How to Run While Falling
By: Antwan Crump
Some people don’t follow direction very well. Martin had made a habit of avoiding those “thrill seekers” and every other iteration of the luck-dependent. Life was too short to gamble on an uncertainty, even less so for leaving things to chance. He preferred the slow and steady path, of least resistance. His caution had left him a bit of a recluse. But it was okay. Martin was safe.
The doctors had prescribed him some anxiety medication. Years of yammering to himself about “stagnancy” while refusing to adapt, brought about the worst of his underlying mental disorder.
They’d explained to him, that it may have helped to take risks–possibly a dose of spontaneity–for good measure. The thought damn near made his heart explode. He’d needed medical attention just to get back to his feet. Lucky for him, they sent him home with a bag of pills and some empathetic stares. Breakdown’s like that one had become routine.
He’d thought about killing himself once or twice. Martin even entertained a friendly insurance agent, who’d wanted to sell him a policy–“A deep plot. Free funeral. And if you buy now, I’ll leave the first set of flowers on your tombstone myself.” It was a good deal, but Martin wasn’t interested. He’d just hungered for companionship. After one too many “intimate dinners” the agent stopped answering his calls. Fair enough, he thought. He’d grown used to the idea of never being missed, anyway.
It was a sad life. But, it was his life. He’d chosen it because they told him to.
Why would they lie?
The good day’s gotta’ be coming.
“Do it! Do it! Do it! Daddy! Do it!” The screams echoed from up the hall, while a low-lit desk-lamp illuminated his four-by-four foot cubicle. He peeked over the thin, sheetrock and watched as the shadow of a leg bounced up and down on the office wall. Someone else was still there, “Take it, baby! Take it!”–make that two.
Martin had stayed at work late, to avoid the inevitable invite out from his co-workers. They were decent enough people, but he didn’t much trust himself around drunks. They were a haphazard bunch and his straight-edged poise didn’t mesh well with “losers”–no matter how much nicer their cars were.
“Do it, Daddy! Do it!” he didn’t want to investigate the situation. It was obvious what had been going on. At first, he’d convinced himself to wait it out, “It’s been nearly an hour. They’ll have to be done soon,” he muttered to himself, as he ducked down and returned to his sticky keyboard and Post-Its. The screaming continued. And quite frankly, it began to turn him on.
“Take it, baby! Take it!” the man’s voice didn’t seem to break his fantasy. He sat still with a hand on his knee-cap–pretending that he wasn’t thinking, what he had been. He tapped his foot lightly against the side of his desk. “Fuck me, baby! Fuck me!” he heard the woman scream. His hand crept up to his thigh.
He pretended to scatter his sights about the room, as he pulled his zipper down and leaned back in his chair. It’d been happening for an hour and a half. His entertainment had still been going strong. “Fuck me, baby! Fuck me!” the woman screamed.
“Yeah. Do her right, mate.” Martin mumbled, reaching past the layers of fabric and gripping a handful of himself. “Do her real right,” he said. The audible screams had devolved into heavy pants and staggered grunts. The good parts about to start, he thought. He searched for lotion, but could only find his hand sanitizer. Good enough. He figured that it’d get the job done.
It was an act of rebellion, in a fruitless life.
Too bad he hadn’t considered the cameras.
His weekend was spent, like all the others, watching on-demand television, and caring for his elderly parents. He’d offered to move in, but they refused. They weren’t too fond of him either. On Saturday nights, he’d be in bed early. He’d rise the next morning for church–they had to talk to him there. He loved to ear-beat them about how proper he was.
He never saw the car coming. There was an intersection, with stalled lights. He wasn’t even sure who’s fault it was. All he knew, was that the bumper of his Prius had been hanging to the ground.
It didn’t help that the opposing driver looked like a brute, “Hey asshole!” he heard as a large hand slapped his windshield, “You’re fucking paying for this! How didn’t you see me coming?” Martin double checked to ensure that his door was locked. The brute continued–he triple checked.
“Get the fuck out of your car!”
Nope. Martin thought as he dropped his window down and dialed 9-1-1, “Listen, buddy, I’m calling the cops. We’ll get this all sorted out,” he said.
“No asshole! You and me! Right now!”
Martin shook his head “no” and waited for the dispatcher to return to the line. A fist burst through the glass, “You motherfucking, piece of…” the man looked like he’d killed before and hoped to do so again. Martin closed his eyes and turned his head away. His face had stretched while he squirmed back. It was the same face that he made when he was… Well,
“Holy fuck!” The brute said excitedly, “You’re the Jackin’ John! Holy shit! I’m sorry man. Your life’s hard enough, huh?” Martin hesitantly returned himself to the situation, “Excuse me?”
“Oh shit man! You don’t know, do you?”
“I–I can’t say that I do.”
“Here buddy, check this out.” The brute pulled his cell phone from his pocket and went at its screen with a fury. He turned the phone to its side and let out a giggle, then passed it over to Martin. “It’s the sanitizer that impresses me most. Did it burn?”
Martin pressed play, but didn’t watch the video. He’d been distracted by how often the views had updated, and floored by the like to dislike ratio.
He was popular.
He was viral.
He hadn’t answered his phone in days–even though it’d finally been ringing. The beeps and dings burrowed into his mind as he rocked back and forth on his apartment floor. He’d been transitioning from that, and the fetal position. Even the whiskey wasn’t helping much.
He hadn’t shaven. Bathed. Eaten. He’d just been sitting there, contemplating his own shattered existence. In a brief stint of clarity, he fashioned a noose out of some bed sheets. In another, he realized that he’d had nowhere to hang it from. Besides, he hadn’t made any arrangements. His insurance agent wasn’t taking his calls.
By day four. He no longer cared.
There was a knock on his front door. He wasn’t expecting company. He’d assumed that it was the police doing a wellness check–not because they gave a damn, but because of the smell. “Some fucking good that’ll do,” he said as he stumbled through his collection of empty liquor bottles and used tissues.
He opened the door, “Greg? Sarah? What the fuck are you doing here?”
“We’re here to check on you,” Greg said.
“Can we come in?” Sarah added, with her arm laced in his.
Martin agreed and stepped to the side to let them in the home. Usually, he’d offer guests a drink–but given the situation– he didn’t feel the need to indulge in pleasantries. “What can I do for you two? Here to fire me?”
The couple laughed, “Well, not exactly. We’ve both been trying to get in touch with you, but…your phone is off?”
“No service…” Martin said, pointing to a urine filled glass, with his phone dunked in it.
“Right…” Greg and Sarah held back their disgust, “Look, Marty. We owe you an apology.”
“For what? Are you the assholes that leaked the video?”
Greg laughed, “Not exactly. We’re the assholes that can be heard moaning and screaming in the background. The bosses have been trying to catch us for a while now. Unfortunately, you kind of just got caught in the crosshairs. So for that, we’re sorry.”
Sarah reached into her purse. She pulled out a checkbook and a zip lock bag. She handed the bag to Greg, and intervened, “How much would you say it’d cost for you to let bygones be bygones?”
“What?” Martin scoffed.
“Okay. Martin. Your life is fucked right now. You’ve been humiliated, your reputation is torched, and you’re definitely going to be fired. For the love of God, let us help you. Give me a number.”
Martin mulled it over as if he had a choice. He watched Greg pull herbs from the plastic bag and carefully sprinkle them into some Zig-Zag rolling paper. It was obvious to him then, that Greg and Sarah were the exact thing that he’d always avoided. The other side.
“Martin!” Sarah called him to focus, “A number.”
“Fifty-thousand. It’s a year’s pay. It’ll buy me time,” Martin said.
“Let’s make it an even hundred.”
“And one more thing…” Martin stared at Greg as he licked his freshly rolled joint closed, “You two have to stay, and smoke that with me.”
Martin smiled. They smiled back. Greg lit the joint. The smoke was blue and grey and smelled like a promise.