by Dori Hartley, copyright 2011
Gretchen Dougherty, sloppy on tequila and tears, stumbled her way through her high-rise luxury apartment, and out onto the rain-soaked balcony. Getting a good dose of fresh air was not what the weep-weary woman needed, nor would a brisk slap of cold rainwater even begin to tone down those puffy, slit-lidded eyes. And, similar to the obsessive thinking that drove her to the fatal decision she was about to make, Gretchen now had only one thought: Get dead, and get there as soon as possible.
“Nobody in the world is good,” she mumbled, as she felt for the cool, wet surface of the metal railing. “Not one good man.”
Gretchen clumsily hoisted a pantyhosed leg over the railing, knowing fully well that she would never be able to do it like it was done in the movies: the precarious well-filmed balancing, the blurred vision, a couple of swigs from the bottle — the ole slip-o-the-heel gasp-bringer, and that moment of regret which inevitably brings the character back to their senses. No, this wasn’t about redemption and a change of heart for Gretchen. The only redemption here was in the cashing in of her own chips.
No regrets, just the nonstop yacking inside her head. This last relationship did her in.
Him, his wife, the lies. Then — losing her job, ending up in that bar, sleeping with that young dude, waking up in his mother’s bed… And the big kicker: It was Devon’s kid, his 21-year-old son, the one he never told Gretchen about. And the bed belonged to Devon and his wife, Sherry.
But, there was nobody like Devon. It was in Devon that she finally found herself, and in losing him, she lost her mind. Ten years together, and not one mention of his being married. Then came the fight that changed everything, and from there on in, it was just a free-flowing downward spiral that eventually had her slipping, sliding and seconds away from hurling herself over the edge of her tenth story balcony.
Not unlike the cinematic, drunken suicides-to-be, her spoken words were most definitely slurred to an indistinguishable garble. “Devon” no longer resembled a name, but now sounded more like a hellish moan — and all the curses that were there to reinforce his damnation took on the effect of a misunderstood mental patient’s blurting — on a bad day.
With both legs on the outer edge of the balcony’s railing, Gretchen had little concern for regret, and even less room for distraction. Enough cheap tequila could make any balcony look like a launch pad, and the slim wedge of concrete on which she could barely find footing, was no exception.
“Jes one good man…one good man. Thass all I wan…”
Gretchen turned herself around on the ledge, so that when she finally did let go, she would fall backwards. She had the nerve to die, but lacked the desire to embrace the pavement, face first.
And so, without a second thought, she repelled off the balcony, backwards, as planned, with her last words spoken in an ironically clear voice.
“I just want one good man.”
Ten seconds before Gretchen and her cranium hit the pavement hard and cracked in several places, she saw something she would never have the time to comprehend: A man, standing on her balcony, looking down at her.
He was all white, as white as milk. Naked. Right where she had just stood. His white hair dripped with rainwater, and his face rapidly went from emotionless to shocked. By the time he opened his white lips to cry out to her, Gretchen Dougherty was dead.
* * * * *
Owen felt cold. He started to shake violently. What was going on? What was happening to him? How did he get to this place? Where was he — who was he?
The lady was down there. And people were starting to gather around her, some screaming. One looked up, then another. One pointed.
“Look! There’s a man up there!”
Soon, they were all looking. Soon, there were sirens and panic. Noise — noise in the apartment.
Owen looked over his shoulder and saw two police officers in the apartment, one of whom came out on to the terrace.
Officer Redding stopped dead in his tracks when Owen turned around to face him. Perplexed, he looked over the all white figure, and said only one thing.
“What the fuck?”
Owen pulled this thought out of the young cop’s mind.
He sees a wrongness in my appearance. He needs to see a male sex organ. I don’t make sense to him without it.
Within a few seconds, Officer Moore joined his partner on the balcony, gun poised. Angrily, he looked over Owen’s naked body.
“Are you kidding me, freak boy? You’re a damned pervert, aren’t you?” he asked, as he grabbed a towel from a nearby armchair, and threw it at Owen. “Wrap this around yourself, now, sicko. You’re coming downtown. You’re under arrest. You have the right to remain silent…”
Redding watched as Owen wrapped the towel around his lower half, concealing a maleness that, for some reason he didn’t think existed only a moment earlier. Like a Ken doll crotch — but no. The albino was definitely a man.
Owen stood there, terrified. He let himself be cuffed, and afterwards, the large cop turned him around so that he could look directly at the pale man’s face.
At first glance, Owen’s eyes looked to be completely black and glossy, which came across as fairly stark in contrast to his pallor. The policeman figured this was part of the pervert’s murderous gimmick — novelty store contact lenses, worn to create a menacing, “alien” look.
Blue. That’s the iris, Owen. Blue with a black spec in the center. The spec is the pupil. The white part is called the cornea. Keep that, Owen. Keep the whites, don’t lose them.
Owen focused his new, human-blue eyes on the man in front of him, and concentrated hard.
“What the hell are you looking at, freak boy? I told you to remain silent. That means don’t give me any looks, either.”
And, looking into the pale man’s eyes once again, he said, “Hey, what happened to your contacts?”
Redding had doubted himself too, when at first he thought he’d seen a genital-free figure on the balcony, but like his partner, he also assumed that the suspect in custody was wearing some kind of special contact lenses. Yet, the pale man was clearly sporting a set of baby blues, and after all, seeing was believing.
Owen allowed himself to be removed from the premises. The crowd that had formed earlier to point and gawk at the naked man on the terrace, was now standing alongside the squad car, waiting to satisfy their curiosity.
As Redding touched the slim white man’s head to guide him gently into the backseat of the vehicle, Owen looked over to where the ambulance was parked. They were zipping up the bag that contained the woman whose final request had something to do with his presence.
“I want,” she had cried.
What is it that you want, woman?
“I want. I want…”
Sitting in the car, with a towel wrapped snuggly around his waist and his hands cuffed behind his back, Owen’s mind was anything but blank. The only problem being that whatever filled his head was nothing he understood.
“What’s your name?” asked Officer Moore, who started the ignition as he spoke.
You have the right to remain silent…
“Owen,” said the scared young man who wondered if talking was the same as remaining silent.
“And your last name?”
Last name. He wants another name. But — he was so adamant about me remaining silent! I have the right to remain silent. But, he’s talking to me. He wants me to talk to him, to give him answers.
“Listen, Owen, I don’t have time for games. What’s your last name, and now?”
The right to remain silent.
“My name is Owen Miranda.”
Both officers looked at each other. One shook his head, the other one sighed and as Officer Moore spoke to him via the rearview mirror, Owen saw his reflection for the very first time in his life.
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