The Drowning Protest
Roy Endean

Uzark took great pains to inform those he termed the perishable of his own impending dissolution of body. When it was time he felt an acute trembling sensation somewhere in his interiors and acknowledged such in the mirror of his bathroom with a slight and untoward nod. There was no great ceremony on his part, none that would be obvious to others. There was no apparent desperation, no kindly midnight phone calls to benevolent exes or trumped up displacements of injuries, no confrontations that were sure to illicit something more than the usual response, which had been of late the flat uninterested tone of those whose connection had long since revealed itself to be nothing more than the casual or second-hand.

Some hours were spent walking the campus where he had recently completed his doctoral studies. After his defence he had revealed to his advisors that he was to abandon all forms of research in his selected area and devote himself to what he called a secular divination of life’s promises and secrets, declaring that if successful he would return one day and be garlanded by the president and chancellor in their presence.

He engraved passages from his personal diaries, or as he christened them scriptures, on the wooden benches which lined the old building of the university. He capped them all with a peculiar T using a long dragging twist of the knife. He had perfected this technique in his youth upon animals that his uncle raised in the mountains and where he spent each summer until his eighteenth birthday, cleaning pens and washing blood from his hands and gazing across the purple patches and mossy outgrowths of a singularly dead land.

Uzark arranged, rethought and rearranged his collection of motion picture memorabilia according to the year of release, the leading characters surname and finally then to the given name of the director. His collection he thought unmatched in this city save for the possibility of a lone and unbalanced fan of a particular film or genre that he had projected into his own reality in pseudo-comic book cliché form, from the paste of skin to the overhang of gut to the self loathing and loneliness that would never be absolved in the comforting reach of another’s body.

He polished and rinsed and swept and lay disinfectant upon the floor until it developed a certain lustre which appropriated the fluorescent light above, the same light that for many months now he had been meaning to replace with something natural and non-invasive, something tolerable, within a more human spectrum, curing migraines and insomnia and the resulting restlessness of his body which had spilled over into the spiritual and left him, as he liked to call it, pushed against the wall and in the shadows of his own life.

He wrote one letter to his mother in their native language that he placed unsealed upon a small table she had given him and in which he expressed his understanding of her in elaborate and misguided detail. He confessed peculiar and often damaging attractions towards her and fixated on her liaisons with two men, colleagues of her late husband and benefactor to her son, both men were western or as he referred to them blonde, both tall and seemingly impressive when standing next to the small, thin frame of his late father who while able to gesticulate wildly in the presence of his family kept his head bowed slightly and spoke in a soft, odd, clipped English when next to these men at board meetings or staff picnics or occasional dinner parties. Within the confines of these liaisons he noted that she had neglected him in his comparative youth and while she had supported him financially and pushed him academically and provided the resources which he desired, she had not shown him the emotional contact that was required of a mother, and so had to understand the curious position that he found himself, abandoned yet loved, saved yet wanting.

He informed no less than six of his contemporaries by post dated mail. He forwarded his respect and claimed close and personal connections with each of them. Of these six two were fellow researchers at the university who were acquainted with the oddly named man, yet, while occupying the same floor of the same building, and on occasion attending necessary social events in each other’s presence, and regularly taking coffee or lunch in the same space at the same time, they could not be called in any respect friends.

One of them went so far in future conversations to describe their former fellow in a rather abstract way as one who looked far past his own world. The remaining four he had never met in person and had maintained a minimal connection with them, primarily through electronic messaging services and on one occasion a brief and awkward telephone exchange to a woman named Avda, highlighting the similarities that he professed to see between the two of them, he as a man of indeterminate nationality, she as an immigrant many miles from her family, both scientists, both outsiders. When asked later if they knew him well and were good friends and shocked at what had occurred, all six of them lied and said why yes, it was a terrible, terrible day.

In the last hours he felt an increasing awareness of his body which blunted by a dull reaction in his nervous system from the intake of several Klonopin had produced the side effect of a dissociation between body and mild, the elation of the acceptance of his true path dimmed within the warming relief of his physical self. He emptied the cupboards and the fridge of perishable food and put all the cans into bags to be used later as weights.

He cleared his mousetraps from the patio and buried the captured, counting five in all, some decayed more than others. Never fastidious in dress he was careful to select his most appropriate colours and did not find the act of choosing ones final outfit to be in anyway comical or untoward or dismissive of the situation. He fashioned a tie in half Windsor and turned his laces with a shoemaker.

He went to the river and sat for a moment. He focused his breathing and closed his eyes, regulating his heartbeat until he sank deep within himself and here was protected from all the external and competing stimuli that surrounded him, the smell of grass, the rustle of wind, the sound of water. The sign around his neck read I have made my peace. A witness who had contacted the authorities was later interviewed and when asked why he had not helped the drowning man had answered that at the time he was confused how one could be so public with such a private act.

Roy Endean lives in the south of Ireland. His work has appeared in Brand Magazine and The Steel Toe Review, and has been performed by The Accidental Theatre Company.