I looked down at the piece of paper again, mouthing the words to myself but making sure that I made no sound. I felt immediately sure that had I tried to engage in a soundless conversation, the person on the other side would not see the words I was saying.
Everything about my arrangement felt like a fucked up riddle and I’d never given much thought to just how troubling life was when you couldn’t communicate.
Stores were easy, of course. Put things on the counter. Pay money. Sure, I likely looked like an asshole now that I didn’t offer any pleasantries, or how I gave that blank stare when they asked a question.
So many elements that I’d taken for granted had been taken by simply removing my words.
Well…not just my words…
I looked at the address and back at the paper.
3117 Harwell Ave.
That’s all it said.
What does one do when they have no obvious objective? What would you do if given an address and nothing else?
I was effectively on retainer for hell. That’s what I liked to tell myself anyway, though I suppose it was more of an indentured servant sort of arrangement. That situation works out so well for everyone in the end, after all. Then again, one could posit that all forms of societal structure are, at their very core, a situation built to…
“Sir?” a voice interrupted my musings.
“Hmm?” I replied absentmindedly – regretting having done so immediately as the wave of static and angry bees in my mind scattered through my mind. 96, I thought.
“Are you lost?” the person asked.
I turned to meet the gaze of a middle aged man wearing the sort of outfit you’d imagine from a stereotypical suburban-dad type. Socks pulled too high, short-sleeved, button-up shirt tucked into khaki shorts. A clean-shaven fellow with hair that belonged to a mid-level office manager.
He was the sort of man that you could probably have a lengthy conversation with about push mowers versus riding lawnmowers.
I shook my head at him.
“Well, you’ve been standing in front of my house for a while,” he said. “I don’t want any trouble.”
I gave him what I imagine was a quizzical look, re-examined the piece of paper and the address on the house and then turned and walked away.
Smoke brought me to my senses. It drifted through the air as sunlight danced through the drifting haze in that way that sunlight and cigarette smoke do.
“Tsk, tsk, tsk…” came the clicking of the tongue. The sound of a displeased father when looking at his son’s less than impressive grades for the previous semester. “Was it too complicated?” he asked.
“I…” I started to say…
Fuck, I thought, 95…
“I’ll make this simple,” he said. “You’re supposed to kill them.”
He could clearly read the look on my face.
“What?” he said. “You thought I was sending you to tend their lawns? Make them cookies? Tuck their fucking kids in at night?”
His voice changed. He seemed suddenly darker. Ominous. His tone sharp…deadly…
“You want to rewind things?” he asked with words that hit like daggers. His cigarette jammed hard into my neck so fast I didn’t have time to think. Luckily, my reflexes made me do that weird ‘Ow, it hurts like a mother fucker’ sharp inhale.
But then it felt like time slowed. The drift of smoke hung dead in the air. Then the pressure sank in. I could feel it around me like a some invisible hand was squeezing. I could hear the creak of tendons, the strain of my blood vessels. My breathing was labored, chest tight. Things began to snap.
There are no words to explain what it feels like to have the moment of impact from a speeding vehicle settle in in slow motion. Whatever you think it feels like to be hit by a car is nothing compared to having it inflicted in a slow, deliberate fashion.
I know I screamed. I don’t know what I screamed, but I know I screamed. And I know I didn’t just scream once.
When I woke up again, it was to a house that was dark, quiet, and empty. I touched my neck and found no wound.
Some might take that moment and chalk it up to bad dreams and a fear of repercussions, but there are dreams, and then there’s what I experienced. It wasn’t a dream.
In the night, with street lights and random wanders as my companions, I made my way to a pawn shop. Had I known then what I know now, I likely wouldn’t have worried so much. I wouldn’t have looked around like a crack-head checking for corner mirrors and cameras. I wouldn’t have felt so conspicuous asking to see the 9mm under the counter.
I could feel the weight of it in my coat pocket on the walk home. My hands clinging to the grip, fingers sliding around the trigger guard. Equally afraid of holding it as I was of letting it go. I wondered if it was what people felt like when they bought cocaine for the first time.
I sat there the rest of the night with the gun on my coffee table…looking at it, picking it up…holding it, putting it back down. I looked at the time as it drained from evening like an IV bag in a coma patient.
I looked at the piece of paper while the sun was creeping into my windows like burglar intent on stealing my innocence.
3117 Harwell Ave.