A lifetime in a couple of seconds
In an ideal world there would be a bird sitting on my shoulder chirping a sweet melody through my ears. In an ideal world the Moon would be singing in the clear night sky, the stars echoing back the harmony. In an ideal world the sound of children playing would be reverberating in the streets. In an ideal world I wouldn’t be dead.
Not that I am dead, not yet anyway, give me another ten seconds. It’s amazing how long ten seconds really are. In ten seconds anything can happen.
The sky is dark with rain and children cry in the distance (or so I think, but it might just be my own wailing). In ten seconds the man with the gun is going to pull the trigger letting the hammer crash down forcing a bullet out of the barrel into my forehead. The bullet will rattle around in my skull and turn my brains into a useless gelatinous gray mass. In ten seconds. Because five seconds ago that is exactly what happened to Tyler.
Ten seconds is a ludicrous amount of time to wait.
A minute ago Tyler and I were trying to get back to the dorms as quickly as we could to get out of the rain. The T had stopped running hours earlier and we didn’t have enough money for a cab ride. The rain was cold. Not the type of cold that chills you on the outside so you have to layer up. The cold that seeps through clothing and skin and muscle and anchors on to your bone. The type that no matter what you wear it isn’t enough.
The hammer is now cocked, maybe five seconds left. Five seconds is a life time. Five seconds is a flash.
We were running back from John’s apartment trying to stir up our blood so we wouldn’t walk in to the dorm completely drunk. The cold, we thought, would help to kill our buzz. The gun aimed at my head works much better than the cold ever could. Time is slowly ticking away. My hands still in the air, my mouth open with shock at having seen Tyler fall to the ground dead.
It’s not like in the movies, not that I ever thought it would be. Not that I ever actually thought about it. In the movies a single bullet in the forehead is clean, very little blood. Or the head explodes in various shades of red in many degrees of thickness. In real life however, it wasn’t so much like that. There was a hole in his head, not a perfect one, almost like his head was caving in on itself. His heart just due to habit and lack of anything better to do, kept pumping blood. The blood first came out in spurts with each pump of the heart, then slowly tittered off to a trickle, all in thirteen seconds. Two more to live.
Two seconds is an infinity.
His hand tenses and I cringe and jerk to the side. I hear the sound of a bullet fleeing out of the barrel in a mad search to know the inner workings of my mind intimately. To put it bluntly, to fuck my skull. But in it’s mad lustful dash it lost sight and I hear it scream in fury past my ear and orgasm onto the brick wall instead. Now how much more time?
“Wait.” I say quickly before the hammer is cocked once again. I don’t know anything about guns. I can’t tell the make or the model, all I know is that it is a revolver, it is metallic blue and holds five bullets, now only three were left. The gun re-aimed,
He stops, but only for a second. In that second I remember thinking it would be great to duck down this alley with Tyler and take the shortcut home. He thinks it’s a little sketchy, he tells me, but I assure him, “Who would be crazy enough to be out in this weather now aside from us?”
"Please.” I say as I pull out my wallet and hold it out to him. I don’t think bribery will work, but I figure it’s worth shot. My socks grow soggier and I’m amazed I haven’t lost control of my bladder. I remain as calm as one can with a gun to his head. In the past while thinking of such things (which we all do occasionally) I never once figured I would be so calm. Especially standing next to the limp dead body of a friend.
“I can take your money when you’re dead.” His voice is calm and reassuring. Deep and commanding, hypnotizing if you will. And then he cocks the hammer. I wish I could see his eyes. I wish I could make out his face, but the shadows and the rain, and the fact that my attention is drawn to the barrel of the revolver distracts me. And he smiles, at least I think he smiles, I can’t be sure.
“Can’t you give me a break.” I whimper. “Don’t kill me. Please.” I plead, now crying.
I shudder as a bullet passes by on my left in an explosion of sexual ecstasy. I fall back and to the right until another bullet is released to my right knocking me to the left. I try and stagger forward, deafened by the shock wave. I inhale quickly and get back up marveling at the fact that neither achieved penetration. He isn’t a bad shot, just demented.
I wonder why no one in the area has called the police. I wonder if they had called the police why weren’t the police here yet. I wonder if I’m wearing a clean pair of underwear. I wonder if I told my parents that I love them. I wonder what it’s like to fall in love. I wonder what happens when one dies. I wonder if the the Red Socks won earlier today. I wonder why I always used get a hard on when ever I saw Minnie Mouse on TV. I wonder if today is a good day to die. I wonder if I am ready to die. I wonder how long a second truly is.
And from my mouth, like the rain from the heavens, the words pour.
“My name is Ted Knox. I’m twenty-one years old. I’m a college student studying to be a newspaper reporter. My birthday is June twenty-third. I was born in the year nineteen eighty-three. I have two younger brothers and an older sister. Their names are Jack, Sam, and Natalie respectively. My mother is a nurse and her name is Luanne Knox. My father is a patent attorney and his name is George Knox. My favorite color is sky blue, and my favorite movie is The Princess Bride. I’m a junior and have three more semesters until I graduate. I have a drivers license. On my license it states I’m five feet six inches tall, that I have brown hair, blue eyes, and weigh one hundred and thirty seven pounds. The license is wrong, I don’t really have blue eyes, they’re green. I’m a real person, I have a real life, and I don’t want to die.” And now I wait for the end. I am still amazed that I can think straight and am relatively calm. I would have never guessed in a million years that I would be so good in such a bad situation.
One bullet remains. Who knows how many seconds?
For the first time I don’t cringe. I lower my arms and stare past the barrel, which is aimed at my forehead. I still cannot see the face of the enemy but I look to where I assume his eyes are. Rain drops cascade off my forehead into my green eyes and I blink to get them away. My glasses fell to the pavement with my wallet and now I can’t quite focus.
The gun stares right back.
And three eternity's pass before I have a chance to blink.
I can’t tell you how long we just stand, waiting. I can’t tell you what he waits for. I wait for the end. Life or death, either way I wait for the end of the confrontation. Tyler is done waiting. The blood stopped it’s trickle one million years ago as far as I’m concerned.
And I blink again.
I think I hear sirens, I hope I hear sirens, I fear I hear sirens. What ever it is I hear, he hears it too. The gun wavers, for only a half second. In a movie or in a novel this would be the point where I jump forward and grab the revolver from his hand. This is the point where I would gather my courage and save the day. This would be it.
Unfortunately this isn’t a movie. Fortunately, however, not everything in real life has a depressing ending.
“Drop your gun and put your hands above your head.” Some one did call the police, thank god. I breathe a sigh of relief hoping that he still decides not to excite the trigger. If nothing matters the police won’t change that.
“So...” I say, “now what?” And for the first time I see his face. And it scares me. Not because it is the face of a madman, or a demon, but rather due to it’s lack of character. There was absolutely nothing about him that was unique, aside from the obvious that he was standing with a revolver in the middle of a rainstorm a little past three in the morning. He was clean shaven, short blond hair, dyed, about thirty years old and he was smiling. A clean straight smile produced after years of visits to the orthodontist.
“This.” He says as confident and as mesmerizing as before. He turns towards the officers and opens fire. A single bullet, in a ecstatic frenzy, is released from the revolver. Multiple bullets return with equal if not a more passionate exuberance towards the assailant. Blood mixed with rain water mixed with sweat mixed with garbage litters the pavement.
In seconds. Lights turn on in the surrounding apartments. The sound of children crying grows louder (again, maybe it’s just me). In seconds.
“Turn around and put your hands on your head.” The police yell at me. At least I assume it’s me they are yelling at for the other two people on this side of the alley are dead. I follow directions wondering how am I going to explain this and could I get a pair of clean underwear at the police station.
And after a lifetime, I blink.