Cooper sat on the tan leather couch of his San Jose apartment idly scrolling through the Facebook app on his phone. His eyes glazed over, barely registering the news feed announcing the happenings in his friends lives which varied in intensity from what they ate for lunch to elated cutesy birth announcements. He paused at the smiling picture of Valerie Donald. It had been years since he had seen her. It was a picture of her with her two daughters. He couldn't even imagine what she was feeling at this moment. As for his own feelings, he felt a weariness that dug through his skin to settle permanently in his bones. While lost in his reflections, he jumped out of his seat when a knock came on the door. His heart was pounding in his chest threatening to make an escape. He wondered who could possibly have come to visit without letting him know first.
As Cooper opened the door, his eyes met the familiar deep brown eyes that upon examination of his feelings he was not all together surprised to see, but which he was dreading just the same.
"I guess we had to face this eventually, but what brings you here today?" Cooper asked noting the raw anger in the eyes of a man he had known for most of his life.
"I think you know," his visitor said ominously.
Without warning or hesitation a meaty fist slammed into his eye, taking him completely by surprise. A flash of white was followed by an explosion of pain that spread like wild fire through the rest of his head. In all of his 28 years, Cooper had never gotten into a genuine fist fight. He was shocked by the intensity of the pain. He bent over and grabbed his head with his hands as he tried to back out of reach of his attacker.
“You took it all!” the attacker said with such intensity that Cooper realized he couldn’t possibly be in his right mind. Copper looked up despite the pain in his head and found himself staring down the barrel of a barrette 9mm hand gun. Cooper was not intimately familiar with guns. He had never fired one nor come face to face with one, but he knew these moments could be his last. The gun was sleek black, and he wondered for one absurd moment where his attacker had acquired it. Cooper had known him for years as a carefree happy guy, the gun and the accompanying anger seemed so out of character.
“Now wait, lets talk about this, I am just as upset as you. I lost everything too,” Cooper pleaded with his hands out stretched as if his flesh and blood hands could somehow stop the force of a bullet. He hoped that he could somehow reach the sane and rational part of this man’s mind. Cooper was rewarded with the butt end of the gun across his face with a force Cooper didn’t think his friend capable of. As the gun reached its target, Cooper stumbled against the entry hall barely managing to remain standing. It was clear that fighting in real life was not like the movies in which the main character could get pummeled but still manage to make a miraculous last stand to defeat the bad guy against all odds. If Cooper took one more blow to the head he would surely be out for the count. He had no faith that his assailant would take pity on him once that happened, so he had to somehow stay conscious.
His attacker, while filled with rage, seemed to be hesitating in his ultimate goal of pulling the trigger. Either that or he was exhausting his abundance of anger through more visceral assaults.
This hesitation, regardless of the reason, was Cooper’s only opportunity to gain the upper hand. Without thinking it through, for fear he would loose his nerve or discover it was a decidedly dangerous chance, Cooper charged his attacker shoving his shoulder into his opponents stomach while grabbing the hand holding the gun and slamming it into the credenza that lined the entry way.
His opponent grunted with the force, and the gun fell from his hand through the open door way beside them, landing with a thud on the carpeted floor of the living room. Cooper briefly wondered how much noise the pair had made up to this point and if any of he neighbors would be concerned enough to call the police. Unfortunately Cooper's hasty attack did not send his attacker to the floor, so both men scrambled through their personal pain towards the gun.
In their haste, they both fell on the ground in a heap of punching and kicking arms and legs. Cooper felt the cool metal of the gun as he closed his fingers around the handle. At the same time his assailant found the gun with his out stretched arm as well. It was dangerous business struggling so carelessly with a loaded weapon. Both men struggled on the ground trying to pull the gun from the other’s grasp. Cooper tried to keep the barrel pointing away from him.
"Cooper you fucking scum bag! If you had any sense you would be thanking me for putting you out of your fucking misery. You are a waste of a goddamn life!" His one time friend said through clenched teeth as he changed his tactic by pushing the gun towards Cooper rather then trying to pull it away. Cooper realize what he was trying to do and wrapped his other arm around his friends elbow restricting his ability to bend it further. Cooper put his finger on the trigger over the other finger already there in an effort to control the situation.
"Don't do this man! You are out of your mind!" Cooper tilted the gun to close the final gap towards his friend, so that it was pointing in his general direction, he felt his opponent squeeze the trigger. He heard a deafening bang fill the apartment, his ears rang with the sudden cacophony of sound. He immediately dropped the weapon that he was left holding alone as his companions hand slid away clearly lifeless. Cooper bent over him in a panic. He would never know if his assailant had thought the gun was pointing at Cooper, or if he had known the gun was pointing at himself. His final words would always stay with him.
Cooper held the cigarette loosely in his shaking hand as it burned undisturbed with ash growing and falling to his feet to land on what was once a pricey cream colored carpet. He hadn’t smoked a cigarette in more years then he could count. Living on the sunny California coast, smoking had become a faux pas. Yet he couldn’t think of anything else to do in this moment, so he had taken a cigarette from his silent companion’s pocket knowing he wouldn’t need them anymore. As the smoke aimlessly trailed through the room, he realized he had lost his taste for them. His other hand raked through his disheveled brown hair. He sat against the wall, elbows on his knees as he stared absently at the pool of blood slowly tracking its way on the floor towards his dejected post.
As he surveyed the room his eyes fell on the photographs that had been carefully and lovingly placed to reflect a life well lived. His own eyes stared back at his with a happiness he didn't think he would ever feel again. Behind even those smiling eyes lay a tension that had never released him. The fleeting happiness had been bookended by trauma lightly veiled as pleasure.
The rest of the room was a study in contradiction. The well furnished and decorated apartment was splattered with gore.
He fought complacency as a rock being beaten endlessly by the tumultuous river. Darkness threatened the edge of his vision waiting patiently to overwhelm him. He contemplated how he should proceed knowing he had to call the police, but sick with the prospect of doing so. His best bet was self defense. Which despite his guilty conscious was the most accurate description of the events that led him to this moment.
He stubbed the cigarette on the already ruined carpet, it had done nothing to calm his nerves. He struggled to his feet with the room shifting queasily as the floor tried to pull him back down to meet it. He put a hand on the wall for balance looking for his cell phone he stepped over the lifeless body of a man he had known so well. It seemed strange that he found it where he had left it on the couch before the chaos. He dialed 911.
"911 what is your emergency,” came the emotionless voice of the operator.
"I..." Cooper began, but trailed off without any idea of how to form a cohesive description of his emergency.
"Hello this is 911 do you have an emergency?" The voice was quick to become annoyed. Surely she sat behind a desk all day answering one phone call after the next, watching the clock for quitting time.
"Uh yes...I...well there was a break in to my house. He tried to hurt me. I had to fight him. I had no choice," Coopers voice quivered in the re-telling as he was flooded by his own emotions.
"I am sending someone out. Is anyone hurt?"
"Yes. Yes someone is hurt,” After telling the operator a few more details and relaying his address, he sat heavily on the couch. He leaned back against the soft leather; closing his eyes, he sighed deeply; “at least now I can piss blood in peace.”
Rachel walked in the door to the California apartment. Sunlight flooded in through the high windows. She smiled broadly and slipped of her shoes stepping gingerly onto the carpet. She wiggled her toes to get the full effect of the soft carpet. Behind her Cooper walked in carelessly setting down his laptop and keys on the coffee table.
“You know, I get it that Bigwig is trying to branch out into new things, but I worry about their new sound,” Cooper said shuffling absently through the mail. “They should stick with what they know.”
"Isn't it perfect?" Rachel's smile lit up her whole face with excitement.
Cooper looked at her questioningly. She spread her arms out indicating the new carpet that Cooper had failed to even notice with his head still spinning about work. He laughed at her child like enthusiasm for something as mundane as a carpet. “Yes, honey, it is perfect. I am glad it
makes you so happy,” He looked at her lovingly and a genuine smile touched his lips. He gave her a kiss on the top of her golden blond hair. More and more lately Rachel’s usual carefree attitude had become swamped by sadness and worry. Cooper felt she was distracting herself with shopping and decorating. If it made her happy though, he didn’t mind.
The ringing of Rachel’s phone pulled Cooper out of his reverie, and he went to busy himself with scavenging the kitchen for what he could make for dinner.