‘Well bud, will we do it?’
Donnie’s proposal left me fumbling for words. A glistening insistence dwelled in his pupils, enough to confirm that this was no joke.
‘I dunno man. Seems kinda pointless.’ By pointless I meant dread-inspiring.
‘Pointless? So getting the adrenaline rush of your life is pointless?’
He wreaked of adamancy. The devious smile climaxing with a swoosh beneath his nostrils, confirmation of something we both knew. I was weak. Weak enough to succumb to whatever madness encased Donnie’s essence this night. His roguishness alighting my constipation once more, injecting me with just enough life-oil to disturb my monotony. Such was the silent contract on which this friendship seemed built; an equity founded on the flying whims of one consciousness and the frailty of another.
‘No, I just … I just find the whole idea a bit cliché. Running across train-tracks and all that. How many times has that been done before, you know?’
Shielding my hesitation through condemnation was a shameful act. An act that decorates my present regret. What I should have done was express my distrust over the idea. Listened to the hollow warning that accompanied my thoughts, one imprisoned by words that never came. I now realise that there were two fears that night. That I watched my strength shrink in the face of the wrong one.
‘Mate, if it’s so cliché, then it should be no problem, right? You’re not gonna bail out on me bud, are you?’
I wasn’t. The fear of a collapsing friendship seemed to reign over fear of lost life. Death was an evil, but a merciful one. Life without Donnie was purgatory – a sweaty cauldron of re-visitations, precursor to doomed finitude. I wished for neither but knew there was room to manoeuvre within my considerations. Donnie knew this too.
‘Just step onto the track when we hear a train coming, and the first one to chicken-out loses.’
He had a way of reducing all things to simplicity. As if his conscience clung to a blue-print of endless possibilities. A blue-print weaved in flames, forever indebted to irresistible mischief. The sole token of relief that accompanies my present sorrow is the look in Donnie’s eyes that night. A look capable of softening the resistance of minds far greater than my own. He was not to be denied. Not by me. Not by anyone.
‘Okay D, I’ll do it. But let’s not get ourselves killed, alright?’
‘That’s the spirit bud. Ready to live?’
Donnie leapt onto the tracks below before extending his arms as if some sort of peace had engulfed his soul. He screamed. But it was a beautiful scream. An exorcism of his restlessness into the welcoming atmosphere. As if whatever it was that composed the erroneous path to which his soul clasped so diligently had left. He continued to scream, keen to rinse himself of unknown poison. I am sure, in those few moments, that Donnie forgot about me. In fact, in those moments, I am quite certain that I forgot about myself.
Whatever those moments were, they lingered until the sound of approaching carriages dissolved Donnie’s screams. We looked at each other. My existence reinstated by Donnie’s frantic gesturing.
‘Now or never man. Get down here. It feels like…’
He never did finish that sentence. As if whatever he was feeling was better left unsaid. A secret drenched in the perpetual tug-of-war that was his mind.
‘I dunno man. That train’s a fucking mover. How about you hop up here and we play chicken with the next one.’
Donnie’s body continued to gesture at me, but his thoughts resided elsewhere. It was at that point that terror convinced me of the insignificance of my actions. I told myself that it mattered not whether I played the relentless sidekick on the tracks, or the whimpering coward upon the platform. This was his mission. His journey. Bestowed upon him like a gift by a good comprehendible only to Donnie himself.
‘Getting close now Donnie. C’mon mate, you’re a ballsy fucker. You’ve proven that,’ was all I could muster.
The train’s luminance began to soak us. Our eyes fastening themselves in resistance to the encroaching haste. Still there came little word nor will from Donnie, adopting a demented smile that shone in opposition to the blinding danger bundling towards him. There was a certain stubbornness in his posture, a rootedness gluing his shoes to the tracks. He looked so natural. As if he was meant to be there.
Frolicking arms had come to rest by his sides. A manic stare daring the light closer. I was no longer with him. My hysterical screeches tranquilized as they exited my lungs. Shot to a whisper by an invisible force, condemning my interference. Impotent insistences now withered to the mammoth sounds of oncoming bright. I recall my final glance at Donnie who had failed to alter his position, save for a widening of that haunting grin.
There were two souls lost that night. I live as a rotten fragment now. Addicted to defiling memories that tear and rip. Memories that never seem to tire. Constant projections of past errors tempting impressionable shame into one last visitation. I like to bathe in pity, drowning myself and with me the reality of what occurred that night. The fact that I could have saved him. Rid myself of the recollection that there occurred a flickering instant. One that bestowed upon me an unwanted burden. A truth-needle piercing my being, dissecting my hesitation. Not sharp enough is seemed. Not sharp enough to awaken this slumber, this shrivelling slave of inaction.
It is to this reality that I wilt.
It is to this reality that I take my leave.
by Paul Hammond