The suicide of a Marine veteran and the effect on his witness.
|I don’t know what day it is anymore. They’ve been blending together lately. I wish I could say it’s some sort of psychedelic drug, some kind of weekend in Vegas, fear and loathing style, but it isn’t.
I still have his blood in my hair. It’s a strange sort of reality I’m living now.
I think I’m hungry… I remember eating soup; I just can’t remember how long ago that was.
Is hunger real?
I remember there were fireworks, sometime before today. Is it still today? Maybe it’s tonight. Goddamn I’m a wreck. The fireworks, they reminded me of the gunshot. I threw the soup up. I’m afraid to eat anything else. I really hate to puke.
It must still be July. There are leaves on the trees outside. So the fireworks probably weren’t for the New Year… But what the fuck do I know anymore?
It’s not fair, really. I didn’t ask to be a part of this. I didn’t have to be here right now… I don’t even really know where here is. I stayed in the bathtub for so long, hours I think. Maybe it was days. I really don’t know. I should have washed the blood out of my hair, but I didn’t.
Strange thoughts, really, like keeping his blood with me will keep him with me. Such strange, strange thoughts.
I don’t know why he would do this to me. Why he’d put me in this place… Where the fuck is this place anyway? Is anything even real now? Life? Death? Fear? Pain? It’s all the same now, I think. I must have died too. I think I should cry. I can’t though. I can’t even feel anything anymore. Maybe he sucked me into some sort of purgatory with him.
Such strange, strange, thoughts I’m having.
He was one of the best men I’ve ever known. I remember when I met him. He was a police officer then. I was a child. He was bigger than life to me.
That was real, right?
Has anything ever been real?
Maybe he was always broken and I just didn’t see it then. He’s certainly broken now. Forever. Nothing fixes a .357 to the head.
Not if you do it right. He did it right. I know, because I had to pick his brain matter out of my hair. I couldn’t wash it out. It just didn’t seem right. It seemed sacrilegious somehow, a denial of his life, of his pain.
He was my friend.
Why would he do this to me?
Maybe he didn’t want to die alone?
Still, why me?
“I’m the last man standing, you know?” He said.
I didn’t really understand what he meant, but I nodded anyway. Tequila tends to make me agreeable.
He opened the center counsel of his car, brought his revolver out. I guess I should have known then. I didn’t. I’ve spent so long around firearms and liquor… Drinking and gunplay are part of my heritage.
He was sad. I knew he was sad when he’d texted me earlier and told me that he loved me. From him a message that reads, “I love you. You know that, right?” is a goddamned alarming message. I hadn’t slept yet that night, I was going on 28 hours of consciousness, and I knew better than to drink with him…. But I did. He needed me. He needed a friend, I thought. Now, I think, maybe he needed a witness. He needed to explain himself, maybe.
He could have written a fucking letter.
He texted and I went to him. I always had. I’m a good listener, maybe, an unpaid counselor. I care. I mean I really fucking care. So I went, as soon as he texted, I went and met him. We had two beers and a couple shots of tequila. He wasn’t drunk. I wish I could say he was drunk. It might make sense then, but he wasn’t.
He was just broken.
I think I cried then, while he played with his revolver.
“I’m sorry.” I told him. “I wish I had some magic words for you… But I don’t.”
“We joined the Marine Corps together, you know.”
I hadn’t known, but I nodded anyway. I was getting a bit nervous about the revolver in his hands. It appeared to be unloaded, but it was dark and I couldn’t be sure.
“I can’t go back, you know. They won’t let me.” He said.
Why didn’t I do something then? Why didn’t I grab the gun? How did I miss how broken he was?
He’d been blown up the year before, hit an IED in Afghanistan on his last tour with the state department. His back was fucked. He’d never be the same.
He’d never be a warrior again.
He’d quit the PD to go to war with the state department. He’d already been a retired Marine.
How the fuck did I miss the broken? How did I not know what he was going to do then?
“We made it through so much together” He said, staring down at his lap, at the gun. I wasn’t sure he was talking to me anymore. “Boot camp. Recon. Panama. Desert Storm. Afghanistan.” He looked at me then, and I finally understood where he was in his head. “We made it through so much… And he died of FUCKING CANCER.” He yelled to the windshield and I cringed, maybe yelped a bit.
Maybe he thought I was scared then. Maybe if I hadn’t have cringed, he’d be alive right now. He’s startled me, when I was already edging on panic…
Maybe he was never alive. Maybe we are all dead.
“Do you miss anything?” He asked me.
“Sometimes,” I answered, honestly.
“What would you give up to be happy again?”
I really didn’t know where the conversation was heading. I shrugged. Maybe if I’d had an answer… But I didn’t.
He put the barrel of the gun in his mouth. I really didn’t understand what he was trying to prove.
“What. Would. You. Give. Up.” He yelled at me, around the barrel of the gun.
I felt my heart speed up. I felt my heartbeat in my fucking eyeballs. I was way out of my league, I realized then. This guy didn’t need a friend. He needed a doctor. I whispered, “Everything,” which, apparently, was the wrong answer.
He pulled the trigger and the hammer fell on an empty chamber. I screamed anyway. Tears rolled down my face and my hand grasped desperately for the door handle.
“Would you give me up?” He asked.
I sobbed. I didn’t answer. I was so incredibly out of my depth. I reached, quickly. I got my fingers between the hammer and the frame of the gun. He twisted it out of my grasp easily. He pulled the trigger again, the barrel firmly in his teeth. Twice this time.
“I’m the last one standing.” He said again.
Maybe he knew the chamber was loaded. Maybe not. The thought I was processing when the gunshot rang went something like, “I’m playing Russian Roulette with a fucking Recon Marine in a parking lot. How does this shit happen to me?” And then I was wet. And hot. And deaf.
I didn’t really understand, I don’t think, but it’s hard to remember now. I looked at him. I told him to stop fucking around through my tears and terror and some sort of shock. The entry wound wasn’t visible for me… hidden inside his throat, I would imagine. And I do, often. The exit wound was massive.
“SAM!” I screamed. “WHAT THE FUCK? SAMMY?”
I had his brain matter on my face and somehow I thought I could wake him up if I just yelled loud enough. I dialed 911. I don’t remember what I said to them, but the police and ambulance showed up. I think it was only minutes, but it may have been hours.
Time changed for me, and it hasn’t been the same since.
They questioned me at the scene. They offered me a ride home. They wanted to call someone for me. I don’t remember what I said to them. I remember staring at the car, the blood on the seats. I don’t remember speaking. I don’t remember driving away, but I must have.
I found myself in the parking lot of the nearest neighborhood dive bar. Not a normal, trendy sort of dive bar… The kind where they don’t call the cops. Ever.
I must have been a sight, walking in that way. The cops had given me a towel. I’d used it to pick the brain and skull out of my hair. I don’t remember wrapping it around my shoulders, but I must have. Maybe someone else had.
There are other people still, aren’t there? Somewhere? I haven’t seen any in so long. Or maybe it has only been a few hours. What the fuck has happened to time?
There’s blood all over me. And brain, I think. Maybe it’s all a dream. Who would do something like that? Like he wouldn’t have known how much it would affect me… It has to be a dream.
The bartender asked no questions, but he stared. I think. If he spoke, I don’t remember now. I wish I could sleep.
I ordered a double shot of Tres Generacion tequila, swallowed in a single swig and signaled for another. I ordered a beer. I sipped the tequila and watched the condensation drip down the bottle of Coors Light. It reminded of his blood, of his brain matter sliding down the windows. I should feel something, I thought then. I should feel horror, sadness, fear maybe. Instead I stared blankly at the bottle sweat and sipped some more.
The tequila was gone. I hadn’t touched my beer. I left enough money on the bar to cover my tab, and a tip well over 100 percent. I tipped in gratitude of the silence, in appreciation of the “don’t ask” policy, and in apology for the gore I had brought in with me. I flicked a piece of skull off of my shirt.
I needed to sleep.
I don't think I'll ever sleep again.