Night-bugs flittered around the gas station’s overhead lanterns. The big ones collided with the plastic shield with the sound of someone’s nail tapping against a finished wooden bar. Gasoline flowed from the pump into Warren’s 1997 Subaru. It was 1AM, and he was thinking his thoughts again.
Warren rolled his wallet in his hands. He pushed it up with his fingers and it fell against his palm. He tried his best to make it to appear fluid.
His face was getting red. His thoughts were dark lately, even when he saw his friends. There was so little he cared about these days.
Warren’s eyes were locked onto a spot on the blacktop. He wasn’t seeing it. He was looking past it, into the depths of his suicidal mind.
He wouldn’t do it, not today, and not anytime he could think of. But the rules were always there. They all revolved around the fear of death. The fear of pain.
Get a job, stay in the job, don’t complain, people have it worse.
He heard it every day. Only trouble was, that if you don’t value your life or future, than you don’t care about anything people are telling you to care about.
Warren avoided his parents’ gaze. A job brought anxiety to his whole body. Especially a job with no mental stimulation. That was his last one. He lasted a year. A year of mundane work, with unimaginative, uncaring people. He had to leave more times than he told his parents, always to escape before bursting into tears.
His mind went to scenarios where he was king. In small ways, at least.
A man with a gun threatens him, and he doesn’t give in.
“Shoot me,” Warren would say.
The man would stare back in disbelief. This is not how he thought this situation would go.
“SHOOT ME!” Warren would scream, throwing his wallet to the ground.
The man would run, unable to comprehend the level of despair in his victim.
Warren would boil with rage for the evening. Nothing would have changed. He was still alive, riddled with guilt, anxiety, and misery.
So he rolled his wallet in his hand, leaning against the back door of his small car. He stared into the void of thought, grinding his molars against one another.
There was a different sound. It happened at the moment the pump stopped. Warren looked up.
Maybe this was the moment. Maybe the gunman wouldn’t want anything except to shoot someone. Hopefully they would aim for his head so it would be over quickly.
As if to antagonize the imaginary figure, Warren turned his back to the sound’s direction. He put the pump back, screwed his gas-cap on, and closed the small door to cover it.
When he turned back, there was a man.
This man was taller, clad in baggy clothes and a camo hat that seemed to be sewn into his scalp. His face was gaunt, with prominent cheekbones. In one hand, there was a glint of steel. He was carrying a pistol.
“Oh shit,” Warren said with a smirk.
The man reacted, raising the gun. It was painted at Warren.
“Give me your fucking money!” He yelled.
It was a pathetic display. Nevertheless, Warren was terrified.
“Wouldn’t you want my car?” Warren said.
The words ripped through his throat like a thousand beestings. The adrenaline fueled his instincts, and this seemed to go against them.
“I don’t want your fucking car! Throw me the wallet!” the man yelled.
In a fleeting moment of spite and anger, Warren pulled his arm back to toss his wallet to the man, and then threw the wallet away, into the darkness.
His body filled with ice, staring down the barrel of the gun. Would the man shoot him? Kill him? What a foolish time for defiance.
The man advanced, his fear turning to rage.
“What the fuck are you doin, man?” he snarled through a scrunched up mouth.
Warren’s lungs stuttered as he made a conscious effort to breathe slow. Words fell flat at the bottom of his throat. Nothing came out. He simply raised his hands in acceptance.
“You’re going to make me find your fuckin wallet? I’ll fucking shoot you!” the man thrust the pistol closer to accentuate his words.
Warren flinched as much as a person could. His hands shot towards his head, his knees buckled. Everything in his body prepared for pain, it was excruciating. Warm urine fell down his legs.
“Not so tough now, huh? Fuckin pissin yourself,” the man said.
Warren recovered, and looked back at him. He waited for the gunman to make another demand. His keys? His clothes?
“Get the fuck outta here,” the man said, motioning with his gun for Warren to get into his car.
“Just leave?” Warren asked.
“What the…get the fuck outta here!” the man yelled, motioning with his pistol again.
Warren moved to his driver’s side, opened the door and then got in. He started his car.
From the side mirror, Warren saw the gunman jog to the spot of darkness where he had thrown his wallet. His brain screamed at him to get out of here, and his foot hit the gas. His tires squealed as he accelerated.
On the ride home, after coming to terms with his urine-soaked driver’s seat, Warren could see the path forward. He wanted to live.