Friday, May 6, 2011

The Floating Man

Nelson stared out the box window of his mother’s 2nd floor apartment trying to find the moon. The glare of the orange street lamps and dim white florescent glare of car headlamps made finding anything other than police helicopter spotlights close to impossible—even the moon. He remembered when he was 9 or 10 staring out this same window and being able to see stars and planets, the moon seeming impossibly large.

But doesn’t everything seem so much larger and full of life when you’re 9? The sights, the sounds…..all the possibilities of life. At age 9, sitting at this window was his ritual while waiting on dinner, his nostrils filled with the steamy, rich smells coming from his mother’s kitchen, the feel of her soft hand on his face when she would come and tell him it was time for dinner.

His mother’s apartment was his entire world.

No, not was, is…

Is his entire world.

And he needed to stop calling it his mother’s apartment, it was his now.

His and his alone.

She’d been gone a month now, buried next to his long dead father. He wasn’t able to go to the funeral. Of course, he hasn’t been able to leave the house in nearly twenty years. Not that he doesn’t want to leave the house–he’d like nothing better than to take a long walk in the park or go to a movie–but his 700 pounds of body wasn’t able to fit through the front door and hadn’t been able to since he turned 18 and managed to squeeze himself into the suit his mother had bought him to wear to his high school graduation. After that, the closest he came to stepping outside was staring out the custom box window his father had installed in the apartment a few months before he died from a massive aneurism.

He had been sitting at the window the afternoon his mother was killed. He’d watched it happen. His poor elderly mother trundling down the sidewalk behind a shopping cart stuffed to overflowing with a weeks worth of groceries. The two boys in the hooded sweet shirts approached her right below his window. Neither of them said a word, they simply pulled lead pipes from their sleeves and started hitting her in the face.

She didn’t see the blows coming, but Nelson did. He spider webbed the glass pounding his fists against it trying to warn her. It took him fifteen minutes to make it to his bedroom, where he’d stupidly left his cell, so he could call 911 for her. By the time he dialed he was out of breath, rivers of sweat coursing down his body, and someone else had already called the police.

Since the attack, he spent his evenings at the ruined window, keeping an eye on the street in front of his building waiting for the attackers to come back, his cell phone tightly gripped in his thick fingers, ready to dial if he saw something suspicious. There’d been nothing but false alarms—his paranoia working over time—and over a hundred wasted 911 calls.

Tonight had been no different. The 911 operators made fun of him when ever called now. They knew his high nasal voice and imitated him like school yard bullies. He was nearly in tears, but he managed to sniff them back.

He needed to be strong, be vigilant.
He watched Cindy Monahan come down the street. Nelson had known her since she was a toddler and his mother would occasionally babysat her. Such a sweet little girl who turned into a brooding, black clad teenager. He knew this look was temporary and she’d become a sweet young woman once she left the neighborhood and went off to college. She walked up to the stoop, hand digging through her jeans for keys and then he spotted them.

The same men in hoods.

They crept up behind Cindy and grabbed her. They were trying to drag her away and do God knows what to her. Nelson stared down at the cell phone. He knew it was useless and crushed it to powder. On trembling legs he stepped up onto the small ledge, his lungs a blast furnace.

He knew this was the only way to stop them so they would never hurt anyone again.

He stared down at the stoop and somehow Cindy had managed to push the men away and at this moment he threw all 700 pounds of himself against the glass and tumbled, becoming momentarily weightless.

A floating man in a rain of glass.