Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Undying Gratitude

"Yes, Jamison, I understand.  But, a simple thanks would have been sufficient.  Maybe even a couple would have been acceptable, but this is too much."

"Mitch," Jamison began, speaking in the tone generally reserved for jumpers perched on the ledge of the 40th floor of a high-rise.  "This fellow of yours is obviously some sort of neurotic who feels compelled to continue to demonstrate his appreciation.  Besides, how much longer can it go on?  Give him a few more days and I'm sure it will wear thin.  Got to run.  Meeting Charlese for drinks.  Chin up."  Click.

'This fellow of mine'?  'Some sort of neurotic'?  As usual, Jamison was incapable of comprehending just how totally fucked up my life had become.

I never should have confided in that poor excuse for a human, but I was out of options.  My mother suggested I invite him over for a rousing game of canasta.  Of course, my mother had knitted an afghan covered with the faces of sheep for Ted Bundy to use on Death Row since she was certain he wouldn't be able to get a good night's rest there.  My lady, who I was planning to propose to on the day this all began, had been stronger than I had given her credit for, but she eventually came to the conclusion that I was certifiable and took out a restraining order on me.

I was alone; a cornered animal being poked with a sharp stick.  Jamison said to give him a few more days.  It had already been 12 days, 9 hours, 54 minutes, and...yes, I am counting the seconds too.  I poured another Scotch, my...who the hell cares.  I lost count hours ago.  I sat back, took a long slow sip of its soothing warmth, closed my eyes, and remembered how the nightmare began.

It was a bit after one in the afternoon on a bright sunny day - the last bright sunny day I would ever have, and I was on my way back to my office.  I had popped in to the printer to pick up a presentation and had stopped at the crosswalk.  I was soon joined by a young man in a bargain basement suit, who obviously had never seen the inside of a gentleman's barber shop.  We exchanged brief nods, and when the walk command flashed, he seemed to lunge into the street, as if his immediate presence anywhere could be that necessary.

His thoughts must have been on the contents of the burger bag he was carrying, because he didn't see the black sedan coming straight for him, or the police car on its tail, but I did.  I grabbed him by the collar of his dollar store dress shirt and pulled us both back as they careened around the corner.  We landed in a heap against the newspaper stand.  I stood up, straightened my tie and reached down to lend him a hand, and he took it into both of his, got to his feet and began to cry.

Now, I am as caring as the next man, but display of raw emotion makes me very uncomfortable.  I asked him if he was hurt and he replied he was not, but his emotions were flowing freely because I had saved his life.  I had literally plucked him from the jaws of death, and he knew from that moment onward, he was going to spend the rest of his life showing his thankfulness for my grand gesture.  I told him that wasn't necessary, but to no avail.  That was the moment my life, as I had known it, came to a screeching halt.

Morning, night, weekday, or weekend, if not in the sanctity of my office or living room, he was there.  He was always there.  Buying my coffee.  Picking up my newspaper.  Carrying my dry-cleaning.  Catching the check for dinner.  Nothing I said could dissuade him - it was like being haunted with no hope of an exorcism.  'Thank you', 'thank you', 'thank you' - that's all he ever said.  Jamison said to give him a few more days.  Can't do it.  In a few more days, I'll be looking for a bullet to eat.

As we journeyed to my office this morning, him holding my Journal and a latte, he said tonight we'd be going to his place so he could give me something I would never forget.  I knew what I had to do.  He would never forget what I gave him either.  One last 'you're welcome'.

As we left the elevator heading to his door, I noticed the place seemed deserted.  Perfect, since I had made up my mind to strike as we entered.  Quick and quiet.  I reached into my briefcase and eased out the carving knife I had brought from home.  My only fear was that if anyone ever said 'thank you' to me again, I'd go postal.  Yet, finishing this once and for all might give me some closure.

He seemed so animated as he swung his door open - it almost seemed a shame to rain on his parade, but I plunged the blade in with a ferocity I hadn't felt before.  Again and again.  He finally went down, having staggered completely inside.  I quickly shut the door and felt for the light switch.  It was over.  I was finally free.

The sight that assaulted my eyes didn't quite register for a moment.  Colored balloons and banners strung across the room:  'THANK YOU -- THANK YOU -- THANK YOU...'  I believe the defining moment was when I saw the people, Jamison and Charlese at the forefront next to our CEO, all standing in a semi-circle, all shouting 'surprise'.  Even the cop who had his morning coffee at the newsstand near my building was there.

He was giving me a party.  Something I would never forget.  The bastard.  I figured things couldn't get any worse so I kicked him in the head.  Really hard.  Maybe I should have had a bullet for lunch after all...

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