"I can't take it anymore! You kids are driving me insane! I'm going for a walk…I'll be back when I'm back," he shouted angrily, snatching his coat off the chair and storming loudly out of the house.
Greg walked briskly down the icy road with his head down, shivering slightly in the cold, winter's weather. He silently fumed to himself. Those kids needed to learn how to behave. If he had acted like they did when he had been a kid, he would have been smacked so hard on his bottom that he wouldn't have been able to even think about sitting for a week.
They couldn't say he hadn't warned them, though. After all, what were the first words out of his mouth when he walked in the door? 'Don't mess with me. I've had a bad day.' But, no! That wasn't good enough for them. They had to pester him about dinner and fight with each other over the TV remote and on and on. Kids. When did they ever learn?
He sighed loudly. Ever since…ever since his wife had died, he found it so hard to control his temper, but taking a walk always helped him cool off. In fact, he had started this particular habit the night of her death. Greg shook his head, trying to clear the thoughts of that night out of his head, but they came flooding back to him anyway.
She had spent months battling cancer, wasting away in the oncology ward in the hospital. They had thought she was doing so much better; some had even predicted she was in remission. When he answered the phone that night, he had hardly been expecting news of...news of her death. His entire life had changed on that one night.
"Is this Mr. Greg Schiller?" the voice asked politely on the other end of the phone.
"Yes, this is he. May I ask who is calling?" he replied, hoping it wasn't another creditor. His wife's hospital bills had taken up most of their money and he couldn't really afford to pay for much else.
"This is Mason County Hospital. Sir, the doctor is requesting your presence at the hospital," the voice stated.
"What is it? Is my wife getting released?" he asked, hopefully. Maybe his prayers had finally been answered.
"I'm sorry, sir. I'm really not supposed to talk about it. Dr. Michel would like to speak with you in person," the voice said politely.
"What's going on? Is Jane okay? Is something the matter with her?" he asked urgently, panic beginning to creep into his voice.
"Sir, I'm really not supposed to say. Would you mind coming to the hospital?" the voice asked, sounding somewhat unsure.
"Yes, I mind! I want to know what's going on with my wife. Tell me now, goddammit!" he demanded furiously. He heard a male voice ask for the phone and what sounded like the phone being handed to someone else.
"This is Dr. Michel. Mr. Schiller...I normally tell family this in person, but I understand that you're confused and upset and need an answer now," the doctor said, pausing for a second. "I'm sorry, sir, but your wife went into cardiac arrest tonight. We did everything we possibly could to save her, but she passed away. I'm so sorry for your loss."
For a second, he simply stood there, staring blankly at the phone. He tried to comprehend what the doctor was telling him, but he just couldn't grasp what he was saying.
"Are you alright, Mr. Schiller?" Dr. Michel asked, worried about the extended silence on the other end of the phone.
"I'm okay. Thank you for telling me. I have to go now," he said quietly, barely managing to get the words out.
"Wait, Mr. Schiller! Are you sure..." Dr. Michel started to say, but Greg hung up on him before he got the chance to finish his sentence.
After a few minutes of standing in the kitchen, staring at the phone, he felt an overwhelming amount of anger build up in him. How could the doctors not have known? Why didn't they give him any warning?!
He couldn't take it anymore. He grabbed his coat and stormed out the door, not even thinking to tell his kids what was going on. He couldn't really think of much of anything right now. He walked briskly down the road, towards the bridge that crossed over the old railroad tracks, intending to end his pain.
After several minutes of walking, he came upon the graffiti-covered bridge. That night, so many months ago, he had climbed over the edge of the railing and stood on the very edge of the bridge. But, the longer he had stared at the railroad tracks, the more he had realized how much he wanted to live. The long fall to the tracks and to a certain death seemed too scary and unnecessary. And so, ever since then, he had always walked to the bridge when he was upset to remind himself of the mistake he had almost made.
Tonight was no exception. He once again climbed over the railing and stood on the edge of the bridge. He stared down at the snow-covered tracks, expecting that familiar adrenaline rush reminding him once again that life was worth the living and that he was too scared of death to commit suicide.
Nothing. What was going on? He didn't feel a thing. He felt no fear at the prospect of dying, no intense need to keep living. Nothing. He simply felt nothing.
He stood there for several minutes longer, almost listlessly, waiting for his palms to start sweating and his heart to start pounding. He desperately wanted to feel some desire to live, to feel some reason to stay on this earth. But he didn't feel a thing, except the cold wind making his hands go almost numb.
He simply looked at the tracks, wondering why he had always thought they were so far away. Why had he always thought death was such a scary idea? He had stopped believing in heaven and hell the night of Jane's death. Death happened to everyone eventually and he knew that there was no afterlife of eternal flames to be feared, so what was it that held him here?
After several minutes of no apparent answers, he shook his head at the stupidity of it all. He didn't need an adrenaline rush to remind him of what life was about; he already knew. His kids were waiting for him at home, probably expecting him to come home and make dinner...and he knew they were the best thing in his life. How could he possibly leave them without any parents? He knew he could never do that to them. He made his decision. He started to climb back over the railing, behind the safety of the bridge's railing. He raised his leg to drape it over the railing and pull himself over, when he felt his boot slip on the ice that thinly covered the edge of the bridge.
He desperately grabbed at the railing, trying to keep himself from falling. He suddenly felt the panicky adrenaline rush he had been hoping for earlier. Okay, so he obviously did want to live. The question was, would he get the chance to choose to live?
"Help! Please, someone help me!" he called out, in a hoarse, terror-ridden voice. He felt his fingers slipping on the railing. "Please someone help me! I don't want to die! Please, I don't want to die!"
Instead of seeing his life flash before his eyes, all Greg saw was the barren bridge, void of anything that could possibly help him. Still, he continued his shouting, hoping against hope that someone would come and help him before it was too late. However, even as Greg continued pleading for help, he could no longer hold his own weight and his practically frost-bitten hand slowly slipped off the railing. He fell through the cold, still air towards his icy death, panicking as he realized that he really was going to die.
He hit the ground with his hand still stretched out, desperately searching for something to grab a hold of.
His very last thought was fleeting and nothing eloquent, simply, 'This is what I wished for?'
But, in fact, it was; Greg had wanted death, but had still desired a reason to live. In the end, he got both.