Marcus pulled out the round wood and marble stool tucked under the matching marble table and glanced at Andrew as he did so. He took a few seconds to admire the antiquity of this Chinese themed dining set and pondered if it truly was an antique or one of many mass produced items of furniture that were now a big hit with rich Caucasian housewives who spent too much time watching Chinese soap operas on the Oriental channel purchased under their satellite television subscription.
A split second was all it took for Andrew to scoff and stand up. The comic-themed t-shirt he was wearing stretched uncomfortably around his torso as he did so. Andrew pulled the shirt at his chest to loosen the tight-fitting fabric as to not accentuate his unflattering curvature and made a motion as if to turn away. What should have been an attempt to escape this confrontation became an awkward jerk as Marcus shot him a stern look.
That look was all he needed to sit his friend back down. Marcus was slightly shorter than Andrew and comparably smaller to Andrew’s big frame. But at that moment, Marcus’ contrast to Andrew in size didn’t really matter. Marcus was pissed and Andrew knew it.
The two had been roommates in their sophomore year at college. They didn’t hit it off instantly as Andrew had become accustomed to more quieter sleeping arrangements while Marcus had adopted a habit of blasting folk music on his stereo to help him sleep at night. They constantly fought about Marcus’ nocturnal habits and Andrew’s rather unhygienic norms. After two weeks of random outbursts and back and forth acts of revenge, both men came to a neutral agreement; Marcus would sleep using his iPod and Andrew would use a sock to wank into.
However, tonight was different. It wasn’t about childish pranks or settling petty scores. Well into their final year of engineering school, Marcus had come home to Andrew attempting to perform oral sex on the barrel of a Glock 17, his right forefinger inches away from squeezing back the trigger and making the weapon ejaculate a 9x19mm bullet straight through the roof of his mouth and carving out an exit wound at the back of his head the size of a quarter.
Marcus clutched the edge of the table’s glistening marble finish with his right hand and massaged the bridge of his nose with the other. Coming back from a night of wonton inebriation only to find his roommate about to pay homage to Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel with a hand gun and his brains wasn’t on this evening’s list of things to look forward to, but there he was, in all his suicidal glory.
If it wasn’t for the look of sheer surprise on Andrew’s face and momentary awkwardness between them that reflected how perplexing this situation was for the both of them, Marcus would have tackled him to the ground and wrestled away the firearm from Andrew’s pudgy hands.
During that instance, Marcus knew that in a situation of a possible suicide attempt, the normal response was to calmly coax Andrew to put the weapon down and walk away from it. Marcus however, slowly slid his hand behind his back and groped for the door knob. Turning the door knob ever so slowly, he opened the door and walked back out. After waiting several minutes for the sound of a gunshot and hearing nothing, Marcus walked back inside. He found Andrew sitting on the marble table that Andrew’s mother had lent them earlier that year looking forlorn.
Marcus slowly sat himself down opposite Andrew purposely taking his time in a bid to add more tension in the air, a smile crept on his face as he did so.
The room was completely silent save for the occasional hooting and hollering coming from the other dorm rooms down the hall. But that did nothing to dispel the tension in the air.
Marcus was only doing this because he knew Andrew didn’t have the cojones to pull the trigger and take his own life.
Despite his large build from the lack of exercise and frequent trips to Taco Bell, Andrew was a teddy bear at heart. He often kept himself busy playing table top games like Dungeons & Dragons with other like-minded people than go out drinking and getting into fights the way normal, testosterone pumped seniors would on a Friday night. To put it in a much simpler term, Andrew was a geek and what he was planning to do that evening in the confines of their room was beyond the actions of a guy like him.
But there it was, lying on the white marble table between them gleaming black and intimidating was the weapon.
“Where did you even get it?” asked Marcus never truly taking his eyes off the plastic and metal object. Marcus was remembering all the movies he’d seen which had used this specific caliber of Glock. He knew that this model was most commonly used by law enforcement officers since he’d seen it countless times on the TV show “Cops”. There and then he was imagining himself kicking down the door of the dorm room two doors down and pistol whipping the people inside.
“My dad,” he replied curtly pulling Marcus out of his fantasy. “I stole one of his guns from the surplus armory he set up in our basement. Didn’t think he’d miss it.”
Hearing that, Marcus’ eyes widened. All these years of being roommates, he didn’t know Andrew’s dad was a gun collector. ‘The proper term for that would be redneck,’ thought Marcus half imagining Andrew’s dad to have a white and red confederate army flag hung up above their fireplace.
“Is this one loaded?” Marcus asked with a slightly skeptical tone of voice. “I’d hate to accidentally shoot someone’s head off.”
Andrew noticed the tone. The half smirk – furrowed eyebrow expression suggested that if Marcus didn’t think he was a freak before, he would certainly now.
“No,” Andrew answered. ‘Great, now he thinks I’m a loser who just wants attention. The gun wasn’t even loaded.’ Andrew mind-slapped his forehead.
Marcus put the gun down and stared at Andrew for the longest time yet. Andrew had friends, he knew, so why was he going through all this trouble for attention?
“What’s bugging ya’ big guy?” Marcus asked. He slid the gun to the right side of the table as a gesture to his friend that the gun wasn’t the issue right now, Andrew was.
Marcus was never a particularly attentive person, heck, some would even call him uncompassionate. But deep down inside, despite what everyone said about him and how morbidly detached he was from his own emotions or compassion towards others, Marcus was in every way, a selfish asshole.
But tonight, Marcus knew that he needed to get to the bottom of his roommate’s Munchausen syndrome before it became “by proxy” or there would be no living with him for the remainder of their studies.
“C’mon, there’s gotta be an explanation? How’re your studies?”
Andrew shrugged again.
Marcus knew he had to go through a list of subjects before Andrew would talk. Tedious as that was.
“Your dad?” Shrug. “Your mom?” Shrug. “Tina?” Andrew raised his head and looked to Marcus.
‘Wow, that was fast,’ he thought. Marcus’ eyes widened. “It’s Tina? You’re depressed because of Tina?” Any momentary sense of compassion Marcus had for Andrew was dropkicked out the door to make room for pure hilarity.
Tina was Andrew’s crush. They were in the same everything – year, class, town – you name it. Marcus had even thought that at one point Andrew had signed up for rhythmic gymnastics just because Tina was on the team. Months later, it was a sad and depressing day for Marcus when he found out Andrew had a personal predilection for the gender specific activity – Andrew was the only guy in the club.
At this point, Marcus had his head buried into his elbow that was rested on the table, trying his best to muffle his laughter. Andrew had never struck him as dramatic, going to the extent of pulling an act like this. But tonight apparently he was privy to a good many sides of Andrew; suicidal and morbidly romantic.
“Shut up,” Andrew snapped. “I like her is all.”
A few minutes continued with the huffing of Marcus’ laughter reverberating around the room which was then followed by a sharp slap from Andrew that caught Marcus across the back of his head silencing him completely.
Rubbing his head, Marcus looked up at Andrew in all earnest. He then continued laughing.
After a few more slaps and a VCR player thrown against Marcus’ head, Marcus decided to move along with the intervention.
“Have you told her how you feel?” Marcus asked.
“No,” was Andrew’s curt reply.
“Does she know you like her?”
“No,” came Andrew’s curt reply once more.
“Have you asked her out?”
“Then what’s the problem? Just ask her out,” Marcus was gradually getting frustrated at Andrew’s lack of awareness at his own situation.
“I don’t know,” was all Andrew could answer with his head bent low.
Marcus didn’t have time for this. Either he was going to get an answer out of Andrew or he would just walk out. The night was still young by his standards (considering they were very low, very low indeed) and somewhere was a bar with a glass of whiskey with his name on it.
“Well have you even talked to her, man?” Marcus asked, exasperated.
Andrew could only hang his head low, eyes transfixed at the patterns on the marble table. Tracing the lines and playing a sort of maze game with them, Andrew was concentrating hard on getting his imaginary character to the other end of the table using only the grain patterns of the marble. So far, his little character had gotten stuck at the fourth marble grain and had no way of crossing to any of the others. Andrew came to terms with his character’s mortality and inevitable death. He wished the little guy luck.
A sharp flick to Andrew’s forehead yanked him out of his reverie and side quest.
“Hellooo~ Did you hear what I just said?” Marcus asked tauntingly. “I said, you need to ask her out.”
“That’s easy for you to say. She’d go out with you.” Andrew lamented, dropping his head down once more.
Marcus snapped his fingers in front of Andrew’s face drawing his attention from the marble patterns and his little character.
“No she won’t,” said Marcus dropping his tone.
Tina, everyone knew, wasn’t like all the other girls on campus. Sure she was petite and cute and had all the right curves in all the right places, but she was in a league of her own. While the other girls went to sorority parties and opened their legs for frat boys, Tina stayed off campus and opened her books. While girls were down on their knees for their boyfriends, the only time Tina got down on her knees was on Sunday mornings during mass. Tina was untouchable and unapproachable by all the generic frat boys with the New Era caps and popped collar polos. She’d have none of that.
You would occasionally see her at the Kappa Delta Pi annual toga party or the bi-monthly Beta Chi bender, but that was it. Tina was a walking vault, baby, locked down. And everyone wanted her.
“Ya gotta step it up man. She’d go for guys like you,” Marcus said with confidence.
“What do you mean?” Andrew asked. He didn’t think he was stereotypical of anything. Geeks were scrawny and wore glasses. Andrew looked like he could arm wrestle a bear.
“Never mind that,” Marcus didn’t know either. “What we need to do right now is get you a new image. Get you pimped out for all the young honeys.”
Both Andrew and Marcus knew they were stepping into dangerous territory. For Andrew, it was feeding Marcus’ narcissistic need to justify his expertise with what he called the “Marc of excellence” a wardrobe makeover and quick tutorial on how to talk to women. Make no mistake, Marcus is adept enough at it, but he does tend to go a little overboard.
For Marcus, it would be dangerous in the sense that, “Boy, after I’m done, you might pick up so many honeys the rest of us might starve to death.” Marcus had this tendency of sounding black whenever he did this.
“But first off, we need to build your confidence,” Marcus tells Andrew. “Now repeat after me.”
He clears his throat. “I ain’t nobody’s bitch.”
Andrew looks skeptically at his friend.
“Say it!” Marcus forces Andrew who then let out a long sigh.
For the entirety of the night, Marcus and Andrew went through the works. From sentences like, “Tito, gon’ take care o’ you, ‘cuz Tito your Nigga, uhuh,” to “Smack my bitch up,” which Andrew could only assume was at one point a song by the band Prodigy.
Andrew followed Marcus’ instructions as best he could. It was hard being a suburban white kid brought up predominantly by supremacist white parents and having to say things like, “Ayo, Andre has him a tootsie pop, guess how many licks it takes you bitches to get ta’ his gooey centre, ya’ dig?” Yet, Andrew prevailed. By the end of it, and after Marcus had gotten his fill of being ‘ghetto’, Andrew came to the realization that like it or not, he had to talk to Tina.
He was going to go to class on Monday, sit down beside her and by hook or by crook, start out with a simple ‘hi, my name’s Andrew, what’s yours?’ introduction.
Marcus felt he had achieved significant progress with his roommate tonight. He then realized the gun he had slid to the edge of the table was in his hand. ‘Probably to add more realism during the pep talk,’ he thought.
He swung the gun non-chalantly around after having been told it wasn’t loaded.
“So what are you gonna do on Monday?” Marcus asked sincerely, curious of his roommate’s choice of action after going through some serious confidence boosting a moment back.
“Walk up to her and ‘pop a cap in her ass’?” replied Andrew slyly.
“No, I’m serious man,” Marcus said. “All that just now was just to make you laugh. You’re a nice guy, dude. She digs that.”
“I guess I’m just going to have to talk to her,” Andrew said with a smile. “Start by asking her name and see where it goes from there.”
Marcus looks down the barrel of the Glock curiously.
“Think I could borr..” The sound of a gun shot reverberated throughout the dorm. Shouts could be heard coming from the other rooms but all Andrew could hear was a loud ringing in his ears.
Marcus had applied too much pressure on the trigger and the gun went off. The clip was empty but the chamber wasn’t.
Andrew blinked rapidly a few times as he stared at Marcus’ head lolling against his chest. The ringing in his ears slowly subsided.
He could taste the copper, iron taste of blood on his tongue. He looked at his face in the mirror hanging on the wall opposite him. He was covered in Marcus’ blood.
Andrew looked at Marcus, then to the wall behind them, now a tapestry of red, then back to Marcus. He opened his mouth to speak.