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“I never wanted this.”

The words come because they have to. I’m holding a gun slumped in my hand, my legs bent and draped haphazardly over the stool underneath me. The room is dark; my eyes haven’t moved from her face in what seems like an eternity, and slowly she has come into focus, more real. Somewhere in this place I hear rhythmic tears of water echoing against steel piping.

“Fuck you.”

“I don’t…” I choke down a sticky sob. “You don’t know. You don’t know what it’s like…” I tap the top of the gun against my forehead, my shaking fingers making the motion a rapid staccato. “in here.”

I draw two quick hiccups of air between the words. The movement is the first acknowledgement I’ve made of the gun’s presence in the last hours.

Has it really been hours? Jesus.

I look at the metal in my hands and try to think, but there are no thoughts to be had that aren’t already here, filling the little room with disgusting perfumes that cloy at my nostrils and tug gnawingly at my senses. I’m sweating and can’t stop. I’m crying and can’t stop. Water is still dripping in the background, and the world feels moist and uncomfortable.

I know I have to be here; I’m supposed to be here. She is, too. And the gun. It’s all very important. I’m rocking back and forth now, lightly, pushing with the balls of my feet against the rungs of the stool legs. I hug myself tightly with my left arm, my right pressing against my leg as though trying to escape the object clutched in its sweaty palm.

I got me and the gun here. And she’s here, on the chair in the middle of the room, right across from me. I got her here, too.

“Why can’t you just leave?”

What a silly question for her to ask. Of course I can’t leave. I’m supposed to be here. I am. I am.

“I’m supposed to be here.”

I say it aloud for the first time, stating what really should have been obvious. My voice is more patient than I thought it would be. She doesn’t know. She can’t really know.

I don’t know.

“It’s my apartment. Shouldn’t I know who’s supposed to be here?”

It’s the kind of question a child would ask, I think, and for a moment I find a sort of clarity. Snorting my disbelief, I stop rocking and hold her gaze.

“You don’t know anything.”

I go back to rocking and find a point in the floor to stare at. It’s a splatter of color, and I realize that this little space must be where she gives birth to the portraits hung all throughout the rest of her home. Chips of dried paint crinkle between my jeans and the seat.

“Why don’t you tell me what you know? Maybe I can figure it out.”

I stop again and my eyes snap up to hers.

“I’m going to kill someone tonight.”

Her fear is instantaneous, and she looks like she wants to run, but she stays in her chair.


It’s all she says. I think that’s interesting.

“I don’t know. I just am.”

Rocking again.

“Are you out of your fucking mind? What do you want from me? What does that even mean?”

The fear carries her away, and the questions come out jumbled. But I answer them. I can do that.

“Yeah, I’m pretty sure I am.”

She looks at me, confused.

“Out of my fucking mind…?”

I laugh. She just asked that, didn’t she? It was an easy question to answer. I sniffle and swallow hard.

“I don’t want anything from you. You’re supposed to be here. I’m supposed to be here. And the gun. I’m going to kill someone tonight.”

I say it as though it’s all there is to say. Because it is. I pick up the gun, not aiming anywhere in particular, and then lower it. I’m not supposed to use it yet.

She’s crying now, quietly. I understand. She looks up.

“Why me?”

I shake my head, back to staring at the splotch of paint on the wood flooring. I wipe a sleeve across my nose.

“Dunno. Just supposed to be. Just is.”

I’m becoming more disconnected, I know. It’s okay. I hear a noise somewhere outside but ignore it. This was the room that mattered, but now it isn’t, and we have to move. I lower my voice to a whisper.

“Get up.”

She looks at me with that fear again and I almost stop. But I’m not supposed to stop. Can’t stop. I hop up off the stool and reach down to grab her arm as gently as I can. She slaps at my hand, but I pull at her anyway. I don’t point the gun at her, but she remembers it’s there.

“Get up.”

She gets up.

“Go to the door.”

She goes to the door.

“Walk to your bed.”

She seems like she wants to look at me again, but she doesn’t. She starts walking across her living room, past the front door she never locks (who would ever want to steal from a starving artist like her?), and towards her bedroom beyond. I don’t follow. I’m not supposed to. I wait, silent.

The shadow is on her before she can even scream. She must think it’s me, pulling metal string around her neck and tightening her air away, but it’s not.

I’m over here. With the gun right where it’s supposed to be. I know it’s time. I take a few silent steps, aim, fire, and the shadow drops to the ground. The last look on his face is very confused. I guess I would be, too.

Her hands fly up to her throat and pull cord away, allowing the gasp of breath she takes to fly to her lungs with newfound freedom. Her eyes can’t decide whether to stare at the body seeping blood into her living room carpet or me, so they twitch from one to the other in rapid succession until she looks about ready to seize.

She knows the man on the floor. I saw him in a picture crumpled at the bottom of her drawer while I was waiting for her. Maybe an ex. Love makes you try to kill people sometimes, I guess.

I sniffle again, but I’m not crying. I did what I was supposed to do. She’s watching me still, and now only me, having realized that the lump on the ground is far more predictable.

She doesn’t try to stop me when I leave, but I feel her eyes follow me to the front door, and all the way down the hall beyond.

Credits to: paintthepainter


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