When Sharon asked me why I had shot myself in the face, I knew just what I wanted to tell her, but of course, I couldn’t talk. I could not have possibly said anything without lips or teeth and only a stub of a tongue left, but she stood there nonetheless, looking at me stupidly, waiting for an answer.
So I grunted.
She ran out of the cage, still looking horrified, and for a second, I thought that she was just going to leave me there to bleed to death all by myself. Maybe the sight of me was too much; she was always squeamish. I had not seen myself yet, but to be fair, I must have looked a fright. But she came back a few seconds later with a notepad and a pen. She shoved them into my hands and I glared back at her with what probably would have been a look of disbelief if I had a face to wear it on. “Uh,” I said successfully since ‘uh’ comes right from the throat and doesn’t need a mouth to shape it. I took the cap off the pen and scribbled, “911” on the notepad.
“Oh, right,” said Sharon. “Sorry.” And she ran out for the phone.
As much as I disliked the idea of calling those bastards, those paramedics and asking for their help, there was really not much choice. I was still bleeding and I was not a doctor, but I did know that a person can not bleed for too long without, you know, dying. Aside from that, shooting one’s face off really is as painful as you would think. And say what you will about those black-hearted sons of bitches, they carry morphine in those little packs of theirs.
Me? I thought the best thing to do would be to slump over and black out.
I do not remember meeting Sharon, so she must always have been there. I lost my virginity to her when I was fourteen and she was twenty and we had been a certain kind of buddies ever since.
I had heard people say that sex was a letdown when it finally happened, and I remember bracing myself for a disappointment, but I should not have bothered. It lived up to the hype. That's one of those moments that are just frozen for me. It took me a few seconds before I realized that it was not my whole body being engulfed. It felt like I was in her entirely. It was suffocating.
But what I remember most sharply was her smell. Her hair was long and crimped and it covered my face as she draped over me. She used that shampoo that smells like fruit, strawberries specifically. The next morning, I went right out and bought a slew of Strawberry Shortcake dolls. To this day, I still can not masturbate without them.
And, all the fourteen years since, I do not think the two of us have gone more than three or four days without hooking up, even during her short marriage. Hell, I even flew to Atlantic City for her honeymoon and managed to get her to slip away from her new husband for a couple of hours. It was not hard; she just left him there at the Blackjack table while we went up to their room.
If that story is not something to be proud of, then I give up.
But her marriage only lasted for seven months. It did not fall apart or anything. Her husband never found us out. Nothing that dramatic. He just died very unexpectedly.
I am pretty sure that deep down, she knows that I killed him.
I came to just long enough to see one of those shits in his white uniform kneeling over me. That was not a pleasant sight, but on the plus side, I noticed that it did not hurt anymore. He must have given me some morphine first thing. Good boy.
Either that, or I was slipping away. I had heard that you lose feeling right before you die. I could not have told you where I had picked that little tidbit of information up, but I started to panic. I had to do something to see whether or not I was still alive.
I managed to lift my fist and punch him square in the jaw. I was disappointed at how weak it felt when I connected, but it still felt pretty good. He laughed if you can believe it. "This guy's a fighter," the medic announced. “He'll be okay; he's got spunk."
And people wonder why I hate these guys.
Heroes my dick.
I am not sure why I can’t remember his name. It really does not matter, but it worries me, the thought that maybe my memory is slipping. It definitely started with a B, but it was not common. No simple Bob or Bill could have ever snared my Sharon. And it definitely wasn’t Bubba. I would remember that.
He was handsome, I guess. But none too bright.
The news came as a shock. I didn’t want to marry her myself, but I was not to keen on the idea of sharing her, either.
There was no 'I met this guy,' no 'I went out with this hottie last night,' no 'I let this guy get to third on our first date.' No, she did not tell me until the last minute.
We had just finished and I was getting dressed and she just blurted out, "I'm getting married the day after tomorrow. I thought you should know." And that was it. I was not even invited to the wedding. I actually think that she may have had it in her head to stop seeing me altogether.
I walked out without a word.
Sharon rode with me in the ambulance. She looked like she just might start crying. I have always hated that. Maybe it was just me, but it seemed like a remarkably long ride to the hospital. I was drifting in and out, so it was hard to tell, and besides, I had forgotten to wind my watch. To be honest, I could not even remember if I was wearing it. Even if I was, I could not have looked at it. The paramedic was in the way. Those guys ruin everything.
But my apartment is less than two miles from the county hospital. We should have been there by now. It looked like they were taking me to the good one.
Christ, maybe I was in trouble.
When I built it three years ago, I had no idea it would come in so useful. I was in my black helicopter phase and I was pretty sure we had been lied to when they said that the cold war was over. Seriously, they just got up there one day and announced that our enemies were not our enemies anymore. It was so sudden and it felt like bullshit. I could not have even told you what my theory was, but it was frightening. I think it may have had something to do with globalization or zombies or both. And fire. I have always been afraid of fire. At any rate, I was pretty sure something bad was going to happen. The sense of danger I had was urgent, nonetheless. I knew that I had to build a cage.
The longer the ambulance ride lasted, the surer I was that I was done for. Which should not have been surprising, I mean, how many people survive a pointblank gunshot wound to the head? Actually, more than you would think, according to the sixty year old Mexican nurse who looked after me and bathed me every day in the weeks following what they called my 'incident.' At least I still had my eyes, she would tell me. She told me stories of people who lived long, rich and full lives without any faces at all. It did not cheer me up much, but bless her heart for trying.
All the way to the hospital, Sharon kept begging me to keep fighting and pull through. She told me that she loved me.
Come on. I may be dense, but I am not gullible.
I don't think she has ever really forgiven me for showing up at her poor, handsome dead husband's funeral. I really should have left her alone with her grief, but I wanted to see it for myself. When I saw her crying, it pissed me off.
The funeral was beautiful, though. I could only hope that when my time came, people would go to so much trouble. All the flowers were white and blue and all the people wore black and cried. He was even more handsome than ever. Whoever had reconstructed his face, they were very good. He was laid out in a spiffy tux and the whole thing was so fancy that when I first saw him, I thought maybe I had killed James Bond by mistake. But no, it was just Sharon's poor, stupid, handsome, dead husband.
The look on her face when she saw me was unmistakable and furious. She knew. I figured I was in for an earful next time I saw her.
But she never confronted me. She did not even bring it up that night when I balled her.
The bullet came out through the top of my head, right at my hairline. It missed my brain completely. Since the damage was mostly cosmetic, there never really was any question as to whether or not I would pull through once the bleeding stopped. And that is good news, since, believe it or not, I really did not want to die. This will probably not make any sense, but I was just trying to clear my head. They keep giving me pamphlets on suicide prevention and people keep telling me that I have lots and lots of things to live for and the chaplain stops by every day to offer comfort or something like that. None of it is necessary, but I can not tell them that, of course.
They tell me that I will never talk again.
I had been using it as a storage closet for years, ever since the end of my short-lived conspiracy theory phase. The things I thought I might need in case of nuclear emergency, did not take up much room. A couple boxes of non-perishable food and a manual can opener. Two flashlights and plenty of batteries. A Bible and a stack of porn to keep my mind occupied. Several bottles of whiskey and a couple cases of beer. Two cartons of cigarettes, a clay ashtray that my niece had made me and a plastic disposable lighter. A bucket with a seat welded to the top for a relatively comfortable makeshift toilet. A bottle of valium in case I decided to just end it. And a pistol.
I'd read somewhere that, in a nuclear blast, the people who aren't killed turn into freaks. So I got a gun in case a gang of mutant zombies decided to come around looking to put their syphilitic hands on my supplies.
When I got over my paranoia, one of the first things I did was clear out the cage so I could store boxes full of things that I didn't want but was too lazy to throw away. I ate the food, drank the booze and smoked the smokes. I threw out the Bible, kept the porn. The gun stayed where it was, in a small box with the bullets on the highest shelf. It never occurred to me to get rid of it any more than it had occurred to me to use it.
I forgot all about it.
Sharon comes by every day, careful not to be there the same time as the chaplain. She hates God now. She ran into the chaplain once, my second day there. He told her to trust in Jesus because he had a plan for everything. She sat there with her lips drawn tight, listening, her face growing paler as she fumed until she finally gritted her teeth and growled at him to leave which he did without a fight. I was very grateful to her.
She kisses me and I lie there, silently, wishing I could kiss her back. She talks and talks and asks questions even though she knows I can not answer her. Mostly she wants to know, why did I do it?
I love her and I hate her and honestly, even if I could talk, I do not think I would have the heart to tell her the truth.
The first time I talked to her poor, dead husband was that night, during their honeymoon, after Sharon and I had finished. I went downstairs into the casino and sat down next to him at the blackjack table. I noticed right off how goddamn handsome he was. It was hard to miss. I have always been good-looking enough, but there was something else there. He had kindness in his face.
"Any luck?" I asked casually, putting my meager stack of chips on the table.
He kept his eyes carefully on his cards and the dealer, but he managed to answer me out of the side of his mouth. "I'm up six hundred," he said.
He did not seem too excited, though.
“Wow,” I said. “You got some kind of system or are you just lucky?” I leaned in close, like I was going to tell him a secret, but I said, loud enough for the dealer to hear, “You count cards?”
The dealer chuckled.
“I’m not smart enough to count cards,” said the stupid husband candidly.
“Well, what’s your system?” I asked.
“Hit sixteen and under. Stay seventeen and over,” he said. He still hadn’t looked at me. Not once.
“That’s not much of a system,” I pointed out. “I think it’s just how one plays twenty-one.”
“Well at any rate, I’m up six hundred,” he said. “Maybe it is luck, though. I’m not very smart.”
He still had not looked at me. It must be sad to have the guy boning your wife walk right up and introduce himself and still not be able to pick him out of a lineup.
And this guy, this timid creature who had so little dignity that he was willing to tell a stranger twice in the space of thirty seconds that he was stupid, this was who my Sharon had picked over me.
He had to go.
The night when I made love to Sharon for the first time, I wanted her to fall asleep with me even though I knew full well that it was not feasible.
Normally, it would have been a point of contention, my parents insisting on leaving me with a babysitter when I was fourteen years old, for God’s sake. But, as long as they kept hiring Sharon to watch over me, I never argued. She had been my sitter since I was six and my first ever below-the-belt girl feelings were for her.
I was eleven when I got my first erection. Sharon was putting me to bed. She was lying next to me, reading me a story and stroking my hair when suddenly, I felt one of her tits rub up against my arm and poing!!! Right out of nowhere.
People talk about puberty like it’s a long process. First you get a little fuzz, then zits, then your voice cracks, etc. But for me, it was instantaneous. One second, I had a teeny dinky I would not have been able to do anything with even if the opportunity had introduced itself, and the next second, it was a throbbing hard-on, a living thing, desperate for some flesh to burrow.
She bent down to kiss me on the forehead, just like she always did before switching off the lights and I quickly moved, kissing her right on the mouth. And Jesus, her lips were soft.
It took a lot of effort and manipulation on my part. There were a few veiled threats and even a little begging. But three years later, she let me take her. After we had finished, when she was lying there over me, her hair covering my face, I started to doze off. Then, she climbed off me. I felt something like grief when I slipped out of her.
“Where are you going?” I demanded.
“I have to finish my homework,” she said, stepping back into her panties. “And your parents will be home soon. Just go to sleep.”
“Sleep with me,” I said.
“I can’t,” she insisted. She was almost dressed by now, which was really starting to upset me.
“Then just lie here with me until I fall asleep,” I said.
She leaned down and kissed me, putting her tongue just between my lips before pulling away. “I can’t,” she repeated. “I’m afraid I’d fall asleep and then we’d be in trouble. Or at least I would be.” Then she got up, turned off the light and left, closing my door behind her.
I was so furious, I do not know how I managed to fall asleep, but eventually, I did.
The next day, I got back at her. I spilled the beans; I told my dad everything. He told me to stop telling lies and that I should be more respectful of my babysitter and that it was wrong to spread stories and so forth. At first, I was really hurt that he did not believe what I was telling him, but then I saw his face.
He was beaming with pride. Fourteen and already banging college students. What father wouldn't be proud?
Two days later, Sharon was back. As my dad and mom walked out the door, leaving me with my trusted babysitter, I swear he winked at me.
And it all happened again.
Twice that time.
The strange thing is that Sharon’s stupid pretty husband and I became what you might call friends or at least as close to what a person like me comes to friends. Our friendship wasn’t deep or meaningful; we never shared feelings or had long talks or any of the things that women do. But we got close enough for me to feel bad about not remembering his name. We would get together every so often to drink and do the things that guys do, usually right after I’d been with Sharon. I tried to schedule our male bonding time to follow my trysts with her. For some reason, that was when I felt the most affection for the poor guy, when I could still smell his wife on my fingers.
Whether this was pity or some need to relish in my conquest only a shrink could know for sure.
It has been eleven days now and so far, there is no end in sight. God knows when they are going to let me out of this place. It is not so bad, though. Sharon still comes by every day to give me a sponge bath and a handjob and to cry by my bed.
And the things she says, the things she says. I think that maybe, finally, she is mine.
I still have not decided whether or not it was worth it.
It was not planned out. I know what it sounds like, but it was not. It started innocently enough. I just needed some time alone with my thoughts. I called her on a Tuesday, and I told her to come over to my place on Friday and let herself in with the key I had given her, God knows how long ago. Then, I restocked the cage and locked myself in. The first day or so was actually pleasant. I went through most of the whiskey and all of the porn. I did not get much thinking done. But by Thursday morning, I wanted out pretty badly. I was trapped with nothing but my own thoughts and believe me, that is not a good thing.
Then, in the middle of the night, late Thursday or early Friday, whichever way you want to look at it, I remembered the gun. I took it out of its box and just looked at it for who knows how long. Hours. I knew was supposed to do something, but I did not know what. For a while, I thought maybe I would kill Sharon, but I did not want that. There was no reason for it.
I stared down the business end of that gun thinking hard, then not thinking at all and then it hit me. I put the barrel under my chin. It didn’t take but a few seconds before I found that I had worked up the courage and then, there was nothing to do but pull the trigger.
And that’s how I lost my face.
Last night I had a dream about a taco stand. I had to pee worse than I think I ever have in my life. I did not want a taco, but I went into a small taco stand so I could use their bathroom. When I walked in, I saw the bathroom in the corner. It was a stall, out there in the open so you could see the feet of the person who was using it. A Mexican with a thick moustache and a cowboy hat was peeing. He was tall, so you could see his head as it rolled back while he emptied himself.
I knew I was in a fix. I could never make myself go if everybody in the taco stand could hear me. I bought a burrito, walked out, chucked it into a dumpster and pissed in the alley.
I have no idea what this dream means.
I remember that morning, when I told Sharon what I wanted from her, too clearly. I figured that if I gave her fair warning, my conscience would not bother me and I was right. On the other hand, it is entirely possible that I would have been okay with it either way. I was never one for guilt
“I want you to end it with him,” I told her.
We were lying in bed together, which was rare. I usually took off right afterward. I think I took her off guard when I turned toward her and started stroking her hair instead of just climbing out of bed and getting dressed. Like I said, it was unusual, but we needed to have a talk.
“I can’t stop seeing him,” she said. “He’s my husband.”
“I didn’t tell you to stop seeing him,” I said. “You can stay married to him for all I care.”
“Stop sleeping with him.”
“Why?” she asked, all doe-eyed and innocent, trying to pretend that she had no idea what I was getting at.
I figured I might as well get all cliché on her, so I just slid three fingers inside her and said, “Because I want this all for myself.”
She looked at me like I was crazy.
“Do this for me,” I said.
“Sharon, I’m warning you.” See? I gave her fair warning. I actually used the word ‘warning.’ What more do you want?
She said she would have to think about it.
Three days later, I went fishing with Sharon’s poor stupid husband as guys will sometimes do. I was trying to think of a subtle way to broach the subject, like complaining about an imaginary girlfriend or maybe an ‘I was reading this article in Cosmo,’ introduction. But then I decided that he wasn’t clever enough to warrant a round-about approach, so I just asked him. “Hey buddy, when was the last time you nailed your wife?”
“This morning,” he said with a goofy, kind of endearing smile.
I did not hesitate. There was no sense wasting any time. I kicked his legs out from under him and held his face under the water. The poor stupid bastard did not resist. Hell, I did not even feel him wiggle. He probably did not realize he was being killed until his lungs started to fill with water.
Or maybe he wanted to die. Stranger things have happened and believe me when I tell you that a good woman can do that to a fella.
I do not know how long exactly it takes for somebody’s lungs to fill with water. I could never hold my breath for more than a minute, so I figure that was about how long it took. When I was holding him under, a peace came over me. I looked up at the shore, at the trees and I have never felt more at one with nature as I did at that moment.
Time just slowed to a crawl. I could not tell you how long I knelt there with my hands pushing down on the back of his head, but it was the most beautiful few minutes of my life.
After three weeks of medical treatment and physical and psychological therapy, they let Sharon take me home. She kept her day job, but she was able to drop down to part time because, as it turns out, when you lose your face, you are entitled to a social security check every month.
We have a good life together. She gives me lots of attention and lets me fuck her anytime I want. Mostly, though, she just sits with me and holds my hand while we watch TV.
Most importantly, with all the attention my poor invalid self needs, she does not have time for another man.
And all it cost me was my face. I really never was that handsome to begin with.
Yep. She’s completely and irrevocably mine.