Debt and the Malamute- the end comes
“Everything I’ve ever lost now has been returned”- “The Miracle of Joey Ramone”, U2 (yeah, that right, U2- deal with it.)
That day Jack Murphy didn’t go to work. That morning he awoke and for the first time in his life he didn’t see the point. He felt as if he had taken the wrong door on his way back from sleep to consciousness and he found himself now in a dull and muzzy place, a dimly light place, a place of squinting and headache. He had been living half in and half out of this world for sometime but this morning he was completely there.
When we say we are completely exhausted, most of the time it is not truly so. That morning, at least for a time, Jack’s exhaustion was complete. Nothing was propelling him forward and there was no direction in which it seemed useful to travel. He might as well stay exactly where he was, waiting for his neck to get stiff so that there would be a reason to move his head.
The form of the thing precedes the thing itself says Nabokov and who am I to argue but sometimes the form of the thing is only clear to us after the thing itself has died. The ghost is at least as real as the idea. The ideal and the phantom are distinguished only by our position relative to them in time.
For the first time Jack could see clearly that he been on a path, that promises had been made, both to him and by him but also that all of that had been BEFORE. He was realising too late. He had accepted a promise that he would work hard for a certain number of years, that he would retire with a decent pension and with a house with the mortgage paid off. That the capital of his life would have value. He had promised to play the game and the reward he would receive was fair and clear.
At the highest level, without Jack or others like him being told, the game had ceased to be played years ago and Jack had continued playing in a vacuum of meaning.
An hour after waking he got out of bed. Sophie had been up and out since before he woke, he was late for his morning routine with the kids. An alarm went off somewhere through the fuzz in his skull, if that didn’t affect him, nothing would. But it was a weak alarm and easily diluted into the dull throb of his headache. He could no longer focus on his old path and he could no longer feel any passion about broken promises.
How was it that he was so defined by something so vague as debt? What did he owe and to whom? What remained to be owed to him? A picture entered his mind, a small pond in the park called ‘the Dog Pond’ that he often passed on his walks with the malamute. He looked out the kitchen window, up and down the road, no sign of the dog.
He got the kids ready and told them they weren’t going to school that day; they were spending the day with their Granny. He sent a text to his mother letting her know he would be dropping the kids off for a few hours. He didn’t wait for the reply. He packed the kids into the car and drove mechanically to his mother’s.
He drove back home but didn’t go inside, didn’t even look at his house and walked straight to the Dog Pond, looking around him only to see if his large canine friend was to be found but he was alone. The Dog Pond was not far from Jack and Sophie’s home. It was a small, pretty pond in a hollow and easily reached despite its being enclosed behind some wrought iron railings. There were some beer cans around but not too many.. and no condoms, Jack was surprised to see.
He removed his shoes, socks, trousers and t-shirt- keeping his underwear on for some reason he would never have been able to explain. He put himself in the water. It came up to his hips and he walked towards the centre.
God the water was cold. A piercing shock and a shaking along his limbs. Blood rushing to the centre of his body, his nervous system shorting. And then a feeling of peace, or just numbness. Jack hadn’t realised just how angry he was; he could feel the anger now, leaving his body. He was crying, though he couldn’t see the point. Something was crying out of him and he felt dizzy and unstable. He had no intentions at all. He could feel the black knots on his thighs becoming sensitive and then dumbing. If he didn’t look at them they might have been gone.
He was only a little light headed now and there might be nothing wrong. Just right then, the last couple of years of his life might not have happened. He was floating; not just his body, all of him. And there might be nothing wrong. ‘There just might could,” he was thinking in exactly that strange little arrangement of words, “There just might could.” The water was touching his chin.
There was a large, out-of-focus grey form on the bank. He had to blink hard to bring it into near focus, to make it real. The dog, the big malamute was looking at him. Jack, or something like Jack moved towards the dog and some thing of the dog moved towards him.
When Sophie got home dinner was nearly finished for them. The kids had already been fed. Jack sat at the kitchen table looking at job listings on the web.
“I thought it was time for a change,” he explained to Sophie.
Sophie was a little shocked but something about Jack right then, something calm and large made her pause before questioning him any further. She forgot what she was going to say and just patted Jack on the head and tousled his hair a bit instead.
Reading something on the screen, Jack turned his head a little to the side.