My friend and I were living in a ranch house out in the country. We were roommates. Everything was going along great until he came home one night with an old girlfriend of mine. I was sitting in my recliner watching TV, and I heard voices in the kitchen and someone clanging around in the refrigerator, and then they came cutting through the living room right in front of me. They both had bottles of beer, and my friend casually tipped his bottle towards me as a greeting before he led my old girlfriend by the hand down the hall to his bedroom. I just sat there gaping. This went on for a few weeks until one night, just as they passed in front of the TV, I finally said, “You know what? I’ve had it with this. Why don’t you just go ahead and kill me?”
Rather than recognize this as the bitter cry of exasperation that it was, my friend took this as a magnanimous gesture on my part to remove myself from the situation. He’d always been a little dense that way. He told me what a relief it was and how awkward it had been to keep bringing my old girlfriend through the room while I was sitting there like that. My eyes went wide and I tilted my head. So we decided on a day, a week or so from then. We would head out south first thing in the morning to some secluded area deeper out in the country, some open field out in the middle of nowhere, the black birds taking flight from the bare branches all around, and I would kneel down on the faded grass and he would fulfill my request.
I stayed up all night the night before. A few of our other friends dropped by, but I really had nothing to say to any of them. I was too preoccupied with my impending appointment. I stared out the window while they sat around and flicked the ash from their cigarettes and talked and joked with each other. The smoke was thick in the air as the hours dragged on. I was still there at the window at daybreak, watching the first hint of light on the edge of the sky. It was quiet now. These other friends had gone home, and it was just me and my thoughts. I wondered how it would be when I was gone and this all went on without me.
My friend came out from his bedroom. He took his time over his breakfast and his coffee. I’d almost thought he’d forgotten until I heard the rattle of his dishes and silverware in the sink and he turned to me, still working on his last bite of food, and asked, “You ready?” I swallowed hard and nodded. We went out to the driveway and he popped the trunk of my car and he loaded it with a couple of muddy shovels and an old brown shotgun. I took a deep breath of the morning air and had a good last look around. There was fog hanging low over the road, curling around the wooden posts of the fence that ran along the roadside.
But as I backed out of the driveway, I swung the car north instead of south, and headed up towards town. There was no way I was going to go through with this. The pale numbness of resignation passed and I felt suddenly engaged, hunched over the steering wheel, gripping it in my hands, alive again. I decided I’d be safer if we went to a more populated area. My friend began to figure out that we’d gone the wrong way. As we rolled up the residential streets with their closely packed houses and cleanly clipped yards, his head darted all around. Before the objections could leave his mouth, I told him that I needed to stop by my mother’s house to pick something up.
I pulled up at the house, and he followed me inside. We went in through the back way, out behind the garage. I undid the latch on the gate to the backyard and let him in ahead of me. We came in through the utility room, and just as we were passing by the hot water heater, I noticed a pair of handcuffs sitting on a nearby shelf. I acted fast, grabbing the handcuffs and clipping one end to one of the brown water pipes and the other end to my friend’s wrist.
He looked back at me confused as he tried to jerk his hand free. I told him, “Did you really think I was going to drive out somewhere and let you kill me? You stupid sick son of a bitch. Haven’t you ever heard of a saying?” He just struggled and stared at me and said nothing. I wasn’t sure what to do with him. I left him there and headed out through the kitchen to the front room. My mother was coming down the stairs, just about to leave for work. She was just about to ask me what I was doing there when a violent metallic rattle rang out from the back of the house. She looked past me, perplexed. I just shrugged.