"Thrownness" by Nick Farriella
Local Hero Saves Handicap Neighbor from Burning House; decides to remain nameless.
Born into this world of terror and flame, of a hot spiritual cleaning—is this not how to start over? Burn away your materials, the objects of meaning tying you down to your past? It is never a choice, is it? For either party involved. He, a man, but maybe in this moment he is everything but a man—no, maybe a spirit, an angel, better yet: he is his mother, saintly, or he is his sister, both of whom have saved, sacrificed, led honest good lives. It’s possible he is an animal—a beast of sorts—here, in this house, to hunt. But why here? Oh, prey, yes. Hot food, indeed. Shall he wait? Shall he take a seat, wrap napkin like bib around neck and be served? Such heinous thoughts—now? Of all times, especially? Okay, maybe he is just a man, fine. But he knows nothing of the life he lived before the one he is living now; here, in this inferno. Was he a good man? An iron worker? An oceanographer? Perhaps, simply, a good neighbor? One hopes. Or maybe he was worse: a crook, a car salesman, an Adman, God no, a pedophile? Could he justify such past lives? For what is reincarnation but an all-paid vacation to somewhere you have earned? Look around, Bucko. House in flames. Oh, shit. Lord have mercy. What about her? What life did she lead to get here? In wheelchair. Scorched house. Belongings burning. It is her things being ruined after all; he just showed up. Yes, he is the hero; that’s all heroes do, they show up. Be present. But maybe he is the villain; it’s possible he set the fire. For what? Insurance? Fame? Malevolence? For what is a hero but a villain with better intentions? But her, through smoke and flame and ash and—was that a cat?—is she victim? Victim to what? Him? Can’t be. Why must man swoop in and save? If she, victim, could just see that she could be the hero, too, he would be relieved of such a predicament. Instead of crossing the house and lifting her up like some macho man’s man, erupt out into the world, her in arms, to what? Flashing cameras? Applause? Another victory for man. Ego flattered. No, he could be kind, compassionate, allow her to save herself. Don’t. Explain. Anything. This is a bad time for moral ethics. Okay, maybe he will just show her how to escape from where he is, across the room. “Roll yourself to me!” He yells—at what?—a wall of fire, through which he can only see the woman practically through a pinhole, panting, poor thing. He thinks, Okay, suck it up dummy, she needsyou. How long has he been here thinking? With all this heavy smoke looming, he hopes not long; smoke in lungs and all that. Never smoked a cigarette in his life. Would developing lung cancer from this moment be what the woman on the television calls “Beautiful irony”? Oh, time. Has he wasted it? The woman is still alive, he knows, hopes. Must do something. With a fractional knowledge of all things, especially science or math, ugh, he figured in a moment like this, time would go super speed, zoomo kiddo, the way it feels in his memory of the time his father got him that scooter and he and Jimmy, Petey, Frankie, Al, and Bill-Boy blasted down the hill outside of St. Mary’s Church. Sacred ground for such speed, in a flash, right into the hands of Jesus. Well, really, Father Pap not Jesus, saying, “Boys, can’t you take that horseplay somewhere else?” Happened that fast. Here, now, not so much. Time feels stretched out real thin, so thin that everything is so still, even the fire, it is glass. Shall he break through? But on this plane of existence the woman is moving further away; or he away from her. She is shrinking. Where you going, Old May? He wants to say. But can’t. Breath is fading. He’s in motion towards her; in fact he is running, flailing—thin, lanky thing—shooting across the living room like light. He’s making a scene! Knocking over side tables, dishes, cups, saucers, kitchen table, chairs, all like cardboard cut-outs rising up and orbiting him, dashing for the woman in her chair, the queen upon her thrown. He gets to her. “Your majesty,” he says. She smiles. Eyes in shock. What comes after? Same as before, one could say. Nothingness. He’ll be thrown into a new life, changed by this one; the lawn will still need to be cut. And for her, if she makes it out alive, she too, changed. By what? Him. And maybe a brief recollection of this chaotic life they lived together will come again in dreams or déjà vu or manifest in a silent understanding between them—a smile and nod will do—if they ever pass each other again, as strangers on the street, as neighbors, as lovers or friends, as two bees in the same colony, two orchids blooming side by side sharing roots, as two neutrons coming together, colliding, swirling in flame, spewing light and heat until total depletion, where they would become forever entwined in darkness, just like the place from which they came.