A Method of Realization

John Higginbottom had always been a pessimist. He frequently asked himself questions like, "Why aren't I dead yet?" and "What's the point of living if one day, I could be in the wrong place at the wrong time and die, putting everything I'd worked for to waste?"

John was 43 years old, married to a woman who never stopped nagging and never lost any weight, and was the father of three annoying, bratty kids who always wanted more than they deserved and always managed to trick him into buying it for them. On top of that, he was well aware that they were up to no good when neither he nor his wife were home. However, he also knew that there was not much he could do to change that.

He worked a 9 to 5 job, was paid a buck over minimum wage and had practically no health benefits.

Not a soul could make him let go of his pessism. But one day, a dead body did.

It happened in late October. John was walking out of the Canadian Tire, his only break in the past 6 hours. The street was unusually crowded for a chilly autumn afternoon and this bothered John significantly. He was not fond of people, whether or not they were yelling for him from halfway across the gardening department when the customer service desk was a mere 3 and a half feet away or ahead of him in line at the donut shop, just in time to snatch the last crispy cream. Although there wasn't much more anyone could do to make him more mad than that.

John mumbled insults under his breath, cutting past the useless people with his elbows, eager to reach the donut shop. Caffeine, cream and chocolate coated dough was the only sun light on his bad days.

"Noo! He's going to jump! Stop him! Someone! Help!" screamed a young woman who he had just pushed past. John didn't have time to react.

A shadow, the blur of a falling body and the sound of bones being crushed in a brutal harmony sent the whole crowd into silence.

Directly to the left of his favourite donut shop, from atop a 14-storey apartment building, a man had leaped to his death. He now lay spread-eagled and completely still, other than the thin lake of blood that was sneaking out of him, eagerly staining the wide sidewalk.

Blood collected into a puddle around the man's form, soiling his clothes. He was wearing a beige checkered shirt - short sleeved - and jeans. John wondered what inspiration one used to pick out an outfit for the day you knew that dozens of people would see you come to your death. The lightly greying hair of the back of the man's head suggested he was in his 40's.

I have a shirt just like that... In blue... John thought, recalling the shirt his wife had bought him last year. It was his favourite shirt and he wore it so often that it was either on him or in the wash. This reminded him, his wife might have been a nag but that was only because she did everything for him, but he continued to take her for granted. She bought most of his clothes - her taste being better than his -, did the laundry, cooked most days, and washed dishes. Somehow, at the end of the day, lying in bed next to her, all he could think to say was "Suzanne, your hands are kinda of scabby - what did you do to them?" Then, when she would become upset, turn over and ignore him, he just considered her stubborn and too insecure to accept her flaws.

Snapping back to the moment, John noticed his reflection in the glass doors of the front entrance of the building. A crowd of people stood behind him, their faces strewn with confusion, sadness, horror. There were people comforting others as they cried. John wondered if any of them knew this man personally. And why it took something like suicide for someone to notice you. A fire truck and an ambulance pulled up, blocking the space between John and the reflection of the moment. The crowd backed up slowly to make room. John noticed a young boy laughing as he recounted to a small group of friends what the body looked like up close. Everyone wanted someone to notice them, but not everyone knew the right way to get their attention.

This thought made him remember the three brats he lived with at home. He never spent time with them, unless they begged him to take them somewhere - but somehow 'somewhere' always involved him having to spend money. Would they choose to ask him for less things had he obligated himself to spend time with them more often? Was it also his attention that they were after or was it just his money? It pained him that he honestly did not know the true answer to this question. But he remembered reading it in a book back when he still had time to read, when his schedule wasn't balanced so tightly between his job, his basic necessities and his late-night TV time. The book had talked about how kids who felt deprived of attention at home often found other methods or sources of attention. They got themselves into things that their parents disapproved of, because good or bad, attention was attention. Either that, or the sources of attention that they chose to rely on - in replacement for their parents - called for doing certain things that their parents would have logically or illogically disapproved of.

In a few minutes, the fire truck had driven off and the ambulance followed slowly after it. Police men had piled out of their cars and were placing small bright orange pylons around the tape-outline of the man's body. He was already no more than an empty space. Had he felt that he had been the same when he was alive?

As the crowd cleared, John stayed glued to the spot, ignoring the police men, concentrating on the reflection of the people dispersing. You could trade your life for fifteen minutes of fame... would anyone consider that a worthy trade? He waited until the alarm on his watch went off. Ding. 3:30. Time to get back to work.

As John backed away from the police cars, his half-hour break reaching its end, he wondered if somehow fate had timed this man's decision just for him to realize something: Every individual has moments where they feel willing to throw away anything to earn an ounce of attention, a consideration for their lives and choices; Or the ability to make someone forget their momentary obligations - even for just a half-hour - and start planning desperately on how to avoid ending up like you.

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Fin