Standing in the rain. The skies were open, and it all came tumbling down. The doors to his soul were forced open, then torn asunder by who knows – a poltergeist, a trance, a broken jar? There was no safety now. The streets were littered with broken glass, the cars set ablaze by masses too angry to ever be controlled again. A total mayhem out there, even Mr. Staunton felt like cutting loose the ties to sanity and simply let it all hang down. He could walk barefoot on glowing coal like some Medicine Man down in Africa. He could…
Someone threw a bottle, Staunton heard it whistle by his left ear, turned around and saw a group of looters swinging big fat torches. A young man tossed a Molotov cocktail in front of an approaching limousine, it went straight through the windshield and instantly set the expensive vehicle ablaze. Staunton saw the driver fight for his life in there, not knowing how to get rid of the hot sticky fluid, which must have landed on his lap or something. The elegant white limo swayed wildly, struck the curb, then frontally collided with a light pole. At that moment, sparks filled the air, and the vehicle was ablaze. A woman and a man came out from the back seat, all dazed and frightened. The driver opened the door, but only made it halfway, then fell down, half laying on the sidewalk, half sitting inside the burning vehicle. The looters screamed triumphantly, dozens of onlookers in the street and in the surrounding apartments cheering them on.
Mr. Staunton hailed a cab, the first one he’d seen all night, and by some miracle it stopped. It took him right to the building, the cabby and he never spoke a word. Staunton had no conscious recollection of giving out the address; maybe the driver knew it all along? He was feeling a bit dizzy all of the sudden.
The penthouse was a world of its own, make it up here and safety will return. The doorman nodded, his smile faint but real; he knew the drill, suppressing and pushing into the deepest corners of the soul the horrors he had to endure. Where would he sleep tonight? He certainly looked tired, although clean-shaven. What about his family, how long would they survive this civil riot without their father and a husband to protect them?
“Tell me Raymond, your family and yourself doing alright?” Staunton wanted to ask, but handed the man a 100 dollar bill instead.
“Well thank you, Sir,” the doorman said glowingly. “I’ll die for you, should that be required. $100 buys a friend for life on a night like this!”
“The feeling is mutual,” Staunton said unconvincingly. Raymond seemed not to have noticed that Staunton’s coat was torn, his shoes bloodied from walking on broken glass.
“Have a pleasant evening, sir.”
“You too, Raymond. You too.”
Staunton was back home now, so safe and dry. He sat by the fireplace wrapped in blankets, which covered his naked skin. His clothes, all soaking wet, had been strewn across the foyer as he undressed spontaneously while heading to the hot shower. The water, so very hot, caressed his body and gave him back the lifeblood that had withdrawn from the surface of his skin because of the bitter cold rain drops. He kept staring at the candlelight, breathing deeply, relief was evident. He wanted to win, not despair.
“To win, not despair!” he said out loud, his voice echoing through a room that seemed much larger than his ability to occupy it. The sound of his own voice overwhelmed him with horror and sorrow of what he’d just seen: The evil people in the street, the torches, the burning bottle, the burning limousine.
He turned around, ashes flowing from the fireplace, coming so weightless through the air.
“Lucille?” he asked, calling out for the woman who used to be his wife; half expecting to see an angel, half a ghost.
“Sir, are you all right?” a vaguely familiar voice asked.
“I don’t know, Raymond,” he said. “It’s been a bit too much for one night.”
“Let’s have a look at your foot, shall we?” the doorman said. “I followed the blood trail up the elevator and down the hall, all the way to your front door. I’m sorry, sir, but when you didn’t respond I had to use the passkey to let myself inside. I hope you don’t mind.”
“It’s all right, Raymond. I don’t mind if you have a look.”
“It’s a deep cut, but clean,” the doorman said while holding Staunton’s right foot in his hands. “Did you walk on broken glass? Those bastards!”
“I must have stepped on something. Oh, could you feed the fireplace, I’m getting cold.”
“No sir, it’s very hot in here. We’ve got to get you a doctor. I’ll go call for an ambulance right now.”
“How much blood?”
“How much you’ve lost? I’m not sure, it’s got to be a lot. Why didn’t you tell me? Why didn’t you do anything?”
“I don’t know anymore,” Staunton said. “It’s all getting a bit rich for my taste, the chaos and the violence. What’s left worth fighting for?”
“All right, sir, if that’s how you feel about it,” Raymond said. “You’re sure you won’t be wanting your hundred bucks back?… Sir… Sir?…Sir?”
“Sir” was the last word Staunton heard. He’d been called “Sir” all of his adult life, even though he never got a knighthood. He’d been Sir Superficial, Sir Charming, Sir Lightfoot, and Sir Lucky. At long last, his luck had run out. Because he wanted it to, maybe. Or he just lost the will to fight back.