I really didn’t mean to be a hero. It wasn’t intentional. At first I didn’t even think of it as a big deal but once I realized it was all anyone seemed to be able to talk about, at least I understood it was a big deal to them.
It only happened becausey I was suicidal. The details of why I was suicidal aren’t really important. There was a girl involved and a broken heart not to mention being laid off from work and some other stuff that’s nobody else’s business. But when you start laying it out like some sort of justification how can the sum of the pain ever equate with taking your own life? By definition that will always be considered irrational and never be logically justified no matter how high the emotional angst.
The first time it happened I was riding the subway to nowhere. I had decided I did not want to live anymore but was unsure of the best way to end things. I had taken to just getting on the subway and riding around aimlessly. Normally that would have been a little scary since I frequently ended up in neighborhoods where my pale white skin stood out like a beacon. But contemplating offing yourself offered a surprisingly exhilarating sense of freedom from fear.
When I saw the guy waving his knife in front of the teenage girl, enjoying the terror in her eyes, I just reacted. I expected to die since there were three of them decked out in the same colors, obviously part of a gang. But since I didn’t care if I lived or died that was immaterial. I only knew it would feel good to make at least one of them feel as bad as I felt.
The many years of Karate classes had me in rock hard condition and helped me know where the vulnerable spots in the human body are located. But, since in training I was never actually delivering “kill” blows, it did not prepare me for the visceral aspect. I had never imagined what it would feel like when a larynx crushed under the heel of your hand or the crunching sound when the bones in the nasal passage went up into someone’s brain.
When the last one was down, barely breathing through his crushed windpipe, I squatted down by him and smiled into his eyes as he died. The teenage girl was obviously relieved but looked at me like I was from another planet. The adrenaline coursing through my veins made me feel like Superman as I leapt out the door of the subway car and raced along the platform. I must have been moving very fast since the description the girl gave to the police indicated I was moving at superhuman speed. A legend was born that night.
My Karate training had emphasized self control and honor. What it had not done was prepare me for the incredible high provided by the adrenaline. There are some among you known as adrenaline junkies who may understand what I am talking about. But to the rest of you, even those who have tried euphoria inducing drugs, the words available to me in human language cannot express it adequately. It is like being God; it is like controlling time – slowing it at your whim; it is like capturing the moment – actually the microsecond; it is like being righteous… see, I told you words wouldn’t do. None of that really says it right.
I was hooked on it. But the odd thing is it only worked because I still didn’t care whether I lived or died. I rode the rails aimlessly. I walked around in places even cops were afraid to go. I had decided that I would commit suicide by heroism. But, as fate would have it, I was apparently very good at martial arts. That combined with the ruthless calm I felt since I wanted to be sure and ‘savor’ my death seemed to make me invincible. It helped that I was in Washington, DC, where even the criminals don’t usually have guns. The only weapons I ever used were provided by the first opponent at his death when there were others behind him and his weapon would prove useful. Many died and the legend grew.
The newspapers loved it and the cops hated it (at least officially). The press even helped me keep count of the dead. Many times I was involved with multiple adversaries and could not have told you for certain whether there had been three or five. But the media dutifully reported how many and relayed in excruciating detail the accounts provided by the rare bystanders. In many cases I knew there were no bystanders around and yet someone would tell the reporter how I had done it. When that happened, it come out sounding even better than reality. No one ever said I walked on water, but apparently I moved in a blur and leapt tall buildings.
The count was at nineteen when I had about decided that I needed to find a better way to kill myself. That was when I met her. I had only been on the subway about ten minutes when she got on and sat across from me. She looked a little like is that actress Ellen Page. She had beautiful coal-black hair and very pale skin. Her eyes were very light brown, almost golden they were so light. She started the conversation.
“What you lookin at?”
Her eyes, her whole being, were so sad that I couldn’t seem to comprehend it. She was infinitely sad. Something deep inside me ‘shifted’. I didn’t know exactly what it was but I knew it wasn’t trivial.
Anything but blunt direct truth seemed inappropriate. She seemed taken aback by the simplicity of my answer. I could not take my eyes off of hers.
“My Momma always told me it was impolite to stare.”
Her tone implied flippancy, but bluntness and truth still felt irrefutable on my part. I could no more have said something trivial than I could have moved as fast as the newspapers claimed.
“Why are you so sad?”
“What’s it to you?”
“I need to know.”
“Need? You don’t even know me. What the hell is it to you?”
“I need to know.”
Before I could think of a blunt truthful answer fate intervened. A couple of punks walked into my peripheral vision from the right. A quick glance away from those mesmerizing eyes revealed the alpha male was tall and thin and had the telltale bulge of a pistol under his untucked shirt.
“Hey, girl. You lookin’ fine.”
Her eyes never left mine as she responded. “Go away.”
Her infinite sadness seemed to fill the subway car. My hope that this would be the punk to end my life was muted by the knowledge that her witnessing my death would probably be traumatic for her. I managed to break eye contact with her and made eye contact with him. I coiled my legs under me as adrenaline slowed down time and spoke very slowly.
“I’ll give you one chance to walk away.”
I wasn’t really going to give him a chance, but I wanted his brain working on coming up with a clever response as I exploded into action. He should have had the pistol in his hand. He barely got his shirt pulled up before I crushed his windpipe. I kicked his short buddy in the nuts and when he bent over got him in a guillotine and shook him violently until I felt his neck snap. With the skinny guy’s ragged last breaths as a background noise I turned and knelt, putting my knee into his throat to finish him off and stop that irritating sound, and looked into those hypnotic golden brown eyes, now wide as saucers. Once again, blunt simple truth was the only way that made since.
“I’m sorry you had to see that. He had a gun and I was hoping he was the one.”
We were pulling into a stop. I moved toward the door, but I still could not seem to take my eyes off of hers. She managed to find her voice.
“The one? What one?”
“The one to put me out of my misery.”
I heard someone down the car calling 911. As I raced from the subway car onto the platform for the first time since this had all started I had the impulse to look back. She was standing up against the window of the car with her hands up on the glass and her eyes following me, oh so sadly.
It was then that I realized what had ‘shifted’. I wanted to see her again. It seemed very important that I know why she was so incredibly sad. That seemed a lot like caring whether I lived or died.