by Jeremy Warneke
Bachmann ran like hell. He was darting down the avenue dressed in his blue-and-white-checkered, pajama bottoms and cordovan, patent leather, dress shoes, folded beige-and-green striped, staff umbrella in hand. It wasn’t the first time. It would not be the last. It was not raining. It was a fairly warm autumn evening. The time was 12 o’clock, midnight.
Bachmann ran like the devil was chasing after him. He was always running in this fashion. This time, he was carrying two, brown, paper, shopping bags with him. He lived like a nomad from one borough to the next. He was always carrying a bag of some sort.
He looked at the traffic light. He still had time to cross the street, but as he did, a stopped black sports car, waiting for the green signal, revved its engine, scaring the bejesus out of Bachmann. The man behind the wheel was laughing. He seemed to have done this on purpose. Bachmann was not laughing. Despite the determined route he had chosen, he was not about to take this man’s crap too. He ran up to the car and spat on the driver’s side window, scaring the bejesus out of the driver. Pleased for the most part, Bachmann continued on his merry way.
Running up the stairs and into the train station, he fumbled with his wallet for a credit card. After paying for an unlimited metro pass, he ran down the stairs toward the approaching M60 bus. Just in time. He ran through the bus’s two front doors and swiped the pass once inside. He was out of breath. His cell phone was ringing. It was his wife. Bachmann didn’t answer. She was the reason he was running. She was always the reason. The two just didn’t get along. They loved each other, but they couldn’t see eye to eye.
At some point, Bachmann packed his bags and ran. It didn’t help that he had an apartment in the Bronx to run to, but that’s where he lived now most of the time anyway. It was dangerous to go to the Bronx at this late an hour. Some Albanian kid got mugged recently outside of the train station near Bachmann’s apartment. Despite this, Bachmann ran as fast as he could. He couldn’t stand his wife’s nagging criticisms. “I know the risk I’m running,” he told her before leaving.
The departure was not a pleasant one. It was better than duking it out with her however. It quite possibly would have gotten physical had he stayed. He tried to avoid this. He was always more inclined to break objects or hurt himself. Still, why run the risk of hurting her or himself any further?
His wife had sent him two text messages while he ran. She blamed him as usual for ruining her evening. She had to wake up early to go to work. “I didn’t start this,” Bachmann insisted.
As with most women, she wanted to talk. As with most men, he didn’t. So instead, they played their game of war, in which both parties lost. They’d get very mean and angry with each other. Bachmann always threatened to leave, but this time, he finally followed through. “I didn’t have the nerve to stay,” he texted her.
As Bachmann tried to contemplate what just happened, the bus crossed over the Triborough Bridge, whose pale-blue towers stretched a vertical distance of over 300 feet. Bachmann looked down at his hand. His right elbow and forearm tingled with pain. He was still angry. He couldn’t feel remorse for what he had done. Not at the moment. Not in the current state. He had punched his wife’s alarm clock, the one she had bought before they got married. His fist came straight down on top of the flat, black, digital device. But it did not break. Not to his knowledge.
He gave anyone on the bus who looked at him a cold stare, forcing any onlooker to avert their eyes. The bus was en route to Harlem. He had to play tough guy, he thought, if he wanted to get home safely. He had his Army-issued switchblade in his front right, burgundy, leather-jacket pocket. Ever since that Albanian kid got mugged and ever since he was cautioned to carry a weapon on him, he did. He’d rather avoid using things such as knives, especially since kids nowadays usually had bigger weapons.
Bachmann got off of the bus at Lexington Avenue. He ran down the stairs and into the subway station, although his wife was nowhere to be found. She had chased him a ways when he first darted out the door. Now, he had to wait twenty or more minutes for the train, a train he needed to take but did not desire doing so. He had to make a transfer at 149th Street. He sat on the wooden bench in the middle of the platform with his right hand cupping the handle of the umbrella he had placed in an upright position. The blood on his two front knuckles was drying if not completely dried. This is what he had devolved to, he thought, a man in his PJs in the subway in Harlem after midnight on Thanksgiving. This would be the last such episode, he concluded. There would be no Christmas this year. He and his wife had already agreed to no gift giving. They had returned each other’s remaining possessions. Now, there was nothing really left binding them. There was love, but it was not enough.
A boy of seventeen came up to Bachmann and asked him if he plays video games. The boy seemed nervous. “What?” Bachmann asked. Another teenager grabbed him from behind. The boy in front belted him, while another searched his bags and pockets. The platform wasn’t empty, but those who saw what was happening quickly turned away.
Jeremy Warneke enlisted in the Army prior to 9/11. Following his discharge from active duty, he completed his undergraduate coursework at Sarah Lawrence College in New York, where he currently resides. With the support of the Bronx Council on the Arts, his family, and others, he created his own writing workshop, “The Craft of War Writing,” which is an attempt to give to his local community what other communities already have.