June 2004. Early evening.|
I have been working hundred-hour weeks for months, and finally tonight I am no longer part of the 'critical path'. I'm having dinner with my three girls for the first time in twenty-seven weeks, and I bet I won't stay awake for more than a few minutes of it.
The drive home is only about eight miles, but I'm having trouble staying between the lines. As I look down the highway, the cars first go out of focus, then the music goes silent, then I'm jolted awake by my head drooping heavily onto my chest.
The adrenaline rush from knowing that I could have just died and taken the rush hour drivers with me lasts for less than a minute and I'm jolted awake again.
All I want to do is sleep. If I go to sleep for just a moment, there is a high degree of probability that my Bronco will stay in a straight line on this straight part of the highway and I'll wake up and finish driving home, refreshed and revitalized. Ready to be daddy when I get home.
Somehow, I have managed to pull into my driveway, and my body doesn't want to leave the vehicle. My brain has trouble resolving a world in sunlight. Things look too orange. There's too much detail. It's making my head hurt. I need my fluorescent lighting and bad coffee.
Suddenly the curtains pull back and my oldest daughter's face pushes against the window. She is smiling, I think, and screaming out the side of her mouth into the rest of the house. A moment later and my girls come out to see me.
My daughters are screaming 'daddy' and my wife is asking me why I didn't want to come in and see them. Sigh.
I open the door and lazily pour out of the vehicle and onto the ground, legs unused to supporting my weight. In a near-drunken stupor, I drag my feet one in front of the other until I'm in the house and on the couch.
My god, were the walls really this red? Was the ceiling this green? The visual cues are so overwhelming that I feel sick to my stomach.
All I want to do is sleep. I'm trying to listen to my girls. I think I might even be faking a smile. It's so hard to keep up with the conversation because I keep dozing off like I did back on the highway. All I want to do is sleep.
I've finally had all can take. "Girls, I'm sorry. I just have to get some sleep. I'm taking tomorrow off so we can spend some time together." The little ones seem to understand. Empathy must come more naturally to children.
"Let's leave daddy alone girls. He doesn't want to talk to us. He's on HIS couch."
I thought a nap would make me feel better, but I just feel hung over. It's like I'm walking through a viscous fluid that resists all movement in my body. My eyes are even affected.
My girls are in bed, so I'll kiss them good night.
Where's the wife? Oh, she's in bed already. "Good night."
Good night. Hah. Why can't I ever sleep when I'm in a bed? I've been laying here for hours and can't quit working. How do these people just close their eyes and go to sleep...AND STAY THAT WAY?!?
What the hell was that?
June 2004. Early next morning. Change of tense.
My father and I had installed french doors on the back of the house, and I was never really happy with the way they locked. They were weak where the two doors came together in the middle and just a little amount of determination was required to push them open. Even though they were always deadbolted.
I actually asked myself what the sound was, but I knew it when I heard it. Someone had pushed the doors open.
I reached into my closet and silently grabbed my revolver, a Smith & Wesson .44mag, off the shelf. I stuck my head, shoulder, arm and revolver out into the dark hallway and peered down the long straight hall at the door that separated the kitchen from the hall.
Just as I heard two distinctly different voices whispering to each other to shut up, the hallway door opened and I saw the silhouette backlit by his accomplices flashlight. It was of a rather tall, large-framed person who was holding a long gun in his right hand.
I didn't even have to think.
I didn't feel the concussion from the gun. I didn't hear it go off. All I saw was the flame discharge from the end of the weapon.
I had always seen in the movies that when you shoot someone with a large calibre handgun they were supposed to fly backward. That didn't happen at all.
The first thing I noticed was that whoever I just shot was no longer standing so now I had the flashlight shining right in my face. Thankfully, before I could recompose to shoot again, the accomplice fled out the way he had entered.
I ran down the hallway into the kitchen, stepping on the guy on the floor, kicking his shotgun away from him and looking out the back for the other guy.
All of a sudden I was blinded by a wash of lights in the room.
I turned around and was amazed to see that the guy on the floor had pushed himself against the wall with one hand, pushed himself up the wall somewhat, and had actually turned the light on.
As I watched him for a brief moment, I noticed that blood was pumping from his chest and his back.
Afraid that my girls would soon be coming down the hall, I screamed to them to stay in their rooms, but I got no response. I was hoping beyond hope that they were still asleep.
The guy fell back onto the floor and screamed at me. It was a dry, guttural scream that wasn't human. Not even remotely. He kept screaming and started pulling himself across the floor to me, and to his shotgun behind me.
It was just then that I noticed that he was unable to control his body from mid-chest down, and that that part of his body was shivering uncontrollably. And that he stank of piss and shit.
Thankfully, he was getting weaker, and as he did so, he appeared to sober.
After crawling about five feet, he just stopped. He just lay there, breathing shallow, hard breaths.
I thought he had started convulsing, when all of a sudden I realized he was crying. He was face down on the tile floor with one hand under his forehead. He was whispering amid his cries "momma. momma."
He repeated that over and over again. Then he seemed to remember that I was in the room. He looked at me and whispered "help me."
It was just then that I realized I hadn't called the police. I called them and told them I had shot an intruder and they said they'd send a unit over shortly. The operator hung up.
"PLEASE GOD! DON'T LET ME DIE!"
Fuck he scared the shit out of me.
He went into a rambling fit and made all sorts of promises to god that if he was allowed to live he'd change. He'd change. "GOD I SWEAR I'll change. please. please."
He started to cry again. Quietly at first. Then his sobs slowly rose to wailing. He wailed like a baby. For a moment. Then he went silent. His shallow breaths came more and more slowly. More and more shallow.
I suddenly realized that I had just killed a man. Never mind that he was in my house. With a gun.
He had been a human. Now he was nothing.
I had killed a man.
I hope none of you ever finds yourself in a similar situation. I know I did what was right. I'd do it again without hesitation.
But there really is an emptiness that never seems to go away. I stay awake thinking about it. Less often now than I used to, but it frequents my dreams occasionally and I live it all over again. Sometimes he pulls the trigger first. Sometimes I pull first, but my gun is empty, or misfires, or is not a gun at all.
I don't want to think about this anymore.
All I want to do is sleep.