One click and it would be over. He held the metal with hot hands, his grip clammy but sure. He held it at his head, resting it for support by his mouth. It slipped across the smoothness of his lips as it adjusted into readiness.

It would take just one click. It was simple. One click and it would all be over. The once-white tee-shirts, the piles of downtrodden shoes, the dark, drawn windows, the room that hadn’t rustled for two days . . . it would all fade. With it would fade the pain. Pain was a physical thing. He could feel it gnaw his heart chambers out, even as his health was as bright as carrots. Soon his heart would fade out too.

It was simple. One click and it would all be overThe heartbeats, carrying his red blood throughout his veins, across his despair-swollen heart, would beat feebly for a second and then—nothing. All those for whom it was not worth living would show up crying and carry him to his funeral. But that was not his business. He would be gone.

So do it. An anxiety wave washed over him and temporarily stole his breath away in a chest squeeze. Okay. He squared his shoulders. One, two, three, he closed his eyes, pulled the trigger and a blinding fire in his throat stole his life.

It’s over now, he thought satisfactorily, as his sitting back fell prone. So why am I still thinking?

It was horrible, really, this realization. He was dead, he saw, when he looked at his slumped body, its mouth hanging peculiarly to the side. Yet he could see. His body didn’t fade, nor did his laundry. His windows were drawn; his night lamp was heating a sock that hung over it. He could see it all. In fact, if a moment ago he was experiencing himself from two narrow slits of eye, now he felt himself filling up the entire room.

He saw his textbooks on the bottom shelf of his closet, the electronics, some dead, some still working, in black and silver and metal, on his center shelf. He saw the peep in the curtain where it was folded back for light, the streak of light that illuminated dancing dust. He saw his body from above it, with its forest-green shirt and tan pants and toes and black rubber flip-flops. He saw his body under his clothes. He saw his body from the inside, its temperature still warm, and its organs slowly grinding to a stop.

He could also feel. He felt the clocks ticking on him. He felt the warmth of the night light and the rumpled bedclothes around the feet of his benumbed body. He felt the pages of his books in the closet and the plastic of the telephone imprinting on him.

I’m scared. He wanted to flee this place. This room with misery and a dead body and a large life filling up the entire room scared him. He wanted to escape, or huddle back into the body and cozy up, reuniting again in comfort. He was large and exposed, and the room was stifling. Get me out of here.

He was large and exposed, and the room was stiflingHe noticed he could leave the room by slipping past the window pane. He slid out. In the street, his life could dance higher than the four floors of the building; it could float under the clouds. He saw the street below, billowing with people as always. A yellow cab screeched as it ran, a woman with a dog and sunglasses strolled past the trees in her coat. A man in leather spoke into the air, a Bluetooth blipping in his ear. The weather was cold; he could see it in the puffs coming out of people’s mouths, in the frost flakes on windshields. He could feel it in the fresh, invigorating air that surrounded him but made him not cold.

Life was running along uneventfully in the world he was straddling. The vendor’s steel cart smelled of hotdogs and mustard, and a wilting line of steam emerged under the hood of its umbrella. The sidewalks were still paved with a line every two feet, and he could feel its grooved bump.

Everything is the same! he realized. Life was so usual, yet it was not. He was a bird, a blimp, a wind, a rose petal floating in the air. He was himself, but he felt lighter, better and happier. The same window with Mr. Mousier peering through it ignited in him a sympathetic compassion, instead of his usual long snort. The empty yogurt container loitering around the stairs to his house evicted fascination over the plastic, the remains of blueberry flavor and mold married together.

I am no longer I, am I? He looked into himself. The answer, so clearly felt in every fiberless extension of his being, was clear. He was he, only the real he. He wasn’t the he who began at his toes and ended at his hair. He was he from one end of the street to the post office on the other end. If he so desired, he could even expand and be present in old Johnny’s apartment over the bridge. He was everywhere, he was large. He could even extend upward.

Who he was became more startling than his size. He was a happy man, exuberant with the details of life. The bend of four fingers clutching a leather handle of an attaché case by the stern businessman briskly walking by, enchanted him. The wisps of hair floating on top of all the others on Mrs. Luck’s auburn head were beauty. Trees that lined the boulevard had so many leaves, each one with veins and shades of green, moisture and supple life, it made him feel more alive than he had ever been.

This is crazy. The world is so beautiful. The physical world is so multifaceted and rich, an ice cream that gets tastier the more you savor it. He felt like embracing the world, and he did, his being hugging tight the grass, the air, the river-streams. They hugged him back, the grass brushing him lovingly, the air and scents intoxicating him and driving him high. I love you, world. I love, love, love you, world.

As he floated upward, leaving the entire world behind, he had the feeling of looking back to wave goodbye. He peered into his room from his place up high. He saw his pillow bloodied red and brown, his body askew. He saw his mother, his father, his stepfather. He saw himself, really saw himself for the first time. His conception, his period in utero, his birth, and his fall at age one; his first tooth and his shoes. He saw himself growing, making friends and losing them. He saw himself learning the letters in a McMerril shiny reader. He saw himself in college, in the tiled halls smoking, in his apartment living it off, becoming entrenched in misery. He saw himself in such clarity, like a fast-paced movie reeling through his life, but all it took was minute to rewind it. He was tired and old and cranky at twenty-one. Not a girl could spare him a smile; he repelled them. He saw his bed, lain in for days. He saw his revolver. His resolve to end with it, his bullet, loaded, challenged to dislodge from the gun in one shot, finally—his death.

He saw himself in such clarity, like a fast-paced movie reeling through his life, but all it took was minute to rewind itBut it did not end there. He saw his future. Him getting out of bed, throwing on some old wrinkled clothes when he could lie in bed no more. Driving to Wal-Mart in his old Acura. Getting new tees. Putting on new clothes, new shoes, shaving. Meeting up with other guys in the dumps. He saw himself joking with them. He saw them coming to him for his wisdom, his experience and warmth. He saw him telling them, “All it takes is pulling up your socks and getting out of your personal slump.” He saw his crowds swelling. Soon he was talking to thousands, inspiring millions. He was placing checks into his case and driving over to the bank to deposit them.

He was mature. He was emotionally healthy. He wore ties to his big events and Polos to his smaller appearances. He was on TV. He was big. He had two daughters and a son. He gave them a good life. He saw it all, in a continuation from the life he had lived up until now. It was all seamless, his lows meshing with his highs into one pattern. The lows were there because of the time he would be in a tall position, so that he might understand the man he is helping. One was for the other. His time knocked out in bed was created so that he could inspire the masses against succumbing to the hard times in life.

It was so clear, all he saw, that he knew it was the truth. He was meant for greatness. There was yet more for him to do on earth, it was a shame to leave now when he could bring more power to the world after another bout of years in his body. It was shame that made him feel insufficient, broken, like a shamefully broken vessel.

He wanted to go back down, slip into himself, get a fist together, and start his work in the world. There was so much still to do, he could feel it. He lowered himself into the world, tiptoed to his home, and came in through the window to the airless, stuffy room of death. He wanted to announce himself to his body, wake it up and get it moving.

His body lay, unmoving. He jiggled with burning desire to live. But there was a barrier between him and his body. It was a gun, nestled in his hand, and a lodged bullet in his throat.