John Hanover still remembered the feeling of numbness as the paramedics wheeled the lifeless body of Danny into the waiting ambulance. He didn’t even feel the continued slapping by his hysterical wife or even what she was ranting about. John could feel nothing at that moment but a feeling of detachment, as if it were an out of body experience that he was witnessing. He never got over that feeling. The only thing he could make out from his wife was “swimming pool,” and “you bastard.” Nothing really mattered at that moment. It didn’t even matter why little Danny was in the swimming pool that late on a school night. The whole world didn’t matter or anything in it. Nothing mattered except one thing to John Hanover; the thought that a parent should never have to bury their children.
Three years later the pain had only begun to subside whenever he was drinking his bourbon and tonic. He lived for the temporary relief that alcoholic buzz would bring him. His divorce from Linda was a mere formality after Danny died. She never accepted any blame for the death of their only child. That was so much like Linda…nothing was ever her fault. Of course, John had to share in the blame also since he was out drinking that night. Little Danny wanted to show his daddy his new skill of being able to “dog paddle” around the pool. Maybe it was the cramps that got him after entering the pool so late that night. No one will ever know. The only thing John Hanover knew for certain, as he lay on his hotel bed, was that life just wasn’t worth living any longer. In fact, as he looked out at the balcony of his room, he felt tonight may just be a good time to end this misery once and for all. Who would mourn his death, he thought. Well, maybe his sister. But, their contact was rare since she remarried and now lived in Miami, Florida. Really, no one else would even care if he got up from that bed and leaped to his death on the busy street below. His only concern is that he might land on someone, killing them both instantly. No, John Hanover didn’t want to take out anyone else with him that night. Maybe if he waited until about 2 or 3AM, the street would not be as busy. 18 floors up is a helluva way to end it all, John thought as he again took a deep drink from his cup of bourbon and tonic. But, death would be instant and the pain? Could the pain be even worse than what he was feeling now? No, that was not possible. Losing a job, a wife is something you can recover from eventually. But, losing a precious, innocent little boy like Danny? That was becoming more than John could take.
Life is all about choices, John considered. If he had left Justine’s before the “Last Call” he could have well been at home in time to possibly stop Danny from entering the pool. How would life have turned out for him if he had left, just 30 minutes earlier or even 20 minutes? Danny had been dead for only 5-10 minutes when Linda saw his lifeless body in the pool. So, yes, a choice to leave earlier may have been life changing. If only, only John could step back in time, avoided that Last Call at Justine’s and went home earlier, just 30 minutes, he might have been able to save Danny’s life. He made the choice to stay. Life is not only about choices, but about chances as well. John had the chance to attend AA meetings with a colleague 5 years ago. But, John felt he didn’t have a problem. And that colleague still has his family together. Chances. Choices. Life. John had them all within his grasp. He had a chance, a choice in life to have the kind of life his colleague has now. But, like so many times in his life, John couldn’t see the forest for the trees. All John thought about was the here and now, life was good, the money was flowing in like a waterfall. No longer. He is reduced to an 18th floor hotel room on the verge of jumping out to end a life of more misery than he can cope with now.
As John looked around the room, he noticed the inserted wall clock read “11:19.” Just about forty minutes before midnight. He took the final drink from his cup of bourbon and tonic and decided to walk out onto the balcony. Traffic seemed to be easing up a bit, John thought. Maybe I can do this about 1AM and be done with it. John looked out over the many lights of the hotels, casinos and tourist attractions of Vegas. How many people were considering suicide that night, he thought. Suicide had to be a major problem for a place with so many opportunities for people to blow all the money they had in the world. So many dreams begin and end here. As John continued to look out over the panoramic view, he noticed an orange glow from a couple of rooms down on about the 14th floor. John figured it must be some kind of wild ass dance party, with lighting and a band to match. But, he thought it was odd he didn’t hear any music. Aaah well, best to go back inside and wait…and pray for forgiveness for the act he was about to commit. They say suicide is an unforgivable sin. But, John felt he had committed so many unforgivable sins in life, one more won’t hurt.
As John walked inside, he went over to the phone to ask if the kitchen was still open. Might as well get that vaunted “last meal” that all condemned men get before execution. John picked up the phone, but there was no dial tone. Damn….what else can go wrong in my life, John yelled as he angrily slammed the phone down. Suddenly, something else got John’s attention. John walked over to the door of his room a bit puzzled. Thoughts of suicide were all at once the furthermost thing from his mind now. A very primal instinct kicked in with John Hanover.
John smelled smoke.