"Hello?" I say as I pick up the relentlessly ringing phone.
"Hello, Mr. Jones, this is Mr. Smith from the bank. I was just calling to remind you, once again, about the bills you owe."
I slam the phone down on the cradle and sit back in my chair dejectedly.
"How did my life get this way?" I ask myself aloud. "Where did all the meaning escape to?"
I look around my apartment and feel my age permeate everything in sight. I don't remember getting this old, getting this way. My bills are sky high and I realize I have nothing to live for anymore. My life is empty like my bank account, my cupboards, and my bed. I look down at the clock reading 11:55 and make a resolution.
"Twelve o' clock is the deadline," I say aloud again, then bark out a harsh laugh as I see the double meaning in my statement, "Literally."
I retrieve my gun from its resting place and sit in the chair again weighing the Decision I hold in my hands. My head feels fuzzy. I think of all my problems, all the reasons this is best.
The phone rings again, interrupting my thoughts. I stare uneasily at it while it rings angrily at me for a few rings.
"Hello," I finally give in.
"Hello, Fred Jones?" inquires a voice that seems to have a memory attached.
"Yes," I respond hesitantly, afraid of more bad news.
"Fred, it's Jane Peters... from college."
I know Jane Peters. She was the first woman I ever really loved. It didn't last, though. I let someone else come between us, a new woman, and broke it off. I hadn't really thought of her since.
"Jane, this is a surprise, why do you call?" I ask, feigning nonchalance.
"Fred, I just couldn't get you out of my head today. I was baking cookies with my grandkids this morning and you popped up all of a sudden. Then I was doing my regular chores around the house and with each new task you were right there and I thought I'd better call you to see how you are. So how are you?"
"I"I don't know what to say, Jane, I suppose I'm fine," I say slowly.
"Are you sure, Fred, you sound sort of strange." I can hear concern in her voice. What can she hear in mine?
"I said I'm fine! Look, I've got to go. Goodbye!" I say hurriedly and hang up the phone.
What is the purpose of that? Why did she call now? She is thinking of me, though. She might call again. What does that mean? I look at the clock again.
"Three minutes," I whisper as a reminder.
Jane brings on more memories and now I feel my regrets. Divorcing my wife and leaving our children to her sole care are at the top of the list. They are all grown now but I haven't seen them in decades. Decades. How life does pass by in a hurry. Mine has flown right on past me. I have nothing to show for the years I have taken up space on the earth; nothing tangible to hold in my unaccomplished hands or intangible to feel in my calloused heart.
And yet, what is the value of a life? What is the value of my life? I cannot tell. I weigh the Decision again in my hands. The cold metal against my skin burns.
The gun slips from my hands and lands on the floor. I look at it there and pause, feeling life grow slower. My hand comes up, almost of its own accord, and touches my face. I feel the lines testifying of age. The skin sags and feels frail, just like an old man's skin.
"You are an old man," I remind myself loudly. "Will you be missed?" I ask, quietly this time, as if I am not quite myself anymore; as if I am not the one being questioned.
"What could I possibly miss?" I reply.
My hand picks up the gun. I feel the burn again on my old man skin, but it soon begins to numb. Now I remember my wedding day. My wife was beautiful then, and I was happy. Then my first daughter was born and I forget my aged skin with the memory of her brand new kind. The ghost of a smile touches my unhappy mouth, too long fixed in a frown.
But then I remember my emptiness again. My empty life cannot be hidden by full memories and I feel the burn of Decision in my hands once more.
"What could I possibly miss?" I ask again loudly, urgently. "What could I possibly miss?" The question comes again. "What would I miss?"
It hangs in the air directly in front of my face, and I can't see anything else. I bring Decision up to my head, perhaps I can think clearly with it closer to my brain. With the cold, hard Decision against my temple the numbness fades and I feel every inch of my worn body and the memories and problems line up on the battlefront in my mind.
The battle never commences, however. The Future steps, unsure, onto the middle of the fire zone and voices his one truth:
"You would miss something."