A/N: Prologue/introduction to a story I’m considering writing.
Those numbers are burned into the back of my eyelids. Every time I blink, they sweep down over my consciousness in neon color, blazing reminders that I can’t escape. Such searing brands should not be the symbol of such an innocuous, sunny May day. Innocuous except that that was the day I died. It was a beautiful day. I was almost convinced the sun wished to be my friend, and I knew the wind was trying to remind me what it meant to leap to the stars. As if I had ever known. Perhaps that day, in my death, was the closest I ever got to leaping at the stars. I missed, of course, else I wouldn’t still be dealing with this miserable existence. Perhaps it’s really not all bad. I am…“an angel of the earth.” Ridiculous idea, isn’t it? Who would have thought an angel would be so shunned, so reviled, so…ignored? Some days I wonder if I exist at all. Then I laugh at myself. I’m dead. Of course I don’t exist, do I? It’s just in the cruelty of the world that sometimes makes it seems as if I exist.
Forgive me. I’m not here to complain about my existence, or lack thereof. This is the story of a beautiful May day that should have been the end of the story. Of course, then, it will be the beginning of our story today.
Before I was no one, I was almost no one. I was Michael J. Patterson, the younger. That was my father’s name, too. The J stood for John. My father was as uninteresting as his name, except that he left me. That was his only claim to interest in my mind, and he lost even that fairly quickly. I bore his name indifferently. I wasn’t angry with him for not being a father to me, nor did I desire him ever to return. He simply was the cause of my existence and the reason I was named what I was.
My mother must have been who passed my chronic lack of interest to me, for she brought me into the world somewhat passively, maintained a somewhat convincing interest in my life till I was eight years old, then stopped pretending entirely. She worked calmly and unpretentiously, feeding me, clothing me – I suppose what she was doing was caring for me. I never saw her cry, never saw her display emotion of any kind. She wasn’t unhappy. She just was.
Perhaps I learned to view the world through her dull, dust colored glasses, or perhaps that was truly my predisposition. It certainly made living easier, whichever way it was. So much easier – and so miserable.
I woke up that May morning – May 6th, 1999 – and realized coolly that it was my birthday. I was twenty years old that day. Of course I wouldn’t let that disturb any of my sensibilities. I got out of bed quickly, unsympathetic to my body protesting about the jarring contrast between bed and harsh reality.
My employer certainly didn’t care that it was my birthday, so why should I? With the neatness and indifference borne of long-living habit, I got ready to go to work. Not ten minutes after waking and still with my eyes only half open to the world, I pushed out the door and began my walk to work.
It was May. Perhaps if nothing else could break through my studied indifference, it was the equally indifferent wind. The wind was asking nothing of me, not commanding me to do anything, just being all around me. Yet it was also reaching so much higher than just the plane we were on. I almost smiled at it and watched half-heartedly to see how much higher than the tops of the trees it could reach. The sun, winking out from behind a cloud, almost blinded me. Instead of reacting by quickly looking away, though, the harshness of the light greeting my eyes interested me. I stopped still and stared up at it.
Of course I knew I wasn’t supposed to stare at the sun. Nobody had told me, but I knew. I had known ever since I was young. That was just common sense. I may have been lacking in a lot, but common sense was certainly not one of those things. Yet I stood still, staring at the sun, trying to understand it. It was at that moment that I felt it was reaching out to me, asking me to care for it, begging me to see how beautiful it was. That moment of losing my common sense was entirely worth the pain to my eyes.
It also cost me my life. I had stopped unknowingly in the middle of the street, and a semi truck, unable to stop, crashed into me and killed me. I’ve heard that I was dead on impact with the cement. Yet it was also worth that.
In some ways, going from being “Michael J. Patterson: of no importance to the earth” to being “Victim of Tragic Accident: much mourned by all” was the best thing that ever happened to me.
Then again, I died. As bland and tired as life tasted in my mouth, I didn’t want to lose it. Even if I had wanted to lose it, I had never given permission to have it snatched from me. So I was angry. Am still angry. I would love to lie and say I’m not, but this story itself is a breathing testimony to how angry I still am.