My first thought was she was going to be killing herself. That’s what people used to do, you know, when these sorts of things happened. They stood on bridges and leaned over the edge and waited for a crowd to gather, or they locked themselves in bathrooms and stared at the red ribbons in the warm bathtub. These days you never knew what people would do – fly to Paris, start a fire, or post angry messages to anonymous message boards. Anyway, my first thought was she was going to kill herself.
My second thought was maybe she was going to try to tough it out, get help and get on with her life as if nothing happened – as if this gaping wound inside of her was no worse than a car that leaked a little oil and you had to put a bottle of oil in it once a week and you had to put kitty litter in the garage to soak up all the leaking, which meant, in her case, that she had to sleep with tissues near the bed in case she woke up crying. Maybe she was that kind of woman, who would just move on and smile all day long and, in the night, when darkness brings out all the old fears and old pains and only a lover would have to consider it – then it would bubble back up to the surface.
My third thought was maybe times have changed, and maybe this isn’t such a thing anymore that someone should feel anything about it. Maybe she always knew – deep down – that this was the way things were supposed to be – like a trapeze artist falling and falling without a net, smiling the whole time because she knew the audience was watching her fall and they all expected it to be some part of the act and it has become part of the act – the most memorable part – that the audience will carry with them forever.
And by my fourth thought, she was pouring down her martini. She was leaving money on the counter for the bartender.
-Where are you going, babe?
-Do you need me…? Do you…?
-It happens. It’s not your fault. Don’t worry, okay?
My fifth thought was I was worried. How could I not worry?
-Are you going to be okay?
-Maybe. Will you be okay?
-Too bad. These things happen. Try to get some sleep.
The sixth thought I had, was that I should probably follow her to see what happens next. I didn’t bother finishing my drink. I left my money on the counter in a rush and chased after her, into the street. A taxi cab was already there, and a driver with the whitest skin I had even seen in my life – white as an albino, but with dark black hair – was helping her into the cab. She could barely walk.
She looked up. She shook her head.
-It is what it is. Go home. Get some sleep.
The cab driver, oblivious to us, smiled. He asked me if I needed a ride home, too. He asked if we’d be sharing a cab.
-We’re getting a divorce.
He didn’t understand that it meant I didn’t want to ride the cab. He asked me if I was heading in the same direction, because we could save money if we did that.
-He has a car. He drove me. I won’t be going back with him. Let’s go.
The man with the whitest skin I had ever seen in my life got into the car. He revved the engine and waved at me. I waved to him. I didn’t wave to her.
My seventh thought was how life never stops for anyone. Life never stops for anyone. I’d get up in the morning and the cab driver would get up in the morning and she would get up in the morning and everyone of us in all the world would get up in the morning. Everybody knows that life never stops for anyone.
The eighth thing I thought was there was a time when life stopped for people – when radios killed all sound for a long minute when John Lennon died, and whole stadiums stood up and help still and listened for the singer in the long pause before the anthem and everybody was listening and waiting and stopped and no one was yelling at their kid or sipping their beer or whispering to the beautiful girl that came with them to the ball game because she had a crush on the catcher and she laughed at the end of the anthem because the opera singer looked so silly on the field, in his tuxedo, on a hot summer night, and she couldn’t tell you exactly why, and you didn’t need to know why she felt that way. You just saw her laughing, and your heart skipped a beat, and life had stopped for one moment and all the crowd and all the ballplayers and all the mosquitos swarming the stadium lights and every cloud in the sky took a breath like that moment just before the opera singer opened his throat with song.
The ninth thing you thought about was where you were going to sleep tonight, and your car seemed the best place because it was in your name, only, and it didn’t cost anything, and you could drive to a rest stop and park at the edges where you can sleep in your car and no one will say anything because they’re too busy rushing in and out of their own cars, back to the highways and byways and all the places they need to hurry at 70 miles per hour and more because life never stops for anyone.
And when you get to Cincinnati, try to hold your head up high. No matter what she does tonight, or how she takes it, just try to hold your head up high.
(…the fragment ends here and fades into another moment of prose… i don’t know where it began, or where it was going, but I know it never stopped. Trains leaving stations. I have too many tickets, and too many trains. I can’t ride them all.)