Beaches

“Excuse me, what time do y’all close today?”

We close at eight P.M. tonight.”

“Ok, thank you.”

You’re welcome.

Bang.

Right about… there…. is where the blood spatter will be. Someone on the internet said to make sure you point the barrel straight up towards the top of your head instead of angled back. Think you’ll be able to remember that? I think so.

Can I help you find something, sir?

“No thank you, I’m just looking.”

Alright, well take your time and let me know if you need help finding anything. Today is $15.00 off any fragrance purchase over $75.00.

“Ok thank you.”

Bang!

No, that’s not right. It will be much louder.

POP!

That’s better. It’s actually really hard to imagine how it will sound in a department store. It will be loud. Really loud. People will fall silent, but it will still take them a few seconds to realize what they just heard, and that they heard it in a place they shouldn’t have. You’ve never seen a person truly panic, have you? No, but it’s just another form of mindless animal behavior, nothing special.

Did you need some help, ma’am?

“Yes, thank you. I’m looking for kids clothes.”

That would be upstairs in the home department. Just up the escalator and to the left.

“Thank you so much.”

You’re welcome.

POP!

It’s fast too. Really fast. Not drawn out like in the movies, but over before you realize what the noise was. That’s cool. Bodies fall like potato sacks and land in all sorts of crazy ways, too. There will be a huge pool of blood. If you want the crime scene photos to look elegant, you might want to consider a different method. No, that’s okay. It’s not as though

“Excuse me, do y’all sell Dior?”

“We do, it’s right around the front of this bay.”

“Cool.”

“Which one were you looking for?”

“I think it’s called Savage… Saufash… I know I’m probably saying it wrong. It’s the one with Johnny Depp.”

“Sauvage.”

“Sauvage! Yeah.”

“Do you know which one? There are three Sauvage’s, the Eau de Toilette, the Eau de Parfum, and the Parfum.”

“Uh, I just know it’s Sauvage. It’s for my boyfriend. I didn’t know there was more than one. What’s the difference?”

“The EDT is the original. It’s a little bit brighter and has a bergamot top. The EDP is a little bit louder and has the most projection of the three in my opinion. It’s probably our best seller. The parfum is the newest one, came out last winter. It has the highest concentration of oil to alcohol, so it typically lasts longer, but actually tends to be softer than the other two. It’s much denser, and woodsier.”

“I gotcha. So, how much is the small bottle of that one?”

“The parfum?”

“Uh… yeah.”

“The 2 oz is $125.”

“Oh wow. What about the other one?”

“So, the EDP is $95 for that same size, and the EDT is… $76 I think, I’d have to check to be sure.”

“Ok. Do you have any smaller sizes?”

“No ma’am.”

“Ok, well I’m gonna check to make sure which one he wants, and I’ll be back. Thank you for your help.”

“You’re welcome.”

POP!

Everyone likes to imagine that their death will be investigated CSI-style. Or that some fringe documentary crew will interview everyone they ever talked to, sift through every piece of information left behind, read every document, open every computer file, and use investigative journalism to piece together the events leading up to their death. Maybe they’ll even talk about your life. How unique and strange it was. How complex and different. How much potential you had. How the world is worse off having lost you. But they won’t. Nobody will. Your family will struggle to sift through your belongings. Everything, especially the beautiful remnants of your life, will be painful to see. Nobody will publish what you wrote. Nobody will ask who you really were. You will become a glorified stereotype of yourself and be reduced to a twenty minute highlight reel in some church auditorium you never even frequented. People you never knew and who never knew you will talk about you and cry and tell your family how sorry they are. That’s not how I want to be remembered. Sorry, but that’s the way it is.

Did you need some help?

“I’m looking for Stetson.”

I’m sorry, we don’t carry it.

“You used to. I bought it here.”

We used to years ago, but we haven’t in a long time. At least not since I’ve been here.

“Do you know where they still sell it?”

I think they carry it at Walgreens.

“Really? Okay, thank you.”

You’re welcome.

POP!

Bringing the gun inside won’t be a problem. I’ll just put it in my backpack. But choosing the right spot… that’s hard. It should send a message after all. Otherwise the bathtub would work just as well. What message are you trying to send? I don’t know… how about: “Look at what life is like for some of us.” So you want them to pity you? I guess, but only after I’ve made it clear how much I hate them. How much do you hate them? Only as much as I hate myself. That’s fair, right? Yeah, that’s fair.

Yes ma’am what can I help you with?

“I just need to pay for these things. Can you check me out?”

Yes, of course. Let’s go over here to this register.

“Thank you so much. I’ve been looking for someone to check me out but couldn’t find anyone.”

Yes, we’re pretty short-staffed at the moment.

“I see that.”

Ok, your total comes to eleven dollars and nineteen cents. Will you be using your reward card today?

“No, just a visa.”

Alright, you can go ahead and swipe or insert whenever you’re ready.

“Oh, I don’t need a bag, I can just put them in here.”

Ok, here you go. Have a nice day.

“You too.”

POP!

Part of the loud crack that a gunshot makes comes from breaking the sound barrier. That means that the bullet is traveling faster than the sound waves are travelling and will rip through your brain before the *POP* reaches your ears. You’ll never even hear the shot. That’s fine, gunshots are too loud anyway. You won’t get to see what happens next. Is that okay? That’s why I’m picturing it now. Once I like what I see, that’s how I’ll remember it. Right up until the –

“Hi, um… I have a dumb question; do you guys carry Curve by chance? It’s really old.”

We actually do, but only during the holidays.”

“Oh wow, really? That’s awesome!”

Yes, we sell gift sets for $25.00. We usually start getting them early November.

“Well then I’ll just come back then. Thank you!”

Of course.

POP!

When humans are confronted with something unknown or unexpected, their brains revert to the most primal mammalian responses: fear and curiosity. Some people’s adrenaline will force the flight reaction when they witness a suicide, but most will just freeze and stare in shock. Stare… like glass-eyed puppets on a shelf. That’s because they’re pathetic insects with tiny brains. Perhaps. But some of them have hearts too. Some of them know you. So what? Some of them will cry. I don’t care about that. Really?

“Hey are you closing tonight?”

Yeah.

“Who all is closing with you, do you know?”

I think it’s just me and Robin and Jade. Are you closing too?

“Hell no, thank God! I’m leaving in… twelve minutes haha. This day has been shit, I tell you. Shit!”

I just got here so hopefully tonight won’t be so bad.

“Oh my god last night was the worst! I had a line ten minutes to close and it was all returns.”

That’s ridiculous.

“I know, and… hang on. Have you seen my phone?”

No. I just got here.

“Oh my god did I lose it again? Call my phone, will you?”

Okay.

“Wait I found it. Jeez that’s the fourth time today. I gotta get out of here, haha, I am too tired for this.”

Okay, well have a good evening.

“You too, oh and if Stella comes by, I put her foundation in the Laura Mercier counter, okay?”

Okay, I will. Have a good night, Sheryl.

“You too, Markus.”

POP!

You know, South Park did an episode once about people shitting themselves when they die. It’s much nicer to refer to it as “postmortem voiding of bowels” or something even more unwieldly, but whatever you choose to call it, it’s one of those things people don’t talk about because it’s true. That memory you give them, that image, it will stay with them for the rest of their lives, you know. That’s the point. Some of them cared about you. And? Well, do you want them to pity you, or become horrified by you? Neither. Do you really think seeing your vacant eyes with the back of your skull blown out and your brains spilling out onto the marble tile will make them feel sorry for you? I said neither! You also might smell like shit. Shut up.

“So what’s your problem?”

What do you mean?

“You’ve been here for almost an hour and haven’t even said hi to me. I’m starting to think we aren’t friends anymore.”

I’ve been busy, Jade, that’s all.

“Really? Because it looked like you were mostly just wandering around like a zombie. I wish I was busy like you!”

Sorry.

“Yeah well it’s been busy in Clinique and I really could’ve used your help.”

Are you by yourself?

“Robin’s about to leave and then I’ll be by myself.”

I thought Robin was closing.

“Shit, she was supposed to but she has a doctor’s appointment or whatever. Lazy bitch.”

Gotcha. You have a customer by the way.

“Goddamn it! See what I mean? I’ll be right with you, ma’am!”

See you later.

“See you later. And quit pacing – you have a customer.”

Yes, sir, did you need some help?

“Yes where are your bathrooms?”

They’re upstairs in the home store.

“Thank you.”

You’re welcome.

POP!

So I guess you get to just leave and to hell with everybody else then? How is that any different from getting killed in a car accident? It’s different because they will blame themselves. Fuck that. Anyone who truly knows me will understand exactly why I did it. Okay, but what about the fact that less than three people alive today even know you that well? Then I guess I’ll just be misunderstood. Just as I’ve always been. And you’re okay with that?

“Markus call 205, Markus, 205.”

This is Markus.

“Hey, it’s Miranda. Can you cover Tony’s lunch in fine jewelry?”

What time is he going to lunch?

“You’ll have to check with him. Probably pretty soon though.”

Okay.

“Have you gone to lunch yet?”

Not yet, I was gonna go around four.

“That’s fine. Just let Tony know. He said he’ll work around your lunch.”

Sounds good.

“Thank you. Bye.”

Bye.

POP!

Of course I’m not okay with it! I’ve always been misunderstood, and always will be. Then how does shocking people change that? It doesn’t! All it does is let me change the narrative… give me control over what people think about me, even though it’s still totally wrong. So you’d rather choose which lie they believe than let them choose? They won’t believe the truth anyway so why not? You’d think at some point I’d get to have the floor! What is it you so badly want them to know? That I’m a good person, damn it! That beyond the razor-wire perimeters of every religious cult there is a lonely desert. Let them know that I deserved to be loved too. To belong somewhere. And to someone. That I was human. Let them know that life isn’t kind to all of us. That while they held hands with the person they loved, and shopped for things they didn’t need, some of us were watching our humanity fade away

“Excuse me, do you work here?”

Yes.

“I need to speak to a manager, please.”

From which department?

“The store manager, preferably. I have a complaint.”

He’s not in today, but I will call my department manager. It may be a moment before she gets here though, we are very short-staffed today –

“If you aren’t going to help me then I’ll find someone who will!”

Hey Miranda, it’s Markus. I have a customer who wants to speak with a manager. I don’t know she didn’t say –

“Just forget it! You are as useless as everyone else in this rotten store! I am going to complain directly to your corporate office, and I hope everyone here loses their jobs!”

Yeah I’m still here. I have no idea, but I think she left. Yup. Will do. Okay bye.

POP!

If you’re going to let that much rage determine your final farewell then how is your motivation any different from that of a terrorist or shooter? Maybe it’s not. Your line of thinking is what drives people to kill innocent people to prove a point. Yeah? So why not take a few of these disgusting vermin with me? Maybe I should kill some of them…since I’m leaving anyway. It would lend some poetic justice to a sad and rotten life, don’t you think?

Do you need some help, ma’am?

“I’d like to return this please.”

Okay, has it been opened?

“No, the sales person I bought if from gave me a sample when I bought it. My sister didn’t like it though, so I’d like to return the bottle.”

Would you like to find another fragrance or would you just like to do a return?

“Just a return, please.”

Alright. It’s going to be $109.00 back onto your card ending in 0425, is that correct?

“That’s correct.”

Alright, you’re all set. Have a nice day.

“Thank you, you too.”

POP!

Just because you hate your life doesn’t mean other people should die because of it. I do hate them though. Maybe so, but enough to kill them? It certainly would feel like putting things in order. All those happy people who take for granted all the little essentials I’ve craved my entire life but have never been allowed to enjoy. Things like love, belonging, intimacy, and a home. When you deprive someone of all the things that make them feel human, they start to lose their humanity. Could you really kill strangers though? The happy ones with beautiful lives, sure. What if you guess wrong and their lives are actually terrible? Then I’ll be doing them a favor. Setting aside the moral holes in your little angel of death fantasy, you do know you’d create a panic, right? By the time you made your little stand there would be no one left to watch because everyone would be too busy rushing the exits. It’s not like I can’t

“Is there no one who can check me out? I’ve been all over this store and there isn’t a single open register any –”

Yes ma’am, any of those three behind you could have checked you out but I can get you right here.

“This is just –“

Did you want to keep the hangers?

“Keep them. I remember when this store was –“

Alright, your total is $24.11, just wait for the blue light.

“They really need to hire some more people if –“

Please wait for the blue light before swiping your card.

“Oh. Sorry.”

You can go ahead and swipe now.

“This store has just gone to hell –”

Your receipt is in the bag, have a nice day.

POP!

I could lock the gates so they couldn’t get out. Use the hidden emergency stairwells between the top and bottom floors to save time. By the time management realized someone had locked the gates early it would be too late. Hmm. Still, a lot can go wrong in five minutes. And these days lots of people don their squeaky clean “side-pieces” to go shoe-shopping. The last thing I want is to be gunned down by some fat gun-nut who plays Call of Duty and watches Duck Dynasty

“I’m sorry Markus but can you please help me for a minute?”

I’m the only one on the floor, Tony….

“It’s fine. Never mind.”

Are you in fine jewelry?

“Yes, and… I have a customer who wants his watchband adjusted.”

That’s no problem, Tony – I can do that real quick if you watch men’s for me.

“It’s those damn tiny pins, I just can’t that up close, and they know that! I’ve complained to management over and over again, but they just keep putting me over there. Ugh!”

It’s okay, I like doing watch bands. Is he over there now?

“He said he wanted to find a wallet but would be right back.”

Alright I’ll head over there.

“You’re a saint.”

POP!

You’d have to be quick though. If you wander around with a drawn gun for too long, inevitably some rabbit-brained cunt will shriek: “HE’S GOT A GUN!” and then they’ll all start running for the exits like spooked wildebeest. I could chase them. Oh yeah – that would be a noble thing to be remembered for: chasing after crazed department store shoppers waving a handgun. You’re right – if I’m going to kill people I’m doing it the right way or not at all: shooting them in the face point blank so I can look into their miserable souls the second they realize they’re about to die. Taking pot shots at flailing shopping bags careening towards giant SUV’s just isn’t very elegant. Touché, but when did this become about execution? I thought

“Hello? I need some help over here. Hello?”

Yes?

“How much is this ring?”

I’m not sure, but I’ll check. This one here?

“No the one on the right with the emerald. That is an emerald, right?”

I actually don’t work over here so I’m not sure, but it should say on the tag. Yes, it’s an emerald.

“And how much is it?”

Let me check. It is $4699.00. Plus tax.

“Oh that’s not bad. Is it on sale?”

Um, no, ma’am, it doesn’t seem to be.

“Then I don’t want it. What do you have that’s on sale?”

Um, well, I know all the Effy is 30% off this week, and

“Any emerald rings?”

I’m not sure, but we can look over

“Never mind I’ll just come back.”

Alright, have a nice day.

POP!

It would be a kind of justice I think. Are you sure? Even if it was, who made you the arbiter of justice? Someone has to do it. You do know that as soon as you pull the trigger, you’ll become an evil person for all of history. Nobody will ever understand or even try to understand your motives, let alone your pain. You’ll be nothing more than the villain in other people’s stories. You won’t be remembered for your words, your intellect, your understanding, your heart, your kindness… no, you’ll be remembered for that one little thing you did at the very end. That thing I did in response to a lifetime of quiet suffering and dehumanization! Yes, and you’ll be hated for it. For what? For the pinprick of suffering I caused? Yes, for the pinprick of suffering you caused. Is that really what you want? Is that a fair trade? To spread your suffering to innocent people so you can wallow in self-pity for a few minutes until the cops shoot you? Maybe it is. But you have nothing to gain! I have nothing to lose – that’s different. So you want to teach them a lesson? Lash out at strangers because there’s nobody to blame for your rotten life? No, that’s not

“Are you the only one working over here?”

Yes, can I help you?

“I hope so because the last person refused to.”

I see. What can I get for you?

“I ordered some earrings about a week ago and still haven’t received them. It says online that you have them here in the store, so I want to just pick them up here.”

I can sell you the earrings here, but I have no access to your online order –

“Well I got them from this stores website!”

I understand that, but since your item has already been shipped there’s no way to change it to pick up in store.

“So what you’re telling me is that you won’t give me my earrings.”

I can sell you the earrings, but –

“No, you aren’t listening to me! I already paid for the earrings! I’m not paying for them twice! I have my online receipt right here – I just want what I paid for!”

I can’t do an exchange without merchandise. I can sell you the earrings and then you can bring in the ones you ordered and return them in the store for a refund –

“Forget it. This is why I never shop here anymore. You just lost a sale because we won’t be coming back.”

Have a nice day.

POP!

It’s not about teaching them a lesson. It’s about restoring balance in some cosmic sense. You think you can fix a broken life by killing innocent people? No, but I can at least try to redistribute some of the suffering. You really think that’s fair? Life isn’t just “not fair” – it’s straight up unfair. That’s cute, but I always thought you were the kind of person who rose above that kind of victimhood. I was. You’re still a good person. Even if you wanted to, do you really think you could point a gun at someone and pull the trigger? They’re not human, they’re insects. Maybe so, but they don’t know any better. Your pain is yours, not theirs. It’s not fair to dump it on them just because they’re insects. Besides, shouldn’t you leave on a good note? A good deed? Let them live. Your suffering was caused by others as well, so why not let the pain end with you? I give up, why? Because you’ll find a deeper peace in your last moments if you do.

Are you the gentleman who needed a watchband adjusted?

“I am, but another associate was helping me.”

I can help you with the watch band.

“Oh, perfect. I bought this here yesterday and I thought it fit alright but it’s too loose.”

I can adjust it for you. We do it all the time. Do you have the links with you?

“Yes, I have them right here. Shall I come back tomorrow to pick it up then?”

It won’t take me but a minute to put the links in.

“I appreciate it. The other associate wasn’t sure if you guys had the equipment. I’m glad you came over.”

He doesn’t typically do watch repairs, so I usually do them. Alright, try that on and see how it fits.

“That feels much better. Perfect.”

I put the extra links back in the bag for you.

“Thank you. What do I owe you?”

No charge.

“Well thank you. You have a nice day.”

You too.

POP!

Certain schools of moral reasoning suggest that every human, no matter how demented, criminal, or evil they may behave, ultimately seeks good. The suffering they cause can then be understood as an effort to restore justice, balance, or order in some admittedly misguided manner. In their minds, they are good, or at least doing their best to bring about good. This makes them seekers of good. Do you think that what you want to do is good? To share your suffering with innocent people? You know, the Catholics believe that seeking good, even by doing evil, is the same as seeking God. Well, I’m not a Catholic and I don’t believe in God.

Fine jewelry is all yours, Tony.

“Did you get that gentleman’s watch sized?”

I did. He was very happy with it.

“They should just put you back there. You already know the area.”

I would if they’d pay me more.

“Shit they don’t pay anybody around here.”

I know it.

“Did Miranda talk to you about covering my lunch?”

Yeah. When do you want to go?

“I was hoping to go in about an hour.”

That’s fine.

“See you later. And thank you.”

No problem.

POP!

Doesn’t my life matter? Even a little? You might be right about killing the innocent, but I’ll be damned if I’m going to leave this hellhole without a final word that won’t be forgotten. Let them know that I was human too. That while they lived a cheerful life with others, I weathered a sickening life alone! That when I most needed someone near me, there was no one. You think they’ll get the message? I don’t… Then what’s the point of all this? This…raging, screaming? You’re just screaming into the void. It’s better than doing nothing! Maybe this is one of those times when “doing” isn’t even  

“Is this where I take returns?”

Excuse me?

“Can I make a return here or do I need to go to another register?”

What are you returning?

“Well, I bought this Effy necklace online a few months ago, and –“

You’ll need to take that to fine jewelry.

“Oh okay. Where’s that?”

It’s the big black counter right over there. Just passed Elizabeth Arden.

“Alright thank you.”

Sure thing.

POP!

There isn’t much else I can say if you’re sold on this. I’m not sold on it yet, but I don’t think killing other people would make things better. So what will you do? Go back to your original plan? I guess so.

Can I help you find something, ma’am?

“Oh, no thank you, I’m just browsing.”

Alright, I’m here if you have any questions.

“Actually I’m looking for something for my boyfriend.”

Do you know what he wears now?

“Well, he likes Prada…something. The bottle is red at the bottom.”

Prada Luna Rosa Sport?

“That’s it!”

I actually have it in a gift set, and you’ll even save $15.00 today.

“Great! Well, to be honest I was hoping to get him something different.”

Oh. I can help you find a new fragrance for him. Are you looking for something lighter and clean or something deeper?

“It’s okay, I’ll just come back with him. Thanks for your help.”

You’re welcome.

POP!

Bystanders won’t stay for very long. Even those coworkers who cry for you will be quickly led away by managers and police. They might even shut down the store for a few hours while they clean up the mess. Customers will complain to corporate about not being able to redeem their 20% off coupons that day. They will call for blood, and corporate will issue new coupons and all will be well with the world. The entire incident might even get a thirty second segment on the local news channel. They’ll say you were mentally unstable or something for sure. Some junior reporters will dig up decades old dirt on you, to reassure their viewers that suicide can only happen to sick people, and that buying things on Amazon, eating fast-food and watching Tick Tock is still a meaningful way to live. “Sources tell us that the man’s brother had recently died in a tragic accident. It is likely that depression may have contributed to his suicide. Our hearts go out to the family of the deceased. In other news…”

“Can I borrow your keys? I’ll give them right back I promise. Don’t give me that look!”

Yeah well don’t forget to bring them back, Jade. We’re missing like four sets.

“Ugh, I know – I’ll be quick!”

POP!

I wonder if I’ll be able to see anything after the bullet goes through my brain. Like what? Like the fluorescent lights… or people. It would only be for a split second I imagine. That probably depends on which part of your brain the bullet destroys. You could research which area of the brain you’d need to avoid hitting so your eyes still worked. It’s not like I can practice my aim beforehand. I just hope I don’t have to taste smoke. My mouth will be filled with smoke from gunpowder, but it’s the burned flesh that I really don’t want to taste. If you want to die more slowly you can do it another way you know. I still want to at least be seen. Do you really need that much drama just to

“Excuse me?”

Yes, how can I help you?

“I called earlier and talked to someone about Opium by YSL.”

Yes, you must be Zoe.

“Oh it was you! So I am in the right place.”

You are. I set aside the bottle for you right over here – one second.

“Thank you so much. This is the only perfume my mom wears.”

You got the last bottle. And it actually comes with a little travel bag too.

“Oh my God she’s going to love that! Thank you so much.”

You total comes to $98.78. You can swipe whenever you’re ready.

“I wish my husband was this easy to shop for.”

Have a nice day, ma’am.

“You too.”

POP!

Why don’t you just slit your wrists? Because I want to make sure I do it right. I’m just saying, you seem like you want to take one last look at life. Are you sure you want to die in a crumpled heap of hot gore in a department store isle? It wasn’t my first choice, but it will have the most impact. It’s not as though I can pick –

“Here’s your keys back! Have you gone to lunch yet?”

No, I was thinking of going around four. Who still needs to go?

“Me and Tony and Carol. I’m hungry!”

I just saw you eating candy ten minutes ago! I don’t know how you stay so skinny.

“That was a snack, and now I’m starving again. If you aren’t going until four then I’ll go now.”

What are you gonna get? Taco Bell?

“Shut up! And yes! What are YOU gonna eat? Coffee?”

I never eat at work, you know that. I have to stay skinny so someone will marry me.

“Oh my god just shut up, I wish I was as skinny as you.”

And yet, not a single date in a year, so not skinny enough.

“Just stop. I like your jacket.”

Oh. Thanks. I just… felt like dressing up a little today.

“You ok? You never texted me back and I was getting worried.”

Just tired.

“Tell me about it. Austin woke up at five this morning and wouldn’t let me sleep after that. Hey I found some sweaters I want to buy. When I go to lunch you should help me choose which one looks better on me. Gotta go!”

Ok, bye.

POP!

You can’t let her see you like that. I know. I’ll just make sure she doesn’t see it. Hey, so this is going to sound weird but please promise me you won’t come to work tomorrow. But I’m off tomorrow. I know, but I mean like not even to shop. Why not? It doesn’t matter, just promise me you won’t, okay? Ok, I promise. Ha – that wouldn’t work. She’d know something was up. Yeah, but what else can I do? It’s not fair to scar her for life just to make a statement. So then don’t scar her. Don’t scar anyone. Just do it at home. That way you can get out, and nobody has to suffer any extra. Yeah, that’s probably best. It isn’t right to push my pain on others, even if they are disgusting insects. Just think of it as your final good deed. That’s dumb. Your last act of kindness, then. That way people will know that underneath all your suffering, you didn’t really hate them – you loved them. Well, that’s pretty romantic, but I still wouldn’t go that far. It is kind of romantic though, isn’t it? It’s almost beautiful, in a way. Yeah, almost.

“I’m sorry, but I can’t seem to find the men’s shoe department.”

It’s straight ahead, ma’am, just to the right of the exit.

“I must have walked right by it. Cory get over here! – thank you – Cory I’m not calling you again! Sorry – these kids are a handful.”

No worries.

“Oh – do y’all still carry Allen Edmonds?”

We used to ma’am, but stopped carrying them a few years ago, I’m sorry.

“That’s what I told my husband, but he didn’t believe me. Guess he’ll have to settle for Cole Haan.”

We do carry Cole Haan.

“Good! Cory what did I just tell you?”

POP!

I guess I could just do it at home in the bathroom. Okay, but someone will still have to pick up every single skull fragment that gets stuck in the drywall. And someone else will have to scoop up every single soggy piece of brain matter that lands on the bathroom floor, too. It will take at least two people to lift the body connected to your dripping head into a body bag. Well, actually, I was thinking about that, and thought I could just tie a trash bag around my head. That way most of the mess would stay in the trash bag and clean-up wouldn’t be so bad. That’s very thoughtful of you. I thought so too. In fact, I was thinking I could even sit on the edge of the bathtub so that my body would fall into the tub. That way, anything that escaped the trash bag would just run into the bathtub. Easy cleanup, and they’ll be in and out in no time! If you’re so concerned about making things easy on the cleanup crew then why not just do it in a field or something?

Are you finding everything okay, sir?

“Yeah, I’m just looking.”

Alright, well let me know if you have any questions.

“I will – hey do you guys still carry Paul Sebastian?”

We do, but only around Christmas.

“So you don’t have any right now?”

That’s correct.

“Any idea when you’ll get more in?”

Probably not until November.

“Okay, thank you.”

You’re welcome.

POP!

Wait. If you’re going to kill yourself then nothing matters anymore, right? Not the grand statement, or the message, or the cleanup, nothing. Why bother with all this fantasizing about the perfect suicide? You don’t need to do any of this. Huh? If you really are going to do this then what’s keeping you here? Where? At the workplace you hate! You’re going to die tomorrow anyway, so why not just walk on out the door. You don’t even need to quit. You don’t even need to tell anyone. Let it go. Let everything go. It’s okay to stop fighting. Why are you working when you’re going to die soon? Nothing is keeping you here. Yeah. I could just walk out I guess.

“Markus! Did you hear me, I said BYE!”

Oh, are you leaving?

“Yes! I’ve been trying to tell you I had to leave early today to pick up Austin from daycare!”

Oh. Okay that’s fine.

“You really are somewhere else today. Is everything okay?”

I’m fine. Do you work tomorrow?

“No, I’m off until Thursday.”

Alright, well enjoy your days off.

“I will! Do you work Thursday?”

I do.

“Okay see you Thursday, bye!”

Bye, Jade.

POP!

Wait.

She’s one of the ones who cares about you isn’t she? It doesn’t matter. What will everyone think if you just up and leave? I’m not sure. They’ll say something like: “We just assumed he was feeling sick and went home.” That isn’t very poetic. What else do you want? Some kind of narrative? Not a narrative… just a story that has an end. How about: “He would turn and walk out of the store without a word”? Now you’re just making fun of me. Okay well how about this:

“Someone would ask him where he was going, but he wouldn’t answer. He would get in his car and drive to the Wells Fargo down the street, where he’d empty his bank accounts. It wouldn’t be much, but it would be enough. Then he’d drive to the REI across town, and buy the best hiking pack they had, and all manner of survival and backpacking gear. He’d stop by his apartment to pack. He’d leave the next morning.

There was no need to rush. The only thing left to do was to die, after all. He could afford to buy himself some time. Time for a trip, maybe. A long trip by himself. A journey. A journey to find what he’d lost. Or maybe, what he’d never known he needed. A reason to live. Or at least a reason not to kill himself. The destination didn’t really matter either. When you don’t know what you’re looking for, you can start looking anywhere. But he knew exactly where he’d go.

The beach. But not just any beach. A California beach not far from Camp Horno, California. A beach 2042 miles straight west. According to Google Maps, it would take him quite some time to cross the continent. 3.6 months to the coast on foot. Much longer than the four hours it had taken the plane to get there, that time he had basically been smuggled onto the base so they could hang out for a few days before discharge.

It would be a long walk. His beard would grow out after weeks and weeks of neglect. He would develop a deep tan, and even deeper lines around his eyes from squinting in the sun every day. Fewer and fewer people would engage him in conversation, on the rare occasions he interacted with them that is. They would start to mistake him for a homeless person instead of a traveler. What’s the difference, anyway? By that point he’d have skinny arms and huge calves, like some kind of wild man.

He’d walk for miles and miles. Sometimes he’d hitchhike. Other times he wouldn’t. He’d wander off once in a while, just to see what was there. He’d stop at truck stops and gas stations. At motels and rest stops. He needed to find something. Anything. Maybe he’d find a sweet girl at a 24-hour café who would notice him, weathered, and frazzled and sitting alone. Maybe she’d see in his eyes the crushing emptiness and loneliness that begged to be noticed. Maybe she’d realize that silence was his best attempt at screaming. Then they’d fall in love and live happily ever after. Or maybe he’d stop to chat with some old man fixing a motorcycle behind a dilapidated gas station. The old man wouldn’t say much but would somehow answer the questions he wasn’t asking. Then he’d turn around and walk back, a new man. Or maybe, just maybe, he’d make it all the way to the beach.

The beach. The beach just off of a bright little coastal town called San Clemente, where they’d gotten Bloody Mary’s after staying up all night drinking Jaeger and exploring the desert hills outside of the barracks. They had wanted to go surfing, but didn’t have swimsuits, so they bought some ridiculously expensive ones with sunset colors at the board shop just off the main drag. They rented surf boards and walked nearly a mile to the beach, like a couple of kids who’d never surfed before in their lives.  

He’d never been to any of the states that stood between him and California. If he couldn’t find what he was looking for in six new states, then perhaps his suicide was justifiable after all. First it would be Mississippi, then Arkansas, then Oklahoma. Timothy McVey had lived in Oklahoma. At some point the “South” merges with the “West”, and he suspected it might happen somewhere in the next state, Texas. Maybe there would be a sign that said: “Thank you for visiting the South! Welcome to the West!”. Finally, he’d have to cross the two longest stretches, New Mexico and Arizona. Deserts. He imagined that these deserts would change him the most. Deserts have the power to change anybody, after all.

Then, on some random day, he’d enter California. Is there a billboard welcoming weary travelers to the Golden State? Is there one at Golgotha? The closer he got to San Clemente the less he would need to carry. Perhaps he would pause at a busy intersection to take a long drink from his water canteen. He would take off his heavy pack and use it as a seat and watch the passing cars while he rested his tired legs. Maybe when he got up, he’d leave it laying there as if it had belonged to someone else.

He’d slowly wind his way through the colorful town of San Clemente. At midday, when the sun was hottest, he’d stop at a dingy gas station to buy a six-pack of PBR. He’d only drink three. He’d stopped smoking years ago, but he’d buy a pack of Marlboro Red’s just the same. His lungs missed the soothing fumes. Those fumes that had accompanied countless hours of late night conversation. There would be no conversation this time though, only a trail of smoke. A trail winding down sidewalk after sidewalk, and eventually leading to the beach.

That beach with a short path from street to shore with nowhere to change into your swimming trunks. With big rocks in the sand, and surfers in the waves. He’d ditch his canteen, his jacket, his sleeping bag, his hat, and his shoes. There was nothing left to carry but two beers and two cigarettes. Nothing left to walk on but water and sand. He’d wade out into the shallow foam. The same foam where after an hour of failed surfing attempts, they had stood up and realized that they should have rented wet suits. The sandpaper-like surface of the surf boards had scratched their bare chests and stomachs until it looked like they’d just adopted a family of angry kittens. They’d stared at each other’s bloodied bodies and burst out laughing. But laughing made it hurt even worse, which made them laugh even more. So they gave up trying to surf for the day, dumped their surf boards on the rocks and sat on a sand dune overlooking the horizon. They didn’t say much. They didn’t have to. In that moment, nothing was wrong with the world, and they were brothers. Best friends, with their whole lives ahead of them. And he would walk out into the surf and crack open the last two beers. He’d light up the last two cigarettes and stand smoking, looking into the same sunset that was the only witness to that moment they had shared only five years before. He’d take one last draw on the cigarette as the waves crept up his knee and down the other side. Maybe somehow that moment would take him to where his brother was. Maybe it would just be a good ending to a bad life. Or maybe he didn’t really want to die after all. Maybe he just wanted to live in that memory… and never have to say goodbye. Then he’d pull out the .45 –”

“Sir? Excuse me, sir?”

Can I help you?

“Do you work here?”

Yes, what can I do for you?

“I’m looking for a place to check out – the other line was too long.”

Yeah, I can get you right here.

“Thank you.”

Are you using your rewards card today?

“I am. The sign over there said it was 40% off with the coupon -”

It is. I scanned the coupon already.

“Oh. Thank you.”

Your total comes to $20.20. Would you like a bag?

“Uh, yeah that would be great.”

You’re all set. Have a nice day.

“You too.”

Author: Henry

These are my thoughts. They are true, but they are not truth. They are real, but they are not reality.

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