Drop 104: Cowardice
January 7, 2013 4 Comments
He wasn’t a big man, but a mean one, toughened on greed and hatred. He had her up against the bathroom’s exterior wall, near the garbage cans, with a rigid hand around her throat. It was an hour after dusk. There was no one else in the park, and plenty of shadow to work with. The knife gleamed briefly, trapping the somber light of a lamp a ways off. Otherwise, it was a scene of catastrophic darkness.
He covered her mouth, but muffled pleas snuck out. He held her tighter, held it closer, and broke her into a breathless sob, so quiet, but so clear, each whimper gaunt with flawless fear.
‘Please,’ she managed feebly once more, before giving in finally to what could not be happening.
‘Be good, and it will all be over quickly,’ he said, his voice sickly soothing. Mighty with cowardice, he maneuvered her body into something he could claim.
It would all be over soon.
You could have stepped out assertively and shouted: ‘Hey, what are you doing!’ You could have faced the fickleness of a blade in the gloom. You could have helped. But you didn’t. You just watched from behind your dark, rugged tree, a coward too.
You were afraid, just like her, but with far greater potential to change things. You had the lot of destiny, uninvited but primed, to wield with your will. But you didn’t. You were rooted to the floor, an observer, a voyeur, with no resolve.
Like him, you stuck to the shadows as you fled, scared to death, not for her, but for you. Scared to make a sound and betray yourself. Scared to stray into the dullest ray of light in this barren, shameful place.
Did you hear her cry as you ducked behind the hedges and scampered past the pines? Did you sense her cringing as you clambered the wall and ran down the street? Still, no one was around. No one but you.
You play it back again now, twelve years later, as you sit by the pool with your mojito. You had no cell phone back then. Maybe there were pay phones around, to call the cops. You don’t remember anymore. But you had your body and your mind. You had your knowledge of right and wrong, and your sense of duty. You could have—you should have helped! This is a fact, and one you cannot change.
You don’t think about it every day, but you haven’t lived a week without recalling the night: it’s sounds and sights, and what you did not do. Regret has become your life’s only truth.
By E.M. Vireo