Posted on: October 29, 2013
Phil twiddled his thumbs and waited anxiously for his name to be called. He bided his time by counting the number of clocks strewn around the stark-white office.
Forty-eight. Forty-nine. Fif…
Phil stood up and approached the reception desk.
“Third door on the right,” she instructed.
Phil nodded and proceeded down the bright corridor.
One. Two. Three.
He took a deep breath and rapped on the door with his knuckles.
“COME IN,” a voice beckoned from the other side of the barrier.
Phil grabbed the knob and slowly turned it clockwise until it came to an abrupt stop. The voice resumed its commands as he pushed the door forward.
“Mr. Warner. Please. Take a seat.”
Phil scanned the room until his eyes were drawn to a man in an all-white suit frantically waving him towards his desk.
“Quickly, Mr. Warner. You should know now more than ever that time is valuable, and limited.”
The word “time” startled Phil from his daze like the snap of a hypnotist’s fingers. He closed the door behind him and took a seat in a white chair facing the Colonel Sanders doppelgänger.
“Alright, Mr. Warner. You’re here to apply for a loan.”
“That is correct,” Phil replied, despite the lack of a question.
“So get on with it. How much time are you looking for?”
“Well,” Phil paused, caught off guard by the need to throw out an actual number. “I guess however much I would’ve had if I didn’t do that thing I did.”
“You mean kill yourself?”
“If we’re being blunt about it.”
“I don’t have time for tact, Mr. Warner.”
“Fine. Then yes, I’d like whatever time I would’ve had if I didn’t try to kill myself.”
“DID kill yourself, Mr. Warner. You are dead, and by your own volition, mind you.”
The man’s candid words hit Phil harder than the chilling waters beneath the Golden Gate Bridge.
“I know,” he conceded. “And I regret it.”
Phil looked down at his feet and began rubbing the toes of his dark leather dress shoes together, hoping to spark a bit of sympathy from his inquisitor.
“Obviously,” the man responded. “Otherwise, you would have no use for a loan, now would you?”
“I thought you didn’t want to waste time?”
“Then will you PLEASE just tell me if and how I can get my life back?”
“You mean the life you cut short?”
The man smirked and leaned back in his chair, settling in for further interrogation.
“Tell me something, Mr. Warner, what makes you a safe investment?”
“I’ve seen the light.”
The man threw his head back in laughter while clasping his hands.
“Everyone sees the light when they die, Mr. Warner.”
“Well, it changed my perspective on things.”
“Death tends to do that to people.”
“What do you want me to say?”
Phil’s tone prompted the man to assume a more serious posture.
“I want you to say something that makes me believe you’ll break the pattern you’ve been repeating your entire life.”
“What do you mean my entire life? This is the one, and if you’re generous enough to give me a second chance, the ONLY time I ever have or will try to kill myself.”
The man gave Phil a moment to calm down before continuing his assessment.
“Do you know what suicide is, Mr. Warner?”
“Probably not in the way you’re thinking.”
“Suicide is quitting, Mr. Warner. Have you ever quit before?”
“Of course! Everybody quits from time to time.”
“And do you see anything wrong with that?”
“No! Well, I mean, it depends?”
“On what, Mr. Warner?”
“On what you lose.”
“What did you lose by quitting life, Mr. Warner?”
“What’s ‘everything,’ Mr. Warner?”
“Well, I have a daughter.”
“And what will you miss about her the most?”
“I don’t know yet.”
“You don’t know yet?”
“To be honest, I haven’t really been Father of the Year. I want to change that.”
“Admirable. What else?”
“I’d like to be a better husband.”
“To which wife?”
“The most recent one, obviously. Or maybe a new one? I don’t know. I just know I’d be a better husband this time around.”
“Okay. What else?”
“Does there NEED to be something else?”
“If you want more time, yeah, there kind of does.”
The man propped his elbows up on the desk and stared Phil dead in the eyes.
“Because, Mr. Warner, so far you’ve given me nothing but two massive regrets and some lofty aspirations.”
“Of course I have regrets. Doesn’t everybody?”
“Yes, Mr. Warner, everybody has regrets, but you’re lacking results.”
“I don’t understand.”
“What are you proud of, Mr. Warner? What would you CONTINUE doing with your life If I grant you this loan?”
The question swept in like a drone strike on Phil’s stockpile of rebuttals. The man could see Phil’s eyelids quiver like a final death rattle.
“Nothing,” Phil responded in his calmest tone since entering the office. “I wouldn’t want anything in my life to stay the same.”
“Then what do you really want, Mr. Warner?”
Phil laughed, finally realizing what he’s been wanting all along.
“I guess I want a new life.”
“Well, Mr. Warner, I’m afraid there’s nothing I can do about that. The best I can do is send you back to the life you no longer want, but I think we both know how that will end, don’t we?”
Phil responded with a single nod.
“So, what do I do now?” Phil asked.
“You walk out that door and enter the Great Unknown,” the man responded, pointing to Phil’s final exit.
“Will it be better than my not-so-great known?”
Phil could tell his time had officially run out. He stood up from the chair, gave the man a hesitant wave and turned towards the door. The wall facing him was void of any pictures, color or clocks. There was only nothingness, and Phil was fine with that.
Written by: Mark Killian
Photograph by: Jaemin Riley
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License
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