By Aston Davis
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So, I thought to myself as I latched the door behind me, that went well. There’s nothing I enjoy more than spending the evening sinking into a deeper and deeper shade of blues. I opened the closet door and hung up my overcoat, still carrying gray flakes from the city snow. I was quite chilled from the dismal weather outside, so I decided to stand by the radiator for a while before I inspected the revolver.
I had just returned from dinner with my father, which, as always, made me depressed. He never really liked to go out to eat, so when we did, we ate at those cheesy retro diners that only served hamburgers. I couldn’t cultivate any culinary adventure in the man.
There was always a 50’s style jukebox playing Buddy Holly or someone of the sort, and Dad would constantly quiz me as to who sung each song. I could have really given two shits about who the singer was, but I knew he liked to ask so I’d always answer. Sometimes my answers were wrong and then he’d get to tell me the correct answer and some random trivial facts about them. He really was a wealth of useless knowledge. Eventually, once he ran out of useless facts, he’d just repeat the same ones over and over again. I can’t tell you how many times I heard about Ritchie Valens and Donna.
This time wasn’t much different. We sat there and made small talk, he told me about how sales were down and that he might be laid off soon. He said the company didn’t need any more old farts around anyways, so what was the point of keeping him. I tried to cheer him up and told him he was a valuable asset to the company. He had been there almost 12 years, he had to be doing something right. He evaded every compliment with the skill of a mongoose.
He picked up his menu, squinted at it for a minute or two, and then asked me to read the daily special. “Double bacon cheeseburger with onion rings - $3.99” I said. “Mmmmm sounds good. I’ll get that.” Great, I thought to myself, maybe he could just inject the cholesterol into his veins and save the trouble of chewing. I wouldn’t want him to overexert himself.
“I’ll have the baked potato, a side salad, hold the dressing, and an order of steamed vegetables,” I told the waitress when she came to get our orders.
“You know, my eyes are getting so bad,” he said, “I can hardly read books anymore. I have to get those books on tape - audiobooks - I think they’re called. I’ve been listening to them each night before I fall asleep.”
“Well, why don’t you get your eyes checked with an eye doctor, Dad? They have corrective surgery that can fix your eyes back to normal. Maybe then you can write that book like you always wanted.”
He told me that the eye surgery was too expensive and how it wasn’t worth it to invest that amount of money into him. “I’m not going to be around for that much longer, what’s the point?” A low return you could say.
This made me sad.
He proceeded to tell me how his time had come and gone, how he didn’t have much to offer anymore. I had heard this a hundred times before. “Who would buy my book? No one wants to hear what I have to say. Besides it would take too much time.”
I wanted to scream, “Yeah you wouldn’t be able to sit on your fat ass every night and watch the same reruns over and over.”
I didn’t say anything out loud.
He looked beat to me. Worn out. Creases like a four lane superhighway ran across his forehead, they trickled down by his lips, they swooped up around his eyes. I knew he was tired. I knew he didn’t need some asshole like me telling him how to live his life. I felt this blanket of guilt slowly descend upon me. My heart sunk, almost as if it had been broken.
The waitress put our food down in front of us. As he ate, I watched him chew. Slow and deliberate. He looked up at me with these sad brown puppy dog eyes. My heart sunk even more, it had passed my stomach a long time ago while heading south. I looked at my plate but wasn’t sure if I could get anything down. As I ate, I concentrated mostly on holding back the tears.
He said, “Look, I want to talk to you about something. I’ve taken out a life insurance policy and you’re the benefactor. It’s not much, all I can afford right now. When the time comes that I do die, I’d like you to use it for any expenses. I don’t want a big funeral or anything, nothing elaborate, and I’d prefer not to have a public viewing. Those are just creepy. I don’t care how you dispose of my body, if I’m cremated or buried – it doesn’t matter to me. Your mother and I never bought cemetery plots, but if you do decide to bury me, there’s a nice cemetery down along Rt. 435 near the blueberry patch.” He looked straight at me and got serious. “There will be some money left over and I don’t want you to blow it. I’d like you to use it for your education. Frankly, I’m a little worried. Your phone bill was sent your old address then forwarded to my house. I saw how expensive it was. I don’t expect you to frivolously piss away this money.”
I thought of a Buddhist monk and what his phone bill must be like.
I agreed and promised him that I would honor his wishes about his body, the ceremony, and the insurance pay out.
The rest of the time we made small talk about politics and ideas, books read recently, stuff like that. I tried to enjoy my time with him, because who knew, maybe what he always told me was right, maybe he wouldn’t be around for that much longer.
After dinner he smoked a cigarette in the parking lot and we talked some more, then hugged, and went on our separate ways. It was after this that I went to the gun shop and picked up the six-shooter I had ordered last week.
I had to order it a week in advance so that they could run a background check on me, make sure I hadn’t committed any crimes, make sure I wasn’t crazy.
Back to my apartment where I stood by the radiator hoping its panting would thaw my insides. In the back of my mind I knew it wouldn’t. As I held the pistol in my hand carefully examining it, my first thought was that a real gun is much heavier than I expected. The control and power that it could provide left a halo of awe over me.
I thought of murderers, bank robbers, wild-west cowboys, but I knew I didn’t want to be like any of them. What had they contributed to society? Had they ever had a spiritual experience? Had they ever reached total enlightenment? Could they just be?
I strolled over to my bed and sat down. The Buddha on my headboard seemed to smile at me. I began to think. I thought about what I was doing.
City life isn’t so bad, if you don’t mind not seeing the sun. I haven’t seen her face in almost three weeks. It’s these times that I start thinking about my youth. I think about playing sports in high school and graduating with honors. I think about my college GPA and everyone telling me that I have so much potential. I’m sitting in my shitty little apartment with so much potential.
For the past few months I’ve had to wear long sleeves to cover the wounds. Don’t get the wrong idea, I wasn’t trying to cut my wrists or commit suicide or anything. I wasn’t cutting myself for attention either. No one, besides me, ever saw any of my wounds. What I was doing was making sure I could still feel, making sure I was still alive.
I began to look forward to coming home and having a needle or razor waiting for me. Each day that passed made me feel more and more like a zombie, like a robot. I’d do the same routine over and over again, like an obedient worker ant scurrying about his business. The world was my big ant farm.
I was usually either so tired or so wired on some stimulant that I was oblivious to my surroundings. I didn’t know what was real. The world had become a haze to me, like I was trapped in a relentless fog. This was making me numb. Very, very numb.
After a long, tiring day at work it was a pleasure to come home to a blade that greeted me with a smile. We even got to the point where we had some foreplay before diving right in. When I sliced open my skin I could feel the pain, and it had my complete attention. It was the center of the universe, it was God, and I was sitting right there with him. My problems and stresses were forgotten – I focused only and purely on my torture, or was it pleasure? Exhilaration, I think is the word. For the first time that day, I felt something that I knew was real, and there was no doubt about it. As I focused on the agony, it connected me on a different level, it was almost a religious experience. The familiar pain became my greatest friend, my spiritual counselor. We were inseparable, the best of pals. As I looked at the revolver, I thought of him and I knew I’d miss our friendship.
I looked at the revolver again and I thought of my jealousy. I was jealous of every retard, every cripple, every victim of a horrible accident. Anyone who didn’t have to acknowledge the horrors of this world. Anyone who was mentally retarded, any child who couldn’t comprehend what was going on – they all made my head pound with envy. Those ignorant people who couldn’t see past the beauty that this world has to offer.
Ignorance is bliss, I thought to myself.
I was jealous of all the religious fanatics who couldn’t see the real truth, but they didn’t seem to care. They were completely pacified passing out pamphlets and preaching. If only I could have found such happiness by convincing myself something I didn’t believe. I guess with enough persistence you could convince yourself of any untruth – it was just too much work for me to handle.
I looked at the revolver again and I thought of my anger. I was angry at everyone who made my life a living hell by placing high expectations on me. Anyone who raised the bar. I wanted to hunt down and kill every successful person in this world. I wanted all the millionaire executives to die. All the honor students. All the models, the porn stars, the shallow ones who only wear Gucci. All of them should burn in hell, and I wanted to hold their ashes.
My jealousy rose again, I thought of human vegetables that no longer had to contemplate society, they just had to exist, they just had to be. No expectations were placed on them. I wanted to be someone who didn’t have to contribute to society. I wanted to be someone who just is, someone completely and totally enlightened. I wanted to just be.
I thought of Dr. Johnson. He said, “He who makes a beast of himself gets rid of the pain of being a man.” It became my personal mantra for the night. I chanted silently to myself, “He who makes a beast of himself…”
Did you know that you can still live without the frontal lobe of your brain? Sure. It functions in reasoning, planning, emotions, problem-solving, stuff like that. You can live just fine without it, I mean in a definition of life sort of way. Just don’t mess with anything near the back of your head or the base of your skull. That’ll kill you for sure. Most of the vital functions are controlled back there – breathing, stuff like that. That area is off limits.
Plenty of people have had frontal lobe injuries and are living just fine. Most of them, depending on the damage, exhibit antisocial behavior, personality changes, and motor function impairment. In extreme cases they have severe comprehension difficulties and cannot understand anything that is read or heard. No one really expects much from them.
A classic example of this is a 19th century railroad worker who had a steel rod go through his head from a freak explosion. It entered right under his eye, traveled through the frontal lobe of his brain, and out of the top of his skull. He never lost consciousness and walked himself to the doctor. After about six months he was almost fully recovered and returned to work. Before the accident he was one of the most capable and efficient workers, although when he came back he was very antisocial and wanted no part of interacting with the other men. He was slow with his work and had difficulty understanding anyone’s directions. He also seemed very apathetic when he made mistakes. According to his family, his emotions and intellect were gone. They said when he wasn’t at work he’s just sit and stare for hours on end. He lived this way for over 20 years. Completely and totally enlightened.
“…gets rid of the pain of being a man.”
I thumbed the cherry handle on the pistol, and an advertisement in the lower corner of the newspaper on the floor caught my eye. In big red letters it said, “If you know someone thinking about suicide, call this number immediately!” I glanced over at the phone to make sure it was still hung up.
I wasn’t thinking about committing suicide, not at all. I didn’t want to die. You only live once, why end it early? Death will come soon enough. When it comes I’ll be ready for it. I wasn’t scared of death, not at all. It’s not what terrified me.
I popped open the cylinder and loaded it with one single bullet that I had painted white. Before I shut the cylinder, I lined up the white angel to make sure she would be the first one to come out. I didn’t want to be playing roulette.
The barrel felt cold and metallic against my temple. Without letting the barrel budge at all, I moved my hand towards the back of my head so that the cherry wood kissed my ear. I figured this way the angel could come out of my forehead and still take a good chunk with her. Something for her to remember me by. A frontal lobe souvenir.
My eyes glanced over at the phone, which was still hung up, and I removed the receiver from its cradle. I slowly and deliberately depressed the digits 9 – 1 – 1, then I placed connecting receiver on the bed right by my side.