by Brett V. Hoxie
I sat alone in the dark contemplating what to do next. Rain slammed against my window and thunder struck almost as if on cue with each dark thought that coursed through my mind. Where did the letter come from? What did it mean for my life. I pulled the small wet piece of paper from my pocket and read it again close enough to my face that my nose nearly punched a hole in the middle.
You have 48 hours to live.
Was it a joke? Someone had to be fucking with me. But it was real. The proof was a small happy faced Band-Aid on my chest directly over my heart. Shit my heart hurt. I felt like I have a 50 pounds weight throw at my chest while I was sleeping. It hurt to breathe but I blame most of that on the dark thoughts that streamed through my brain faster than the rain streamed down my windows. The floor was cold and I could see my breath in front of me. I folded the paper up, careful not to rip the soggy seams and put it in my breast pocket. I have too much to live for, so much more to do with my life. This wasn’t fair. I guess the phrase rang true, life isn’t fair. Who would do this to me? I didn’t get it. My mind raced through everything I had done in the past 48 hours. Nothing wrong? I think I’m a generally good person. I mean everyone has his or her flaws but I am a nice person. I AM A GOOD PERSON. The last week. Nothing. The last month? Nothing came to mind. I forced my life before my eyes carefully going everything I thought might have pissed someone off in a sinister way, carefully watching the scenes of my life play out like a projector on the tile wall in front of me. If I thought I saw something, I just rewound the tape and looked at it again. Shit! Nothing still! Who could even do something like this to someone. This was just sick. My eyes began to welt up with tears. I expected this moment to happen. I embraced the tears and wailed as loudly as my lungs could project. I didn’t know where I was and I didn’t care who could her me. Maybe if someone did hear me they might come and help me.
After five minutes or so I got up from the ground sobbing and pressed my face against the window. I was on a hill somewhere. It looked like Los Angeles below. No not enough light. Pasadena? Glendale? Yeah somewhere like that. I sucked up my tears and dried my face. I wasn’t going to sit here for two days crying and watching my life tick to zero. I had some stuff to do and no one was going to stop me. I left the window and headed straight for what I hoped was a door out. I grabbed the door nob, turned, and pulled with all my might. I launched across the room and slammed my head on the window frame. Funny thing, I felt I had been kidnapped so I never thought that the door would be unlocked. I laughed at myself. It felt good to laugh. For the first time in my life I finally felt what it was to feel alive. I was living every second with special attention. Every breath I took meant something. It meant a few more minutes that I would be standing on this earth, even if that meant just 47 more hours.
I ran through the house as quickly as I could, making my way to what I thought was the front door. The house was in shambles. Broken windows, doors, flooring, and cabinets were the least of it. I reached the front door and rushed out into the rain. I fell on my knees and looked into the sky. I had to make something of these last hours. I had to say goodbye to those I loved. I had to help those I promised to one-day help. I had to make thing right with the ones I had hurt and most importantly I had to figure out who gave me my ironically happy Band-Aid. I had to figure out who would force just 48 hours onto someone and to what end. At this point I began screaming at the sky. I stopped and though for a second.
“Did I just relive the Shawshank Redemption?” I got up from the puddle I was kneeling in and made my way down the street with a smile on my face.
I finally made it home to my own bed after hours of late night buses and desperate begging for the $1.25 fare it cost me. Apparently it wasn’t that late out. The rain had just come in early and descended darkness over hell A. I got to my apartment and around 2 AM and stood in front of the door. I was afraid to go in. I stood once again soaking up the rain like a sponge. I was pretty pissed at this point because I had gotten dry from the hours spend in the busses only to be drenched again. I tried to remember where I was before I woke up in the middle of nowhere with a death sentence. I was with my girlfriend. My ex-girlfriend. My girlfriend? I thought I had broken up with her. My memory got fuzzy after that. I remember being my local bar Brannigans. Was it someone from there? I couldn’t be sure. Feeling confident that my home was safe, I grabbed the door and stepped inside. Aw. The wonderful shithole I call a home was still perfect the way I left it.
I walked around the house lazily. Someone looking through a window might have thought I was a zombie. I felt like a zombie as I made my way into the bathroom. I had to check for more happy face stickers. After half an hour of searching, I came up with nothing and gave up. My blue eyes in the mirror looked sunken in while the stubble covered my face looked prickly and itchy.
I walked into my bedroom and fell down on my bed. I needed some sleep. My chest was still pounding like crazy. I felt like I was being Medievally pressed. RING RING RING. My cellphone? You have to be shitting me! I had my phone this whole time and I didn’t even check for it. I guess I kind of figured my life couldn’t get much worse that I didn’t even care to think of it. Could have called someone to pick me up from what ended up being a foreclosed home in Pasadena. I flicked the phone open with my face still nuzzled into my bed, my left eye peeking above the sheets horizon. ID: Bethany Sexy Baby
Another wonderful memento my ex-girlfriend had left me. RING RING RING. Should I answer it? You did just break up with her.
“I had to make thing right with the ones I had hurt,” I screamed at myself. Did I just say that? Well I was right. As crazy as she could be I guess we all had our faults. I wasn’t perfect. Maybe I over-reacted to her burning all my clothes from my laundry basket. People get jealous of people. Maybe we just had to work on trust. I would never cheat on her. I decided to pick it up.
“Hello,” I asked cautiously. She would either be pissed at me for in her words “attempting to break up with her” or she would be begging for me not to be so rash. I curled up into a ball to ease my chest pain as I thought of her screaming at me.
“Hey baby. Are you okay? I called a million times. I know I can be crazy sometimes. You didn’t mean what you said right? Baby please. Are you there? I was so mad after you left. I hope your okay? Babe why don’t you say something? I’m so worried. I called you at least thirty times.” She said all of this in what I thought was one breath. I knew better then to try and answer her before you said her monologue to me.
“I’m here Beth. Before you say anything, I thought about it and maybe I was too rash. I didn’t mean what I said to you,” I said knowing exactly what I meant. Whatever. I would be dead in a day anyways. I could sleep half of it away to hide from her.
Beth breathed heavily into the phone. “Good. I thought you might come too. I mean who breaks up with their girlfriend because she’s trying to make a visual point.” She must have been referring to the great bon fire that was my clothes. She continued, “But you know how much I love-“
“Beth, Beth, Beth. It’s fine. I don’t care. I’m really tired. I aw.. I got hit by a car tonight so I don’t feel very good. I’ll see you tomorrow.” I tried to hang up the phone but she spoke to quickly.
“Oh my god, I’ll come over right away. Ill see you soon baby,” she cried into the phone as she hung up on me.
I looked at the phone. What the fuck was that. Wow I whispered. I chucked the phone at my clock knocking it off my nightstand. I didn’t want to see the time. It would just laugh at me as it ticked away. I don’t have to many loved ones anyways and I’m sure my friends wouldn’t be devastated if I died. I made a note to call my father and my best friend Jason with a pen I found in the sheets. I turned over and hugged the wall my bed was jammed up against. Bethany didn’t have a key and I was a deep sleeper. I faded into sleep thinking about her soaking in the rain. Wow I was messed up.
I woke up sweating and coughing. Shit it’s hard to breath. My chest hurts. I felt like I had smoked two packs of cigarettes at an all night rager. I tried to open my eyes but my dried up contacts wouldn’t allow it. I finally managed enough tears to get them open. A water bottle sat starring at me two inches from my nose while it also hugged the wall. I don’t remember putting that there. Mmm it was cold too. Do I sleep walk? Maybe as you near death, you develop a taste for walking half dead. I laughed at myself. It was still raining. I could tell it was later afternoon from the amount of grey in the sky. Only 20 something more hours left. I felt a hand clutch at my stomach. Why wasn’t I wearing a shirt? I turned over to see Bethany spooning me from behind. I jumped out of the bed backwards and folded into myself like a lawn chair hitting the ground with a THUD.
“How the hell did you get in,” I screamed at her. She jolted awake with an expression of fear. She then realized it was me screaming at her and smiled.
“Silly, I have a key.”
I never made her a key. I jumped up and ran out into my living room. Beth was crazy but had she ever been THIS crazy? We had been dating for close to a year but I still didn’t dare say the L word. How did she get a key?
“Babe what’s wrong,” she questioned from the room.
She sounded half asleep. Like my freak out meant nothing. I guess I was over exaggerating her having a key to my house? Something felt wrong. Machiavelli was lurking in the shadows.
“Um… Nothing. I’m going to take a shower. Go back to sleep and ill climb in after,” I lied. I had no intention of ever coming back.
I rushed into the room and made a B line to the dresser. In one fell swoop, I had clothes I needed. She didn’t even notice me. I thought I could hear a faint snore. Seconds later I was in the shower. As I rubbed my soap over my body, I felt an aching pain in my shoulder. As I moved my bar of soap up to the spot, my hand caught something off.
“No,” I screamed at the top of my lungs. Shit. I covered my mouth with my hands.
Coughing, I spit out soap and dropped the bar. I had forgotten the bar of soap was in my hands when I screamed. No sounds came from outside the bathroom. She had to have heard. Why was there another Band-Aid! That wasn’t there before. It was Bethany that did this to me. It had to be. Did she give me a second dose? I had to get out of there. I got out of the shower and still drenched put on my clothes. Damn. My phone was in the bedroom. I creped in crawling commando on the floor. She coughed. I listened. She snored. I grabbed my phone and didn’t hesitate to run straight out of my house.
I arrived at Brannigans around 6 PM and barged through the doors. The bar looked like a total sit-com bar. The perfect place to converse with four randomly selected roommates. I had called my father on the way over there. After I ran full sprint for 5 miles from my apartment that is. I told my father everything I ever did wrong and how much I loved him and how much he meant to me. He was confused at why I was telling him all this. We usually didn’t have much to talk about. I didn’t want to worry him so I told him I was drunk. On the run walk over I had decided to have the night of my life. After that I rented a sports car and drove it as fast as I could on the freeway. I got a speeding ticket for going over 100 and they took the car away. After that I got the best meal I could think of. Finally I went over to my friend’s house but he wasn’t home. I hadn’t been able to get ahold of him at all. I broke in and fell asleep. Now here I am walking like the man into my favorite place of all time. I had decided that I didn’t need money anymore. There was a good twenty five or so people here tonight.
“Drinks and food are all on me tonight,” I screamed. Everyone cheered.
I guess I looked extremely happy cause the guy standing closest to me cheered my shoulder a beer and said congrats to winning the lottery. If only he knew. I made my way to the bar and sat down. As Marv made his way over in shocked disbelief, I threw my wallet down on the bar.
“Take it. Take it all. Also I want a club sandwich, some lobster tacos, and two plates of fries. Oh and a Newcastle. Make that two Newcastles.”
Marv took the wallet and shrugged. “You win the lottery or something?”
“Yeah something like that,” I said laughing. People began piling up at the bar ordering rounds for everyone all giving me the nod and thanks. After it died down a bit I nervously looked up at the clock over the high-end vodka. 7:30. The second hand seemed to stop for a minute on every second. I blinked and it began to slider effortlessly around the face. I called Marv over.
Cleaning my face from the food I devoured I asked, “Hey I kind of have a fuzzy memory of what happened two nights ago when I was here.”
“Yeah I’m not surprised. You drank way to much and I should have cut you off,” he said taking the food from me. Marv was a good guy. We had gotten to know each other from my countless nights spend on the drunk cot in the back.
“Yeah we both know you wouldn’t have.” Marv laughed as he threw the plates into a sink.
“Yeah I know. You were bitching all night about your psycho girlfriend. When are you guys gonna get married.”
What. I was confused now. “You mean my ex-girlfriend Marv. We broke up two nights ago.”
“Yeah that’s what you kept saying but then she showed up towards closing time and you guys seemed fine. She said she would take you home.” Marv walked off.
My memory flooded back to me. I remembered the drinking. I remembered her showing up. I remembered trying to tell her to fuck off but my words came out as Jell-O. I remember sitting in her front seat staring out at the window as the rain began to fall. Then I passed out. I didn’t understand it. Why would she do it? How could she do it? Shit how did she do it. What was coursing through my veins working its grip on my heart? Actually my heart felt fine now. I thought maybe the food had just made me numb to it. I was pretty full. What also struck me with my conversation with Marv was the fact that I was missing half a day from my life. If she took me to Pasadena after closing time, I was missing time from the moment I passed out to the moment I woke up in the room. 15 or 16 something hours. Plus her note was an approximation. I looked up at the clock. I could have been dead an hour ago or two hours from now. I didn’t like surprises so I keep drinking.
I pulled my phone from my pocket. I had to do one last deed in the event that I might die. I dialed Bethany. After a ring or so she picked up.
“Babe where are you! You left me in your house. I was so cold. I needed some of your kisses when I woke up but you weren’t there. Where are you? Ill come meet you…”
She kept going but I pulled the phone away and finished another beer.
“Yeah you’re a bitch and your crazy and you tried to murder me. Yeah I know. It’s over. I didn’t want you thinking we were together after I died.” I started to cry. “Real freaking nice.” Silence.
“Where are you,” She demanded. Her voice had fire in it.
I hung up the phone and cucked it into the water filled sink behind the bar. That was the end of that. Closing time arrived quickly. Every second that passed I felt hope as I figure I was in the clear. Closing time came and Marv directed me back to the cot. As I lied down, my thoughts swirled. I felt my eyes shutting themselves. I had definitely drank myself stupid. Marv thanked me for my generous tip slapping the wallet in his hands and left me. I smiled and put my arms behind my head. Looked like I made it. I was going get to see my dad again. My smile faded quickly. Shit I was broke beyond broke, had a speeding ticket of over a grand, had to pay for in-pound on a rented car plus an extra day on the car itself, and my credit was sure to be shot after buying out Brannigans. Fuck it. I decided that I was going to live my life right. I was going to live it in the moment and for myself. I heard a sound from the bar. Sounded like some new customers were trying to get in for one last drink. I thought about Bethany and started to devise my escape route from L.A. Bethany was sure to find me some how. I had to tell the police and probably hide out in Europe. I liked Europe.
I woke up screaming. My body was on fiery. I felt my face and instantly my hands were drenched in sweat. My stomach felt like it was trying to digest lava. Wow worst hangover ever? It hurt to breath and my chest was also on fire. I felt pinned. Something was on top of me. I opened my eyes. Blaring light came in through a window. It was so hot. I cried out. I looked around the room. Panic set in.
“No, no, no,” I screamed. I was in the same room in Pasadena.
I looked down at my body. There was nothing on me yet I still felt pinned. Blood soaked my shirt. A long needle with a piece of paper attached to it was stuck into my chest. I ripped it out and grabbed at the paper. As I tried to get up, my legs gave out. Oh my god I’m going to die. I unraveled the paper.
But I love you babe. If I can’t have you, no one can.
It’s not fair. How did she get to me? God damn it Marv. I dragged myself through the house. As I made my way to the front door I heard some soft snoring. Beth was lying in the corner out of the light. Please no. Please don’t wake up I thought to myself. I finally reached the front door. She must have been out cold from dragging me all night. Good. Her purse was by the door. I grabbed it and silently pushed the door open. Her car was in the drive way. The pain was to much to handle. I was afraid I was going to lose feeling in my feet. Can’t drive a car without my feet. I reached into my pocket. Where was my phone? I could call 911. Did she take it? An image flashed of me tossing it into a sink. NO! Idiot, idiot. I dragged myself into the car and shut the door. I wasted no time in backing out and driving as fast as I could down the hill. I noticed a jogger running up the hill and I slammed my breaks.
“Please, Please. Where is the nearest hospital,” I screamed as I rolled down the window. She very quickly told me directions in the calmest way possible. With the most horrific look on her face. I must have look terrible because she opened the door and told me to move over. Lucky me. She could have just run away. My vision began to blur and the pain began to reach new heights. I slammed my hand onto my thighs but could feel nothing. My stomach felt like it was going to burn open and my heart was beating faster and faster. I saw a hospital sign. But I didn’t make it. Everything just went black.
I was lying down in a hospital bed. I had come to moments before and a doctor had given me the run down of what had happened. Beth had poisoned me with a large amount of arsenic. Makes sense. My stomach still felt hot. He told me I was lucky to be alive and that some lady had practically drove into the ER worried that I would die who had happened to end the best job of her life. A cop had also been there to take my statement. Hopefully they would find Bethany. I didn’t feel safe anywhere. I felt like she was going to pop out any second and try to murder me with something in my hospital room. I looked at different objects around me as the people around me were speaking. Each object represented a horrible death I did not want to partake in. I survived the night and the nice doctor told me I was okay to go home.
An officer said he would wait outside and would take me to the airport to fly home to my dad as they sorted this whole thing out. I made through the waiting room. I felt alive again. I felt that I cheated death. I laughed as I reached the doors to the outside world. I couldn’t help but thinking about that scene in Casino Royale where James Bond cheats death by poison in the car and strolls back into the poker game like he owns the world. I felt like that.
“That last hand nearly killed me,” I said as I stepped off the curb.
I stared down at my body along with the crowd of doctors, nurses, my cop, and some EMT’s. I looked up at the hot blistering sun. Red and blue lights flashed everywhere. Funny thing, I didn’t notice the sound of sirens as an Ambulance was rushing its way up to the E.R. with another fragile life in its hands. I looked down on them as they tried to resuscitate me. It wasn’t working. I felt at peace as I watched my own body being worked on. I felt like I could run forever if I wanted to. I must be dead. I decided I was going to visit my dad anyways. I missed him a lot right now.