256 Words

Wide Awake in an Empty Room

M. Stanley Bubien

I kept telling myself it wasn't my fault. Over and over the words spun in my head. I threw the covers aside. My feet touched the icy floor as my gaze met the clock-face.


I punched the mattress with both fists. Leaping from the bed, I stomped toward the kitchen and fell into a chair at the table, clanking a spoon into the cereal bowl. I'd eaten half the bowl before I saw the pattern forming. The surviving flakes floated in a lake of milk, clumping together into that shape---the mark I couldn't get out of my mind.

"It wasn't my fault!" I yelled as I shoved the bowl away.

I fought the memory. With teeth gritted and fingers digging into my palms, I fought. But it was useless. The memory came.

I had craned my neck skyward to see him. Firemen swarmed, trying to get their air bag placed while police pushed against us.

Surreal---like a movie. That's when I got the idea. I cupped my hands to my mouth and hollered, "Jump!"

Someone nudged me. "Hell," I said. "The guy obviously wants to do it."

"Jump! Jump! Jump!" I chanted. Others joined in, unsure at first, but quickly gaining strength.

"Jump! Jump! Jump!" we called.

And he did---leaving that mark on the ground...

I pushed the cereal bowl further away. The action brought a revelation.

I didn't push him. No. Not me. Him. He chose to jump.

He chose!

Wide awake in the empty room, I whispered, "Not my fault."

Copyright ©1996 M. Stanley Bubien. All Rights Reserved.

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September, 1996
Issue #6

256 Words