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Alternate Convictions

There was one time when I was forced to do something that totally went against my convictions, about one or two and a half years back; the exact time, I canít readily determine. I believe that it may have been in August or September, at around eight at night, when I was rather tired and had lazily folded myself over on my bed to get ready for the upcoming morning. Over on the side of the bed I was facing was a small night table where a lamp sat, and beside the lamp, closer to me, was the phone. I hardly ever received any calls, just having the phone hooked up only to say that I had a phone number, nearly, judging from the scant number of calls I averaged during a month. Not expecting anything else to happen other than falling asleep that night, there was no way I could have known that something was going to happen later on. It was something that was going to test my very convictions as it was something I never thought I would be involved in before. I was rather not in the correct frame of mind to handle anything else other than a good nightís sleep, tomorrow being a brand new, wonderful day. It was not the time to be forced to do something I didnít believe in, but under the prevailing circumstances that night, there was no other choice.

It was rather still in the room, quiet, and I remember looking about the room for a few minutes, bored from the lack of nothing to occupy my mind. Life seemed boring at that moment, and I thought that there couldnít be anyone else out there who could have had anything worse than me---having to roam my eyes around the room and wait to go to sleep. I couldnít have been so short in my views, since very quickly I drifted off to a kind of superficial sleep, carefree, thinking that it was going to be another ordinary night for me.

Sometime around nine oíclock, as I was becoming relaxed and on the very verge of sleep, the phone began to rang. Iíd rather not state exactly how I felt at that moment, being awakened by a piercing ring from some random call that probably just happened to reach my number. It seemed only faint and distant for a moment because I was still half asleep, probably ringing five or six times before I was awake and reached for the table to lift up the phone. There was some doubt as to why someone would call my number at nine at night, looking at the clock that was also beside the phone, but I was somewhat curious as to who it was. There werenít that many people I knew, so I went ahead and pressed the phone against my ear, half in a daze.

I never found out who it was. It was the voice of a man, probably in his twenties or close to it, sounding shallow and muffled as he spoke in short bursts. My lips moved forth in order to utter something, but I stopped short of going further after listening to only a few seconds of what he was trying to say. I did not say hello, or anything for that fact; he did most of the talking, if one could call it talking. It was more of a hysterical, crazed rambling, laughs and sobs at the same time, and then shallow yells where I assumed he moved himself away from the phone. His speech was slurred at some moments as if he was drunk, but at other times he spoke with unexhausted clarity, disturbed only by the great strain of his voice.

"I---I never wanted to do anything, I just wanted to be wanted, you know?" He broke off with a momentís worth of shrill crying as I listened, finding myself lain back against the bed, stiffly held up to the phone. "I did it, I really did it! And no one knew anything! Nothing about it! I am so crazy, you know. I am crazy, demented, depressed, maniacal, and here I am, on the phone."

He cried in the distance for a while.

"Iím sorry. Iím so sorry. I know that you must not know why I called you and I donít know why myself because Iím sick! But Iím sorry, I know that you donít want anything to do with me, so Iíll go ahead and hang up. Nobody needs to know about me anyway! Nobody!"

"Wait a minute---uh," I began, half asleep, "donít hang up yet."

There was a brief silence, after which the man began his long series of wails again.

"I did it. I did it and I donít regret it. I did it and no one wonít care because no one cares about me. No one. So I donít give a care if anyone gives a care or not, you know? I donít give a care about nothing!"

"I understand."

It must have been something about the sound of my voice which made him hush up after everytime I spoke. "I did it! I did it! Donít you want to know what I did?"

"You did something?" I didnít realize it, but I was getting rather tired.

He paused. "Yes! Of course I did something! Oh yeah, I did something really bad," he rambled on again, "I did something really bad. I thought about doing something, you know, but you wouldnít care. Nobody cares whether or not I do it or not. If you did it, nobody would care either, so why should anyone give a care if I do it or not?"

That phone call had been the longest one I had in a while---only around five minutes so far, since I was not a person who used the phone much. Listening to him was beginning to tire me, only because I was half asleep. I had things to do in the morning, but I knew that I should have been more concerned about what he was telling me. It sounded very important, urgent, last-minute and desperate, but I was half-asleep and nothing was too clear to me. At that point, after getting only four hours of sleep last night, I must not have been in any more of a good shape than the man was. If I was more awake I might have been more thoughtful, but he was taking up my sleep time by rambling on about something on the phone. I knew that I should have been listening, but I was getting tired very quickly.

"So, why did you call me in the first place if you think that nobody gives a care? If that was the case, you would have hung up a long time ago."

"My life is going downhill, you know. Thereís nothing left for me. My girlfriend walked out on me---"

"Oh, is that what it is? You go and call me up at this time of night because you think Iím nice or something?"

"No, thatís not what it is. See---"

"Well, go ahead and tell me!"

"I have a house and a car and all those other things, making myself good money, and---"

"So you call me up to tell me that youíre unhappy about all that? I donít even get an allowance for that matter! I mean, I donít know you and you donít know me, but still, you find it exhilarating to tell a total stranger everything about your whole life story! Look, thereís people that are trying to get some sleep around here. Donít you know what time it is?"

"Yes, but I thought that someone should know about me because after I get off the phone I wonít be able to tell anyone. Iím going to commit suicide. Iím going to kill myself."

I guess he must have waited a long while before I said anything. My lips were sort of frozen for a moment, probably because my head was back against my pillow and I had inadvertently fallen asleep. I heard what he had said, actually everything that he had said, but his words failed to conjure any speck of sense in my now disintegrated conscience.

"And how do you plan on killing yourself?"

In my half-slumber, I could imagine his stupefied face as he tried to react sanely to my words. "Well, Iím thinking about doing it with a gun or maybe tying a rock around my waist and jumping off the local bridge."

"I can tell you now that it isnít going to work. If you do it with a gun you might miss, and you can always untie the rock from around your waist when you get through jumping."

"Well, how are you supposed to know Iím going to miss?

Somewhere in my conscience I knew that I was supposed to do something about this. He had been on the phone now for ten minutes, and for all that I knew, he might have been prepared to kill himself right there as we spoke. Every belief, conviction, and sense that I had told me to calm him down and talk to him, and then call the police as soon as I could. This man was going to kill himself, and I was supposed to do something about it, but how could I do anything? Thatís what everyone would say. Theyíd ask questions, and then I would have to come up with something. It was just too much trouble, and besides, all I wanted to do was to get some sleep.

"Hey, look, itís your suicide, not mine. Iím trying to get some sleep! If you want to kill yourself so badly, then you wouldnít be telling me all the details. People who commit suicide donít call everyone up on the phone this late at night. They write little notes and leave them somewhere so that someone can find them after they kill themselves. Plus, you wouldnít be bragging so much about doing it if you really want to do it."

"Well, I am going to do it. Iím going to shoot myself and then youíre going to have to feel guilty about it for the rest of your life."

"Look, itís going to be you whoís going to feel guilty and not me because Iím going to get myself some sleep. I donít give a care about people who donít have anything going for them tomorrow, but I do. I have to go to school and I have a big meeting coming up and I do not, really do not need to worry about anybody right now! I never use the phone! I never talk to anybody! You understand! I should be the one committing suicide and not you. Iím really sorry that youíre so ignorant you canít see all the good stuff going for you that you think you have to end it all. Man, if I had the kind of money that you make! Look, if youíre going to do it, then donít look for me to be sorry for you. Iíd rather feel sorry for myself wasting my time on my phone talking to you! Now, good night!"

I made a move to hang up, but before the phone entirely left my ear I heard him call out, "Wait! Donít hang up yet! Wait!"

"Well, what is it?"

"Iíve decided not to kill myself."

"Well, thatís great."

"I guess that it isnít worth it, you know."

"Yeah, I guess it isnít either."

He paused for a moment, probably to catch up with the sequence of events that had just occurred. "Was it because you cared or was it because you knew that I wasnít really going to commit suicide?"

"No, I thought that you really were going to do it."

His voice began to grow calmer, leaving behind the blunt pronunciations he had made in previous words, becoming more clearer and maybe my ears were deceiving me, but a little curious also. "Then, was it because you cared?"

"Well, maybe, but to tell you the truth, I was getting a little sleepy. Iím happy for you and take care of yourself. And next time when you think about committing suicide, think about it during the daytime and please, not at this time of night. Okay?

"Yeah---"

"Then, good night." The phone left my hand onto the hook and I flopped back onto the pillows.

The truth about that night was that, well, I knew that I was kind of selfish of myself and all. This man was in dire need of some help, but I was in a greater need of some sleep and sometimes when I get sleepy, there are a very few things that can keep me away from the bed. The situation made for some good dreams than night, ironically, as I thought about our conversation on the phone, thinking that I was really talking to a man on the verge of killing himself. But see, the thing about it was that I didnít think he was really going to kill himself. He must have been one of those persons who just talked about committing suicide just to get attention. That was one time when I was forced by a physical urgency of sleepiness and had to go against my deepest inner conviction. Another personís life was undoubtedly more important than a few hoursí worth of sleep even though I woke up in the morning and found that my clock must have run out of batteries at nine oíclock two days ago, but sometimes people just have to take chances. I donít know who he was, but whoever he was, I wish him a happy life. He hasnít called since, so I think that heís doing okay, wherever he is.