Someone is at the door and asking for help. This is like when I walk down the street and see a sign in a store window that says, Help Wanted. I always want to go into the store and ask what kind of help they need, if it is urgent, if someone needs medical attention. I always assume someone has collapsed and is dying on the floor, someone that can’t breathe and is in cardiac arrest, convulsing.
This happens to me sometimes. My chest hurts and my vision blurs and my mouth goes dry and then I’m down. Only sometimes do I get the shakes. People are sometimes careful to step around me when I get the shakes. Sometimes people are good this way.
I feel a kinship with people when they step around me. I never look them in the eye because I am usually convulsing and I can’t keep my eyes open. If I could I would thank them.
Other times they kick me repeatedly and rifle through my pockets.
This is why I never go into stores that have a Help Wanted sign up in the window because I don’t want to see something like this. Maybe certain people want to see something like this but they are one of two things and I’m neither. If people know anything about me this is what they know.
I have been locked in my room for however many days now. I’d been planning on this for months so I started hoarding food and water and other supplies weeks ago.
I decided I needed some time to think things through and figure out where my life is headed.
I haven’t been to the noontime meeting and shared with the group and I haven’t been out on furlough, either.
How I pass the time is I read my books or I draw stick figures on the walls and floors.
I draw stick figures in relation to other stick figures. Some stick figures are standing in traffic while others rush over to beat them senseless or usher them to safety. Some are sexually harassing an attractive hostess in the back of a restaurant, while others are against the wall and frisked by police officers.
In one drawing there is one stick figure driving a car and another in the passenger seat. In the next drawing the one in the passenger seat goes through the windshield and lands in a bloody heap some twenty feet away. Right next to that picture is a mother stick figure putting makeup on a child stick figure and then taking his photograph. This stick figure is looking up at his stick mother with an expression that is inscrutable.
I haven’t seen Watermelon Man in a long time, not at the noontime meetings nor in the yard or recreation center but I’m certain he is still inside as he’s never allowed out on furlough.
I do not think that is him at the door asking for help because I would recognize his voice.
It’s possible that whoever is at the door and asking for help wants to come in because there is an active shooter in the building.
This would explain all the gunfire and screaming.
Hearing gunfire isn’t unusual, but this amount of gunfire isn’t something we hear every day.
There is a sign on my side of the door instructing us what to do in the event of fire, medical emergency, active shooter, earthquake, tornado, ice age, tsunami, etc.
It’s only during the active shooter scenario that you are supposed to locate and load all your guns and then hide under a bed or behind a chair with your favorite trained at the door.
Opening the door to someone asking for help is not on the list.
This is why I think this building used to be a high school because this sign couldn’t pertain to us anymore. They confiscated all of our guns when they admitted us as guests that first day.
We haven’t had an active shooter since I can’t remember when, but that could be on account of my failing memory.
I also don’t want to see if this isn’t the case, if no one is on the floor and can’t breathe because then I’ll want to know what all the fuss is about. I’m not saying I want to see the Senator on the ground like this, for instance, or the janitor who said what the fuck is a furlough or Betty or Gus or even Trina or any of the other guests, but I don’t think it would bother me, either, and at least then someone would actually need help.
This is what we are supposed to call each other, guests. Not prisoners or detainees or hostages or captives. We are called guests because the state is housing us here and we are trying to get better, all of us.
In the corner there is a stick mother giving birth to a stick baby and then a stick police officer comes over and shoots the stick baby in the face.
Sometimes they march us into a room and have us perform tasks. This was before I locked myself in my room, of course. I assume they still do this but I have no real way of knowing.
They have other groups in other rooms that perform similar tasks and they compare the results. Then they shame one or both groups for their lackluster performance.
Today I remember my brother because he’s probably dead and doesn’t need help anymore.
The last time I saw my brother he needed all kinds of help, as machines were hooked into him for breathing and eating and using the restroom.
I tried depicting this in a drawing but I couldn’t make the stick respirator look real. I also had trouble drawing a stick dialysis machine and stick catheter.
I keep a running tab of people who are probably dead by now and my brother and father, who is confirmed as a KIA, are both on the list.
My father threw himself off the roof of a hotel one day after we had lunch some years ago. He’d left a note and said he’d gone beautiful, which was true. The note was in his very own language, which was likewise beautiful, like a cross between Arabic and Mayan hieroglyphs.
This I refuse to draw on the walls, though I’m sure it would be breathtaking. I can just imagine how I’d trace the stick figure plummeting through the air, graceful like a ballerina, and then crashing onto the pavement dead.
In my head he looks like the falling man from that famous photograph of the poor bastard who had to jump out of the towers as they burned.
But actually drawing this seems disrespectful.
I could never replicate the written language, either.
Tanya and My Sofia are probably both dead, too, along with the other brothers I sometimes lived with and couldn’t stand the sight of.
I don’t know how any of them died.
The gunfire is sporadic but steady. It sounds like a semi-automatic and like the shooter is going from room to room. This one sounds methodical; like he has an entire performance planned to the last detail. My guess is the shooter has with him several weapons, but I haven’t heard anything like an explosion, so he probably doesn’t have any grenades or IEDs.
I hear people running and screaming, though whenever there is a report of gunfire the screaming is drowned out.
I assume the shooter is a man because most shooters are men and it seems that’s all we have here are men.
It could be one of the guests but I’m guessing it’s a staff member, either a supervisor or doctor or janitor.
I never need help when I’m out on furlough, but still people try to help me. They think I’m confused or trying to kill myself because I go stand in traffic. They say that suicide runs in families but in this case I don’t think it’s true. Sometimes people usher me to the side of the road and beat me senseless. They tell me they do this for my own good. They tell me I shouldn’t stand in traffic and ask me questions to find out if I’m South American or European.
It could be they only want help in the kitchen, though, doing the dishes, and that will be a disappointment. I don’t like doing dishes and I don’t think anyone can blame me. There is something wrong with my hands, I lose feeling. What happens is I start working with my hands and before long I feel the pins and needles and soon they go numb and I have to stop whatever it is I’m doing and shake them out.
I never pass out when my hands go numb.
This is one reason I don’t like doing dishes, but there are others, too.
I remember in the restaurant I worked at with Esperanza there was a Mexican fellow named Roy-Boy who did the dishes and anything else I asked of him. He was a good one because he didn’t harass Esperanza like his brother Jorge and the rest of the pendejos in the back did.
No one knows whatever became of Roy-Boy but it’s probably true that the police got him and you know what that means. If they found out he liked men during the interrogation then they probably beat him to death right then and there.
It is possible that the person at the door doesn’t need help after all and the gunfire is the sound of the television in the rec room. It could be that it’s a ruse because they think I have someone in here with me. We’re not allowed to have overnight guests, especially if you have a history of chaining people to the radiator or haven’t left your room for days on end.
There is a pause in the gunfire, but not the screaming.
It could be the shooter needs a break or has to reload or perhaps he is on the phone with a negotiator of some sort. Perhaps they are trying to strike a deal so they can come in to treat the wounded and save everyone else.
I know I am safe inside my room and that it’s probably not the shooter at the door asking for help.
If I still had a gun I would have it out and trained at the door.
Instead I am drawing a stick figure lying on the ground with kindred stick figures stepping around him as he convulses and writhes.
Notice how no one is kicking this stick figure or rifling through his pockets.
When people hear about this on the news I wonder if they will think I’m the shooter.
I think it’s possible for some of them to think this, like maybe Django and Roy-Boy, but not Gus or Esperanza.
Not the people who know anything about me is what I’m saying.
Not the people who remember what I was like years ago, when I had a job and would commute to work each day like everyone else.
I won’t say more than this because who cares.
It’s like when I was a kid and I would ask my mother for help with my homework. I can’t remember what she would say, but I’m sure it proves my point.