To Be Or Not To Be!
By Stephen Kata
A man considers suicide.
Ted Langdon decided to kill himself on a Friday. He hadn't told anyone of his plans, but he kept a diary, and the entry for Friday, January 21, 2011, read I am going to kill myself.
Ted had thought this over for quite some time, and considered various methods. He ruled out slashing his wrists right away, since he couldn't stand the sight of blood, especially his own. He didn't own a gun and probably didn't have the nerve to pull the trigger on himself anyway, so that left out shooting. He had a fear of drowning as well, so there went that idea. This was Indiana, and nothing nearby had sufficient height from which to throw himself, so he scratched jumping. By process of elimination, he narrowed his method to hanging. Then he got to thinking about who would find him and how it would look.
His ex-wife wouldn't care, of course. The most she'd do would be cluck her tongue and shake her head. His son and daughter wouldn't care. They hadn't spoken to him in over a year. They were convinced by their mother that the divorce was all Ted's fault. He chuckled at the thought. As if the failure of any relationship was ever only one participant's fault. He had no pets, his faithful Shetland Sheepdog having died six months earlier, at the age of sixteen. In the end, it was Mrs. Robertson whom he considered most.
Mrs. Robertson was an elderly lady who lived across the hall from Ted's apartment. She had been widowed fifteen years ago, and never remarried. She would never tell him her exact age, but Ted knew she had been married for thirty-five years to a man she loved very much. Almost on the eve of his retirement, her husband had been diagnosed with lung cancer and given two years to live. As the couple had tried to adjust their lives and plan how they would spend their remaining time together, Mr. Robertson had flummoxed the arrogantly confident doctors by dying within two weeks.
This was a horrible blow to Mrs. Robertson, of course, but the resilient and positively charged woman had forged herself a new life. And all the while she kept alive within her the memory of her beloved husband.
Mrs. Robertson had lived in the same apartment for the fifteen years since her husband's death. During her tenure, she had seemed to make it her mission to care about everyone in the building who she learned was in any kind of need. At one time or another over the years, she had provided money, food, counsel, babysitting or housecleaning to most of the tenants who came to live in the building. It seemed she cared about everyone. But she especially cared about Ted Langdon.
Ted's divorce had been final a little over a year ago, and he had lived in the building for only a year. Almost as soon as he moved in, Mrs. Robertson gravitated to him. A few days after his stay began, they met by chance at the mailboxes and exchanged pleasantries and a few questions and answers. Mrs. Robertson evidently decided right then that Ted needed someone to care about him. She began to knock on his apartment door occasionally when she knew he was at home, and bring him goods she'd baked. At those times, they visited with each other briefly, but as time went on, the visits lengthened. Sometimes, when she hadn't seen him for an unusually long while, she left a wrapped pound cake or some banana bread, at his door with a little note. Sometimes they played cards together in one apartment or the other, or shared meals. Mrs. Robertson comforted Ted when he lost his beloved dog. Ted listened as Mrs. Robertson talked about her deceased husband. Now they were to the point that Mrs. Robertson made some excuse to knock on his door every Saturday morning, when she knew he was off from work. Then they engaged in some simple activity together for at least a part of the day. Mrs. Robertson was an avid church goer and spent all day Sunday at church services or other church activities. Ted was not religious and never accompanied her. Mrs. Robertson didn't push him to go and his disinterest didn't seem to bother her in the least.
On Friday evening, January 21, 2011, Ted Langdon sat in his recliner chair and stared vacantly at the wall. He thought of the wrecks of his marriage and his family. He thought how miserable and lonely his life was most of the time.
He rose from the chair, went to the kitchen and opened a large cabinet drawer. He took out a thick nylon rope from among the tools and other items. He closed the drawer and returned to the chair.
He thought of Mrs. Robertson. He imagined the expression on her face if she were to find him hanging from the bathroom door. He imagined how she would feel if she learned the news from someone else. She had already lost the man that meant the most to her in her life. How would his death affect her? For they were certainly now close friends, even though neither could ever completely fill the void in each other's life. He dozed off in the chair thinking these things.
In the morning he awoke, still in the chair. He rose, crossed the room and gazed out the window onto the snow covered parking lot, rope in hand. He went to his desk and took out his diary. Saturday, January 22, 2011, he wrote.
The doorbell rang. "Ted, are you up?" a familiar voice said.
Ted turned his head toward the door, and back to his diary again. I have decided not to kill myself, he wrote.
He went to the kitchen and returned the rope to the drawer. Then he went to answer the door.
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