Like the Back of My Hand
By Charles Burdell (a pseudonym at the author’s request)
I am immortal. At least I think I am, in theory. I’m standing on the small promontory, pondering this idea perhaps for the thousandth time and trying to enjoy the sensations: The sound of the waves breaking below, the smell and taste of the salty air, the feel of the ocean breeze on my face and in my hair, and the vibrant mix of reds, blues, greens, and violets that fill the sky as the sun sets behind the ocean. I come here often. I have not, as of yet, found the courage to throw myself down onto the rocks below.
I don’t mean to give the impression that the life I lead is somehow unsatisfactory, quite the opposite. I am the envy of most any man: Rich and powerful beyond imagination, with a wife who is beautiful, intelligent, and caters to my every whim; my mistress who is even more beautiful still, and even more compliant; and a multitude of servants to provide anything my wife or mistress cannot. My home and the surrounding estate are so vast that neither can be fully explored in less than a day’s time and both have a full-time staff devoted solely to their upkeep. I own a fleet of cars, a private jet, several boats, and even a helicopter along with the various crews, pilots, chauffeurs, and other attendants that are required to maintain and operate them all.
Even if my hypothetical immortality should prove true, I am not indestructible, this I am fairly certain of – as if I can be certain of anything anymore. I look down again at the ocean below me. Looking up and down the shoreline from the small marina dotted with various water craft to the forested hills that encompass my estate, I find nothing that is not mine, for I am truly Master of all that I see. I have attempted to become intimately familiar with my surroundings in the time that I have resided here: They are just as familiar as the back of my hand, if you will.
I hold out my hands at arms’ length and inspect them, and laugh at my private joke which I soon shall share. One might think that the adage would be more appropriate if we compared our familiarity with one’s own face rather than hands: We certainly recognize others this way, so why not ourselves? I would posit, however, that all but the most vain-glorious among us have indeed seen more of their own hands than their reflections.
Of course, debating the sense of that old adage is only a digression. I have promised to explain why I find it so amusing. I will answer why a man, such as me, would find the idea of being dashed across the rocks below so intriguing, for they are one and the same. It has to do with the first time I saw these hands, spread out in front of me as they are now. I’m getting ahead of myself, though my story begins long before that, in another place – a lifetime ago.
The short fiction above was written by a prisoner-student at FCI Petersburg and is published here by permission.