A man's search for the immortal and the moral.
You ruined my life, he said.
If I survived this, I would forever have a circular scar imprinted into my left temple where the barrel of Mike Stanton’s gun pressed hard, heated with five warning shots, into my head. Part of me hoped he’d mindlessly emptied the chambers in his anger, but I knew the gun buried against my head was a six-shooter.
You ruined my life.
Mike always did have a penchant for the overdramatic.
Mike, the longshot. Mike, the thorn in my side. Mike, the reckless.
Mike. The murderer?
If I had known this would be the last day of my life I would have changed my underwear. There is nothing dignified about dying in your girlfriend’s frilly red panties. I wasn’t convinced my attacker was in the right frame of mind to take last requests.
A perfect circle branded to the side of my head for the rest of my life.
In semiotics they teach you that the most masculine shape is a square, and opposing that, the most feminine shape; a circle. I could die branded with a circle and wearing lacy underwear that was several sizes too small for me. I would look like the victim of some extremist, feminist group.
It took me a couple of minutes to recognize Mike behind the matted swathes of beard and beer-stained hair. The long-haired, multi-pierced and tattoo-sleeved Mike Stanton had never been well groomed, but now, covered in dirt and stained in various bodily fluids, I struggled to differentiate him from your regular homeless Joe. My first warning was the haphazard shots that ricocheted dangerously off the concrete near my feet.
Unambitious, lethargic, distracted. These are the words I had used to describe him.
You ruined my life, he said.
I thought briefly about the afterlife. I hoped I could change there. I didn’t want to spend eternity pulling silk out of my ass.
Alright, alright, I said. Just watch the suit.
I wasn’t scared. I didn’t much like pain, but if Mike pulled the trigger now, chances are I wouldn’t feel a thing. There had been exceptions. People had survived a shot at this proximity, their skulls scattering across the floor. Meanwhile their brains worked overdrive, telling their heart to pump blood to the head to make sense of the sensation. Mostly, unconsciously, they will bleed to death. Those that might survive would probably live a half-life, breathing out of tubes. Facial reconstructive surgeons making you look presentable to visitors. I wasn’t scared, but I had decided that dying wasn’t really for me, and would have much preferred to go and meet Emily at the Hilton.
Emily Hart was the love of my life. Tonight we would go for an expensive dinner that would cost me half my monthly salary and I would tell her. I would look into her eyes and say, Emily Hart, you are the love of my life. Then we would stay a night together in the Hilton which would likely cost me the other half of my monthly salary, and I would make love to her.
Wearing her underwear was her idea.
Instead I was pressed up against a wall trying to talk my way out of an assassination.
Emily would be waiting for me outside of the Hilton. I could see her there, smoky eyes and full-lipped smile, dark wavy hair and curvaceous body. Just the idea of her was enough to make me salivate despite the searing pain in my temple. I imagined it was Emily holding the gun in some kinky role play. That made the whole situation much more bearable.
Once, she had blindfolded me and tied my wrists to the railings of the bed. In our passion I thrusted too hard, throwing Emily forward to head-butt the backboard, she broke her nose and bled all over me. I felt the spatters drip on my cheek as she cupped her hands under her nostrils and swore. I had licked the blood from my cracked lips. Tasted her on my tongue. Without sight, my sense of taste enhanced. She tasted amazing. I had apologised of course and footed the bill for the corrective work on her nose.
Mike kicked me in the back of my leg joint and I collapsed to my knees. It took a moment for him to place the gun back to my head. He missed the mark. The barrel had cooled but it was still hot enough to burn an overlapping blister into my skin. This one might not scar.
It was a white pain in my temple; almost intolerable. My mind wandered.
I laughed; it was Mike’s fault I was wearing ladies underwear. I was kneeling here in the alley that connected the plaza where my office was to the car park I used ritualistically, wearing my girlfriend’s underwear. The girlfriend I met because of Mike. Maybe he had found that out.
An execution, I said, really Mike? Really?
Mike thrust the gun at my head harder, my neck cracked involuntarily.
My suit trousers are getting dusty, Mike.
Mike was lazy and unproductive, yes, but he loved art. He was useless at it himself but he had a good eye for it. Emily was an artist. Mike introduced me to Emily. He had shown me a self-portrait, sold it to me, reluctantly. Emily was hanging up in my office before I had even met her. I fell in love with the layers of oil paint swirling and twisting into her delicious form. Large ribbons of material fell in coils, arranged in a coincidental formation that just so happened to shield her modesty. I fell in love with her. It cost me two big ones to admire her every day. I couldn’t be sure why, but the painting cheered me up when I arrived to work in the morning.
Mike had regretted selling me the painting, even though he needed the money. I kept pestering him to introduce me to the artist.
I could hear the spring in the gun stretch as the tendons in Mike’s fingers flexed.
I’m going to kill you, he said.
You ruined my life, he said.