I guess it all started that night in the old abandoned building across the street, although the feelings that paved the way had been festering for a long time before that.
Feelings of…emptiness? Is that the word I’m looking for?
Sure, I had an okay job, an adequate apartment, a passable sort of existence. But as each day came and went, in pretty much the same manner as the one before it, I couldn’t help believing there must be more to life.
When I hit forty, those feelings really wormed their way into the forefront. All the middle-aged guys at work would go on about their wives and pass around photos of their offspring, while I didn’t even have a girlfriend yet. Mother told me not to worry; told me I was a catch; told me dependable, no-nonsense men like myself were as rare as gold dust. Sooner or later, she promised, I’d find that special someone.
I thought the word ‘catch’ was a bit of an exaggeration. My bank balance was microscopic, and each year I’d lose a little more hair and gain a little more weight around my middle. I kept my fingers crossed, though, that Miss Right would come along eventually.
I’m not saying that I dwelled on my discontent twenty-four seven. But there were nights when I’d find myself on the sofa in my underpants, eating jerky and gazing, zombie-eyed, at the TV. And I’d get an itch. A hankering to get out there and do something and be somebody special.
Those were the nights I would walk. When I started to get the feeling that my apartment was a cheaply furnished and blandly carpeted prison cell. It wasn’t like I was one of those exercise freaks with the space-age stopwatches and the hundred dollar sneakers. But I did like to roam around the neighborhood and blow off steam, when I felt like I was climbing the walls at home.
Where was I? Oh yeah, that’s right, the old abandoned building across the street. This three-story monstrosity had been empty since I moved into the neighborhood. Well, empty, that is, except for the bums and junkies who loitered around the place. There was still some rusty scaffolding propped up against the side of the building, although I hadn’t seen a construction worker go near the roach-infested dump in years.
The evening in question was a miserable one. Wet and windy and black as coal. I’d been out on one of my strolls when the rain started to worsen, so I’d hurried home with my chin tucked inside my collar. That was when I heard the sound. A whimper, I guess would be the best way to describe it. Coming from that red-brick eyesore which stood opposite my place.
At first I thought it might be a kitten, so I went over to take a look, because I’ve always had a soft spot for strays.
Just about every pane of glass in that wretched building had been broken, and of course the owners hadn’t bothered fixing any of them. All they’d done was drape some plastic sheeting over the windows, so I pulled that back and peered around the edge of it.
Inside, the place was dark as hell, but I could see the outline of something huddled in the corner…and I could tell right away it wasn’t a cat.
The whimpering was getting louder and even more pitiful. Bloodcurdling, it was. To this day, I can still hear that sound.
I was tempted to go home, pick up the phone, and get someone else to deal with whatever was going on here. But then I thought, no, this is what I’ve been waiting for. This is my chance to be a bit brave and do something out of the ordinary, for once.
Like I said, I’m not exactly slim, and climbing in through that broken window wasn’t easy, but I made it in the end.
First thing I did was pull out the pocket flashlight I carry on my keychain and shine it in the direction of the whining. Second thing I did was immediately wish I hadn’t. Third thing I did was almost pass out cold on the floor.
Now, I’m not squeamish. Being a film buff, I’ve seen every gory slasher flick Hollywood has to offer. But no grisly movie scene could have prepared me for what I saw in that room.
The girl could not have been much more than a teenager, and despite the beating she’d taken, I could tell that she had been pretty…once. I didn’t know who’d done this to her, or why, but there was barely an inch of her that wasn’t seeping blood.
I crouched down beside her, stammering something about going to call for an ambulance. But she grabbed me frantically by the arm and pleaded with me not to leave her alone.
She only held on a few minutes longer. I remember the precise moment when it happened. Feeling her slip away as I held her, and seeing the sparkle…the humanness…vanish from her eyes.
Of course, it was upsetting, but in a way, it was the greatest moment of my life. Being there with someone, as they draw their final breath…what could be more meaningful than that?
It was kind of addictive, really. That’s why I started volunteering at the hospice. I waited patiently for my next chance to hold someone’s hand and ease their way into the hereafter. But those old-timers just kept hanging around, laughing in the face of the Grim Reaper.
So tonight, I decided to take matters…and Mrs. Milner’s neck…into my own hands. It may sound cruel, but the hospice nurse reckoned the poor old girl only had a month or so left, anyway. And what better way to go than in the arms of someone who cares about you?
Phew! Spilling my guts like that was kind of…what’s the word…cathartic? Even though I could never actually allow anyone to read this.
Causes Katherine Yeboah Supports
Animal welfare, protecting the environment