Ups and Downs

Copyright Ken Brady. No reproduction without express permission from the author.
(Originally published in DAILY CABAL, 2009)

He knows Hell is at the bottom and Heaven is at the top, but those are simplified concepts and don’t really tell him much about quality of afterlife.

So he stands on an up escalator cause that’s the sort of life he’s lived so far. It’s not like he’s always been going up, but he’s done a solid job overall. Paid taxes, used exact change, tipped generously, put the seat down. Important stuff.

The escalators stretch far into the distance, up to his right, down to his left, endless across the vastness around him. Some faster, some slower. People in different stages. The rhythmic clicks and squeaks of life flow around him.

He glances at the faces of the people going up faster than him, almost eager to get there.

This story isn’t about them.

It’s not about his parents who went separate ways when he was young, not about the few friends he had in high school. It’s always about where he is in his own story, even if most people ignore their own paths and read themselves in the trajectories of others.

He knows his story is about the only girl he loved, the one he should have married, the kids he should have had with her, the Karmann Ghia he never should have traded for a Suburban. But mostly it’s about the girl.

He’s always known he would see her again, and he finally chose to put himself on the right path to make it happen.

This is the middle. The point to embark or disembark. There’s a lot to be said for being able to change direction at any time, any place, but there’s even more to be said for doing it, for recognizing the reality of your situation and taking a chance when it could be your last.

She comes into view in an instant. No warning. It’s always like this. Radiant and beautiful and everything he remembers, extra years be damned. She’s moving downward a bit faster than he expects, but you can’t have everything.

He knows it’s not like the escalator’s going to stop for him. It’s like Mitch Hedberg’s joke about an escalator never breaking, just becoming stairs. But even Mitch made it off the ride in one direction or the other and he’s not telling jokes anymore.

She passes him, turns, sees him too, and in that instant he knows this is his one chance. It’s six in one, half a dozen in the other, blah blah fucking blah. He knows the choice he’s supposed to make. But it’s his story.

So he jumps the railing and runs down after her.