I took a deep breath of the January air, trying to ignore the rattling in my lungs. This new street was even more shady than the last. There wasn’t a sound to be heard, except the ominous baying of a hound in the distance. The moon was new, and the only light to be seen was an amber will-of-the-wisp at the end of the narrow street.
The six-pack of beer that I’d blown the last of my money on came loose from my frozen grip; I watched numbly as the case came plummeting down onto the sidewalk. Cussing profusely under my breath, I leaned over stiffly to pick it back up. As I was coming back up, I heard a metallic click as something cold was pressed into the side of my head.
“Alright,” a hoarse voice trembled in my ear “You know the drill. Gimme your money, an’ I don’t spray the ground with your goddamn head.”
Of course this happens after I’d spent all my money.
“L-look,” I said, “I’m sure that you have a good, a very good reason to--”
“Cut the fuckin’ shit,” he spat. “Just gimme the money an’ I’ll leave ya alone, okay?”
“B-but I… I don’t have any--”
“Didn’t you hear me?” he snarled. “I said to hand over all your money. In fact, gimme your wallet, too.”
Shit. I didn’t have that, either. I slowly raised my hands, allowing the the beer to crash down as I kept my hands open. I thought I heard what suspiciously like crunching glass.
“How many people wonder ‘round here at night?” I asked, trying to force my voice to sound calm.
“The fucking hell does that gotta do with anything?” He sounded frustrated, but I thought that I heard the smallest trace of panic. “Just gimme your damn wallet!” I started to turn very, very slowly to face him.
“I don’t have it.”
“Bullshit! You just bought a case of beer!”
“And I don’t have my wallet.”
“Then gimme your goddamned money!” “I don’t have that either.”
He scoffed. “Then how’d you buy it? Blow jobs?” Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a necklace with a golden cross on it, catching the light.
“No, I used the last of my money”, I answered. He huffed and looked around impatiently. “But what about your ID? You don’t carry that shit in a wallet?”
“The clerk knows me.”
I was almost face-to-face with him now.
“Just pull out your pockets. Now!”
While I was fumbling clumsily with my pockets, I thought I’d try to convince this guy to just leave me alone.
“Look, man,” I whispered, “Why’re you doin’’ this?” “I’m broke, why the hell do ya think?”
“But there’s gotta be other ways to get money. Maybe, I can even help you.” I was now facing him, but I couldn’t make out any features in the dark.
“Oh,yeah?” he said. “ You can help me? You think you, a guy blowing all of his money on eer, can help me? I’ve got three goddamn mouths to feed and I’ve gotta cough up two grand inna week or I’m dead! AND YOU THINK YOU CAN HELP ME?!” “I-I’m sorry,” I stammered. “I had no idea.”
“No, nobody ever does, do they? They just assume the guy with the gun just wants a little extra spendin’ cash, don’t they? Maybe- maybe just wants a new TV or some drugs, huh?”
“Well, I guess that’s true for some, hell maybe even most, but not me, man. You think I wanna do this? I ain’t got shit, man! If I can’t feed my kids, then who the hell’s gonna?” He lowered his voice and looked behind him nervously.
“Alright,” he said with a new determination,” you’re gonna take me to your place, and I’m gonna take everything you’ve got, okay? Don’t do what I say, or make any sudden moves, and I’ll--” He turned abruptly around. At first I couldn’t tell what it was that he was looking at, but then I heard the distant sirens and glimpses of red and blue.
“Oh, you son of a--”
“But, there’s no way I could’ve--” but I didn’t get the chance to finish, because suddenly i was on the ground clutching a hole in my stomach. The last thing I saw before I blacked out was the outline of somebody in a window holding a phone to their head.
My chest was cold. No, my stomach was cold. Something kept pushing on my chest. I felt what seemed like warm water pooling under my head, and something was wrapped tight around my skull. I would’ve opened my eyes, but my head hurt so badly….
Somebody was screaming. Maybe even at me, I’m not sure. The screaming combined with the jostling and turning of whatever was around me made my headache unbearable. I drifted off back into nothingness.
There was a monotonous… something.
I didn’t know what it was. At the time I didn’t even realize it was a noise at all. It was just… there. There was something else, too. It sounded like my thoughts, but it wasn’t. It was… speech. Though, I couldn’t make out much. All I knew was that it was something about a name. Was it about my name? Well, I could tell them that easily. My name was…. My name was… Was…. What was my name? I couldn’t remember. Why was everything so dark? Why did they keep asking about my name? Couldn’t they hear me? Or was I only talking in my head? My head, it hurt so fucking much. Maybe sleep would make it better.
That sound awoke me again. Where was it coming from? I couldn’t tell. Maybe if I opened my eyes I could see what it was, but I couldn’t. Why couldn’t I see? I tried to move. Why couldn’t I move? What was going on? Where was I? The last thing I remembered was dropping something, but what was it?
I heard a door open, followed by some indistinct murmuring. It sounded like it was a man and a woman. I couldn’t recognize the man’s voice, but something sounded familiar in the woman’s. I tried to listen to what they were saying, but all I caught was, “Hit his head…. Nearly bled to death…. Is he okay…? Unresponsive….”
Who were they talking about? My head did hurt a bit…. Was it me? But I wasn’t unresponsive, was I? I resolved myself to ask who it was they were talking about, but I found that I couldn’t do anything but breathe and think.
The woman spoke next to my ear. I caught a whiff of perfume: it smelt familiar, somehow… Like an old friend. Suddenly I knew who the woman was. This woman was my aunt, the one who had raised me single handedly as a child treated me like i was her own. If only I could remember her! If only I could remember myself! I knew she was my aunt, but I didn’t have a single memory of her, nor did I remember what she even looked like. I just knew who she was, and why I felt such a strong, emotional attachment to her. I wished that I could soothe her tears, or even just look at her.
She reminisced over happy memories that we’d shared over the years. She talked about old friends of mine: She talked about holidays, and family, and other things like my first day of highschool, my first car, my graduation…. But I could only remember dropping a case of beer somewhere. Even if I could’ve told her this, I wouldn’t have. I could tell that this was important to her.
She did this for the next while, talking about the times we’d had together and stories from her own life. I have no idea how long it was, because I would drift in and out of sleep. Sometimes she would be there, or sometimes it would be a stranger, and at other times I’d be completely alone. It could’ve been days, it could’ve been weeks: I have no idea.
I awoke one day to my aunt telling me that the man who’d shot me had been arrested At first I had no clue as to what she was talking about. Shot? I hadn’t been shot. But then it all came back to me in a blinding flash, and the only thing that I wanted to know was: What happened to the children? Thankfully I didn’t need to wait very long, because she told me that after he was arrested, his kids had been sent to live in foster care.
Apparently he had been involved in some nasty gang business, which certainly concurs with him being mortally desperate for money. Not that I can really blame her, but my aunt spoke about this man with the utmost hatred and disgust. She spoke about him as if he was some sort of monster. She said that in her eyes, the only thing that the guy had going for him was that he never brought drugs or anything into the house, and that he claimed full responsibility for what he did.
Like I said, I can’t blame her for judging this man so harshly. In fact, I’d probably feel the same way, if I was in her position. Yet despite being this man’s victim, I can’t say that I can really judge him. He was just a man trying to get by, trying to take care of three kids with the shitty lot he’d been dealt in life. So what if he’d been in a gang? I’d never been in any sort of setting where I’d been exposed to that stuff as a kid, So who was I to condemn him for that? Who was I to say that I wouldn’t hold somebody at gunpoint if it meant making sure that I could be there to provide for my kids” He obviously hadn’t wanted to rob me. Would I, or anybody, really have been so different in such a time of desperation?
That beeping noise was ever present…. It was the rhythm of my life… of my soul. It was completely monotonous, never changing pace. I could feel my mind being slowly sucked away into a nebulous void of nothingness. I no longer felt any emotion. All I had was thought, I felt no ties to the world. Not to my aunt, to the man who’d shot me, his kids, or even myself. I simply existed.
My aunt no longer came to visit me. The strangers no longer tied to talk to me or engage me in any way. And I no longer wished to talk to them, to jump up and scream my name, or to even lay eyes on my aunt. I no longer cared to live, if you could even say that’s what I was doing. The strangers must have known, too, because they said that I was brain dead. Why should I care? I’d stopped living a long time ago. I didn’t even care when my aunt came one last time to say goodbye. Her tears held nothing as they splashed against my skin. Her touch was cold against my skin while the strangers prepared to pull the plug.
I’d described the man who’d shot me as just that: a man. He was only a human being, just like everybody else. Could I even say I was that anymore?