A man suddenly realizes he has crossed a line.
|Beyond the Situation
Sweat drips from my brow, catching on the edge of my lips, cold salt and fear. I grip the pistol tightly but it carelessly trembles, like a wild snake, daring me to drop it or pull the trigger. I want to do it. I want to put a bullet right between Mr. Caven's beady little eyes, but my finger simply won't obey the command.
I can tell he's afraid; pressed against the wall so tightly he appears surprisingly flat, almost like he is trying to sink through its little alabaster cracks. Maybe the thought of watching Survivor later is comforting him in the back of his tiny mind.
The only difference between Mr Caven and everyone else in the bank is while he tries to sink into the wall the rest try to sink through the floor. I guess that's a bank; calculating people always have a healthy fear of death. I respect that. But then again, I am insane.
His eyes ask me what the little voice hidden in the back of his throat won't: what do you want? I can already see the wheels turning. He's going to give me the money. He's going to graciously direct me to the nice full bags of money, all rigged with blue paint. He's just waiting for this to be over so he can press the security button. It's big and red and hidden. It's in the manual. It's all in the manual.
But I didn't come here for money.
I wonder if he recognizes me. I wouldn't. He walked into my office nearly six years ago. He told me I was being including in the restructuring and that after four or five months I would be right back in here, working directly under him. Even then I knew that it was the last time we would talk.
I thought he was nice about the whole thing. I even liked how he offered to buy me dinner. I wonder if he knew this was the same man he had sent personal emails to for over a year. "How'd the job search go?" he'd ask in his jaunty little letters. I actually kind of liked them.
But that was a long time ago.
I walked in this bank not to take revenge, but to make a statement. I'm tired of being turned away from job interviews, having every penny I earn quickly pinched away because it's required that I pay. This is my act of protest. This is my wake up call to all the happy bank managers, lawmakers and office assistants to quit smiling as you condemn me by happily stamping your forms.
Isn't it evil when a system forces people to write each other off with no more thought than they might give to rearranging the shuffle order on an Iphone? If that's true, aren't these oblivious people evil by association? Why can't I simply bottle up my hatred, slap Mr. Caven's face on it, and say, "I don't want your fucking friendship?"
I wish I could go back to the freedom of this morning. As I walked the street, staring at the gloomy faces of the people around me, I actually felt sorry for them! They were worried about their mortgages, their jobs, their futures. I had something that none of them had: Immediate and self-fulfilling purpose! All you really need is a gun and a target! Perhaps I should have been a sniper?
I imagined putting a bullet in his brain as I entered the bank, the feeling of victory that would soon follow! It actually made me laugh with a childlike giddiness!
But now, my hand shaking in the late morning light I realize, far too late, this situation is too big for me. Why is it that watching something and doing it tends to be two completely different things?
How do all the great killers, the real crazies who shoot up ten people in a school or mall do it? Why can't I kill one insignificant bank manager? Even if I am wrong, is it really that bad in the scheme of things?
I really wonder how they do it! I can’t get the image of Mr. Caven’s kids out of my mind. I haven’t met them, but their possible existence is creeping into my mind. Don’t they consider that? I think about the people in the bank. I remember the worried faces of the commuters I saw on the way here. How many of them are just trying to make it till payday? Don’t these killers wonder how the people in the path of their bullets came to be there?
A strange thought occurs to me. I begin considering vast amounts of time, generations of people, the slow growth of institutions, and the limited knowledge in my brain. I am to small to see how everything connects. I look around at all the people nervously crouched on the floor. They obviously have no idea what’s going on either. I see an image of a candle trying to light an impossibly large room. What if it’s no one’s fault? I wonder how these powerful psychopaths aren’t crippled when they consider that thousands of insignificant, impossibly small decisions have led them to their respective moments of truth. Don't they realize just how subtle the choice actually was, that no one will understand their actions? Was this even my choice?
I hear sirens in the distance. And I know the answers to my questions.
They don’t consider.
I didn't see anyone trip the security alarm. But I've been off my meds for at least a week so I'm not the most observant person. Again, I try to pull the trigger. I push the gun against Mr. Caven's face. I cringe as he whimpers. A strange nausea stirs up in my stomach. Desperately I shake my hand but my thoughtful finger doesn't dare move. If only I could do this one thing. If only I could pull the trigger.
Suddenly I wish I had come here for money; such a simple need.
Now I just want to go home.
Car doors slam outside and I hear the sound of loud impatient feet. They will come in soon. I see Mr. Caven trembling, his eyes are shut tight. I don't think he recognizes me. If he would just open his eyes he might finally realize that it's just Mike, his old friend.
I keep up the facade. The peer pressure of such a serious situation is overwhelming, and I can't disappoint all the staring eyes and the hard working cops outside. I shout and scream and threaten, but honestly I'm not really buying my own act. It doesn't matter anyway. The situation is in control now. The other performers will pick up any lack of conviction on my part. It's funny how quickly thick invisible walls can fall into place. Especially, when built on the back of emotional snap decisions.
I wonder if the swat team will remember that I have two kids. I wonder if they will think about my volunteer work at the Y. Perhaps they will laugh and understand that even I don’t know why I'm here. It was just desperation. We'll all laugh about how strange this whole thing is and how crazy the economy has been lately. We'll all be treated to a free lunch by Mr.Caven because he's so sorry about this crazy mix up. Over fresh steaks, I'll chat with them about how they hate their jobs but how we, each of us, has to make a living.
As canisters of tear gas launch themselves through the windows I lower my gun and smile at Mr.Caven, his eyes still closed tightly, his tiny body still pressed against the alabaster wall. This whole thing has put me in mind of the strangest memory.
My father and I were out duck hunting on a cold January morning. He fired a shotgun blast scattering the flock, thousands of birds taking to the air. Twenty hunters fired mercilessly, peppering the sky with angry pellets. But there was one duck still on the pond. It simply sat on the water, calmly drifting, watching the show. It never took flight. I took aim with my gun, but couldn't pull the trigger. I guess we were both distracted by the soft, pitiful fireworks.