It felt as if someone had run him over with a car, then backed up with pretty cherry lights painting the world crimson and run him over again. His chest felt crushed, his ribs broken into jagged spears and making ribbons out of his lungs, his heart pinned around his spine in an unnatural S. His legs, it felt as if he had no legs. He was standing, he was walking – he must have legs – but he could not feel anything below his pelvis, anything at all really but for the pain devouring his heart.
He got up from the floor longing for a gun, cyanide, anything to disrupt the road he was now careening down – maybe in James Dean's cursed 550 Porsche Spyder – at 100 mph.
Gabriel didn't bother to put the phone away, he'd only be bombarded with more phone calls from his mother, who was more than likely filling up the answering machine at his apartment if she was not rushing over to the clock shop. With the latter nightmare in mind, he brushed himself off and went into the bathroom at the back of the store to splash a few handfuls of cold water onto his face.
Dripping, not particularly caring about it, Gabriel walked back into the main sector of the store and felt more strongly than ever that feeling of being repeatedly run over by a car. It was a crippling feeling, ruminating in Gabriel the desire to crawl into a dark corner and just lie there. Let his mother come running into the store with her pink housecoat on, let her ask questions, let her grind glass into her son's skin as she further beat home the fact that Gabriel was now in charge of this sad fate of repairing – restoring – watches.
Weak people throw up their hands and curl up into balls, and Gabriel was a weak person. So let his mother come.
But Gabriel didn't want to see the look in his mother's eyes, that "you could have been so much more had you not let yourself fall into this" flicker about the eyes. He didn't want to see her crying over a man like his father, who proved himself again and again that he only cared about himself – that there'd be someone behind him who could carry on his name when he left.
Gabriel shut off the lights, flipping the one switch he had upturned when stepping into the building. He thought it odd that the door was locked and the light off, but hadn't much time to dwell on the strangeness of such things because of the ringing phone. So he turned off the lone strip of lighting at the back of the store, filling the shadows with the eerie buttermilk glow that always used to unease Gabriel as a child. He turned his back on that spooky glow now gone, on the workbench now his, and stepped out into the crisp afternoon.
The air around his face turning into puffs of fast dissolving mist as he exhaled, Gabriel turned the collar up on his jacket. He locked the door with the small metal key that seemed too modern for the door, for the building, and thought about throwing that key away.
There was a trashcan at the end of the block, he could toss the key in there. It would land upon a half-eaten soft pretzel with mustard, in a lake of cold designer coffee beside a prairie of good-for-one-giggle tabloids. It would sit there until the garbage people came to empty it, then it would reside for all of eternity in the trash heap where it belonged.
He wouldn't even have to do that, either, because someone might see him throw a key away and ask if he was out of his mind. This was New York, no one cared about other people and might not even yell if they saw a woman having her head bashed in against the sidewalk by her husband. But there was always that one person, usually a tourist, who would say something. There was always that one person who'd come chasing after somebody to say they dropped a penny
and go about the rest of their day with a big smile on their face for saving the world of fewer lost pennies, even if it was only one. Hell, if one of those people saw Gabriel throw his store key away they'd shove their hand in the rotting pile of trash and retrieve it for him. They'd say that they saw him toss away a key and surely he didn't mean to do that. So here it is again
all safe and sound and he'd just have to another trash can to throw the stinking thing into.
Maybe he could drop it from his hand, though, as he walked. He could scope out all the people lying in their own filth on the streets, tin cup outstretched with a sign proclaiming "NEED MONEY FOR FOOD" or "SICK DAUGHTER PLEASE HELP" or even "WINO IN NEED OF BOOZE" because that hobo was an honest one. Yes, Gabriel could keep an eye out and when he came across a dazed tramp he could drop the key into his tin cup with a pleasant little plink! and be on his way before the tramp ever realized that that was no silver dollar just thrown into his cup.
But it might grow legs and hunt Gabriel down, crawl up onto his kitchen table and greet him with shiny silver teeth and a demonic little "Hello!"
Gabriel frowned at the idea, looking down at a middle aged man tucked out of the way in the shadows of an alley. The man was filthy, dozing with his head leaning against the rusting shopping cart which contained everything he owned – which wasn't much. A few soda cans, milk jugs, a plastic bag filled with what looked to be vegetables not too rotten as to be inedible.
The heart in his crushed chest, twisted around his spine, swelled with an unnamed feeling quite like pity but too angry to be such an emotion. Gabriel didn't pity, and he certainly didn't pity people who chose to live their lies as nameless and worthless under the scrutinizing eye of the world. They would die with no one knowing who they were, without anything caring, without being the least bit special.
Didn't they care?
Didn't they care that when they died no one would come to claim their ashes?
Didn't they care that if someone were to yell their name in the middle of a crowded street years after their death not a single person would lift their head?
Didn't they care that there would be no spiral bound notebook at their death site, yellowing and filled with the red-and-blue inked epitaphs of hundreds of people who've come to see where they died? And if they didn't want to be revered that highly as a hero as Gabriel's was, didn't they just want somebody to have a framed picture of them on a mantelpiece somewhere?
Didn't they want to be remembered? Special to someone, anyone?
No, Gabriel felt nothing toward these street people that even remotely resembled pity. What he felt, as he walked down the street and away from the clock shop, was a black thing that were it ever to be photographed would look very much like a child's scribbles with a piece of charcoal.
He put his hands in his jacket pockets, still holding onto the key, and turned his attention away from the nameless hobble of people wasting away on the streets. He turned away from them with legs that as if they had been quietly removed while their owner had been lying unconscious in the space of time between crushing car tires, with a body that all together felt too heavy to keep upright – as if every bone in his body, broken and whole, had been replaced with lead.
It seemed to take him an hour to walk the few blocks to the subway station, every woman he passed along the way his mother – crying and yelling at him to talk to him, to tell him where his father had gone and what on earth they were going to do without him. All the men, too, seemed to resemble his father. They all stared hard at Gabriel as he walked down the steps to the subway tunnel – leering with cold eyes and pursed lips. They laughed maliciously as Gabriel, typically a master, swiped his MetroCard through the turnstile two times before getting the hang of it.
Everyone seemed to jostle Gabriel more than usual, jabbing his broken ribs with sharp elbows and stepping on his numb-to-the-point-of-non-being feet. They seemed to holler at him in tones more grave than typical – barking "Get out of the way!", snapping "Move it!" with razor pointed teeth – or maybe it was just Gabriel's imagination. The station could have been empty, but the despondent climate of his mind refused to grapple with the new-found state of things alone.
In fact, as the train came rolling into the station, the electric hum bouncing off the walls and rattling the bones further into Gabriel's lungs, he though he saw a man lying dead on the tracks. A man who looked quite a bit like his father and he hoped it was, he hoped he wasn't playing a twisted game of make-believe.
Of course, though, he was.
As the train came to a stop, Gabriel's father vanished into a puff of bright yellow light.
With a deep sigh that pained his butchered lungs, Gabriel staggered onto the train and collapsed into the nearest seat. He leaned his head back against the window and shut his eyes, listened as the angry people around him clamored into the subway train after him. Some snapped their chewing gum as they came aboard muttering about the latest Yankees trade, a few squeaked like chipmunks about the deal they got at Macy's, most talked loudly into their cellphones.
Before the doors shut, a woman sobbed and Gabriel sat up quickly. He looked around, expectant, and found not his mother running over to him in her pink housecoat and grimy slippers, but a teenager laughing into her cellphone. Her hand was over her mouth, but the smile was evident.
He sneered at the girl and relaxed into his uncomfortable plastic seat, watched the doors bang close and the train begin to head toward his tiny apartment in a land no more joyful than Brooklyn but at least far away from that building left to him by his father.
At least in another borough Gabriel was able to get away from the expectations of his father, of a mother that was nothing herself and desired her son to be everything. Sure, it was only the same place where he had grown up, in an apartment within a demanding walking distance away – but it wasn't the clock shop.
If Gabriel looked out of his bedroom window he didn't have to see "Gray & Sons" lit up like all the lights of Las Vegas, blinding him. If he looked out of his bedroom window he saw Futility, thousands of ants running around in desperation, but at least he was above them looking down. At his home, such as it was, he felt important. It was only in his own head, but looking down at people reinforced his pride just enough.
Sitting in the subway, too, he was able to conform the images around him in his own favor – but it didn't have the same affect as being in his neat little apartment and staring down at all the other people in the world who were just as nameless as he was.
Ants. All anyone was, really, was an ant. Working until their hearts gave out and for nothing. They would have no recognition unless they made themselves into something – unless they were. Gabriel didn't know what exactly, but it certainly wasn't an ant, it most definitely wasn't a watchmaker with a maelstrom no longer in his shattered chest that demanded to be something important.
If only Gabriel had a magnifying glass and some sun.
He could be important that way, have his name plastered all over the newspapers for knocking off all the other ants that stood in the way of the bigger picture, the one where Gabriel was "Special".
Or at least more special than the people around him. The man in the two-sizes-too-small Ramones t-shirt, olive drab shorts with the waist size he wore twenty years ago, the faux army cap on his head badly hiding his bald spot – sitting there like he wasn't the washed up fool he was, sitting there and reading his conspiracy book with a faded old bunny rabbit sticking out of the backpack in his lap.
Or the woman across from Mr. Ramones Fan, her grey hair cut into the style all the other girls old enough to be her grandchildren were running into the salons to get. The old woman with her make-up too loud and her clothing way too young, the old woman trying too hard to not die alone perhaps.
Or how about the little boy standing beside his older sister – or knife happy mother? The little boy standing there in his
hand-me-downs, a sweatshirt too big and pants too low slung. The little boy holding onto his chaperon's hand like if he didn't the entire world would be blown to smithereens and he'd never see his beloved Mets – or so proclaimed his hat – win the World Series. He stared at his
raggedy Chuck Taylors as if he knew that World Explosion Day was coming soon. He stared at his shoes as if he was aware of how completely and utterly and hopelessly lost he was in the figurative crowd.
Gabriel stared at this little boy with mild interest, the unsettling and mostly imagined parallels between the boy and himself glowing like a halo around the kid's head. Gabriel stared at this little boy and suddenly came to see that the little boy was lonely – that his heart seemed to beat in a way unfamiliar with the rest of the world because of that loneliness. Gabriel saw and knew that this little boy, winding down on eleven years old, ate alone in the school cafeteria. He knew that the little boy had a very hard time with math problems – with every subject save lunch and gym – because his desk mate didn't like having to share a desk and continually split the tabletop further and further against Mets Fan's favor. He knew that the boy had received only one valentine on Valentine's Day that might have actually meant something, and it hadn't actually been for him.
As he studied the boy Gabriel knew that the boy's hand-me-downs couldn't possibly be hand-me-downs because he was the only boy in the family, that he had no sister and in fact the woman whose hand he was holding was a knife happy mother – who was not a match, and neither was his father and that's about where the blood-line ended. The joys of having parents who were themselves only children.
Gabriel saw and knew – the boy feeling himself watched and raising his sallow-faced head to gaze like Death at a watchmaker's son turned watchmaker – that the sickness between the kid's bones would finally kill him off in three months, two days, seven hours, thirty-one minutes, eight seconds exactly. On the boy's twelfth birthday.
It took me until now to realize that Gray & Sons is in Brooklyn while Gabriel's apartment in is Queens, not the other way around.
01.) James Dean's Porsche (the E pronounced as an AH) Spyder, "Little Bastard", took its owner on September 30, 1955. The actor was 24. At 5:59PM at the intersection of Routes 41 and 466 in San Robles, California, James Dean bore-down upon college student Donald Turnupseed as he attempted to make a left turn across the highway. The two cars crashed head-on, pinning Dean (whose car was roofless with a small racing shield) beneath the wreck, dying en-route to the hospital. His passengers were thrown from the car but, comparatively speaking, all right. Turnupseed was not hospitalized for any of his injuries nor charged with the accident.
The car, mangled and nearly torn in two, went on to break a mechanic's leg as it slipped off a trailer. The new owner, George Barris, who bought the wreck for parts, sold the engine to Troy McHenry and the drive-train to William Eschrid. Both were physicians who planned to use the car parts in their own race cars. When the doctors raced their vehicles for the first time after putting in Little Bastard's parts, McHenry's car spun out of control and crashed into a tree – killing him instantly. Eschrid was severely injured when his car rolled, going into a curve.
The car's tires were unharmed during Dean's accident and were sold to a young man who quickly returned them. Both tires had blown simultaneously while he was driving down a road, causing him to run into a ditch.
A young man attempting to steal the steering wheel of the wreckage had his arm torn open on a jagged piece of metal. Another was also injured, trying to take a piece of bloodstained upholstery.
The California Highway Patrol used the car on loan for use in a traveling highway safety exhibit. Two exhibits went by without incident, but prior to the third a garage in Fresno (used to store the car) went up in flames. Everything was destroyed save the Porsche Spyder, which barely suffered even scorched paint.
On the anniversary of Dean's death, at a display in a Sacramento high school, the car fell off of its pedestal after bolts snapped. A student suffered broken bones (conflicting reports site either shattered legs or a broken hip).
A truck driver en route to Salinas lost control, was thrown from the vehicle and subsequently crushed when the Porsche fell off the flatbed and landed on top of him.
The car fell off of another flatbed two years later on the freeway, crashing onto the road and causing a fatal accident. In 1958 a truck carrying the Porsche was parked on a hillside in Oregon when the truck's brakes snapped and crashed into another car, shattering the windshield. While on display in New Orleans in 1959, the Silver Porsche 550 Spyder suddenly severed itself into eleven pieces. To this day the cause has been undetermined.
In 1960 the car was crated after an exhibit in Miami, Florida and put on a train bound for Los Angeles. When the boxcar was opened, the car had vanished. Its current whereabouts are unknown.