March 26, 2019

Short Story - As The Bystanders See

The Background

In 2014 I had just graduated University, had landed my dream job, and started a new relationship but despite this I was sliding down a slope of mental health issues which I continue to fight with to this day.

I wrote this story to try to express the double-life I was living at work and in my personal life vs. the life I lived in my head.

I rediscovered this story today and I'd like to share it, unedited, so others may understand that they are not alone. Struggling with mental health is not a reason to isolate yourself from the world, but a reason to open yourself to others. You're not alone because we all struggle, we all hide it and, most importantly, we'll all get through it if we work together.

Much love, abe

This story contains images of graphic self-harm.

The Story

The difference between you and I is that you were never given a choice. You were never given the option to change. You were born one way and you will die in a similar one.

I was a bit luckier than you, I was given an option. I could choose between what I had and what I wanted.

I’ve never had huge dreams, but I always knew what I wanted to do. The number of times I spoke the word “Airplane” in a day was only outnumbered by the count of model aviation crafts in my bedroom.

We flew to Australia when I was about 9 and although the continent bored me, traveling was a joy for me, I’d see the captain in his fancy suit and cap, he was important, he got people where they needed to be. Every single day, he legitimately made a difference. We flew above the sky, like gods. No matter how high any man, woman, or child stood on earth, we were above them.

I was never the kid who dug for worms in the mud, I would stand on top of the slide and put my arms out, hoping that maybe today would be the day the wind would wisk me away.

I worked hard, I studied harder. I graduated high school with a 3.8 GPA and was accepted to a prestigious flight academy in Canada. For the first few years after school, I flew as a bush pilot in the Canadian mountains. After that, I moved back to the states and met a girl, she was beautiful and she loved me dearly.

I got work as a commercial pilot and made great money. Every day I flew above the clouds, I saw the world from behind the 2.4 inch thick glass on the front of my cockpit.

Although I loved my job, it wasn’t perfect. The perfect job would be flying luxury commercial jets. The pay was nearly triple and you stayed in swanky hotels wherever you flew. However, these jobs were restricted to people with 20+ years of flight experience, if only I had another 14 years of experience!

On October 9th I landed a cargo plane in Mexico City. I’d been to Mexico City several times and as usual I was set to leave the plane for unloading and reloading, then return about a day later to fly back to Seattle.

I spent the night in the I’caza Suites, a nice, albeit grimey hotel on the eastern part of the city.

When I arrived at the airport I was informed that my plane had been loaded and everything was on schedule.

A Boeing 737 can haul roughly 28 tons of cargo with a max carry load of 30 tons. I was told we would be slightly underloaded today. I was handed a roster of crates which were to be accounted for as I went to do my walkthrough of the plane.

As I glanced down at the roster I was thrown off when I saw just one item listed the crate #423. The weight? 20lbs. I stepped into the plane and saw the roster accurately represented the contents, there was one crate, not bigger than 20 by 20 inches, strapped down in the middle of the cargo bay. The rest sat eerily empty.

Although it was an extreme case, it wasn’t uncommon for highly valuable jewelry or art to be shipped in it’s own plane. I checked the one crate off the list and started the flight as normal.

The flight took approximately 10 hours 14 minutes. I arrived in the Seattle airport just before midnight. I landed and was boarded by the port hands who immediately begin loading boxes onto the plane.

I stopped one of the workers and asked why they were not unloading the existing cargo first. He looked confused as he informed me that this plane was coming home empty and there was nothing to unload. I gestured to the one small crate in the bay.

We walked over and the worker scanned the bar code on the crate, his device beeped twice - “Unknown Package Number.” “It’s not ours.” he informed me.

I don’t know how I missed it earlier, but on the crate there was a two words etched in dark marker “For Mac.” For me? I grabbed a crow bar from the side of the plane and pryed off the lid.

The crate was filled with crumpled foreign newspapers, it wasn’t until I dug to the bottom that I found a small wooden box. It was a small box which looked home made out of a lighter, yellow-ish wood. In the same dark marker as the crate it read “Also for Mac.”

I looked over my shoulder to see that the worker had lost interest and was already loading more crates into the bay. I was bumped into as a crate pushed against me. Annoyed, I grabbed the small box and got off the plane.

Once I was into the airport, I opened the box and found that it contained a single metal switch mounted in the center. A quick examination revealed no wires running to the switch, but did reveal a small note taped to the lid of the box. It read simply “Get what you want.”

As the bystanders see.

I ran my thumb over the switch, but something compelled me not to flip it. There was something inside of me which was overcome with fear, then happiness. I smiled the biggest smile I had in years.

I went home to my wife and we had beautiful passionate sex. It was amazing, like usual.

Once she had fallen asleep I got up and found a pad of paper and pen, I set the small box on the corner of my desk, then I started writing to my friends. “Dear Jackson, You’ve been my best friend since college and…” then “What up Mikey? How are the kids? How is Janet…”. I wrote letter after letter until I had a personal message for each of my favorite people in the world, I also detailed gifts for everyone. I made great money and many of my friends didn’t. It was time to give back.

It took hours and by the time I finished, the sun was coming up. I woke up and took my wife to our favorite breakfast place.

I explained to her that I had found this box and that it made me so happy, it contained everything I wanted, I told her how much better everyone's life was going to be after tonight.

We finished our meal and I tipped 2x the bill.

I dropped my wife off at the house and went to mail a few letters I had written the night before.

When I got home I played my favorite song as loud as the speakers could while I dug around for my favorite shirt.

I never broke my smile all day, even when I slipped shaving and cut myself a little. Nothing could ruin today.

Then I called all my close friends and family and asked them over to my house for dinner, I insisted that they come, cancel any plans, comes to my place.

I cooked by [sic] favorite meal and opened a bottle of my favorite wine.

I gave a toast, I told everyone that I loved them and that I couldn’t imagine my life without them. They make the world beautiful. Then I pulled out the box mid-toast and set it on the table. “Here is to the future!” I said as I raised my glass. As the first glances tinked together, I flipped the switch and the room went silent.

I fell to the floor, wine spilling over my favorite shirt as I hit the ground.

Everyone rushed to my aid, but it was too late. I was already dead.

As it is.

I ran my thumb over the switch, but something compelled me not to flip it. There was something inside of me which was overcome with fear, then happiness. I smiled the biggest smile I had in years.

I went home to my wife and we had beautiful passionate sex. She said the sex was amazing for her like usual, but it felt the same emptiness as always for me. The same thoughts ran through my head, Is this good enough? Is she happy? Probably not.

Once she had fallen asleep I got up and found a pad of paper and pen, I set the small box on the corner of my desk, then I started writing notes to my friends. “Dear Jackson, You’ve been my best friend since college and…” then “What up Mikey? How are the kids? How is Janet…”. I wrote note after note, being careful to allocate all my worldly possessions, so there wouldn’t be any fighting over who got the car or the house.

It took hours and by the time I finished, the sun was coming up. I woke up and took my wife to the breakfast place where I saw her ex boyfriend the week before, which reminded me once again, she was probably happier with him.

I explained to her that I had found this box and that it made me so happy, it contained everything I wanted, I told her how much better everyone's life was going to be after tonight.

We finished our meal and I left all the remaining cash in my wallet.

I dropped my wife off at the house and went to mail the notes I had written the night before.

When I got home I played my favorite song as loud as the speakers could for the last time while I dug around for what had been my favorite shirt until my wife said it looked dorky months before.

I never broke my smile all day, even when I started instinctively scratching at my neck with the razor while shaving. I had to stop myself though, cuts on my neck would be distracting and nothing could ruin today.

Then I called all my close friends and family and asked them over to my house for dinner, I insisted that they come, cancel any plans, come to my place.

I cooked by favorite meal using the knife I had first cut my wrist with last year and opened a bottle of my favorite wine which I had mixed with pills last time I tried.

I gave a toast, I told everyone that I loved them and that I couldn’t imagine my life without them. They make the world almost livable. Then I pulled out the box mid-toast and set it on the table. “Here is to the future!” I said as I raised my glass. As I the first glances tinked together, I flipped the switch and the room went silent.

I fell to the floor, wine spilling over my shirt as I hit the ground.

Everyone rushed to my aid, but it was too late. I was already dead.