30 Seconds Of Peace

by Lee Stringer © 2002

Constant chaos. He liked those two words; they described his mind better than any other. He tried all the remedies in the twenty-dollar self-help books; meditation, deep breathing, self-hypnosis, but nothing worked until he had an idea. It may have only been for half a minute but at least it worked. It became a daily ritual, a place he could escape to.

He mentally pictures where the handle should be and is surprised when his hand grips it on the first attempt. He cannot see it but only hear the cold water roaring into the bathtub. As he lies on his back he can feel its icy touch filling in the soles of his dress-shoes and soaking through his wedding tux against his scrawny legs and bony back. His muscles clench making his whole body stiffen –exactly the effect he is looking for. He can barely stand the cold at first but his body quickly numbs to it. The water rises slowly in exhales and inhales, and he tries to time his breathing with it.

He tries to clear his mind completely of thoughts, but fails for the millionth time. Instead he watches each thought on a black TV in an empty white room in his mind -each channel containing a different year in his past.

She knocks on the door, "Jude, why do you have the light turned off? I can tell from under the door...Jude? Let me in."

Only for her he would inhale the water, but he knows it would destroy her. He knows how much she loves him; she is the only good thing in his life that he can’t explain. He boils it down to simple luck; he was just in the right place at the right time. He would be taking two lives instead of one, so he will not do it. This will have to do.

His pupils adjust so that now he can barely pick out the porcelain tile walls and shower door. He stares at the ceiling imagining his headstone directly where the wall and ceiling meet above his head. The stinging water dabs the corner of his eyes but he keeps them open. The water tickles the corner of his mouth and fills in the crease between his upper and lower lip. As the dark water envelops his face, pinching the tip of his nose, he holds his breath and his mouth grows a soft smile just like the faces on the cover ’s of those twenty-dollar self-help books. Eventually his eyes will adjust to the darkness so that it destroys the effect, but for now, for the half minute that he holds his breath, the cold, blurry haze over his blue eyes a half inch under the tiny ripples, the water drowning out the world, his light brown hair floating as if weightless, his body so much lighter, the four dark walls, staring into nothing, he relishes in his thirty seconds of peace.

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