On a well-lighted porch in Oakland

The unemotional revolver staring at my head throbs in perfect rhythm with the frightened finger on the trigger and the blood pumping through my right temple. Fear holds the gun. It draws a straight line between him and me. We are bound together at 12:17 a.m. on a well-lighted porch in Oakland.

With a God-like quality he says, “Do something stupid and I’ll blow your head off.”

What would be stupid, I think. What act of stupidity would warrant blowing off my head.

My mind races to a childhood filled with stupid acts. I remember hiding under my bed after breaking Scott Varney’s Styrofoam surfboard. I drew pictures of that damn surfboard, until my middle finger almost bled from holding the pencil, trying to put it back together——at least on paper.

I think of my imitation of Paul McCartney telling his fish-selling parents he’s joining a rock ‘n roll band; my inane British accent, the shrill voice of Paul’s mother, my slight of a kid named Richard Starkey. None of it real or correct.

“Mum, Dad I want to go to America,” Paul says.

“You got to help your dad and me, here at the market,” says his mother.

“But I’ve joined a band. We call ourselves the Beatles.”

“Whose idea was that? I betcha it’s that Richard Starkey kid.”

“We call him Ringo, Mum. Come on Mum, everybody else is going. I’m gonna be rich and famous. I’ll play for the Queen and make 50 million Quid a year.”

I wonder whether a bullet would explode into my head for something as stupid as that.

I’ve leveled my own gun at my head several times for the stupid things I’ve done. My self-killings have always had a cartoon-like quality. I pull the trigger; my head dangles precariously at the end of my neck. When I look into the bathroom mirror I’m back together——not healed completely, more like re-composed. Like Wile E. Coyote I invent new and unique ways to die over and over, again and again and again.

I hope this guy can’t read my mind. I shut my eyes so at least they won’t vibrate with latent stupidity.

I become conscious of the insensitivity of the steel resting against my skin. I realize it is not my stupidity that is at question here. He will never know the depth at which I fear being discovered.

What he should have said was ‘Do anything and my own stupidity will blow your head off.’ Yeah, that’s what he should have said.

Then for just a moment, the gun relaxes against my temple