I walked past the slide
almost stepping on the boulder in a children’s marble game.
As I stopped at the swing set,
I heard two girls talking.
Slap bracelets, plastic purses, bows in their hair.
The blue-eyed blonde said to the brown-eyed brunette,
“If you dream that you die,
Those brown eyes exploded with fear.
As I walked away,
I stopped and leaned against the jungle gym.
The memories bombarded me--
Why did I have that dream?
Why did I stop myself?
Why didn’t I die?
It was four years ago.
I was walking in a field
where the brown weeds stood a foot tall,
almost entirely covering the wretched, abandoned train tracks.
The pollution-grey sky
occasionally hurled its anger at the ground,
making rippling waves in the dead grass and straw.
I never asked why I was there.
Holding my denim jacket closed with one hand
I put my left hand in the coat pocket.
I felt the cold steel in my hands
and pulled the .22 pistol out into the light.
The polished silver-grey barrel
reflected my fingerprints.
I never asked why it was there.
I stopped walking,
switched off the safety,
turned the gun toward my stomach,
wrapped my finger around the trigger,
pressed my eyes shut, and fired twice.
But I opened my eyes
and stared at the waving weeds
as I felt the heat and the force radiate through me.
As I stood there, I began to hunch over
and all of my senses slowed down.
The weeds moved slowly, and as I started to walk,
my steps became shorter, yet longer to take.
Feeling dizzy, I couldn’t even think.
But I knew it should hurt, and I waited for the pain,
but I just wasn’t dying fast enough.
So I tried to keep walking,
but it felt like I was falling,
and I turned the revolver to my stomach again and fired.
I felt the jolt. I felt the force. I felt the heat.
But it just wasn’t working.
I just wasn’t dying.
So I moved the gun to the side of my head.
One shot rang out.
My ears were ringing --- slowly but violently.
Why wasn’t I dying?
I shot at the temple again, and once more.
Walking, slowly, now used to the heat
and only feeling tired.
Then a voice in my head told me to stop the dream
and I woke up.
Beads of sweat dripped down from my temple.
I tasted them
to make sure it wasn’t blood.
I pushed myself away from the jungle gym
as I watched the girls on the swing set.
The brunette stared at the blonde in innocent amazement.
They’re all just lies.
I turned around and walked away,
kicking the dead grass.
Copyright Janet Kuypers.
All rights reserved. No material
may be reprinted without express permission.