He watched the passing tugboat's wake roll into the pier struts. Water wrapped around the logs, splashed. Birds cawed and squawked and called to each other. Behind him workers dragged crates, laughed, shared broken conversation. One made a crude joke, the others laughed. But none of the sounds or sights registered in any meaningful way. It all passed in a messy haze. Like catching pieces of broken conversation through a thin apartment wall.
Next to him sat a brick. One end of a rope was tied to the brick, the other end was wrapped around his waist. He looked at his disfigured left hand. His nickname was Nubs. Where most people had fingers, he had nubs and half a thumb. It wasn't a name he'd tried to shy away from. Why bother? It was true. It was also why he hadn't been allowed to join the Army. The actual nubs, not the nickname. Failed the rope climb, hadn't even attempted it. Why bother? To be humiliated further?
The water wouldn't mind his hand. Wouldn't call him names. The water wouldn't reject him. A minor shift of weight and he'd close his eyes one last time. He sighed. No sense in thinking about it any longer. He used the stump of what should have been his left hand to push the brick into the water. It seemed fitting to use it instead of his right hand--his one actual hand. His body followed the brick. He hit the water. It was cold. The instant he went under, a smirk hit his face.
It was funny how the body wanted the opposite of his mind. He was sick of himself, of his pathetic body. Of the jokes. Of children pointing. Of never hearing his true name. He'd wondered what a girl would call him, if he'd ever gotten one. Would she call him Nubs too? That's what he pictured when he was alone. Her saying "Nubs, Oh, Nubs, yes-yes-yes." He disgusted himself. Which was why he was here, now, drowning. He pushed air from his lungs. Opened his eyes. It was pitch black. It wasn't cold now. He opened his mouth. It filled with water. He inhaled.
Someone was tapping the side of his face, calling him buddy. Saying "What were you thinking?" "A brick, he had a brick." "Must have been serious."
Nubs coughed. A couple men sighed, thanked God, clapped a couple times. Rob was being told he'd done good, damn good. Nubs opened his eyes.
"Hey there, pal. How're you doing? I'm Rob."
Nubs turned his head to the side, spat water, blinked a few times, wiped his face with his right hand.
"Heard a splash." Rob said. "We look over and you're gone. Figured you must have slipped in. James there dove in after you, tried to bring you up--"
"...had a brick tied to your waist. Had to come back up, get a knife from Patrick." James pointed. Patrick waved. "Dove back in, cut you free, brought you up."
"Wasn't sure we got you in time. What's going on, huh? Trying to kill yourself? What's that about?"
Nubs lifted his stump. The dock workers looked at each other, then back at Nubs.
Rob shrugged. "You tried to off yourself because you've got a gimp lefty? Pfft. My Johnson has a weird bend to it, big deal."
"I've got the hairiest asshole known to man. Apes have smoother butts than I do." James said.
The men laughed. Nubs smirked. The water had rejected him. Or maybe that was the wrong way to look at it. Maybe it was new friends that had accepted him.