"Death and the Good Citizen"
Tommy Gavin has made up his mind regarding a way to justify all of the pain inside. It's his gut reaction shying away from human affection.
At least that's what his attorney told him after the latest hearing about his wife wanting to file for divorce as soon as possible. If he had been asked for his opinion on the matter, which he was not asked, he would term more of a fight versus flight reaction. He is more than capable of mixing it up with the best of them so even during a fight when the odds were against him, he would never flinch, but ah, emotions, sensitivity, feelings, those are much harder.
His wife said it was fear of commitment and she just may have scored a point on that subject. However, he is as committed as they come when it comes to his profession as a firefighter, after all they save lives at considerable risk to their own well-being, so aside from the personal cost, it's the way he feels that matters, right?
Take his cousin, Jimmy, for starters. Jimmy was like a younger, more hopeful reflection of his own persona, while he'd dealt with trauma and the loss of the young man's death in the aftermath of 9/11. Tommy, on some level, realizes that Jimmy made his own choice to respond to the crisis in New York; he had made a decision that he could never take back; and it's not his fault that Jimmy died. It's all very logical. And it sucks like crazy also, because maybe if he had done something a little bit differently Jimmy might still be alive.
Tommy had been forced to redefine his definition of a hero; either a hero was somebody who saved lives, or somebody who did so at considerable cost to their own. It makes no to play the what-if this what-if game of second-guessing especially when his own personal life is so screwed up.
It's not that he wants to stop being a fire fighter. He likes his job, he enjoys the challenges presented to him or wait, and they call it being a first-responder now, isn't it? In any case, he has learned a technical term for what he's feeling, it's called survivor's guilt: 'Yeah right'. And he shoves the unwelcome thoughts to a nice dark corner of his mind.
All things considered he thinks he prefers the flight versus flight theory instead.
The only woman assigned to the station house recommended that Tommy seek a little professional help, and which he assumes is all a bunch of mumbo jumbo egghead nonsense.
He reads the newspapers; he knows what a crazy messed up place New York City can be. However, getting his head examined by a head shrink for an hour or so was definitely not on his list of a pleasant way to spend his off day.
And It's only when his odd visions begin to affect his performance on the job that maybe, and that's a very remote possibility, that that she might have a point.
Later that same evening Tommy woke up with his cotton sheets wadded up in a heap at the foot of his bed. Tommy realized that he has just had one of the most vivid dreams that he can recall on awakening. The dream is of falling from a very high place. That high place just happens to be the rooftop of a ten-story tenement in the blue-collar section of the city.
It 's cold up here and windy; even through the insulated lining of his yellow firefighter jacket the cold penetrates through to his skin. He shivers in the cold wind and reflexively pulls up the collar up around his nose and mouth. It's a mild winter based on previous ones, but at this altitude, and he still shivers, and can see his breath pluming the frosty air.
He wishes to be drunk; and then stops to think twice about it and he figures an alcohol-
induced mental state would only make it worse.
"Might have snow by the end of the week."
"Come now, I been gone for less than a month, it's cold in the ground, and my best buddy in the whole world has forgotten me already?"
"Jimmy is that you?" Tommy spun around, taking his focus off the spectacular view and equally interesting view of the long drop to the street below. He blinked and wiped the grit out of his eyes when he saw the figure leaning up against the brick chimney of the apartment building. The apparition's silk tie was askew, the rented tuxedo he'd been buried in crinkling around the elbow. The crease located in the same spot his shirts always had crinkledwhen Jimmy had been alive and breathing. "This isn't happening. I can't be seeing things."
"Why not? Wait. Don't answer that question. Let me tell you: because it's crazy, because it's logically it's impossible, that you're drunk and now you are hallucinating. Some things you just have to accept on faith, like how I can be visiting you even though strictly speaking, I'm not exactly alive.
It's weird, but there it is."
"Jimmy? Knock it off, I really don't need this right now." And I don't think if I was going to start seeing ghosts that I'd pick you to haunt me."
"Who were you expecting? Maybe your Friendly neighborhood Spiderman?"
"Tell me afterward why I liked your sense of humor?" Tommy snapped.
"Because I was the only one who laughed and got your jokes," Jimmy replied.
"How is it possible I'm having this conversation with a dead man?"
"Do you really want to go into that?" Jimmy titled his head to one side, that familiar devil-may-care grin on his face and the confident swagger back in his step. "I'm not really supposed to be here and telling you things concerning the afterlife, you know."
"I've heard ghosts haunt places that meant something to them in life. So I guess, I really do not need to know the particulars."
"You watch too many scary movies. What I came to say, is you need to stop worrying so much about things you can't change."
"You came back to tell me that?"
Jimmy grinned. "Yeah, don't look so surprised. I always was the one who listened to you, when no one else would. So you, gonna take my advice?"
"Okay, okay," Tommy replied, "I give up, I get it already."
"Good old Tommy Gavin. Given enough time and effort the light will shine through that thick skull of yours."
"I see said, the stubborn man," Tommy said. "Thanks, by the way."
"You are welcome. I have to go. My time is running out." Jimmy said and then vanished as suddenly as he had appeared.