With shoulders hunched, his head down, a small pyramid of empty beer cans on the table, all the labels neatly pointing in the same direction, along with his Beretta Nano 9mm handgun with the staghorn grips, he stifles tears, and shudders.
Shaking his head sullenly from side to side, his eyes moist against his will, he forces his mind to reason it through, thinking that might help. It doesn’t. He sinks further into his depression after the failed attempt to reason it out. Fucking booze doing this, and he takes another swig of the “hair of the dog.” His depression is overwhelming today, transcending the usual hangover, and he ponders the only solution he knows will stop his suffering, the real pain, not the hangover. He cannot fathom any other way out. He knows his drinking greatly magnifies his anguish, his shrink told him that, but he still cannot quit. He’s tried, cold turkey, finally turning to AA. He hated the meetings, the open confession each week to a bunch of strangers, the condescending advice of those who quit for a week or two and then fall off the wagon, confessing their weakness to the group that doesn't give a shit. What the fuck do they know? He talked with his parish priest about his addiction and even the awful thoughts that followed when under liquor’s spell. The priest’s advice was straight from the book, the same as AA’s. “You must seek professional help, my son.” So he did, and it doesn't help. He questions if God even exists.
He sits at the kitchen table in his skivvies stinking of onions, the stink that always comes after a bout of hard-drinking and sweating through restless nights, which are becoming more and more frequent. He wakes up at one in the morning, an hour after he hits the sack, and lies in a pool of sweat pondering the life he is living, the mistakes he’s made, the opportunities he missed. His nighttime self-loathing always leads to the same end: will today be the day he goes through with it? Will he finally rid himself of the demons? Does he have the courage? Those questions cloud his brain this morning. And then he begins the inexorable process of enumerating his failures, the worst part of his depression. He went through his second divorce a year ago, a bitter one, and is still feeling the trauma. Carryover. Four grown kids. You’d think one of them would call once in a while? Nah. My two boys, married with their own kids; I understand. One of my girls a tattooed, pot-smoking, needle-plunging slut chasing her loser boyfriend all over the country; the other daughter chasing girls. Queer. He picks up his nine and stares at it lovingly and caresses the expensive grips, handling it carefully. They say you don’t even feel it, he rationalizes. He puts the gun to his temple and closes his eyes.
I’ve got to think this through some more. Once that trigger is pulled, there is no turning back, no second chance. He remains seated and looks around the kitchen. It is meticulously clean, but the empty beer cans stacked in a pyramid tarnish that fact. The house is old, dating from the early fifties, or even the late forties. It had been built by the legendary H. Leger Starr, who had purchased nearly a thousand acres of unused farmland in Enfield and built a thousand of the ticky-tacky-cookie-cutter tiny ranch homes.
Unsteadily, he gets up and fumbles in the small pantry to retrieve a black plastic trash bag and sits back down at the kitchen table, sighs, and opens the bag, angrily wrestling with the bag’s static cling, and places it loosely over his head. Unseeing, he reaches down and gropes for his nine. He finds it and pulls it inside the bag, and puts the barrel into his mouth. He doesn’t give a shit if one of his kids finds him with his brains splattered on the wall, but he’s a fastidious person and doesn't want to make a mess. His mind is spinning, and he conjures up his final thoughts about the state of the world. The school shootings, Harvey Weinstein, Jeffrey Epstein: Guilty. Clinton, Obama, Trump, ducking and hiding to avoid being discovered. All of them the same. AOC, Elizabeth Warren, Bernie, Kamala Harris; all commies. Where the hell are we going to get the money? Green New Deal? Bullshit. Universal healthcare? Free Education? No college tuition payback? What are they, nuts? All to be elected and then really hated.
He’s having difficulty breathing inside the bag and he lifts one corner to let in some air. He has the nine in his hand, and thinks, whoa! Don’t shoot yourself in the eye. Be careful. He laughs nervously. Careful? What the fuck’s the difference? I won’t feel it either way. As long as it gets the job done. Still finding it hard to breathe, he takes the bag off completely and puts it on the table and walks to the refrigerator and gets another cold one, another pop-top. Maybe this will help. The Budweiser is old, skunked, but that’s okay. Too late to switch brands now. He sits for a while, swilling his beer, twisting the can so it lines up perfectly with the others, and ponders it as the last one he will ever have. He sits quietly for a few minutes and thinks about his children again. I'm not going to leave no freakin' note. Let them figure it out for themselves. They’ll know why I’m doing this. He picks up the beer can and shakes it, his fifth one, or is it his sixth? He is satisfied it is empty and replaces it in the stack. Okay, it's time. Let's get this done.
He pulls the bag back over his head and drags the nine inside and puts the barrel to his temple. Okay. On three.
Is it 1, 2, pull? Or is it 1, 2, 3, and then pull?
He thinks about that for a couple of seconds and knows he is just postponing the inevitable. He breaks out in a light sweat and with a trembling hand, puts his finger on the trigger. He has decided on 1, 2, pull and starts the countdown. One. Breathe. Two. Breathe. Three. Pull.
He lays his nine on the table, removes the plastic bag, takes a deep breath, and rubs his eyes and stretches, yawning. He picks up his cell phone and calls to order a large pizza, sausage, extra cheese, to be delivered in a half hour. He takes a quick shower to wash the sweat off and washes his hair with Head and Shoulders while singing the Jim Croce song, Bad, Bad, Leroy Brown. He knows all the words. He feels better after the shower and dries himself with the new Turkish bath towel while thinking, maybe one of the kids will call today. He dresses quickly into his new Levi 502’s and his Vineyard Vines black half-zip top and walks into the kitchen, pops another beer and sits at the table, waiting for the pizza to come, thinking about how much he’ll tip the driver.