Song: Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen
I aimed my revolver and shot six rejections into his chest. He flopped backwards and landed on the floor on his back, staring up at me with shock in his eyes.
You’re probably wondering how I got here. Let me tell you a story. It all started yesterday…
“There’s three behind you!” One shouted at me.
I swung over the bed as feelings ricocheted off the walls. I landed into a smooth roll then sprang into the air, twisting towards the three assassins behind me, then fired three rejections into them. I landed into another roll and slipped into the opposite room.
“Dangit, my headphones,” I muttered, popping the dangling one back in my ear.
“Did you even hear me?” One cried in the living room.
“What?!” I shouted back.
I heard her. I just really needed Queen to help me get through this otherwise aggravating mission. A bunch of thugs ransacking an abandoned house wasn’t my idea of a girls night out, but One said it needed to be done so I was here for my friend.
I heard more gunshots in the living room so I sprinted over to help her out, prancing along to Bohemian Rhapsody as I did, and spotted her opening fire on four thugs like a boss. She really was killing the game–glock spitting out rejections and taking names and braids swinging around her head as she swiveled to her next target. Nothing was moving in slow motion, but this is how I imagined it.
One was taking down four guys, but didn’t see the fifth sneaking down the stairs behind her. So I slid across a dusty table smooth as gravy then rolled into a one-handed cartwheel on top of an ottoman and fired at the fifth man while I was still upside-down. Pretty sick, huh?
My revolver didn’t fire and I completed the cartwheel and landed with no fallen gunman to show for it.
Thankfully, One was as much of a boss as she looked and managed to spin around and take him down before he fired at her.
“What the heck, Four?” she spat at me.
“Sorry!” I cried, shaking my revolver. “My gun jammed. You know this happens.”
“At the worst possible times.”
“I know! I know! My gun’s got a problem. Relax.”
One was already rushing up the stairs to check for more gunmen.
I slapped my revolver into my palm a few times then aimed at a wall and pulled the trigger. A rejection blasted through the plaster and I clicked my tongue in triumph.
“Back in business.”
My gun had been missing a piece for as long as I could remember. Didn’t know why or how, but the side effect was that it would jam every 3 or or 4 shots. Or every 12. Or 8. It wasn’t really consistent. The point is, at any given moment, my revolver could decide to not shoot and I’d be stuck in the middle of a gunfight looking like an idiot. All because of one itty bitty missing piece.
“That’s everyone,” One said, walking back down the stairs. “You really need to keep track of how many rejections you’ve got left. And you weren’t checking the corners when you went into rooms. I saw you…”
“‘Sometimes I wish I’d never been born at all’…” I sang to myself as she went on. I twirled my revolver around my finger then blew a bubble that popped all over my lips.
“Are you even listening?” One finally asked me.
“Sorry,” I said. “Are you done? I’m listening now.”
One rolled her eyes and holstered her glock. “I’m sorry for being hard on you.”
“Don’t do it,” I warned her. “It’s not necessary.”
“It’s because I care.”
“And you did it anyway.”
“Listen to me,” she went on. “One day you’ll find it.”
“The rainbow connection?”
“What?” One squinted at me. “No. The missing piece.”
I looked down at my revolver and feigned surprise. “Oh, of course. As a matter of fact, tomorrow I’m gonna get a knock at my door and Prince Charming will personally hand deliver it to me then we’ll walk off hand-in-hand shooting our feelings into the sunset.”
One stared back blankly. She never really appreciated my humor.
“Listen,” she sighed, signaling this conversation was over. “I’m going out with some friends tonight. You should come.”
I planted my boot on the ottoman and tied my laces. “No thanks. I’ve got things to do.”
“What things?” One scoffed.
“I…have…things!” I scoffed back as I finished my knot with unnecessary force. “Listen, I don’t need all of this in my life right now. Nice talk. I’ll see you when you get home.” I backpedaled and tapped my revolver to my head to salute her.
“Don’t play with your gun like that,” One told me.
“Sorry, mom!” I called as I turned away. “Love you too!”
I left and made my way back to our house. We shared it with two other families, but they’re not important. The one on the top floor was playing really heavy metal when I walked in and the one on the second floor was just stomping all over the place for no random reason.
I walked into our living room and breathed a sigh of relief as I leaned against the door. It felt so good to be home. Or half good. See, my side of the apartment was decorated lavishly with tie die paint on the walls, posters of Hamilton and Disney princesses, and denim jackets with patches I’d never finished sewing on lying on the couch. It was a beautiful mess in my eyes. In contrast, of course, to One’s side decorated with rows of sharpened pencils, blank walls, and a single pot of purple heather flowers. I vomited inside before opening the fridge to see what we had.
Everything on One’s shelf was neatly wrapped or in tupperware: two slices of key lime pie, three macaroons, rice and beans, and an unopened can of kombucha. She always had the good stuff. My shelf had a half-eaten slice of pizza, a half empty bottle of C&C soda and a bottle of Bailey’s. As much as I wanted to swipe some of that pie, I decided to be a good girl today and grabbed the C&C then went to my room.
I unlocked the door then locked it behind me. Every inch of my wall was covered with posters of Andrea Bocelli, Alice in Wonderland, and Jubilee from X-Men. My bed was littered with stacks of feelings and rejections and the floor was covered in a carpet of jeans, rompers, and sneakers. I winked at Jubilee as I stepped over various pants and tops. She, of course, was the inspiration for my purple highlights. My denim overalls and Converses were my idea, but sometimes you’d catch me in bright yellow blazers like her. And did I mention we’re both Asian?
I went straight to the far left corner, looked over my shoulder to make sure One wasn’t about to surprise me, then pushed through the false wall and entered the hidden stairwell. I climbed down the gray stone steps and was assaulted with the cold air billowing from the basement. I made it to the bottom, following the only light at the very end, a solitary light bulb hanging in a cement room behind a giant iron gate. I made it to the gate and breathed another, heavier sigh of relief when I saw the graffiti welcoming me on the walls.
There were quotes from musicals, lines of Shakespeare, pictures of cats and dogs, and oh yeah, the equations. All the possible ways of getting from 2 to 4 and from 4 to 2. My personal favorite was on the ceiling: 4 – 2 = 2. And of course there was the dreaded, eerily prophetic equation on the far left wall: 4 x 2 = 8. Even mathematically, he was destined to be with her and never with me.
That’s what happens when you don’t speak up, I thought to myself. You die inside until you die alone.
I walked in then shut the gate behind me. I inserted the barrel of my gun into the keyhole and it fit like a glove, allowing me to lock the gate from the inside.
Then I sat down on the floor in the center of my cell and pulled a pouch from my backpack. It was time for my favorite bedtime game.
I pulled my jacket off and revealed all the tattoos swirling up and down my arms. Every time I was shot with something, I’d wake up with a new tattoo of whatever I’d been shot with. I had a broken heart on my forearm from one time I’d been shot with sadness, a charging bull on my shoulder from being shot with anger, and a bunch of cats on my back from feelings I couldn’t even remember. It was always fun waking up and finding out which new tattoo I’d be sporting. I pulled my left pant leg up where there were tattoos of snakes and shattered skulls. But there was an empty spot on my calf. That was probably where tomorrow’s tattoo would show up. What would it be? My guess is as good as yours. We’ll find out together, my friend.
I opened the chamber of my revolver and let all the rejections I’d been using that day clatter to the floor. Then I poured out the contents of the pouch and took a second to gaze at the colors of the bullets. Red, green, copper, blue, black–feelings came in so many shades. Fun fact, every feeling also had a distinct sound. So if you shot enough of them, you could make a song in the key of shame. I personally loved minor keys, but no one else seemed to appreciate the symphony that sadness could play. And my favorite notes were D, E, and B. Couldn’t remember what feelings made those at the moment, but it didn’t matter.
I picked six feelings off the floor: sadness, anger, shame, hatred, fear, and regret and loaded them into the slots one by one.
Then I took a deep breath, held the barrel to my forehead, and shut my eyes.