. The number is 1-800-273-8255. Someone is available to talk to 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Help is confidential and free. You can also chat with someone online and find resources on their website, http://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/.