Tuesday, September 18, 2007

The Man in the Fire

When I heard about how the man had jumped I wished that I had been there to watch. As fire stole its way through the old building, decimating and destroying everything in its path, this man decided to jump from a fourth floor building rather than slowly burn to death. Petrified and already feeling the rising wave of heat coming towards him, his mind must have been imagining the feeling of plastic melting against skin, of skin being bubbled away from bone, of nerves and organs screaming out in anguish.

You couldn’t read about this in the news. The local paper didn’t use the words “splinter” or “hell”. The reporter on the radio didn’t use the phrase “like something from a horror film”. I heard about what happened to him from a friend who’d been there. She said you could hear the crack of his pelvis over the sound of the fire engines. She said you could see his legs rising up into his chest as he collided with the ground. She described in grotesque detail how the man’s whole body collapsed in on itself as he landed. She said all of this to me in a hushed whisper, her eyes filling with tears as she cradled her coffee cup in both hands.

The paramedics instantly surrounded him. They put him on a stretcher and wheeled him away to an ambulance.

As my friend tells me this story I can’t help but feel jealous of her. It must be the same as the feeling of wanting to look at a car crash. Morbid curiosity. Wanting to see the worst just because it exists and it’s right in front of you.

The paramedics placed the man on the stretcher but it was pointless. He was already dead. As his legs shattered into his midsection and his torso folded up like a nightmarish jack-in-the-box, his head hit a nearby railing, killing him instantly.

Later on, as I find out just how traumatised my friend is from seeing what she’s seen, I realise that it isn’t just morbid curiosity that’s making me jealous of her. It isn’t the same as just wanting to look at a car crash.

She tells me that she can’t sleep properly because she keeps replaying that moment in her dreams. Keeps hearing that crack. That scream.

It’s then that I realise I’m jealous of her because I covet the trauma she’s had. I’m really just craving some kind of excuse for all the things that I keep on doing while I’m home.

Joe Roche

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