By J.J. Macke
53 year old Jonathan sits alone at the seashore. Seagulls fly overhead. Pelicans dive. Lovers hold hands and walk in the distance yet, Jonathan remains unaware. His feet barely touch the water’s edge as the small inshore waves flow in and out. The tide is receding. He watches and thinks of how the rise and fall of each wave mirrors life with its ups and downs, ins and outs, successes and failures, births and deaths.
All the while, his life force trickles out of him slowly. Of this, he is well aware, and yet, he does nothing to stop it.
Jonathan is cold and growing colder. He feels numb and a little euphoric and its okay.The lengthwise slits in the veins of each forearm are not reparable. He knows this because he saw it on Law and Order once and had made a mental note at the time, just in case.
Today is that just in case.
Jonathan is mesmerized by the unnatural beauty created by the richly crimson ink of his life’s blood washing down slowly in a thin stream to mix with the incoming saltwater. By chance, the setting sun’s rays pass through the very spot on the approaching wave faces to illuminate the mixture, and Jonathan is well pleased. He thinks it exceptionally beautiful to behold, as it reminds him of church stained-glass, and he is giddy from the spectacle.
He wonders if he could have been an artist, if only you had tried, he thinks. Next life, maybe. Instead, he spent most of his professional life a computer programmer, and not a very good one. He recalls that it all started out okay, that he got plenty of work and people seemed to like him well enough. But, over time, it became more and more difficult to keep up with the changing technology, and worse, it was absolutely impossible to get along with anybody, let alone other programmers. They’re such an antisocial lot, he thought. A bunch of dickheads.
Thoughts of why this should be the case blur before him, but he chooses to ignore them, rather than to consider them further. Too painful. he thinks. It’s over now anyway, right?
He considers his life-path, and the series of events that brought him to this bloody end, and asks, “Did I choose this for myself, or was I moved to it?”
A windsurfer sails on the horizon. Seagulls soar and dive just beyond the break. The sky changes to a brilliant red-orange. Campfire smoke rises in the distance and its scent wafts to Jonathan, yet he remains oblivious, with his consciousness buried in regret.
He recalls the final argument with his wife, Lisa. Of course, it was about money again. It always is. Actually, not about having any, and what to do with it — that would be a nice change — but the lack thereof, and Jonathan’s seeming inability to do anything about it. Lisa screamed at him for being such a failure, recounted a list of their outstanding debts, emphasized each item with the pounding of fists, and reminded him of his broken promises to their lenders, to her, and to the children. By the end of her recitation, they were both crying, she was still angry, and he was agreeing with her.
“I hate you,” she said. “I hate you, I hate you. I hate you. I hate you!”
“I hate me, too,” he countered.
And from there, Jonathan recalled having turned and walked out the door without taking a look back.
“Where are you going?” he remembered her saying rather sheepishly. He heard her, but, as was often the case at times like these, he chose not to answer her, which always angered her more.”
“It better be to get money to pay the rent with, Jon! Jon? Jonathan! Do you hear me? Jon! You son of a bitch! Jon! Jon!”

The fading memory weakens him further. He watches intently as the crimson flow diminishes and his stained-glass-wave artwork fades.
My time is drawing nearer, he thinks. It’s almost here.
Jonathan lays back down against the inclined bank of sand beneath him and thinks of the months, no, the years since he has been out of work, and of the thousands of emails received, and the hundreds of resumes sent, and all without any long-term results. He recalls, with dread, the few meetings he had, and his telling Lisa, after each and every one, that it went well, that I’m sure I got the job, and that everything will finally be okay again, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. With each additional email and interview, and only short-term contracts landed, it was never enough to make a dent in the mounting debt. When these small jobs ran out, it was right back to the job search and to poor Lisa stressing out all over again, and crying, and screaming at him for being so unemployable.

I don’t blame her, he thinks. I would feel the same way in her shoes. She’s better off without me anyway.
Jonathan can’t fathom why she put up with him for so many years — has it been 33? –and now he just doesn’t care to know anymore. He’s finished. He’s done with it. Kaput!
Jonathan sinks deep into the sand and closes his eyes. Take me, Lord. Just take me.

* * *

After a few moments, the cellphone rings, and from long habit, and without concern for his need to rest, Jonathan jumps to the sound and sits upright. On the screen, he sees it is Lisa calling.  He hesitates for a moment, then presses the green SEND button. He brings the phone up to his ear, but says nothing.

“Honey,” Lisa says.
No answer.
“Jonathan, I can hear you breathing.”
Still nothing.
“Look, I’m sorry about earlier. I was stressed-out, as usual, and I think my period is starting. Anyway, the sink is clogged again and I need you to come home and fix it. Where are you?”
Jonathan breathes deeply of the ocean air. He smiles at the beautiful sunset as it drops beneath the horizon. He watches in wonder and awe as a pelican slams into the surface of the water. He sees the windsurfer headed in toward the beach, and the couple approaching him on foot holding hands, a vision that seems iconic and unusually beautiful against the red-orange backdrop.
“Jon, did you hear me? Are you there?”
“Okay,” Jonathan says. “Give me 10 minutes and I’ll be home.”
“Okay, thanks, Honey. We’ll see you when you get here. Love you.”
“I love you, too.”
Jonathan smiles. She’s something.
He rolls his eyes and takes in a deep breath. Whoa! Head-rush. After a moment of steadying himself in the sand, he pushes up to his feet and stands slowly, only to discover his left leg is asleep, and falls back down.
“Damn thing!”
Jonathan rubs the leg rapidly up and down the length of it with both hands while the couple simultaneously pass by with strained looks on each of their faces. He gets up again, and after a moment or two of shaking the sleep off the same leg, he brushes the sand from his old blue jeans, slips into his sandals without stooping, and begins his short walk home.
He smiles down at the vision of his swinging arms, free of any cuts or spilled blood. Maybe next time, he thinks.
Copyright 2013 by J.J. Macke. All rights reserved.