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Exercise #23: Too Much


Today is the day. I’m going to leave here. I’m going to make a couple of sandwiches, wrap them in waxed paper, put them in one of the brown paper bags that I asked Morena to buy when she brought me groceries last week, and I’ll add a bag of baked potato chips and a can of Coke. Then I’ll put my lunch in the new backpack that I bought online from Timberland, along with a couple of magazines. I will walk out the front door, I will lock it behind me, and I will take the three flights of stairs to the ground floor. I’ll walk out of the building and turn right on the sidewalk. Then I’ll go four blocks north and two blocks east to Riverview Park. I’ve seen it on a Google map. It looks lovely and green in the satellite image. I can also see it from a couple of online traffic cams that look south along Lincoln Parkway. I know from the police reports I read that the neighborhood policing program has reduced crime in the area, and that Riverview Park is patrolled at all times of day and night.

So today might be the day. I’ve spent a lot of time building up to this moment. I haven’t been outside in four and a half years. Not just outside the building, but outside the door into the hallway of my apartment building. I wasn’t always like this. There was a time when I walked the streets without a care like so many people do. But that was before I realized how dangerous it is out there. Still, some of the friends I’ve met online tell me that I should be strong, that I should not be afraid, that I’m missing too much by spending my life in this small apartment. On an intellectual level, I hear what they’re saying. But there’s a voice inside me that won’t let me forget how easy it is to lose everything in a matter of moments. And so I take precautions, I guard my safety, my privacy.

Maybe today will be the day, though. I’ll load up my backpack so I’m ready for whatever I might encounter out there. The food, of course, and bottles of water, filtered twice through the charcoal filters I ordered. Maybe a flashlight. The keys for all my door locks, except for the one to the deadbolt, which I’ll leave under the loose edge of the carpet in the hall outside my door. You can’t be too careful. And something to read, not so much for the entertainment as for a buffer against the possibility that people will want to talk to me. If I look like I’m reading, people will leave me alone. And my surgical mask, too, will discourage casual conversation, though I understand that it’s not serious protection against any of the more virulent antigens out there. I will have to take my chances.

I don’t know if today will be the day. There is still too much to be done at home, too much to think about.

Note: The assignment was to write about “something you have too much of.” I wrestled with this prompt for a couple of days, but I was getting nowhere. Perhaps I spent too much time thinking about it, or let it become a mental block with too much power over me. I decided to write from the perspective of a character who finds the whole world to be too much for him.

© 2009 Edward F. Gumnick

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