1 My Walk
Standing on a very tall bridge with water running below, a young man places two twenty-five pound dumbbells on the bridge railings. Climbing onto the railings, he takes off a chain he had looped around his right shoulder, and two sets of handcuffs and keys from his pockets. Securing the chain to the weights, the weights to the cuffs and then the cuffs around his ankles before tossing the keys into the water. He watched them fall and disappear and thought--
"...that looks easy..." Taking a breath with closed eyes, he took the weights in arms. One last look down at the water, he stepped off the railing. The roar of the water in his submerged ears, he laid at the bottom for a moment before letting go of the weights and thought--
"...it's nice down here..." Looking around, he saw several fish swim over and passed him. The shimmering, tumbling water was comforting. Blowing out a stream of bubbles thru his fingers, he thought--
"...this is taking longer than I thought..." He sat up, looked at the chains, the weights, the cuffs, then back at the surface. His body floated as high as it could before the chains restrained his ascent any further. Convulsing, trying his hardest to fight off the instinct to survive-- to breathe, his mind went blank. The sound of the water disappeared as he was overtaken by primordial fear. Gritting his teeth... he inhaled. Slow and drawn out convulsions came to an end as he drifted weightlessly. He thought one last time--
"...I did it..."
"Did what" a voice asked. A man' voice. The young man sat up-- in his room, on his bed, surprisingly. Looking around, he touched his chest, his face and thought--
"What the hell?"
"That's one of the usual responses" the mysterious voice said before the bedroom door opened. "It's never what anyone expects" he said stepping into the room. "Get up. Let's go for a walk" he added.
"...a walk? Where" the young man asked as he remained on his bed.
"Thru your life" the man answered. Slowly, the young man got out of bed and stood beside it before walking passed the gentleman and out of the room. Three voices came to ear as he walked down the hallway. Recognizing the voices--
"Mom. Dad... and Denise" he said as he sped up slightly. Now looking into the living room, with the man now standing beside him, they saw Denise, the young man' girlfriend, and his parents moving around worriedly. Denise was sitting on the couch crying her eyes out. His parents were gathering up their keys, purse and wallets to leave the house. His mom had tears running down her face, but she more or less was keeping herself together. His dad was strong enough to remain collected, but he couldn't completely hide his sadness and disbelief.
"Come on, Denise" the mom said thru a broken voice as best she could as she stepped towards the young woman.
"NO" Denise screamed as she slammed her fists at her sides onto the couch before balling up and covering her face with her hands. Her muffled cries became louder as the mom backed away. The dad grabbed the mom in a firm and gently fashion, pulling her away as they then left the house. The car started and pulled off, fading into the distance as only Denise' cries now filled the scene. The young man looked at her, but his face remained solemn without a hint of sadness. Though a slight air of confusion wavered about. Walking over to the couch and taking a seat a cushion' width away from her, he thought--
"I didn't know she cared this much..." The man remained in the doorway, leaning against it as Denise slowly stopped her crying. Taking a piece of paper-- a note, from her back pocket, she unfolded it and tried to smooth out the crinkles. Wiping her nose and face while sniffling throughout, she continued trying to collect herself. Reading to herself, the note said--
Hey, I wanted to at least leave something to someone, and you were the first to come to mind. I thought about my parents, too, but I just wanted to make this out to you, Denise. We only dated for a couple months now, and I had a lot of fun with you. probably the most fun I ever had in my life. I'll get to the point before this letter makes me talk myself out of what I'm going to do. By the time you read this, I'll have already done it. I'm going to kill myself. Sounds crazy and stupid and all of that stuff, and I'm pretty sure it's a typical thing for people to say 'I've put a lot of thought into this', but I have. I'm not going to tell you where or when I'm going to do this for obvious reasons, I just wanted you to know that this had nothing to do with you and I don't want you getting any similar ideas. You really were the best thing to come into my life, and it's not to say you weren't enough, this is just something I felt was right. Call me stupid, hate me for this and forget me if you can. I won't say I'm sorry. I just won't. I know, I'm an asshole. When I say take care of yourself, I mean that. Do something great with your life. Look at me, trying to sound positive while writing this morbid note. I'll try to end this on a good note, no pun intended. I was shocked when you said 'yes' to me, when I asked you out. I was sweating bullets, and was up all night rehearsing both my pitch and the recoil of you turning me down. But when you said 'yes', I felt liberated, like, that was easy. I never told you this, but when I gave you that daisy on our second date, it wasn't by chance. I knew that was your favorite flower. I did some non-stalker-like research. I looked thru your My-Face page online. Ok, that was hella stalker'ish, but I didn't have any other options. You were such an open person on social media, that learning a few must-knows about you was pretty easy. Your favorite color is green-- specifically, jade. You love to paint sunsets. You were amazing to me, more than just a crush. As popular as you were, you weren't an egotistical bitch like most girls. We had a few classes together, P.E., science and math. When I found out you were a Sun Wars fan from the little joke you made during science class one day, I was blown away. I thought to myself, maybe I might have a chance with her. On our seventh date-- I kept count for some reason. I guess I was still waiting for you to cut me loose and was preparing myself for the fall. Anyway, that was when we had our first kiss, by the bridge after we saw Revengers: Infinite War. God, you looked gorgeous that night. You always did, just more than your usual that night, I meant. I don't want to leave you with anymore questions or worries than you might already have after reading this, but... were you really into me?
Denise leaned onto her lap with the note pressed into her chest as she began crying again. Andy looked at her, but his expression remained unchanged.
"I feel I should be crying with her... for her" Andy said to the man. "But I don't feel anything, at all". The man walked up to Andy and placed a hand on his shoulder. Instantly, the two were now in another room in another house. "Whoa" Andy said startled from the jump to another location. "Where are we" he asked the man.
"Let's see what things were actually like from Denise' point of view" the man replied. The scene went white as they jumped to another location.
"My school? Math class" Andy questioned sitting in his usual seat. The room was empty, but the chatter and movement of students outside the door was clear. The door opened as the teacher walked in with several students behind. Seconds later after twice as many students had entered, Denise walked in talking to a friend. To Andy' surprise, he also walked into the classroom. "What the f--"
"We've gone back in time" the man said cutting Andy off. "Look at the date on the blackboard. Do you remember this day" the man asked as Andy looked at the board.
"...yeah... I asked her out that day-- today, or whatever" Andy answered.
"I'll see you out front after school" the man said walking towards the exit. "Stay with Denise until then" he added before leaving the room. Andy' seat was a row to the left and three seats behind Denise'. Between this and his science class, this was the closest he sat to her. During P.E. he kept his distance and mildly interacted with her from time to time. He looked at the clock above the blackboard and thought--
"I forgot this was first hour. Who the hell forces kids to do math at 7am". Then, another thought crossed his mind. "Can anyone hear me" he asked himself. "Hello" he said aloud, though in a cautious and quiet tone. He repeated such louder, then louder again. He couldn't help but smile and chuckle. His invisibility quickly got the best of him as he shouted obscenities.
"Stop it" the man' voice thundered, causing Andy to cower.
"...sorry" Andy said quietly as he then looked at Denise. She was paying attention to the teacher' opening lecture on the day' subject. Getting out of his seat, he looked at his other-self, who was face-down, half asleep and drooling onto the desk a bit. After the teacher finished, he saw Denise look his way as the students were getting out their materials. In fact, she looked at him twice before fixating herself on her work. Andy' sluggishness at the early hour made him oblivious to her gaze. After the class had quieted down from the students working, Denise' voice came to ear. "I can hear her thoughts..." he said to himself. He was surprised, but didn't allow this power to corrupt him, again. Walking over to her, he sat on the floor just a seat' distance away and just looked at her. She mumbled aloud a bit as she solved the answers, but mainly she did such in her head.
As the class ended, and everyone packed up their belongings, Denise looked at Andy a couple times more before her friend from before got her attention. Heading out of the class and down the hallway, Andy followed several feet behind. Then, he thought--
"She can't see or hear me, so why am I being so incognito? I couldn't be anymore incognito". Moving to right beside her, a student literally walked thru him. He froze with disbelief before looking around and swiping his hands and legs thru other students. He then remembered his other-self had passed thru him the same way earlier when he had taken his seat. The man cleared his voice as Andy jumped back on task. The next couple classes flew by as they were now in P.E. Andy was about to walk into the girl' locker room. Wearing a mischievous smile, he kept himself from doing so.
"Go ahead" the man' voice spoke.
"Man, what the hell" Andy shouted. "You want me to do right because I was doing wrong, and now you want me to do wrong when I wasn't gonna do wrong". The man' voice chuckled at Andy' frustration, but no reply followed. Andy took a deep breath before walking into the locker room. "You're an incognito badass" he thought to himself. Walking about with some slight nervousness, he looked at the girls changing. Stealing some eye-candy, he made his way to Denise. She had already changed into her shorts, but currently only had a bra on up top. She was laughing and talking to a few of the girls as Andy took a seat on the bench near her locker. "I never realized... I never saw her without a shirt" Andy thought. "Of course, I like her personality. But I'ma guy... damn, she's gotta nice body" he added as he relished the sight.
Now on the field, the students had the choice of running laps, or using the gym. Denise was running laps, as usual, while Andy would normally hit the gym with the guys. He wasn't a strong looking guy, but he wasn't a stick, either. Running behind Denise and two of her friends, he stole a little more eye-candy of the lower-body variety this time before they slowed to a walked to catch their breath. The girls were having girl-talk-- in other words, talking about boys. No other students were close by, so they spoke quite freely. Andy was surprised at what he heard. Topics not PG at all, to say the least. Though Denise put her share of inappropriateness into the conversation, she kept the majority of it clean. Andy smiled liking the fact he had a good girl with a naughty side. The girls spoke of guys in the current class, and overall, and Andy was lucky enough to cross Denise' mind, though she was embarrassed to speak aloud about him, knowing her friends would give her a hard time about it.
One of the girls brought up a jock named Jared as Andy added his commentary--
"Oh, of course, you'd like Jared. That muscle-bound egg-head" Andy said aloud. He had completely grasped the strength of his invisibility and was speaking freely. The other girl brought up one of Andy' friends, Luke. "Oh, that's my dude" he said with a cheerful smile, but such quickly fell to a frown when Denise shot Luke down. Andy was speechless. Now at the end of class and back in the locker room, the girls had changed back into their regular clothes when one of the girls asked Denise, just above a whisper--
"Come on, who are you really after, Miss. Goodie Two-Shoes". Denise smiled as she threw her backpack on and replied--
"Maybe you'll find out someday". Andy nodded with a stiff upper-lip as the girls made their way to the exit.
"Nosy bitches. My ya business" Andy said as he followed. Science class was the final class of the day. Andy normally sat several rows and seats away, only able to see Denise if he stood or made an effort to look her way passed all the students in between, but today, he was right beside her; in spirit, as it were. Science class was a lot more relaxed and easy-going than math class, so students had a great deal of time to themselves. Denise had finished her work and was scrolling thru social media on her phone until the bell rang. Andy was looking over her shoulder at her phone with his cheek nearly touching hers. She looked at new and old pictures of friends and family, made a few comments on posts and watched a few short videos. Andy was shocked to see her click on his My-Face page. She had a few favorite pictures of his she lost herself in for a few seconds, but quickly moved on to another focus as to not be caught. "...wow, I had no idea" Andy said softly as the bell then rang. As she got out of her seat, for a beautiful moment that seemed to last an eternity, their eyes met, so to speak. Andy was caught in awe as he watched her walk away.
Now just outside the classroom door, Denise was standing about. Lingering. Andy, the physical-Andy, walked out of the classroom as incognito badass-Andy watched. The two looked at each other, but quickly averted contact. The physical-Andy didn't miss a beat, and was leaving the scene as quickly as possible to get in position on the outside.
"Oh, yeah" incognito-Andy chuckled as he watched his other self walking away. "She always stands out front for at least five minutes waiting for her mom to pick her up. She always stands at the same spot. That's where I'm going" he said. Looking back at Denise, he ventured back into her thoughts, but they were unavoidable, to say the least, as they were quite loud--
"Dee, what the hell are you doing" she shouted at herself. "You watch him leave class ev~veryday, and never talk to him" she ranted. "He won't shoot you down. You're, like, hot, girl. Do it. Just... do it!" Andy laughed loudly as she continued. "Maybe he doesn't like me, or is he just shy? He looks at me, but he never says anything, either. I mean, he laughed at my Sun Wars joke, but that was it. Am I a nerd? Is that why he laughed? Not because the joke was funny to him, but because he thought I was stupid for knowing about Sun Wars!" Andy could barely stand from laughing so hard. She finally made her way outside and calmed her inner-monologue of a nervous breakdown. Getting to her usual pick-up spot, physical-Andy entered the scene as incognito badass-Andy watched.
"Today is your day, man. Go do it, me" incognito badass said reassuringly.
"D-Denise..." physical-Andy said shyly.
"Oh, hey, Andy" Denise answered cool as a cucumber. Incognito was blown away.
"What the f-- A minute ago, she was a flaming rant, and now, on a dime, she's chill as hell...?" Andy clapped proudly with a stiff upper-lip. "Talk about being in control of your nerves. My girl needs an oscar... or, is it an emmy" he thought before dismissing the question just as quickly and focusing back on the scene.
"Oh, I didn't know you knew my name" physical-Andy said with the same shy smile.
"That's right, we've never spoken before" Denise thought to herself in her nervous voice. "Of course, I know your name. We have, like, three classes together" she said aloud with a bright smile, but instantly reverted back to her inner panic. "Like, too much info, Dee. Now he knows you watch him. Oh, my God. Hey! Hey... play it cool. He looks more nervous than you... No, doesn't. He's so cute, though".
"Hmph. She thinks I'm cute" incognito badass said with an inflated ego pushing a fist-bump of a nudge into his chin.
"...if it's okay, I'd like to give you my number, and maybe we could hangout this weekend--" physical-Andy said barely holding it together on the inside. Though, he quickly retreated a bit due to his nervousness "--but I understand if you're busy, or... just not--."
"No, that sounds cool. I'm not busy" she said softly.
"No" he said instinctively from surprise.
"Yeah-- I mean, 'no', as in 'yeah'-- I mean, 'yeah' as in 'no, I'm not busy" she said speedily causing both to laugh. Both nodded as the scene filled with indistinct background noises for a drawn out moment. "...so... your number" she asked. Andy agreed nervously as he sped thru his belongings for a pen and paper. "Here, I'll meet you halfway" she said holding out a pen. Andy, on queue, ripped a blank piece of paper from his binder and handed it to her. She wrote down her number, trying hard to keep the jitters in check. She stopped-- "You were supposed to give me your number, right" she said biting her lip as Andy chuckled.
"Here, I'll meet you halfway" he said writing his number on the same paper before tearing it in two and handing her his number. Yet again, on queue, her ride showed up as she sped away waving 'bye'. After she left, both Andy's stood beside each other watching her leave the scene. Looking around to see if anyone was around, they jumped excitedly. "Whoo" he said pushing out all the nervousness as he turned around to see his math teacher standing there.
"So, she said 'yes'" the teacher smiled. Andy smiled nervously as he dashed away.
"Ah, that was a great moment" incognito badass said just before the man appeared again. "Where to next" Andy smiled. The man placed a hand on Andy' shoulder as they then appeared back in the room they went to after leaving his house. "This place? You didn't say--" Cutting himself off as the sound of the house' front door opening came to ear, he listened.
"I need to go to the store to pick up some stuff for dinner" a mature voice of a woman spoke.
"Okay, I'll go with you. Give me one sec"--
"Denise" Andy questioned with wide eyes as she then ran into the room he was standing in. Full of energy, she tossed her books and backpack on the bed. Into the bathroom, she fixed herself up a bit before looking proudly at herself in the mirror for a moment.
"Dee, come on" the woman sang from down stairs.
"Ok, mom" she sang back as she bolted out of the room with a chuckle. Andy eased to a seat on the bed as he sat silently. The man moved to stand in front of him as Andy looked up at him. He sighed as he held out a hand. The man grabbed hold as they jumped to another location.
Now at a park on a beautiful day. It felt like Spring. Andy looked around, but the man was not beside him. Thinking he just wanted to 'leave the class until the end of the day' again, Andy walked straight ahead thru the lush grass. The jingle of an ice cream truck sounded, kids at the playground and the smell of bar-b-que enticed his nose.
"Daisy, let's go get some ice cream, sweetie" a man' voice shouted happily. Andy looked to where the man' voice had come from, and saw it was himself, ten to fifteen years older. Looking the opposite way, he saw a little girl, no older than three or four, running towards him.
"...Daisy..." he thought as his eyes watered. The little girl ran thru him to his older self, taking his hand as they then walked towards the ice cream truck.
"Baby, come on already" his older self shouted at a woman who was heading towards him from where he just walked.
"Alright" she barked playfully as she ran to the two. "I was grabbing my wallet" she added.
"Well, meet us halfway" older Andy shouted back playfully.
"Ok, love" she sang. It was Denise. The three reached the truck and waited in line as younger Andy looked on halfway broken.
"This is my wallet" his older self said as he and Denise then kissed.
"It was closer" she smiled and chuckled as he pressed into her. Younger Andy slumped to his knees before pressing his palms into his eyes.
"Enough... enough, I said" younger Andy shouted. "Get me outta here" he screamed as he then jumped to a new location.
Waking up in a bed, he groaned a bit as he sat up. Quickly taking notice to his hands, which were old and wrinkled, he got out of the bed as fast he could and found a mirror. Finding one atop a dresser just feet away from his bed, his jaw dropped. He had to be seventy-- maybe even eighty years old now. And this wasn't his present self looking at his elderly self, he was the elderly one this time.
"...hey..." his deepened voice, which sounded a bit smothered, called for the man. Clearing his throat, he repeated a bit louder a couple times more as the door of the room opened.
"What's going on" a woman in her early to mid-thirties asked upon entering the room. Andy was awe-stricken again-- even more so as he realized he had a cane in his hand. He didn't remember grabbing it upon getting out of bed, but he had. Looking back at the woman with confusion gripping his face, he was hesitant to speak.
"...D-Daisy..." Andy asked.
"She took the kids to the Christmas parade, pop" the woman answered. "I was down stairs with Luke waiting for you to wake up" she added.
"...Luke" Andy asked.
"Luke, pop! My husband" she smiled at Andy' confusion. "You okay, pop" she asked with concern as she stepped up and lightly grabbed onto his arm. Andy thought it was best to play things by ear at this point and figure out what he could as he went along.
"I just need some water-- a beer, actually" Andy smiled while licking his chapped lips.
"Well, we've got both" the woman smiled as they made their way to the door. Andy couldn't move half as fast as he used to, so it was a long and slow trek for even such a short distance.
"Son of a bitch" Andy mumbled gripping his cane. He was thinking of the man, and couldn't believe he left him alone in this state.
"Who" the woman yelped with a chuckle, to which Andy nodded with a smile.
"Bad dream. Bad dream" he detoured her. "Son of a bitch stole my beer" he added. "I gotta helluva hankerin' for a beer" he said upon them reaching the door.
"Well, we're gonna get you a beer in place of the one that son of a bitch stole from you" she replied. Andy stopped to look at her. He was surprised, happy and proud of her gumption.
"...damn, straight" he said as they entered the hallway. "You look very beautiful today, love" he said thru squinted eyes.
"Well, thank you, young man" she played. "You don't look a day passed thirty. If I wasn't married, I'd try to catch you myself" she added.
"Don't play with me, girl" he chuckled as she laughed. Reaching the living room, they found Luke watching the football game with a beer and burger close by. "Luke" Andy thought to himself with a slight disdain. Now into the living room a bit, he got Luke' attention. "Sir, meet me halfway" he said with strength.
"No prob" Luke said getting up fairly quickly to lend a hand. Andy handed Luke his cane before taking Luke' seat.
"That's my--" Luke stopped as Andy quickly made himself comfortable. He then grabbed Luke beer and burger. "That's my--" Andy eyed Luke with sullen eyes and made the man back away.
"Pop, I got your beer right here" the woman said entering from the kitchen.
"Nah, let him have it, before he lets me have it" Luke said passing her and entering the kitchen. She couldn't help but laugh as she took a seat and sipped the beer. She looked over at Andy to see him digging into the burger with a gleeful smile. Said smile grew after he tasted the beer. The woman took in the pleasant sight as she then watched the game, too.
Time flew by as Andy was shown enjoying the game and the company of the two when the front door flew open and banged against the wall. Andy jumped with a fire in his eyes beaming in the door' direction.
"What the fff--" he shouted as three children-- ages seven, five and three, respectively, ran into the living room.
"Grandpa Andy's awake" the seven year-old shouted happily as they all ran to him with the younger two repeating what the seven year-old just said. Andy looked on at the kids with a heart filled with a blissful confusion.
"...Who are you" Andy said playfully pointing at the seven year-old.
"Troy" the boy laughed.
"...A~nd... you" Andy said moving onto the five year-old while adding a playful evil eye to his pointing.
"Vergil" the boy smiled. Andy then got down on his knees and leaned towards the three year-old, pressing his finger onto her nose.
"Judith" the sweet voice answered.
"Well, why weren't the three of you here to help me outta bed" he shouted playfully as he grabbed them and hugged firmly. The kids laughed as he let them go a moment later. "Sir, help me up" Andy said gesturing at Luke. Now standing, he looked over at the woman who had walked in behind the kids. She was watching the scene with a warm smile. "...Daisy" Andy said in a broken whisper as he stepped towards her. He knew it was her without a doubt.
"I know. I'll meet you halfway" she said getting to him. He held her face warmly and touched her hair before looking over at the other woman. Gesturing towards her, she walked over as he looked at both with a melted heart. "...Selene" he said just as softly as his eyes watered. He now remembered her. He remembered everything. He was looking his daughter, granddaughter and great grand children in the eyes. His attention moved to a family portrait on the wall just behind Daisy and Selene. He scuttled over and took the photo in hand. In such, was himself, Daisy and her husband, Charlie-- Selene, Luke, Troy, Vergil, Judith... and Denise. The photo was dated at the bottom. Doing some quick math, he deduced he was in fact 89 years old. Denise had passed away-- almost five years had now gone by since. He sat the picture back where it was before turning to look at everyone. He called the great grand children over and hugged them again, then Selene and Luke, and then Daisy, giving her a kiss on the forehead.
"Ok... I'm ready to go" he said contently as he jumped back to his present self. The man and he now stood in a place of endless white. Just, featureless and silent. Andy looked at the man for a moment before he mustered the courage to ask the only question left. "...can I go back?" The man closed his eyes as it began to rain. The endlessness was soon flooded with water high overhead. Andy was back at the bottom of the bridge. His consciousness slipped away as he said-- "...I'm so sorry..." The endless white had become a deafening darkness.
Then, like a bolt of lightning with a strong ringing in his ears, he opened his eyes. He was on the shore with several people, along with his parents, around him. He coughed up water as one of the medics rose his head up slightly to help him breathe.
"Andy. Hey, we got you, man. You're gonna be okay." It was the man that took him on his 'walk'. The same man. "You understand me, Andy? You alright" he asked as Andy nodded lightly before laying back down. "Took three of us to pull you outta the water. Weights and all. I don't wanna sound impressed by your efforts, but you didn't make it easy on us" he smiled.
"...h-how did you k-know" Andy stammered thru blue lips.
"We were driving by, actually, and we saw some guy-- him over there"-- the medic said pointing over at a guy Andy' age covered up with a few towels. It was Jared. "--hauling ass and then just flew off the bridge. We thought we had to save him" he chuckled. "He said he was jogging his usual route when he saw you go over. You, on the other hand, didn't have a good jump. Your head must've hit the side of the bridge. Anyway, we raced down here, and luckily, made it in time."
"...the freakin' irony" Andy said giving himself a light face-palm. "What's your name" he asked the medic who smiled back.