This is the final installment in a five-act fiction story: The Tragedy of Gerald Neesh.
Editor’s note: The following article contains references to suicide that some readers may find troubling.
Gerald Neesh stood in his living room staring through the gap between the curtains at the young woman who had crashed into the back of his car. He had turned the lights off in his home so she wouldn’t be able to see him through the window. Maria stood next to her car as the man in the tow truck exited. The man hooked the cables to the frame, reached to the steering wheel to release the ignition and lowered the emergency brake. As he pulled on the round-knobbed lever of his truck, as Maria’s car began to lurch toward the black steel tilted bed, Gerald ran Maria’s words through his head. The red and white strobe of the tow truck light held the same hypnotic rhythm as a barbershop’s twisting candy stripe.
In a strange flicker of red across Gerald’s eyes, he had a change of heart. The revelation of Maria’s rapier-like words, sharp and quick to injure, were true. Why didn’t he just end his life like so many others? The answer was obvious. It wasn’t a grand philosophical scheme of cruelty embodied through the actions of others; it was a matter of chance. He had banked on chance to end him, but had underestimated its elusiveness, its finesse.
Why didn’t he just ‘do it’ like everyone else? Because he didn’t actually want to die. He wanted someone to recognize him, to see his hopeless endeavor, and to tell him it was hopeless.
The lights on the tow truck turned off, jolting Gerald from his trance. The passenger door closed as Maria sat in the tow truck. The truck began to drive, his white smashed car sitting as all broken things do, always the result of our actions.
The tow truck long since departed, conviction, in all of its abstraction, flooded Gerald Neesh’s body. As the trance slowly trickled away from him, he envisioned the spider that let him live that day beneath the giant stone egg. He felt its thin legs and smiled at his many chances. In a gesture of good health, he reached for a handful of peanuts. His lost endeavor would end with a last handful. The rest of them, the unopened blue metallic bags, the full containers, the boxes, he would throw out that very night.
Gerald Neesh stared outside his window at his smashed white car as he threw the last handful of peanuts into the back of his mouth. As he chewed, he laughed, thinking of the ridiculous scenario he had created. When he laughed, two whole peanuts lodged themselves in his throat.
Gerald gasped, but was unable to pull air into his lungs. He tried to cough but couldn’t force the obstructions from their position. He dropped to one knee as he gasped for breath. Gerald struggled with the reality of demise, of his former wish actualizing. He fell to both knees, heaving for life, praying for release. He rolled to his back, facing the subterranean popcorn ceiling, and accepted his fate. His last moments of existence converted from frustration to irony. As Gerald’s eyes closed for the last time, a smile crept across his face like a stream, taking a new turn in recognition of his successful tragedy.
Contact Jake Zawlacki at jazawlacki ‘at’ stanford.edu.