Assembly of The Divine

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Flash Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
An accident leads to a serendipitous encounter with a suicidal man.

Submitted: December 07, 2019

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Submitted: December 07, 2019

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STROBES OF RED AND BLUE. That's all I saw through my rearview. Through my windshield I saw the crumpled rear end of a Toyota Camry, more strobes flashing from the ambulance and fire truck up ahead. Perfect timing, I thought. So much for catching the 8 o'clock flick with Kelly. She's going to have a field day with this one. It's only the second time I've stood her up this week.

But when I phoned her and said I was in an accident, she was surprisingly calm about it. I expected her to yell at me for speeding or something. "I hope you're okay," she said, instead. Followed by dead silence, not even a breath.

"I'll be," I said. "Are you okay?"

"I'll be, too," she replied before hanging up. Her unusual calmness spoke volumes.

You don't want to know how I'm getting home? I wondered. I didn't fight my thoughts on it too long, though. I had enough thinking going on with Ms. Toyota who'd chosen to slam her brakes all the sudden in the middle of a main road. I didn't see it coming until it was too late. And as the story goes: you hit 'em from behind, you pay the fine.

It didn't help that Ms. Toyota had a 4-year-old in the backseat, either. Thank God for car seats and tough seatbelts, I thought. The kid was unscathed. Just traumatized by the sudden shift of motion, as her howls indicated: Wah Wah Wah!

Ms. Toyota had freaked out soon after the collision, though: panic-stricken as she tended to her child. I couldn't tell who was crying more, the kid or the mother. But she looked calm now. Peaceful as she held the little girl, who had a lollipop in her mouth, blue coloring smudged across her puffy cheeks. The paramedics had cleared them both of any injuries. Cleared me, too. But I had a feeling a lawsuit was going to be underway sometime in the near future. Along with my insurance premium which is bound to jump up a notch.

I was watching the tow truck driver load the Toyota onto the flatbed when the bright beam of a flashlight made me turn my head. "Sir, you have someone coming to pick you up?" asked the officer who had just handed me a citation. Failure to control speed, it read. My luck: a cop was on the opposite side of the street and supposedly saw it all happen. Bullshit, I thought, but I'll deal with that in court.

"No, actually," I said. I stepped out of my Lexus, closed the door. "Car still starts and is drivable...figured I could drive myself home."

Puzzled look on the cop's face. "Sir, your bumper is sorta hangin' halfway on the ground there." Pointing at my front end. "And both of your headlights are damaged. If it was daylight I wouldn't have a problem with that, but given it's night, I have to ask you either get it towed or park it across the street 'til morning."

At the Pizza Hut? I wondered. No way. "Officer, I live maybe three miles from here," I pleaded. "If I could just—"

"I'm sorry, sir," the cop said, shaking his head. "I'm not going to argue this with you...if you could please just either park it across the street or—"

"Fine!" I yelled. "I'll park it."

 

 

When I pulled into Pizza Hut, I debated waiting until the accident scene cleared up and driving home. But when a police cruiser decided to post up in the small shopping center across from me, I decided against it. No need for another ticket, I thought.

I picked up my cell and almost dialed Kelly's number again, but I decided against that, too. I was too frustrated to listen to one of her "we don't spend enough time together" lectures. Uber was my next idea, but something in me decided I needed to decompress. And the neon sign on the other side of Callaghan looked tempting.

Rookie's Bar it is, I thought.

 

 

Soon after I downed my first double rum and coke, I ordered another. The perky bartender, Angie, as her nametag suggested, was quick to pour me the poison. Must be the tie, I thought. I always get exceptional service everywhere I go. Kelly says I give off the CEO vibe: Cool, calm, cocky, in control. I beg to differ on the cocky part, I thought.

Smoke from the open side door of the venue fired a few neurons and suddenly I wanted a cigarette. The beefy Hispanic man who was sitting next to me with a Spurs cap and tinted glasses was fiddling with his keys, and I noticed a pack of Newports sitting next to his cell phone on the bar. But before I mouthed the words to offer him a drink for a smoke, my subconscious mind tapped on my shoulder: don't do it, Phil. You made it through seven months of being smoke-free. Let's shoot for month number eight.

The heavyset woman with a baritone voice singing karaoke was my cue to leave. I closed out my tab, slipped a Ten in Angie's tip jar, and walked out. I pulled out my cell and tapped the Uber app, entered my location. But the cool breeze as I walked through the lot made me log out of my account and take in the night. I don't know if it was a call from the Universe—or the booze—but suddenly I wanted to walk home.

***

 

By the time I made it to Bandera and Interstate 410, I was madly winded. Stupid idea, Phil, I thought. Neither my subconscious mind nor the Universe was bringing comfort to the weakening of my calf muscles. All those years at a desk had finally showed, and I was exhausted. But I was a quarter-mile from the house and the inner champion in me wanted to keep going.

And as I made my way underneath the 410 overpass, a flying soda bottle nearly took my head off. Pissed, I looked up and saw the shadow of a man pacing back and forth on the ramp above. Well, that's not normal, I thought.

I decided to walk around to the other side and made my way toward the on-ramp, staying as close to the edge of the shoulder as possible. Cars whisked past me at full speed, blowing my weak—and tipsy—body against the concrete boulder. When I got to the peak of the ramp, I saw the man.

Still pacing.

When he spotted me, he began walking in the other direction. I stopped for a moment and debated calling 911, considering there was a man in a hoodie pacing around on a busy overpass. But I slipped my cell back in my pocket and decided to approach him, instead.

"Hey!" I yelled, trying to be louder than the sound of traffic passing by. "Are you alright?"

No response. He kept walking.

"Hello?" Sir?" I yelled louder.

He waved his hands, telling me to buzz off.

I didn't budge. "Hey, buddy, can you stop and talk to me for a sec?" A car swooshed by us. "I just want to know if you're okay, man...this is not a very good spot to hangout, if you hadn't noticed!"

Sudden turn to face me. "Leave me alone, man! Go away!"

I nodded and said, "Oh! I see what this is!" I walked closer, toned down my voice. "You want to kill yourself, is that it?"

"You don't know me like that, homeboy." His face grim. "Just go away, alright?"

"No, man! You almost killed me down there."

Puzzled look. "Huh?"

"You threw that bottle down there," I said, "and it damn near took my head off."

"Look, man, I just want to be left alone...just go...I'm fine."

"I don't care if you're fine. I just want to know what you're doing up here throwing bottles at people."

"I didn't throw nothin' at you, man," he said. "I just tossed it, aight? My bad if it hit you."

"There's nowhere else you could be tossing bottles?" I asked. "You have to throw them off the Bandera bridge?"

He looked down, kicked the boulder. I could tell he was annoyed by my pestering.

"What's your deal, guy?" I continued. I looked at my watch and said, "What is so bad with your life that you feel like you have to walk around on a bridge at nine o'clock at night?"

"Look, man," he said, "I'm not looking for a therapist, aight? I don't want your advice."

"Oh, well, thank God!" I smiled. "Cuz I don't have any advice for ya, my man. I just had one hell of a day and the last thing I want to do is try and convince some stranger to not kill himself."

He shook his head. "You're a real asshole, you know that?"

"Me? An asshole?" I shifted my head and looked at his face. "Come on! Call me something I don't get called every single day! Get creative."

"What's your frickin' problem, dude?" he asked.

"My problem is that you threw a bottle at me and now you're sitting here expecting me to feel sorry for you cuz you're about to take a dive off this bridge!"

"Screw you, homeboy!" he yelled. "I ain't expecting you to feel a damn thing for me. Just leave me the hell alone."

"Fine!" I yelled back. "You want to sit up here and have yourself a pity party? That's fine with me. You want to be a dumbass and jump from here, that's fine with me, too. But I'll tell you one thing...'homeboy'...you're a selfish prick if you do that. You're just all about you, aren't you?"

He walked closer. "How the hell am I being selfish?" he yelled. "This world is better without me, I'm a no-good fool and there's nothing here for me."

"Oh, boo hoo! Me, me, me...See what I mean? Selfish."

"What the—"

I got in his face. "You want to know why you're selfish? Because I bet you anything that you have family here, don't you?"

No answer.

"Do you have family here or not?" I waited a moment for him to answer. When he didn't, I pressed on. "You know what, it doesn't matter...family or not, you have somebody that gives a crap about you. I guarantee you...a friend...a coworker...a girl...everybody has somebody who gives a shit that you exist! Hell...a stranger."

"You just said you don't care if I jump or not," he said.

"Yet I'm still up here on this damn bridge with you, aren't I?" I was on it. I shoved the side of his shoulder. "You asked me what the hell my problem was?" Poking his chest, "Well, what the hell is your problem?"

He leaned back, made eye contact with me for the first time. "I do have family," he said. "I mean...I have my Moms."

"And you want to leave your Moms hanging like that?"

"Naw, I don't." He pulled his hood down. "But you don't get it, man. I made a lot of mistakes in my past...and all that is coming to haunt me now."

"We've all made mistakes, guy," I said. "It's what you do with—"

"Yeah, easy for you to say," he interrupted. "You're probably all made and crap."

"Made?"

"Yeah, like you probably got a good job and all that...family...kids."

Funny, I thought. "Guy, if you only knew," I told him. "Sure, I have a job. But that's about it. My ex-wife...took half of what I own. I'm fifty-four and I don't have any kids. Probably never will. I don't talk to most of my family...and the ones that I do talk to, live thousands of miles away. Barely talk to them. Oh...and my live-in girlfriend...yeah, she's pretty pissed at me right now. So I'm not as 'made' as you think I am. We all got issues, brother."

We both turned when a Ford F-350 passed by us. Its wind pushing us against concrete.

A half-assed smile on his face. "Damn, bro," he said. "That's pretty messed up...I mean...I have family and stuff here in town. Cousins and aunts I still hangout with."

"Then why the hell do you want to kill yourself, guy?"

Another car passed. "It's just I messed up three years ago and got caught with some dope...long story. Been locked up for the last two years. Got out and wanted to start fresh, you know? Get a real job, maybe go to school. Start a family and all that. But I have a felony...and that shit keeps me from getting hired anywhere good. Just crappy restaurant jobs and—"

"Hey, man," I interrupted. "I really want to hear your story and all that...but you think we can do it somewhere else? I don't want to die on this bridge tonight."

He showed teeth when he smiled, but it quickly faded. "You wanna go somewhere and talk?"

I nodded.

"Why?" he asked. "Why do you want to talk to me for?"

"Look," I said. "I just want to get off this bridge...and I'd like it if you came with me. There's a Denny's not too far from here." Stretching my hand out. "I'm Phil, by the way."

"Isaac," he said, shaking my hand. He put his hood back on. "Man, I feel so stupid right now."

"Why?"

"Because you probably think I'm dumb and trying to get sympathy or something."

"Nah," I replied, "Let's just get the hell outta here...get some nice, hot coffee."

Walking down the shoulder with me, he looked around and said, "Were you walking down there?"

I smiled and said, "Yeah...funny thing happened to my Lexus today."

 

***

 

As we sipped coffee and ate boneless wings, we talked about what had brought Isaac on that bridge tonight. He said that an argument between him and his girlfriend—about him not working—made him feel worthless. It'd been something that's been accumulating, he said. Ever since he'd been released from prison, he's been trying to change his life around to no avail. And working odd jobs here and there at restaurants had taken a toll on him.

"I just wanted to find work somewhere I enjoy working, you know?" he said. "But Clara couldn't understand that. She always reminds me that I'm a 28-year-old man without a job. And I try telling her that I want to look into a career, not some stupid minimum wage place...and she says that I could never do it because I'm a felon."

"Sounds like a sweet girl," I said, laughing. "Maybe it's time you find you a new chica, Isaac."

"But it's not even about that," he said. "What she's saying is right...I can't ever work a real job because of a stupid mistake I made."

"Everything is correctable."

Isaac sipped coffee, wiped his lips. "That's the thing, though," he said. "I went to all kinds of places...different businesses...I'd dress up all nice. Like you. I said I'd even work for free—like an intern or something—for the first six months until I prove myself to them, you know?"

"Wow," I said, "and what did they tell you?"

"They get all excited at first...and then they hit me with the dealbreaker...background check."

"And you never hear from them again."

"Yup."

"Do you hear yourself, Isaac?" I asked. "You were going to jump off a bridge because a handful of people didn't call you back for a damn job?"

"You don't get it, Phil," he said. "You don't know what it's like to know that for the rest of your life, you'll be working at little jobs...minimum wage forever."

"A job is a job."

"Easy said, bro."

The waitress topped off our coffee, smiled gracefully.

"Well, what are you good at?" I asked Isaac. "Like work-wise."

He thought for a moment. "I've worked in construction all my life," he said. "But with everything how it is these days, you can't even get a good gig with that...if any gigs at all."

"So you're good with laying brick...handling Caterpillars and all that?"

"Yup," he said. "Even cranes."

We both sat in silence for a moment. I thought as I circled my coffee cup with a spoon. "Well," I said, breaking the silence. "I'm the Director of Operations for Kalarchi Enterprises...and we do a lot of contractual work with builders...architects...things of that nature."

Isaac's eyes zoned in on mine. "Our company works with people from all walks of life, Isaac. I don't think it's fair that a few mess-ups from years ago should keep people from attaining good jobs...given they really do want to change, that is. And so what I'm saying is...if you're really willing to give your all to gaining employment at a place that is more than just cleaning tables...I think I could try to get you in with one of our contractors."

He looked surprised. "You're a Director? Like...you're the main man?"

"Of Operations," I said, reaching in my wallet and handing him a card. "I make sure everything runs smooth...like a well-oiled machine. But when shit hits the fan, I have a boss I have to answer to—the President." I winked. "Now, he's the main man."

Isaac nodded and smiled. "You could really get me in like that, though?"

"I can help...I can't guarantee anything. And you'll likely have to start in a low position...a little more than minimum wage, but still on the bottom of the money chain...but if you're as determined as you sound...you can move up fast. That's how I did it, Isaac. Start small...grow big."

"Wow, man," Isaac said. "I mean, Phil...that's crazy...how weird is it that someone like you just happened to be walking under the bridge tonight?"

I sat back in my seat and smiled. "Pretty darn weird, Isaac," I said. My subconscious mind tapped on my shoulder again, and I saw the opportunity to reel him in. "But that's how The Good Lord works, brother. If I hadn't ran into that lady tonight, I would've never walked under that bridge...and right at the precise time that you happened to have tossed that stupid bottle overboard, too."

We both laughed. "Sorry about that, man," he said. "I really didn't think I'd hit anyone with it."

"Don't worry about it. If you hadn't thrown it, I would've never seen you up there...our meeting, Isaac, was Divine Assembly."

"What's that?"

"It's when God orchestrates everything for the greater good, so to speak," I said. "Nothing is ever an accident...even when it feels shitty."

"That's deep," he said. "You know, when I was locked up, there was this dude that used to always tell me about how me being in prison was all a part of God's Plan...and I used to think he was crazy. But now it's sorta making sense, you know?"

He picked at the last boneless wing, took a bite. "Like if I never went to prison, who knows where I would've ended up? It taught me things. It made me open my eyes...to do better when I got out. And even with all the bad luck I've been having with people turning me down and stuff, it's crazy how it lead to this moment, you know? Like I was supposed to meet you tonight. So I guess you're right, I was supposed to be on that bridge...crazy to think about."

 

***

 

We talked some more on the Uber ride. I attached my credit card and rode with him to his Mom's house on Fredricksburg Road. I told him how I looked forward to meeting with him next week to discuss his potential employment with our contractors. He said even if I couldn't find him a job position, that he'd keep on pursuing his dreams as he'd been doing. That our meeting was another eye-opener for him. "I'mma break up with Clara, though," he had joked. "I don't need a girl like that pulling me down."

"She almost pulled you all the way down to the pavement," I joked back.

He was laughing when he stepped out of the Uber, and that made me smile. It was a rewarding feeling, I thought. No paycheck in the world could amount to moments like that. It's these priceless moments we live for.

And as I lay my head on the pillow, I thought about the day's events. What had started off as a series of unfortunate circumstances, turned out to be an alright night after all. Kelly turned around and wrapped her arm across my chest. It's time I start valuing life again, I thought. Things that are important to me. Maybe call my family every week. Let them know I love them every now and then.

Life is a trip, I thought. It's a journey of endless, unknown destinations. But one thing is true no matter how thick the uncertainty: God is everywhere, all the time. And when He teaches us, He does so with a double-edged sword...because Isaac's not the only one who was taught a lesson in Life tonight.

I learned from it, too.


© Copyright 2020 Frank Asanka. All rights reserved.

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