One Last Dance
By Ayleene Thompson
He walks with her to the park across the street from where it happened, where moments ago he snatched her out of the path of a car hurtling down upon her. Sidewalk strollers, the nocturnal people of the city who stopped to watch her struggle to resist his help, have moved on to melt into the foggy darkness at the end of the block. The two strangers are left alone.
"Suicide isn't always the easy way out," he is saying. "Sometimes it fails because of poor planning or a sudden rush of panic at the last split second."
"It was a good plan. I didn't panic." Her voice echoes the dead sound of the leaves rustling overhead. She drops down on a rough stone bench, slides away from him to sit on the opposite end. "I stepped into the street at the right time. It would all be over now if you hadn't interfered. I just want to die, damn you, so who said you could play God with my life?"
He waits without speaking while she starts to cry softly, wiping her face with the long strands of her pale hair. Smoke curls from the glow of his cigarette; he holds it out to her between his thumb and forefinger. She shakes her head.
"Look," he shrugs, "you're nothing to me. It's just that I have a hang-up about seeing people do stupid things. Jumping off the curb in front of a compact Chevy is stupid, no guarantee you get more than a broken pelvis or a couple of weeks in the hospital with a fractured skull. Next time go stand in the middle of the interstate and look into the high beams of an eighteen wheeler coming at you at ninety, ninety-five miles an hour. That's the way to do it right."
"You some kind of expert?"
"Could be I've given it some thought, The hotel room I rented for tonight is thirty stories up. No canopies, nothing but empty space between the window ledge and a beautiful concrete parking lot. Splat."
The wind swirls around an overflowing trash container, sends a red plastic drink cup skittering across the grass. She turns to look at him. "Please don't patronize me. What are the odds I'm connecting with another potential suicide? Give me a break."
He hunches his shoulders, lights another cigarette. "Whatever you want to believe."
"Why do you want to end your life?"
"I'm tired of running and I'm not going back to prison."
"Were you guilty?"
"I killed some people. My wife and her unborn son."
"A good lawyer can get you off if you have money. Do you have money?"
"Four twenties and some change.
"How about your family?"
"A mother somewhere in California."
"Well, I got nobody, at least nobody who cares. If I let the doctors keep sticking me with needles," she says, "I get to linger around for two, maybe three more months of pure hell. I want it to be over."
She watches his hand slide into the pocket of his jeans.
"I've paid for my room so I'm not going to need this after tonight." He fishes out four bills and change, squints at his watch. "Probably a burger joint still doing business after midnight."
They jay walk across the street, cut through the ally between two tall buildings. She stops, touches his arm.
"Back there, when you went for your wallet, I thought maybe you had a gun in your pocket. You can do it for me, you know. What's one more fife on your conscience? Shoot me right here; you owe me."
"I don't own a gun."
A light rain has started to fall. He shakes the water out of his black stocking cap, puts it back on his head. She starts to shiver.
"Let's go find a bar," he says.
They enter a door under a bright red and yellow neon sign and find a table near the back of the room. He orders two bourbons on the rocks.
"It's the cancer," she tells him while they wait. "You name a body part and I got it there." "Maybe they will find a cure tomorrow." He stirs his drink with the tips of his fingers touching the ice.
"Sure. And maybe your wife and kid will rise from the dead. Your wife-was she pretty?"
"Not after I strangled her. Not pretty at all."
She glances around the room. "I'd like to go some place else, some place where there's music, a juke box. I want to dance one more time. Will you dance with me?"
"I never learned how to dance."
"I will teach you," she says.