My roommate Tim keeps a handgun in his closet, right next to his worn-out inflatable sex doll and his poetry notebooks. Sometimes I sneak into his room and grab it (the gun, not the doll). Then I stand in front of the bathroom mirror in my black t-shirt and torn blue jeans with my hair spiked up and a pissed off look on my face. I hold the gun up to the side of my head and stare at myself for a good long while. I don’t think about pulling the trigger. I don’t even know if the gun is loaded. I just like the look of it.
Eventually I always put it back where I found it, safely tucked away next to the sex doll’s gaping asshole.
Sometimes I don’t have access to Tim’s gun, so I’ll use something else. Yesterday I took off my belt and synched it around my neck tight enough that my face turned red. The belt buckle left a little bruise just under my Adam’s apple. It worked in the moment, but I still prefer the gun.
I’m sitting at my cubicle staring at my little palm tree that’s dying from lack of sunlight and my cactus that’s rotting from inside because I watered it too much. I call my roommate Tim, mostly out of boredom, but he doesn’t answer. So I tell his answering machine “If you wake me up in the middle of the night humping that goddamned inflatable barbie doll one more time I’m lighting the thing on fire and making you fuck the ashes.”
My boss John walks by and I secretly find myself hoping that he heard me say “fuck” on the phone. “My office.” He says. I give him the finger as soon as he turns his back.
John is twice the age of anyone else in the office, but he likes to hang out with the young guys. He hosts football games at his house, gets everybody drunk, and then he lounges around on his leather couch like a reclining cat. My guess is he’s hoping one of us gets drunk enough someday that they’ll get bi-curious and whip out their penis. Maybe one of them did already, fuck if I know. All I know for sure is I don’t want John anywhere near my asshole.
“You were late again today.” John’s frowning, looking down at a company memo and peeking up at me over the rim of his glasses.
Work smile. “Was I? I’m sorry.”
“That’s three times this week.”
“It won’t happen again.”
“Where do you see yourself in the future? Still with the company?”
“Yes. Of course.”
John gestures to his Ikea desk, his pen holder, his window with the view of a Home Depot parking lot. “All of this takes work. Dedication. You can’t half ass your way to the top. I’ll expect you here early on Monday. Understand?”
The rest of the day my mind wanders as I stare out the window and watch the sun trace it’s arc across the sky until it finally comes to rest below the horizon. Time to go.
As I leave, I hear John call out behind me “Early!”.
I come home and see that Tim has a party going on back at the house. I recognize several of Tim’s co-workers, all people I’ve been introduced to before, I just never bother to remember their names. Our buddy Tommy is there too, wearing a white t-shirt and camo jacket. Tommy’s lifelong ambition is to be a paratrooper. I tell him to just go skydiving. They don’t drug test. But something about falling to the ground slowly and shooting at foreigners just gets Tommy excited.
In the crowd I spot at least one person whose name I remember; Tim’s friend Amber. She’s this shy, doesn’t-know-how sexy-she-really-is brunette that Tim’s had a crush on for ages. But he’s never done anything about it. They held hands, once, apparently.
Everyone’s gathered around a small bonfire in the front yard. Myself and Tim; we’ve got a run-down house next to a lake on the edge of town. I like it. It’s remote. No neighbors within earshot. So if I feel like smashing a beer bottle or screaming my lungs out there’s no one around to get pissed off about it.
Except Tim, I guess.
I don’t know how Tim and I ended up as roommates. I was likely drunk when I agreed to it. Tim obviously didn’t know what he was getting into. If Tommy could hold down a job I’d let him move in tomorrow and send Tim packing.
Tommy’s passing around bottles of Boones Farm wine. “Two bucks a bottle down at the Drive Thru liquor store.” He informs me. “I bought all that they had.”
I opt for a peach flavored bottle and stand over by the fire. Tim’s sitting right across from Amber, pretending to watch the fire but really just staring at her. And she knows it.
I take a swig of artificially flavored wine and sidle up to Amber. I tell her I like her jacket. It’s brown leather, same as her pants.
“It’s a little warm out for leather, isn’t it?”
“You’re right.” Amber lifts her jacket off over her head, and as she does her tanktop lifts up, revealing her belly button and offering up just a tiny glimpse of her pink bra. Then she shakes her head and long brown hair spills over her shoulders.
The whole time I’m staring at her neck and wondering what it tastes like. Tim’s looking on, titillated and angry at the same time. As though I’m ruining his big chance to talk to his dream girl.
I lean over and whisper into Amber’s ear. I ask her about the flower tattoo at the base of her spine. Then I run my fingers across the small of her back. I talk in her ear just quiet enough that Tim can’t hear, but I keep my eyes locked with his.
“This wine is shit.” Amber says from out of nowhere.
She pours the rest of the bottle into the fire, and the flame roars.
“Shit.” Tommy says, genuinely sad. “Don’t waste it.”
“It’s two bucks a bottle.” I say. “We can always send Tim out for more. Or have him pick up something actually fit for human consumption.”
Tim speaks, for the first time that night that I’ve heard. “I don’t want to go.”
“You’re the only one sober enough to drive. You can take my car. You like my car.”
“Your car is an 85 Chevy Celebrity. It’s a piece of shit.” Tim pouts for a bit, then sighs and grabs my keys. And then he’s gone. At last.
I look at Amber and say, “Do you want to see Tim’s sex doll?” She laughs and takes my hand, and I lead her inside the house.
Tim’s doll is in the closet right where it always is, ass up in the air. “Wouldn’t that chafe your dick?” Amber asks.
“Tim uses lubricant, I think.”
“I’ve never watched him fuck it, so I can’t say for sure.”
Amber grabs it out of the closet, holding it by the arm and waving it in the air. Then she squeezes the doll’s tits, and it produces a sound like a doctor putting on rubber gloves. “Does this make you horny?”
In answer to her question I snatch the doll out of her hands, wrap my arms around her waist and pull her close to me. I kiss her. She tastes like peach flavoring, and the inside of her mouth is sticky. Mouths locked, we shuffle step our way out of Tim’s room and into mine. I leave the hallway light on, and the bedroom door open just a crack. A few moments later I’m lying face up on the bed. Amber’s straddling me, undoing my belt buckle. I see a shadow walking up the hall, one that stops just outside my bedroom door.
I don’t know if it’s Tim. But I imagine it is.
I go to sleep. Amber gets up and leaves, I’m not sure exactly when. Hours later I wake up to the sound of glass shattering, coming from our front yard. I grab a small handaxe out of my closet and I run outside.
I see Tim standing next to my car, breathing heavily. He’s taken a large cinder block from over by the bonfire and thrown it through my passenger side window. And he’s standing there with his fists balled up, staring me down. “What were you doing with Amber?” He says.
I’d be angry, except that I hate that fucking car.
I walk over to the car, throw open the door, grab the cinder block, and heave it into the driver’s side window. I feel a shard of glass scrape across my cheek. A dog starts barking from somewhere off in the woods.
I climb on the car’s hood and drive my handaxe into it’s roof, and I keep hacking until I’ve torn away a decent sized chunk of metal. I look through the hole I’ve made, see my emergency brake lever down below, and I am satisfied. From the top of my car I stare at Tim a good long while, just to make sure he gets the message.
There is absolutely nothing you can do to hurt me. Nothing you can take away from me. None of it matters.
Then I toss the axe onto the ground at his feet and go to bed. Tim wails on the car for awhile, and then I guess he goes to bed too.
Tim’s still asleep. I don’t want to deal with him, so instead of sneaking into his room and taking his gun I grab a steak knife from the kitchen. Then I stand in front of the bathroom mirror and hold it up to my neck. I don’t think about piercing the skin, but I push the tip of the blade into my flesh just to see how much give the skin has before it will break. I hold the knife to my wrists and make little sawing motions until the skin turns white and starts peeling away.
I turn the lights off so that the only illumination in the room is just a pale line sliding it’s way in from under the door. In the mirror my reflection becomes distorted. My face looks like the skin is melting away, my eyes are blurring together, and my mouth is a black grin, wide as an ocean trench.
I call my boss from the bathroom, in the dark. I only get his answering machine. “John. It’s Nathan. Can’t come in today.” My reflection looks like a bleached skull one moment, a writhing maggot the next; sucking the color out of the air, leaving everything black.
“I’m not feeling so well.”
I wander around town for awhile, bored. Then I go back home. Tim’s gone, thankfully.
I sit and stare at the wall, wondering what I want to do with my impromptu day off.
The doorbell rings. It’s Amber.
“I thought I’d see if you wanted to hang out.” She says.
“You can come with me to the liquor store, if you want.”
We hop in Amber’s car. A storm that arrived just a half hour ago is already riding off into the distance, but the road is still wet with afternoon rain. With the windows down the wind feels good on my skin.
We start with a six pack, and toss the bottles out of the windows of Amber’s car as we finish them. I don’t have a particular destination as I drive, and Amber seems amenable to that. We get to the county line liquor store, buy a fifth of Jack Daniel’s, and drink it in the parking lot. We sit on the curb and Amber rests her head on my shoulder and we chain smoke until our throats are sore and it hurts to speak. The sun creeps across the sky. We don’t say much to each other.
Night comes with a swell of cool air that claws at the branches of the willow trees. Another big storm is on the way, building right up above our heads. Amber has her eyes closed and her head propped up against the passenger side door, but she’s not sleeping. She reaches out her hand, and I take hold of it.
When the rain starts, it falls hard and thick. Even with the windshield wipers working overtime I can’t see the road in front of me. I pull over, kill the engine, and turn on my hazard lights. The wind rocks the car every few seconds, and the rain sounds like a thousand tiny rocks falling just above our head.
“It never rained like this where I grew up.” Amber says. She looks on with a kind of wide eyed wonder and excitement, even as the lightning splits the sky along with a peal of thunder.
“Rains like this all the time out here,” I say.
“Do you get sick of it?”
Amber and I open our last two beers and chug them, and crack the windows just slightly to toss them out of the car. In that moment enough rain falls in to soak us both thoroughly. Amber leans over and kisses me softly. Our lips stay locked for a long time. I run my hand underneath her shirt. She fumbles with my belt with one hand and runs her fingers through my hair with the other.
I’m so drunk it’s all I can do to keep my eyes open. I taste whiskey flavored lips and feel goosebumps underneath my fingertips as I run them across her bare back. We both manage to get our jeans down around our knees. He legs are cold, but her pussy is radiating warmth. Even half erect and shivering I slip right inside.
I don’t have enough room in the car to drive my hips back and forth, but Amber just presses down on me tight and swivels her hips around and around. I come in seconds. She bites my lip and digs her fingernails into the flesh of my arms as her thighs tremble.
And then it’s quiet. The rain stops.
We roll the windows down again; but now it’s hot, and our clothes stick to our skin. Amber smiles at me, and I smile back.
Then I look over and she’s still staring at me and smiling. Then she giggles, for no discernible reason.
I suddenly have a mighty urge to part company with Amber. Just that fast, like someone flipped a switch in my mind. She reaches her hand across the seat of the car and I ignore it.
I sober up and drive her back to my house. She asks to come inside, but I tell her I have an errand to run, and I’ll catch up with her another time. I don’t have any reason to tell her this, just like I don’t have any reason to never talk to her again. But that’s what happens, all the same.
When I walk inside my house Tim’s sitting on the couch, drunk. “What were you doing with Amber?” He says.
I don’t like his tone.
“Drinking. A lot,” I say. Tim frowns. “Oh, come on. Don’t act so pissed off.” Tim doesn’t say anything, but I can see the blood rushing to his face.
With no warning Tim shoves me, and he’s fast enough that it catches me off guard. I fall through the front door, knocking it partially off its hinges. He shoves me again, and I stumble down the stairs and land flat on my ass in the dirt. He climbs on top of me, keeping me on my back. His fists strike the side of my head, and between blows I see his face twisted and knotted up with hate.
I don’t realize that I’m laughing until Tim yells at me to stop.
I drive my fist into Tim’s ribs a few times and shove him off of me, and then walk back up the stairs and into the house. “You broke the fucking door.” I shout at him.
“You know I love her.” He wheezes, holding his side.
“Then go tell her. I don’t give a shit.”
Tim grabs my shoulder and spins me around. “What interest do you have in her? What is she to you? Your girlfriend?”
“What is she to me?” I spit blood onto the tile floor. “A way to piss you off.”
Tim slugs me across the jaw and takes off running towards his bedroom. I can hear him rummaging through his closet.
Finally, I think to myself. Finally.
I run after him. I see him sitting on his bed, sobbing, clutching his gun. It isn’t pointed at me, or him, it’s just resting in his lap. But his finger is tight on that trigger.
I reach into the closet and grab his blow up doll. I hold it up in front of me, and in my highest falsetto I say “You wouldn’t shoot me, would you Tim?” Then I make the doll do a little dance and shake its tits at him.
Tim pulls the trigger.
A bullet sinks harmlessly into the hardwood floor. Tim lets the gun drop from his trembling hands.
I am so, so disappointed.
I pick up the gun and point it at Tim’s life size barbie doll, and I pull the trigger. The bullet rips a hole in her shoulder, and she deflates slowly, sadly, like a child’s spirits on Christmas morning when they see the sweater their Grandmother’s knitted for them and they realize they’ll have to wear it to school.
Tim starts crying. I point the gun at my own head, pat Tim on the shoulder, and say “It’s okay.”
I let my hand squeeze the trigger ever so gently, but not too hard. Not nearly hard enough to fire a bullet. I just see how far I can push it without setting it off.
I hold the gun to my temple for a long time. Then I let my arm fall, and my fingers relax.
I put on my work smile for Tim. “See?” I tell him. “I’m a chickenshit too.”