The End of the Line by Bobby Goldsmith

by Bobby Goldsmith

For Ray Younessi, life had all but lost its sense of wonder. Only the occasional inconsistency of time still held the power to make him marvel at life’s possibilities. Even if, for him, those possibilities lay buried in bygone years, only to manifest themselves in the abstracted, tortured cataracts that haunted him, teased and flirted with him somewhere between fading dreams and placid reality.

Shit, I remember him. The bitch that slaughtered Krista…Aaron…fuck…what are the odds of running into him here on the street? 100-to-1? 1000? Do I have my gun? Never gonna get this chance again…

Time. It ravaged him, body and soul. To him, the creation of clocks and calendars seemed like humanity’s panicked attempt to make time behave. To give it order and reason. To make it docile. A hail-Mary effort hoping to bring order to both the wild moments of inarticulate revelation and to the eternities of dusty routine. It was a foolhardy effort, at best. Ray knew this, perhaps better then most. There were times that he struck himself as the most cowardly sort imaginable, hiding from time’s unmanageable currents behind his sergeant’s desk, tucked into the far corner of the station, alone. Much like a child who builds a fort out of pillows to hide from bickering, abusive parents; Ray shielded himself from time’s omnipotence with his job, his isolation, but it was never enough.

He looks older, harder…fuck him…why doesn’t he run? Do I have a round chambered? I can’t believe he got off a murder one rap…what the fuck? He took my family away…

Ray used to be a very good officer, and he still was a good officer. But it was just so much harder these days. Ray was one of the most decorated officers in the LAPD. It had been eleven years since the deaths of his wife and son. Eleven years since he’d given up being a homicide detective. As Ray filled his days with the mind-numbing tasks that made a police station function, time would indeed seem to grow docile. Burying himself with training schedules, duty rosters, patrol coverage charts, supply manifests; he was only sorry that there was not more to be done. Duty. Only by binding himself to the excuse of duty was Ray able to retreat at the approach of his black, early morning dreams. To shock himself awake, to lace up his never-quite-polished boots and for one more day, plunge into his self-imposed isolation. Inevitably, the moment would come when there was no more work to do. Many hours later, Ray would be forced to extinguish the last light in the office, lock the door behind him, and return to his barren apartment, and the utter vacancy of his life.

Why his he so calm? So peaceful’this isn’t right’motherfucker, you raped my wife’killed my son’why isn’t he running? What’s with the gun, he asks. Pompous shit’you took my life away

For a time, Ray embraced the Christianity that he’d abandoned in his adolescence, hoping to find some reprieve. But the words, the gestures, each strict abstinence – he soon realized – were futile. Such actions were not meant for him. They were reserved for those protected by a benevolent God. His was not the remarkably humane God of which he had read, but a fierce, malevolent, relentless and unforgiving God. Not a God for the suffering to turn to, but a God from whom suffering flowed. One who laughed at his agony, and set his heart in stone. His God was the primitive deity of the savage, barely elevated from the beast; of dark, ancient armies marching to burn down the cities of light and hope, to massacre their inhabitants, to scour away all life. But God was not his enemy.

Don’t pull the trigger’squeeze it’

Without a moment’s warning, time would swallow Ray up into one of its bittersweet inconsistencies, and in the artificially-measured brevity of a second, he would relive the past with horrific intensity. Not merely remembering, but inhabiting it all again. Krista, beneath on olive tree, seated with her arms wrapped around her knees, eyes closed, smiling up at the clear blue sky. He could feel it all with her. The air still and pungent with the scents of the newborn spring. The sun. He could feel its warmth deepening in her cheeks, as though there were no difference between them at all. The spilled dregs of wine. The spoiling ruins of a picnic on a stony hillside, overlooking a rich, ripe world. Their son, Aaron, playing with his dog down in the meadow at the base of the hill.

“How can it be so beautiful?” she had asked, without opening her eyes, and he never could appreciate what she had meant. These were words he couldn’t really form, to represent thoughts he could not really fathom. How can it be so beautiful? He closed his eyes too, settling for the buzzing of flies and the distant sounds of cars on a highway that ancient feet had once marked with blood. In that instant of memory, there was also the time to remember the feel of a cloth skirt under his hand, the warmth beneath the cloth, and the intoxicating feel as he lifted the skirt higher, to let the sun touch more of her.

Shit. I hit him square in the head’he’s not falling down’shoot him again

Then he would be in the old house, a faux-Victorian fixer-upper Krista had fallen in love with. He watched as their brown-eyed son ran around the house, a testament to the inexhaustible energy of youth. Aaron’s face was a masculine interpretation of his mother’s beauty. Maybe his failure had begun with Aaron. Ray could remember too many times when he had been too busy for the boy, when he had bellowed at Krista that the noise was intolerable. There was work to be done. Ray’s inability to offer anything but obtuse adult excuses for his unwillingness to take the boy’s requests seriously still haunted him. Brown eyes, white shirt, dirty jeans – Krista for God’s sake would you please’

He’s falling down’emptied my clip’motherfucker

Krista. A brilliant woman who worked for laughable wages in a Compton elementary school. Formidable in her beauty, she had made him human, but there was something in her eyes. A certain darkness that spoke urgency at unexpected times. Ray never could put his finger on it. Looking back, it was as if she alone had known how little time they would have together. Ray had just finished a working lunch with a task force charged with taking down a serial killer in Highland Park. The killer was targeting the neighborhood’s homeless. A call had come over the dispatch that a woman and child had been assaulted and murdered in an alley near his home. 187. He knew that there would be no more warm flesh under shifting cloth. Ray’s failure was complete. He failed to defend his family and he failed to keep his city safe. But that was only his most obvious guilt. He knew that his failure had been far greater. He had never been the man he should have been, the man that Krista and Aaron had deserved. He had never really been a man at all. Merely a selfish shell hiding behind a shiny badge.

Look at him lying there’you got off lucky’just some bullets to the head’fuck what you did to me’.put me in hell

Epileptics experience a sense of fleeting joy in the moments before a seizure. Their worst sufferings are said to be preceded by a feeling some describe as approaching holiness. This is what time did to Ray Younessi. In an unguarded instant, he would feel the fullness of his life with Krista, with blue skies, orange groves, and a passionate woman’s smell. Only to watch in horror as time killed her again and again and again. He was certain that each time she was reborn and slaughtered in his memory, somewhere out in the expanse of nothing she suffered again. Time was far from linear. Krista was always vulnerable, her agony was endless.

His eyes’.he knew it was gonna go down like this’.he didn’t fight it’he’s not a coward like me

As Ray watched the life drain out of the other man’s body, a smile creased his face. It was the first time he’d genuinely smiled in eleven years. Ray pulled out a trimmed-down snapshot of Krista and Aaron which he had kept in his wallet. He considered the thoughts behind the four eyes staring into the camera on that warm spring day so long ago. Krista’s needless anxiety about the two-hour drive home, Aaron’s dreams of being a fighter pilot, the boy’s dirty clothes and the blemish on his wife’s face which made her beauty human. Time was indeed far from linear.

Sirens’shit’better get off the street’

He tore up the picture into a dozen pieces, and as he walked away he let them fall to the ground.

Damn, what a nice day it is’the sky is so blue, so clear’

How can it be so beautiful?

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