Categories > Books > Outsiders > Epiphany0 Reviews
“Not Johnny … Not Johnny …” He muttered into space, over and over without really hearing the words leave his mouth. “Not him too. It wasn’t supposed to be this way. Not Johnny …”
Dallas Winston sat, slumped on the dying grass beneath him, his voice breaking the silence of the frozen vacant lot. He was tired—emotionally drained—and he felt as if he hadn’t slept in years. The cold hand of death would be grasping at him soon enough, firm and unforgiving. But even that didn’t matter anymore.
It never mattered.
Glory… Why did it have to be this way? Dallas wondered.
The image of Johnny, cold and mean stalking along next to Tim Shepard, was burned into his brain. The hollow look in his friend’s eyes was a permanent fixture now, dancing through his restless thoughts as he sat under the glow of the lone streetlight. It seemed like ages since he had been in this very spot, at this very time. But how long had he been away from the real world? Seconds? Tenths of seconds? It certainly couldn’t have been much longer than that.
But things were so different now. The world was not the same place that it used to be. Moments ago, the worst thing that had ever happened to Dally was seeing Johnny die. Now, it was seeing Johnny alive, living and thriving as another delinquent. A tough little piece of shit just like him, with an equal—if not more impressive—reputation.
Dallas closed his eyes and tried to push the thought out of his mind. He was prepared to give up his life, to end everything, because Johnny had gone before him. Damn it all if he couldn’t wipe the grim reality of that last glimpse out of his head.
Johnny wasn’t that thug that he kept seeing in his jumbled thoughts. Johnny was a quiet kid. A good kid. A kid that risked his life—and eventually lost it—to save a bunch of pre-schoolers. Johnny was a real hero. He deserved the moniker that the paper gave him. He deserved to be honored and remembered. He deserved to have a quick flash of glory before he left the cold, cruel world behind.
Dally twisted a crumpled blade of grass between his fingers. He watched it intently, bending it to his will and, finally, tearing it apart when he was bored with it. It was so nice to have control over something again, even if it was only a blade of grass. For once during his strange trip, he was in charge again. He could call the shots and do as he pleased. For once, the voice wasn’t trying to interfere and stop him. Maybe it realized just how far the glimpses had pushed him—just how close he was to actually breaking.
Dallas drew in a quivering breath and rubbed his eyes with the back of his hand. Tears that he had successfully contained dribbled down his rough skin, finally released from their icy blue prisons.
He didn’t like crying. He remembered how, even as a little kid, he had refrained from doing it.
When his mother called him a worthless little brat … He held it in.
When, Tommy, the leader of the guys that he ran with was gunned down by a rival gang … He held it in.
When he spent his first night scared, and alone, in a New York City jail cell … He held it in.
When he got sent away to live with his old man … He held it in.
When his old man grew tired of his presence and made it his daily routine to pound him…
He held it in.
When Johnny turned up in the lot, beaten to a pulp by some Socs … He held it in.
But when Johnny died in front of him, Dally just couldn’t do it anymore. The tears came naturally then, almost too easily, he had noticed. Even with Ponyboy standing across the room, wide-eyed and bewildered, he had no problem releasing the tears that had ached to flow freely for a long, long time.
The one thing that he loved about the world was gone and the great Dallas Winston was going to god damn cry if he wanted!
No one was going to stop him!
Dally glanced up through narrowed eyes, finally becoming fully aware that he was back where he started. The eerie blue and red of the police flashers was shining into the distance, illuminating everything in a surreal, almost otherworldly, glow. The bullets, shimmering like large, hovering raindrops above him, were holding their position. About a foot away on the ground was his gun, right where he left it when the voice propositioned him earlier that night.
Reaching for it, Dally made eye contact—albeit unreturned—with the friends that he had just seen. All five of them—Steve, Two-Bit, Darry, Sodapop, and Ponyboy—were running as fast as they could, trying their hardest to reach him in time. How would they react when it finally happened, when his life finally ended?
They all knew I’d die like this, sooner or later, Dally thought bitterly. His lifestyle had always been anything but safe. He reckoned that he was too dangerous to really be their friend, that he was nothing but a bad example for the rest of the guys. The voice had alluded to that many times, and besides, he could see it in the way they all acted around him. He could see it in their eyes. Every now and again, before he’d head out to the Nightly Double or some other greaser hang-out with some of the guys, he would catch Darry giving Ponyboy a look that said: “Now don’t you go out there and end up like old Dally. He’s not like the rest of us. He’s tougher, colder, meaner … And I ain’t gonna have any of that in my house.”
Dallas didn’t blame them, really. After all, that was the person he tried to be. That was the person he was. He couldn’t act any different.
Slowly, Dally wrapped his trembling fingers around the gun and brought it toward him. He looked away from his friends, and studied the gun intently instead. He pointed the short barrel toward the darkened sky and then gently rest it against his forehead, thinking about what he was planning to do. The metal was cold and clammy against his skin, damp from sitting in the grassy lot.
So this was it. This was how he was going to end it all—with an unloaded gun.
Dally pulled his feet underneath him and raised himself up off of the ground. Shakily, he regained his balance and stood beneath the streetlight once again. He drew the gun away from his body, pointing it at the cops and sighed. Closing his blue eyes tightly, he waited for time to start running again.
He stood, ready, in that position for a long time.
“Come on now!” Dallas shouted, his right arm falling to his side as his eyes opened again and blazed with both frustration and anger. “I’m ready! Let’s get this show on the road!”
Silence. Even the crickets were frozen in this strange space between life and death.
“Where are you?!” He shouted, his voice getting louder with each word. “What?” He taunted after no reply. “Have you finally realized that I’m not worth your time? Have you moved on to bigger and better things? To bother someone else?”
Dallas waited again for a reply, grunting his displeasure at being ignored.
“What could be bigger or better than you?” The voice replied sarcastically, breaking the stillness of the cool night air.
“Very funny,” Dally muttered. He felt strangely happy that the voice hadn’t forgotten him after all—that things would be ending soon. He’d be out of here.
“So,” the voice began sternly. “You’re ready to leave these glimpses behind, are you?”
Dally made a snorting sound. His joy at hearing the voice again was quickly replaced with contempt. That damn entity had a way of making him angry. Of course he was ready! Hadn’t the dumbass listened to his complaining at all? He had been ready five glimpses ago!
Sensing his displeasure, the voice pressed on with an explanation. “I can’t let time begin again until I am certain you’ve learned from the things that I’ve shown you. You have to understand that you made a difference in the world before I send you back to it. It’s part of the deal.”
Dally threw his arms up in the air and ran a hand through his hair. “God damn … When is this nightmare going to end?” He mumbled.
The voice didn’t miss a beat. “It’ll end when you’re ready for it to end.”
“I am ready,” Dally hissed through clenched teeth. “I saw more than I intended on seeing and now I’m ready for this bullet to finally hit me.” He motioned to the small speck of silver that was frozen in front of him.
“But do you realize you contributed? That your purpose for coming to Tulsa in the first place was great?”
“Yeah, it was great alright,” Dally said under his breath. “It was a great waste of time.”
“I know you don’t truly believe that,” the voice chimed in.
“Believe what?” Dally asked, irritated.
“That your time in Tulsa was for nothing,” the voice replied. “On the contrary, your time in Tulsa held incredible purpose.”
“Okay, Mr. Smarty Pants,” Dally mocked, rolling his eyes. “You tell me. What difference would it have made if I didn’t come to Tulsa at all?”
“Well,” the voice began smugly. “You saw it all yourself. For starters, without you, Steve and Darry were alone, Two-Bit was without his sense of humor, and Ponyboy and Sodapop were lost in a world where, while brotherhood counts for something, it doesn’t help to alleviate the problems of everyday life … Those boys needed you, Dallas. In one way or another, they needed you to help them become who they were, to truly sense the goodness that the world had to offer.”
“Bullshit,” Dally mumbled quietly, feeling miserable. He hadn’t been expecting the voice to spell it out for him like he was some idiot. He knew that, deep down, he was starting to get the point of everything, starting to see what the voice had been telling him all along. But he’d be lying if he said it was all easy to swallow. It was all too overwhelming.
The voice continued. “And what about Johnny? Before we met, you saw him die, Dallas, and that was tragic enough to bring you to this streetlight … Yet wouldn’t it have been worse if he was hardened beyond recognition? If he was just another hood from the street? Just another tough kid like yourself?”
Dally sighed heavily, wiping at the new tears that were beginning to sting at his eyes. At least that part was true. Johnny was the one person that he had ever cared about, the one person that he wanted to shield from the evil world that he, himself, faced on a day to day basis. Johnny deserved better. As much as it pained him to think of it, a hero’s death was a more suitable ending for Johnny than what he had just witnessed in his last glimpse.
He, Dallas, was the only one who deserved to die a hood.
“It’s okay to see the light, Dallas,” the voice said soothingly. “It’s okay to realize that you were wrong. That you did make a difference in some tangible way to those around you …”
Dally stared intently at the ground. He was beginning to feel it, beginning to truly understand, but he couldn’t bring himself to admit it. It was almost like admitting defeat. Almost like saying his entire existence—of being angry at his parents, at the Socs., at authority, at the world—was all for nothing. That he could have been happy. Things could have been different if he hadn’t toughened himself beyond caring.
“I know you understand now,” the voice pressed on. “I can sense it. You were a good kid, Dallas. Even you don’t deserve to leave the world this way.”
Dally bit at his bottom lip. He looked around the lot at the stationary police lights, the bullets frozen in midair, and his friends running toward him. How would they feel once he was gone? Would they even care? Would they ever give him a second thought once he was dead and buried?
“I’m ready,” Dally said quietly. He paused for a moment, and then added: “Thanks for giving me this chance to know how it would have been—you know … Without me.”
“You’re welcome,” the voice replied cheerily. It sounded odd echoing through the still night air, considering what was about to take place. “I knew you’d come around.”
Dally sighed and wiped his eyes with his free hand one final time. He wasn’t sure when it had started, but tears were flowing down his cheeks quite easily now. When he was confident that he had put a stop to it, Dally took a couple of deep breaths to calm himself and then studied the looks on the policemen’s faces less than fifty feet away from him.
Time for the showdown, Dally thought as he held the gun out at an arm’s length again, bracing himself for the impact that was sure to follow. There’s no turning back now.
In a matter of moments, the streetlight above Dallas began to buzz while a jumble of noises—pops from gunfire, angry shouts, and desperate wails—began to penetrate his eardrums. It all sounded like a distorted record, speeding up as if it were trying to change tempo mid-song, despite the player’s best efforts to keep it as it was.
Instinctively, Dally knew that his time was coming. He could feel it. Things were starting to happen again. Soon—even if only for a very short time—he would be back in the real world. The same old Tulsa he had once called home.
Dally blinked slowly as time fell away and the world finally caught up with him. In an instant, the sounds were loud and banging in his ears, and he felt an intense pain—like fiery ice—hit him in the chest and then shoot throughout his body. So this was how it felt to be shot …
Jerked around by the impact, his fading vision caught one last glimpse of the gang who were now in motion behind him. He made brief eye contact with Ponyboy, and tried to reason out if things would be okay now, with him out of their hair. For a split second he wondered, unselfishly he realized, if Ponyboy would be able to bounce back from losing two of his friends in a single night.
He hoped so. Pony, like Johnny, was always a good kid.
Slowly, Dallas felt his body giving way, stiffening up, and complying with gravity’s will. And as he fell to the ground, drawing a final breath of air and closing his icy eyes for the last time, a strange and rare smile crept across his pale purpling lips.
In those last seconds—or tenths of seconds—time didn’t matter anymore, Dally felt a sense of contentment and grim triumph unlike anything he had ever experienced before.
Maybe things had been better in Tulsa because he was around.
Maybe the voice was right all along.
Maybe there was some good in the world after all, and he had had a small part in it.