Motive-Hunting – Jan Stanek
October 10, 2023
You: my internet boyfriend, built like an Egon Schiele painting, Puerto Rican, bleach blond, dark eyes, broad shoulders, live with your grandma, in a shitty rock band that you call a “combination lo-fi surf punk/noise music project,” eighteen years old, 80 mg/day Prozac, 30 mg/day Vyvanse. Legal name: Casper Garica.
I: your internet girlfriend, Irish-American, five-six, dark brown hair, live in a trailer park with my older sister, who renamed herself Kandle upon turning eighteen, homeschooled, formerly non-binary, can’t drive, a total fucking loser, minor figure in Tumblr’s true crime community, seventeen years old, 450 mg/day Wellbutrin, 225 mg/day Lyrica. Legal name: Molly McGinty.
Collectively: matching profile pictures on Discord, shared interest in “doing something,” history on 4chan (/r9k/, /x/, /soc/, et cetera, although you used /pol/ and I used /lit/), past membership on various Columbine-related forums (where we met.)
We met online a year ago and started talking about meeting up (in real life) for a really long time (six months), sometimes because we were ostensibly dating and sometimes because we joked about doing an NBK or something that you have to append with “in Minecraft.” Then, one day, you decided to drive up here, without telling me, with a gun, and knocked on my door.
I get it. I gave you my address (and explicitly told you I wanted you to come to my house and murder me.) Still, a little warning would’ve been nice.
At least so I could’ve made sure my bitch sister wasn’t home.
Saturday, March 18th, 2017, 12:32 p.m.
We start talking about our next move as soon as we leave Scranton.
“Shoot up a school, then kill ourselves,” you say, trying to sound casual and failing. “Classic. Easy.”
“It’s spring break. No one’s at school,” I say.
“Shit.” You don’t sound too bothered. “What about a boarding school?”
“What, like… in Massachusetts?”
“Pretty sure there’re some in Rhode Island. Google it.”
“I mean, you kind’ve just kidnapped me. And kneecapped my sister. I doubt we’re gonna be able to drive all the way to Rhode Island without getting arrested.” I pull out my phone, an Android. Intrusive thoughts of Steve Jobs being torn apart by mandrills and other miscellaneous animals (boars, wild dogs) come and go by the time I finish searching. “Okay, yeah, all the boarding schools are closed, too. Hey, Casper, what’s the point of a boarding school if it fucking closes?”
“No clue. Okay, think…”
“Uh, shit, let me check… okay, hold on… there’s gotta be parades, or something,” I said.
“Holy shit, that guy’s driving a Tesla.”
“Yeah…?” I do not give a fuck about Teslas.
“Yeah. We should kill him,” you say, so deadpan that I can’t tell if you’re joking.
“I do not want to get arrested for killing a…” I squint, trying to make out the offending driver. “Chinese guy driving a Tesla.” I do not give a fuck about Teslas.
“Whatever. Parades?” You sound bored. You haven’t looked at me once.
“There’s, like… a German-American pride parade in Lancaster.”
“What, like… gay pride, or…”
“No, pride in being German-American, I guess.”
“What’d they have to be proud of?” You wait a moment. “Hitler?”
“Probably? It’s in three days.”
“Ugh, three days? I wanna get this done before Monday, yeah? Like, the plan was, in my head, okay: kidnap you, lose my virginity, shoot some people, suicide,” you mumble, everything except ‘suicide’ sounding half-hearted and more like a prerequisite.
“Wait, you’re a virgin? This isn’t some incel thing, is it?” I ask.
“Uh, yeah? You’re not?”
“I mean, yeah, technically, but my stepdad molested me. And I’m a girl, I can’t be an incel.”
“Yeah, right. Anyways, what was that about your stepdad? That fuckin’ sucks, sorry.” You shoot a glance in my direction, lips drawn thin. The Jim Halpert face.
“It’s fine. It happened a long time ago,” I mumble.
“You wanna kill him?”
“He’s in prison.”
“Oh, huh.” You leave it at that and a long, uncomfortable silence fills the car.
“Whoa,” I say, pulling my phone closer to my face.
“Henry Kissinger is in New York. He’s doing, like, a panel with George Soros… you wanna kill him?”
“Isn’t that anti-Semitic?” you ask.
“What? How?” Where the fuck are you going with this?
“They’re both Jewish.” And?
“Okay, well… I mean, you have the GoPro, right?”
“In the trunk, yeah, with the rest’ve the stuff.”
“So we’ll just have a disclaimer before we start shooting. Like, hey, we’re not neo-Nazis or anything, we’re actually huge fans of Jews, super pro-Israel, this isn’t an anti-Semitic mass shooting, that sort of thing.”
“I dunno… sounds differently abled, bro. I figure my Twitter and shit are pretty good indicators that I’m not an anti-Semite.”
“You used to be a white nationalist.”
“I’m Puerto Rican.”
“So? There are a lot of Latinx white nationalists!”
“It was ironic. I grew up. I’m not a white nationalist anymore and, wait, what the fuck did you just say? Latinx?”
“Yeah, lots of non-binary Latinx white nationalists out there,” you mumble.
“Whatever. Okay, so long, Lackawanna County, fuck you.” I roll down the window, flip off the road-sign and, for good measure, spit, but the wind makes it hit the side of your car.
“Molly, please don’t spit on my fuckin’ car,” you say as I roll the window back up.
“Yeah, sorry… hey, can you turn the heat on?”
“It’s cold?” Ten minutes with you and this. Jesus Christ.
“I’m not cold,” you say, sounding confused.
“You’re wearing a coat. I’m not.”
“Yeah, why didn’t you grab a coat? You look cold.”
“You kidnapped me. I didn’t have time! I’m basically in my pajamas, dude. Just give me your coat, c’mon.”
“I’m turning the heat on. Relax. Hey, did you listen to that Spotify playlist I sent you?”
“Yeah. I, uh…” I start mumbling. “Lots of Weezer.”
“Dude, I’m hard of hearing, you gotta speak up.” You turn the heat on.
“It was good.”
“Yeah, I thought really hard, like… how do I want people to remember me? My mutuals, my grandma, my friends back home… like, if I’m gonna kill a bunch of people and blow my brains out, I gotta give at least some indicator as to why I did it, right? So I figured: playlist. Ironically titled ‘I’m going to kill a bunch of people and then myself.’”
“… thought it was kinda weird that Buddy Holly was on it, like, three times …”
“It’s a good song.”
“I mean, yeah, but that good?”
“Yeah, that good! You’re so fucking negative sometimes, I swear…”
“It’s cool, just… y’know, you’re super critical of stuff, sometimes. Like, every day, it was something… like, you’d DM me about how hopeless everything is, how shitty things are…”
“I’m clinically depressed! I can’t help it! I was diagnosed! I think I might be autistic, too!” I gesticulate wildly, but to illustrate what point, I’m not sure. Maybe I’m grasping at the autism lingering in the air. (And lemme tell ya, the autism is thick. I’m at least two Lanzas worth.)
“Everyone thinks they’re autistic, Molly! It’s just something people think!”
The car running along cracked Pennsylvania asphalt and the sound of stale lukewarm air pouring through the vents.
“I’m sorry,” you say, muttering it under your breath. “You look nice.”
“You look… really hot, yeah. I like your hair.”
“I can’t wait to show you what I got in the trunk. It’s gonna be so sick, bro.”
“What’ve we got? AR-15s?”
“I couldn’t get AR-15s, but get this, I got this super slick target pistol, right – that’s what you’re gonna use. It’s a .22.”
“…you want me to kill myself with a .22? Sorry, sorry, negative thinking, it’s probably really cool…”
“It looks like a Luger. You’re gonna piss yourself, dude. That’s how cool it looks.”
“You think my sister’s called the police yet?” Fuck you, Kandle.
“Maybe? Maybe she’s dead.” You pause. “Who knows. Us, one, rest of the world, zero.”
“Hehe, yeah, fuck ‘em…” Thinking about how my grandma’s going to take all this starts upsetting me, so I focus on scratching my arm; after a minute, the itching sets in and a more settled, romantic kind of silence comes in, like we’ve known each other for years and have moved beyond small talk.
You break it after a few minutes, the car moving past a dead coaling station. “Hey, how far are we from New York?”
“Uhhh… two hours. An hour fifty.”
“When’s the Kissinger-Soros thing?”
“Tttth… I want to say Thursday, hold on… yeah, Thursday.”
“Ohhhh my God. Bro.” You groan. “That’s, like, what, six days? What are we going to do for six days?”
“It’s New York. Lots’ve stuff to do in New York, right?”
“I’m from there. It fucking sucks,” you mumble. “I don’t wanna talk about it.”
“I dunno… New York’s cool. New York. The Big Apple.”
“Yeah, it fucking blows. My, uh, uncle lives in Mott Haven, so I guess we can stay there… oh, shit, am I gonna be on the news? Like, I kidnapped you and shot your sister, that’s national news, right?”
“Hmm… pretty white girl, Puerto Rican… yeah, that’s national news.” The thought of being national news is starting to put me in a good, even great mood.
“Man, I really hope he still don’t speak English.”
“How’re you gonna explain me?”
“Tell him you’re my girlfriend, duh. I mean, you are.”
“Yeah, I guess that’ll work… does he live alone?”
“Super alone. He’s disabled. Like, physically and mentally. Bad back, OCD, depression, anxiety, you name it, dude… he’s got a nurse that checks on him, like, once a week.”
“Oh, like a home health aide? My mom used to do that.”
“Cool! Yeah, I’m supposed to go to Temple this fall for that sort’ve thing… nursing.”
“Whoa.” It comes to me in one overwhelming movement. I can see where we’re going. I know where we’re going to commit a mass shooting. Fuck George Soros. Fuck Henry Kissinger. Those guys are gonna be dead by the end of the year, anyways. They’re old. I can see myself raising the gun and pulling the trigger on the people responsible, in a symbolic way, for everything wrong in this country.
“The M&M Store in Times Square. We’re gonna shoot up the M&M Store.”
“Taxi Driver was about how cool Travis Bickle is,” you say, only half-ironic, jiggling the doorknob to your uncle’s house, which makes me feel self-conscious, because the last time I lived in a house and not a trailer was when I was about fourteen. The sting is considerably lessened by your insistence that Mott Haven is a “shithole.” It’s snowing, not enough to stick, just enough to wet the ground and your hair. Jesus Christ, it is fucking cold.
We wait five minutes before you decide to call him. You keep muttering “come on.” After a minute and two dials, he must answer, because you start talking in Spanish and then hang up.
“You’ve seen Taxi Driver, right?” you ask while we wait.
“Is he home?”
“Yeah, he’s coming…”
“Yeah, I’ve seen it. It’s okay.”
The door cracks open and I can see half of your uncle’s face (his skin is surprisingly pale) framed between two taut chain locks. The doors shuts and he fiddles with them, then opens in full and we step inside.
Your uncle is tall — taller than you, like really tall — and fat. The massive basketball shorts he’s wearing, two-thirds of the way to being legally considered pants, sway as he waddles over to an easy chair. He gasps something out in Spanish, half-turning his bald head your way as you shut the door behind me. You take a few long steps across the room, crunching fast food wrappers and paper bags underfoot like dead leaves, and sit down on the couch.
The two of you start conversing in Spanish, very animatedly on your end and croaking out a few tentative sentences on his. He keeps smacking his lips together and clapping softly at the end of each sentence, and it sounds like he’s happy to see you and has no idea why you’re here.
I stand by the door, hands in my pockets, relieved that your uncle pays his heating bill.
You wave the back of your hand at me, still talking to him, and he leans over, grunting, and pats you on the shoulder two times, so hard that you tense up. He mumbles something.
“He’s really confused as to why you aren’t sitting down,” you say.
“Oh, uh, yeah…” I walk around a pile of Burger King wrappers, all neatly folded up and stacked in a pile, one you half-knocked over on your way over to the couch. What’s surprising to me is that this place doesn’t smell bad — it smells good, something explained by the dangerous number of scented candles (fuck you, Kandle) he has in a room carpeted with paper waste.
“Lightbulbs hurt his eyes,” you explain, catching me looking around the room. You turn back to him and start talking again, quieter, more steady than before. He huffs and mumbles something, eyes fixed to the television. You hop up, give him an awkward side-hug, and he pats you on the back.
“Be right back,” you say, running outside.
When I notice what your uncle’s watching, with what I can only describe as ‘intense, all-consuming interest,’ given that he starts talking to the television the moment you leave, I feel a few things. Kinship, since I also like hockey, then confusion and finally really, really racist, because why wouldn’t Puerto Ricans enjoy hockey? Get it together, Molly.
You come back with a duffel bag slung over your shoulder and tick your head over to the stairs. I say “thanks for letting us stay” to your uncle, in English, and he grunts, which makes me worried that he can speak English, and we head upstairs. You talk quietly. “I used to live here until, like, last year. I probably got some shit you can wear.”
“Like a coat?”
“Yeah, like a coat. So…” You stop in front of a door, white paint chipped in places, and open it. The frame is marked with notches up to your chin. You toss your bag onto a cluttered desk and, to my deep consternation, I notice all the posters of JPEGMafia watching us from at least three different angles.
“You’re the one Peggy fan who isn’t white,” I say, easing my shoes off and laying on your bed. You start rummaging through the closet, wire-hanger hooks scraping against a rod.
“I’m basically white. Like, Puerto Ricans are pretty much white. My grandpa immigrated there from Spain, or some shit. Or Italy, I can’t fuckin’ remember… man, fuck younger me…”
“I used to be obese, right? But I was one’ve those fat kids who, like, wore basketball shorts and slides in the snow and talked about how not cold he was. Man, do I seriously not have a coat here…?”
I snort. “You used to be fat?”
“Huge. Like, three hundred pounds… man, younger me had no swag.”
I mumble “did you just say swag?” but get no response. “What happened?”
“I stopped eating.”
You toss a raincoat onto me and I brush it off and say, “So you were three hundred pounds and dressed like the fucking Morton’s Salt logo. Just full of surprises, you.”
We go through everything you brought in the bag: two .45 clips, a Ruger Mark II, fully loaded, a bicycle helmet (“I’m not a boogaloo boy, dude, I can’t afford expensive ass kevlar”) and a GoPro, to be taped to said helmet so we can livestream the shooting on Facebook to all of your friends and family. We play with the guns for about an hour, pointing them at each other, miming suicide, genuinely discussing the best way to kill ourselves, what to do if we somehow get separated (immediate suicide), so on and so forth. You hold your Colt under your chin and go “pfffew” then fall backwards onto your bed, limp, eyes closed, tongue cartoonishly hanging out of your mouth.
Watching you play dead, I realize that my life literally does not pass the Bechdel test, a thought so bugfuck retarded that I immediately put the gun to the side of my head, say “bang,” and fall on top of you. This is going to be for real tomorrow, I think, thank fucking God. Both of us dead.
It really pisses me off that you’re not ugly, because it’d be the perfect reason to back out of this, which part of me wants to do, something that’s fighting with the part of me that’s embarrassed to even think about not doing it because it was actually my idea.
We’re lying on top of each other. I can guess what’s going to happen next.
We’re making out and it doesn’t initially register to me when you mumble “hold on a second” and get off of me; we’re both more or less naked by this point, and my eyes are closed, so I don’t see you reaching over to your phone. Without warning and, in a turn of events that I can only compare to being belt-fed into a wood chipper in terms of how it feels, physically and emotionally, “Buddy Holly” by Weezer starts playing. No longer entirely aware of what I’m doing, I sit up and give you what I can only call a ‘look.’
You turn your phone off, cutting Weezer short mid-verse. I lay back down and after a moment of what I hope is deep, searing shame, you start. It’s fine, honestly. You don’t do any weird shit aside from finishing on me, something deeply nauseating that I accept as a consequence of what I’m guessing is a long-term addiction to internet pornography that you’ve never told me about. But it’s there. I start crying as soon as it’s over because I start thinking about my step-dad, which reminds me of my real dad.
“Is it ‘cause of the Weezer? Man, I’m sorry…”
“No,” I choke out, sobbing. “It’s not because of the Weezer. You’re fine.”
“I mean, is it something I did? Like, you wanted to, right? Oh, man…”
“It’s not, no, dude, you’re fine. We’re good.”
I keep crying. You don’t say anything. You just sort of sit there, with your dick out.
“You know,” you say, bending over and pulling your pants on. “I’m pretty sure I can say the n-word.”
“What?” I snap out of whatever dumb shit I was crying over. You can’t say that.
“Yeah, like, I’m Puerto Rican. Pretty sure I can get away with a soft-a every now and then.”
“That’s… okay, say it.” I start laughing.
“I’m not gonna say it, I’m just pretty sure I’m allowed to.”
“Say it, dude.”
“You say it.”
“Fuck no,” I say, starting to put my clothes back on. “What time is it?”
You check your phone. “Four-thirty two.”
We eat dinner (reheated Burger King) in the kitchen, sunlight gradually leaving until it’s pitch black. Your uncle gets up from the table, says something to me, then to you, then goes into the living room to start lighting candles. You wait a second and tell me that he’s turning in early to go to church tomorrow.
“Yeah, my whole family’s, like, Seventh Day Adventist,” you say, scratching your cheek.
“What’d he say to me? He was totally talking to me, there.” I can hear him fumbling with a lighter in the other room, humming.
“Oh, y’know, just that he’s glad to meet you, that sort’ve thing.”
“I dunno… he sounded kinda mad. Is he mad at me? Why?”
“He’s not mad at you, he’s just, like, not… okay, he said this to me, but he doesn’t like the way you’re dressed. He…” You cough into your fist. “Yeah.”
You get up and head into the living room and, after a moment of feeling extremely fucking angry, I follow.
“Check the news,” I mutter, sitting down next to you. “Maybe we’re on it.”
“This is gonna be sick. Watch.” You flip the channel to CNN. They’re talking about how some old black guy – Chuck Berry – just died. We watch for a few minutes, not saying anything.
“Let’s check the local news,” you say, changing the channel. The local news is also talking about Chuck Berry. You go back to CNN; it’s a dead silent black-and-white headshot of Chuck Berry’s face. He’s smiling, like he’s the happiest guy in the world.
“This is bullshit,” you mumble, checking your phone. “Check your phone, maybe it’s just… online.”
Starting to shake, I grab my phone and punch ‘taylor pennsylvania kidnapping.’ Absolutely nothing. I try ‘taylor pennsylvania woman shot’ which brings up a story from a few months ago about a girl who got shot in the face and fed to dogs, or something. My face feels hot. I go to Kandle’s Twitter account to see if she’s even tweeted about getting shot in the leg.
“kandle kash (she/they) @KandleKove · 43m
big bowl of chili and the house all to myself. toxic masculinity has its benefits”
Then a picture of the most disgusting, gelatinous pot of chili I’ve ever seen, her obese shadow looming over it. Two likes. Stunned, feeling sick, I like the tweet without thinking. Pulling my knees up to my chest, I think long and hard about asking you if we can drive back to my house so we can, apparently, finish the fucking job.
My head snaps over to you. My neck cracks — man, that fucking hurts. “Did you fucking miss, or something? Why is she tweeting about Campbell’s Chunky, Casper? Huh? Why?” I shove the phone in your face, scowling.
“I dunno! I dunno! Maybe it grazed her! Jeez, she didn’t even call the police?”
“I guess fucking not, Casper!… God. This is so fucked up. She’s not even hospitalized. She’s alive. Eating chili. In my house. That’s my chili!”
“I mean, isn’t it her house, too? Like, she’s legally your mom, right? Legal guardian?”
I spread out on the couch, groaning, my body going limp. Nausea builds in my stomach as I imagine the awkward conversation we’re going to have when I get home.
If I get home. Right.
“Ugh. I don’t even want to shoot up the M&M store anymore. She’d probably say a bunch’ve stuff about how there weren’t any warning signs. I’m so full of warning signs. Why doesn’t anyone care?”
“Honestly, bro, at this point, I feel like we gotta do it,” you say.
“I mean, yeah, but what’s the point?”
“Hey. Hey, Molly, no. You’re better than this. Stop it with the negative thinking, for real. You’re, like, the smartest, coolest person I know… we’re gonna fucking kick ass tomorrow. We’re gonna show society what happens when you abuse the shit out’ve someone their whole life. We’re gonna get even. Like, we’re gonna go to the M&M Store, and…”
I groan. “I don’t even wanna kill anyone. The universe is conspiring against me. Just let me rot.”
“The universe doesn’t give a shit about you.”
“That’s the problem. No one cares. I barely care. The only person who cares is you, pretty much. You don’t even care about me. All you care about is shooting people, which you’re not even good at. We’ll be a news cycle, then nothing, forever. What’s the point?”
“Hey.” You sound like you’re about to cry. “I care about you just as much as I care about shooting up the M&M Store. And this was your idea.”
We both sulk for exactly twenty minutes, during which I genuinely contemplate going upstairs and killing myself before getting over it and spending the next hour trying to figure out what to watch with you on your uncle’s Netflix account.
March 19th, 2017
I wake up to a DM from Kandle on Twitter. “where are you,” sent at 6:53 a.m., probably as she was leaving for work. Lying in bed next to you, bleary-eyed, only somewhat cognizant of what we’re going to do later today, I text her back.
“wouldn’t you like to know” – pure instinct. To my surprise, Kandle responds almost immediately, indicating one of either two things: either she genuinely does care about me or she’s bored at work. Given the time (12:19 in the p.m.), it’s probably the latter.
“Fuck you” it reads. The latter.
“kys” – for added effect, I take a picture of myself, putting on as neutral an expression as possible and making sure to get half of your face in frame.
“Who is that, Molly”
“The one who tried to shoot me? Really know how to pick em. He is legally an adult and you are a child. 100% he is into choking which is a huge red flag btw”
“kys” – followed by another one from me, a double-text, “idk when im coming home”
I leave her on read and check my notifications. I can’t believe that the tweet I sent out yesterday (“big things tomorrow”) during the car-ride over only got a single like, from one of my mutuals, @JEWJAIL1488, who I have a passing suspicion may unironically be a neo-Nazi. Seeming to telepathically sense my growing lucidity as I rub my right eye with the heel of my palm, @JEWJAIL1488 DMs me “hey” and sends a .gif of the California Raisins, as he does every single time we talk. I immediately text back “i’m busy jewjail sorry i’ll talk to you later!!” He responds in half a second with “sieg heil,” one of his catchphrases. I shut my phone off.
“You think you could beat Hitler in a fight?” you ask, racking the slide of your Colt 1911. “Tape it to my back. Like Die Hard. Safety of.” You hand it to me by the barrel.
“Haven’t seen Die Hard,” I say, pulling at the roll of duct tape and tearing a strip off with my teeth. “And I hate your hypotheticals, dude. It’s always something like ‘hey, if you were a gorilla, how many Green Berets do you think you could kill?’ They’re retarded.”
“Just answer it, bro,” you say as I repeat the process, starting to tape the Colt to your back.
“It’d depend on when,” I mumble.
“1930. So, like, not young Hitler, but not Hitler at the apex of his power.”
“How tall was Hitler?”
“Like… your height, I think? Short.”
“I mean,” I say, trying to get the taste of tape out of my mouth. “Bleh. He was addicted to meth, right? Is he on meth when I’m fighting him?”
“We’ll say no, just to make it fair.”
“Probably not… he was a veteran, or something. A combat veteran. Hitler would kill me. Dumb hypothetical, Casper.”
“Man, fuck you,” you mutter. “Like yours are any better. Is it on yet?” You glance over your shoulder.
“Try jumping up and down, see if it sticks.”
You hop up and down, shaking your arms out and rolling your shoulders. “Whew. Okay. Yeah. Man.” You stop and pull your shirt on, then your coat. “We’re ditching the bike helmet and GoPro… no one uses fuckin’ Facebook, anyways. And your hypotheticals suck, too. ‘Would you still love me if I was a boy?’ You’ve done that one, like, three times.”
“Yes,” you mumble. “I’m bisexual.”
“Just like Klebold,” I mumble back, swooning, momentarily lost in one of my Columbine headcanons that Dylan and Eric were, in fact, gay lovers in some kind of yaoi-esque scenario wherein killing thirteen people was the their revenge against a hateful, shitty world. Although part of me is, on some level, dimly aware that what we’re about to do is in every sense of the word wrong, I continue to remind myself that this is the only way out of ourselves. There is no other option. And based on how we’re talking about it — how little and the way we do — I can guess you feel the same way.
It’s simple. You start shooting and the rest of your life becomes the end of a movie. One long climax.
There are ambient fears underlying that, of course: prison, failure, immediate erasure from the posthumous news cycle by another, bigger story. One thing I’m not worried about. We’ve talked about it. We’re talking about it right now, going over it, using my gun, and I feel surprised at how much pressure it takes to pull the trigger, but I’m not entirely listening. Struggling to put the clip in, I flick the safety off. Under the chin at a slight angle, pull the trigger, gone.
At this point, it’s not desire. If it ever was. It’s inertia.
With how tight security was at the M&M store in Times Square, you’d think the shooting had already fucking happened. Two cops at the door, four security guards inside, an unknown number of plainclothes police (you can never be sure) weaving through crowds of excited but essentially non-human tourists – I mean, fuck, I think the green M&M flashed a Glock at me when we walked in.
In hindsight, anything close to Times Square might have been a bad choice, but we’re already here, so whatever. I unzip the coat you let me borrow and scratch my back, wondering how gangbangers just walk around with guns shoved into their waistbands, because Jesus Christ, is it uncomfortable.
Just to give Kandle a good picture for what is absolutely going to be a closed casket funeral, I send her a picture of us posing with the orange M&M, the one that looks like he has IBS. You do some weird shit with your hands – I’m ninety-nine percent sure you’re trying and failing to do a gang-sign – which makes me snicker as I hit send.
We’re on the up-escalator when the shooting starts. Not us.
You know, it’s kind of funny, because this does feel like a movie, only we’re not the main characters anymore. I can see you ducking in my peripherals, your eyes widening, and I’m just standing there, thinking: hey, were those gunshots?
Being more familiar with the sound, you grab me by the shoulder and yank me down. “Holy fucking shit,” you say, too surprised to yell. You start dragging me up the escalator, hard. “Oh, man,” I say, pretty loud, but not loud enough to hear over the screaming coming from downstairs that mixes perfectly with automatic rifle-fire. I wet myself at this point.
Hiding behind a store shelf, about to die in the exact opposite way I wanted to, I text Kandle that I love her. Dying in the fucking M&M store, and not by suicide. God has a really shitty sense of humor. Every thirty seconds or so, screaming, then gunfire, then nothing, rinse and repeat. You’re on the phone with someone, whispering low enough that I can’t make out what you’re saying even when there’s a lull. More screaming, a burst of gunshots, closer than the last one. You hang up and start pawing at your back.
“Gun,” you whisper, hyperventilating. I lift up the back of your shirt and start tearing off strips of duct tape, and you wince, tape hissing as it detaches from your skin. I pull the gun off of you, rip off any excess tape, and pass it, barrel-first.
“Alright, okay,” you say, quiet, leering at the wall-to-ceiling rows of M&M themed mugs in front of us. “Yours. Give me yours.” I reach back and pass it to you and your head snaps to my left, your right, and there he is, this black shape holding what I’m assuming is an AR-15 with a bump stock.
Like a homophobic gym teacher, you bellow the words “hey, faggot,” your voice cracking at the end. You raise your gun and he points the rifle away from me and towards you, the both of you opening fire. He falls backwards, trigger-finger bleeding the gun dry and pelting the ceiling with bullets.
You slump against the shelf, dry-heaving and grinding your feet against the floor, teeth gritted. You’re bleeding a lot, two dark spots on your left shoulder growing then joining together, blood running down your arm. You exhale, long and ragged, then stand up and walk over to him, emptying the gun into his face. You drop both pistols next to him and stumble over to me and in this moment I am convinced that we are meant to be together.
“Fuck,” you say, trembling, sweat pouring down your forehead. “Fuck, I’m dying, holy fuck,” you keep saying, breathing fast. “Oh my God, I’m fucking dying.” I crawl over and put pressure on your shoulder, my hand covered in you.
Three dead, seventeen injured. You and him listed together forever.
The news cycle until the next one, or a few months, whichever comes first. You spend a month in the hospital; the police talk to you while you’re fucked up on what I can only assume is an absolutely heavenly morphine drip, because every time I visit you, you always mention how great it feels. “I can see why people get addicted to this.” For a brief moment, you’re a Republican talking-point, an alleged good guy with a gun. Moving your left arm still hurts. “A lot,” you say. There isn’t a whole lot you can do about it other than go to physical therapy and hope it stops hurting, at some point, but you’re pretty sure it never will.
Kandle took my phone away for a week when I got home and gave me a talking to about grooming. To be honest, almost getting shot in the face made it hard to pay attention to what she was saying. I told her that and she kicked my ass. I mean, seriously kicked my ass, like a Chinese mom finding out her kid didn’t get an A-plus. We meet up over the summer a few times – you pick me up and take me to your grandma’s place. We’re in a bowling alley (not bowling: you say the food’s good, and it isn’t, but I’m pretending it is), watching this Milhouse-looking kid struggle to load a bowling ball onto a ramp.
“Five bucks he drops it,” you say, staring at his back. His knees look like they’re about to give out. His dad’s encouraging him.
“He’s not gonna drop it.”
“He’s gonna fuckin’ drop it, dude. Land right on his foot. Broken foot.”
You lose interest when Milhouse manages to load the ball onto the ramp and it rolls down, starting to work its way down the lane.
“Y’know, this guy from Vice was in my DMs the other day. He wanted to, like, interview me.”
“You gonna do it?”
“No. I told him to kill himself. He was asking about how it felt to have Trump tweet about me and it’s, like, who the fuck cares how I feel? I feel like shit. I dunno.” You take a bite out of your burger, one-handing it. “It’s stupid. I feel stupid. Like an absolute retard. Shouldn’t have even been there.”
“Yeah,” I say, trying not to think about it. It’ll get easier, probably, and it does. Another one happens, and the media forgets all about you, me, and everyone else.