When she pulls the gun out of her handbag, you can’t help but laugh. It’s so tiny and cute. You’re also surprised guns come in pink.
“I said, shut up and start the car!”
Her high-pitched voice reminds you of Minnie Mouse. You laugh again because you think all this is funny.
“You think all this is funny, asshole?”
She leans across the passenger seat and places the barrel against your cheek.
“Here’s what’s going to happen.” She flips strands of dirty blonde hair behind her shoulder. “First, you are going to shut up. Shut up, shut up, shut up! I’ve listened to you blab incessantly for the past two hours. I’m tired of your talking. I’m tired of your voice. I’m tired of you. And after you shut up, you’re going to put the keys in the ignition and drive this piece-of-shit car to the nearest ATM, and you’re going to get me some money. And then we’re going to keep doing that until I say you can stop. And if you don’t shut up or start the car or give me my money, I’m going to be tired of your breathing.” She pauses then shrieks, “Do you understand?”
With the gun digging deeper, you peer into her eyes. Those deep, blue eyes had been the first thing you’d noticed when Jasmine Stone’s profile popped up on your phone’s dating app. They’d reminded you of your ex-wife’s eyes, and that had excited you.
She moves the barrel to your temple. “Asshole, do you understand me?”
You politely remind her that you aren’t supposed to say anything.
A voice inside you whispers, subtly reminding you that you should feel differently than you do. There is no fear or anxiety or any sort of feelings of mortality. Just those blue eyes.
As you nod, the pressure from your temple disappears. “Take a right out of here. Do as I say, and don’t do anything stupid!”
Your key finds the ignition. As it’d been prone to do for the last six months, the crankshaft turns several times before the engine wheezes alive. The car buzzes as the hood contains the loud hiss, but that problem becomes less noticeable as The Very Best Of Daryl Hall & John Oates pours out of the speakers.
Over the TGI Friday’s Endless Appetizers, you’d told Jasmine four times how beautiful she was in real life. Repeating this ensured that she’d heard you and that you were serious. As she sits in your passenger seat with her gun still pointed towards your head, her look of confidence and control make her more than beautiful.
She is sexy.
* * *
With the opening drum beats and bass notes of “Maneater” filling the car, you cross beneath a low-lying bridge. On the other side is a tall, illuminated sign advertising gas prices. The accompanying convenient store appears newly-constructed and non-descript, save for the posters plastered across its glass walls promoting fresh coffee and Coca-Cola.
“Park in that spot.” She is pointing the gun towards the store’s far end.
You do as you’re told. You turn off the car.
“Here’s what’s going to happen…. You’re going to give me your keys and wallet. I’ll get out of the car, and when I open your door, you are going to slowly get out. I’m going to be right behind you, and you are going to feel some pressure on your spine. Make any sudden movements, say anything to anybody, or do anything funny, and you’re done. Got it?”
You’re about to remind her again that you aren’t supposed to say anything. Instead, you nod.
She takes your things with her free hand then backs out the open door, never taking the blue eyes and pink gun off you. She then quickly slams her door and circles to you seemingly just as fast.
“Get out.” With a tone that is matter-of-fact but with a look that suggests empathy, she then quips, “The sooner we do this, the sooner we get out of here.”
You exit the car. The barrel pushes you inside.
The college-aged clerk sits behind the counter, fully devoted to the game on his phone. You pass through rows of candy and snacks until you reach the ATM nestled beside a tower of Bud Light cases.
Jasmine hands you your debit card and whispers, “Get as much as you can.” The pressure against your spine increases sharply.
You enter your pin. When prompted, you tell the machine you want several hundred dollars from checking.
The machine beeps and says that you can’t have several hundred dollars from checking.
“What’s the problem? Are you having a problem?”
You tell her everything’s good and type in a lower amount.
The ATM says everything isn’t good with the lower amount.
“Jesus… Don’t you have overdraft protection or something?”
You want to ask, What’s overdraft protection?
You can’t see your date, but you hear her increasing frustration as you continue to enter withdrawal amounts that produce more errors. Finally, on the fifth try, the ATM spits out some cash.
You pass Jasmine a twenty over your shoulder.
“You’ve got to be kidding me.”
You tell her that’s all you can get.
The clerk doesn’t notice the gun pushing you away from the ATM and back into your car. Jasmine collapses in the passenger seat. Her head rests against the dash, and she just sits there. Minutes seem to pass. She then lets out a small yet aggravated grunt.
The voice inside you whispers. It tells you that the gun is in her left hand, pointing towards the ceiling. It tells you to run. All you have to do is open the door and go. She won’t know what’s happening until it’s too late.
Your hand doesn’t reach towards the door. Instead, your hand finds her shoulder. It gives her a quick rub.
She slaps you away and shoves the barrel in your face. “Don’t touch me!” Her volume is past yelling. “Don’t you dare touch me again!”
Startled, you lift both hands in the air like you’re surrendering. You apologize sincerely. You tell her you’re just concerned. And then, for some reason, you ask if there is anything I can do to help.
She pauses then gives a crooked smile.
“Why don’t we go back to your place?”
* * *
Your car madly weaves through familiar neighborhoods, but the streets feel unusually dark. Houses you know to be full of families appear abandoned. Stores and strip malls that should be open this time of night look shuttered and neglected.
You feel both the pink gun and those blue eyes bearing down on you. They fuel you driving faster. The car rattles louder, almost drowning out Hall & Oates and “Private Eyes.” You only slow down when the approaching light turns yellow. Jasmine yells for you to go. You do as you’re told and drive through the beginnings of the red light.
“All my life, I’ve had to deal with idiots like you,” she says. “Nobody’s ever given me a break.”
She keeps talking, but you’re not paying attention. You’re so excited to show Jasmine your place, you can’t help it.
The rear of your car almost fish-tails as you swerve right into Riverside Apartments. You zip up the hill and come to a sudden stop at the end of the street, right into the space in front of your building.
Jumping out of the car, you tell her to follow you — your place has an excellent view of the river from your porch!
Leaping several steps at a time up the stairs, Jasmine can barely keep up. You reach the top floor and sprint to your door with keys in hand. When she steps out of the stairwell gun-drawn, you’re waving for her to come inside. You tell her you’ll make her a drink.
When she enters, you’re standing in the middle of your living room with arms outstretched, showing your home with pride. Breathing heavily from the climb, she scans the shag carpet that’s the color as her gun and the yellow couch scarred with holes and spills.
“Jesus H. Christ…” Her foot slams the door behind her. “How do you live here?”
You tell her you’ve been here for years. Your ex-wife had found the place.
She motions the gun in a way that instructs you to take a seat. You find a spot on the couch, and she methodically circles the room, studying all your belongings.
“You too poor to have a TV in here?”
You explain to her that ever since you converted the apartment’s second bedroom into your video game room, you’ve kept the television in there.
Her mouth displays annoyance. For some reason you still find this cute.
She approaches the fireplace where she notices a framed picture of you and your ex-wife on its mantle. She picks it up, and her blue eyes shift between the photo and you a few times until it drops carelessly to the carpet.
“Tell me what valuables you have here.”
You tell her that you have a lot of valuable things. You keep them all in the nightstand.
She motions you to your feet, and the barrel marches you towards your bedroom. You turn on overhead lights as you go through the unkempt kitchen and barren hall, and just as you flip on your bedroom switch, the side of the gun smashes the top of your head.
You’re not knocked unconscious, but you’re definitely shaken.
Laying curled up on the carpet, you see Jasmine’s feet quickly run across the carpet, and she frantically removes a case off your pillow. She jumps towards your nightstand and fills her makeshift goodie bag with your valuables. However, as soon as she realizes that she’s loading the case with restaurant menus and coupons printed from the Internet, she furiously spikes it to the ground.
“This shit is worthless!” She’s yelling more obscenities as her kick flips you flat on your back. While straddling your chest, the weight of her entire body drives the tip of the barrel deep between your eyes.
“Where’s your money, asshole?”
The top of your head hurts. The barrel of the gun hurts. But what hurts the most is the sudden realization that, despite everything you’ve put into it, this date may not be going so well.
Tears gather behind your eyes. It’s a sensation you haven’t felt since those many years ago. You swallow. You take a deep breath, and unlike the moment when your ex-wife opened the door with the intention of leaving your life forever, you manage to dislodge the words from your throat.
You say, “Don’t go.”
The look of anger across Jasmine’s face grows confused and complicated. “What did you say?”
“Please….” You beg, “Don’t leave…”
Jasmine looks taken back, but she continues straddling you, now pushing the gun into the bridge of your nose. “What are you saying?”
When the tears roll down your face, she stands up but continues to point the gun directly at you. More abruptly begin to flow. You can’t help alternating between moans and gasps for air. Closing your eyes usually calms you, but this time it lets everything inside you loose.
“Stop it!” Jasmine yells. “I need you to stop it! Stop your emotions now!”
It’s no use. Her directions can’t be followed.
You bring your knees to your chest and grasp yourself into a ball. You roll to your side, and the sobs keep coming.
Jasmine’s feet move out of your field of vision, and you hear her run around your apartment. When she returns, you’re still a mess. You’re about to let out another loud wail when something enters your mouth, muzzling you. You recall the taste of sock from middle school, and a roll of duct tape she must have brought in her handbag clasps it uncomfortably into place.
You flip onto your back. The side of the gun hits you across the forehead. Your head shakes violently, and while stunned, your hands are taped together. When she’s done, they can barely wiggle.
“Now,” she says, “I need you to calm down so we can wrap this up.”
As the pink gun jabs you into the living room, you barely maintain your balance. The knocks to your head grows increasingly painful, but by far the worst pain is from the leftover tear streaks. Cut across your cheeks, they feel like fire.
Jasmine grabs your shoulder and makes you stop in the center of the room. “Kneel,” she commands.
You uneasily lower yourself to the carpet and fall to the side. She doesn’t help as you squirm your way upright.
She slowly makes her way to the couch. Those deep, blue eyes you love so much are framed with a stern look.
“Before I go, we need to talk about a few things… If I had to sum this evening up, I’d say it’s been full of lies.” She grabs her chest dramatically. “I’ll admit, I haven’t been entirely truthful to you. My parents didn’t give me a porn star name, and I wasn’t looking for a relationship with you. For that, I’d apologize, but I’m not going to because you weren’t truthful to me, either. You misled me. I thought you had money. You lied to me. You shouldn’t do that to people. If you were honest and said you were broke and stupid, none of this would have happened.”
Not-Jasmine raises the gun higher with a committed look.
“I read the Bible growing up. There’s a part in there I like a lot. ‘Let us tell our neighbors the truth, for we are all parts of the same body.’ I think both of us should stop lying to each other, so I’m going to tell you a truth — I’m not going to let you live.”
The voice inside you whispers. It tries to convince you that she’s serious.
This really is the end.
She lifts herself off the couch to circle behind you. You stare at the carpet. Beside you is the mantle’s picture frame that Not-Jasmine dropped. You and your ex-wife are arm-in-arm. You are no doubt smiling, but it’s impossible to be certain. The construction-paper cosplay helmet of Iron Man covers your face.
The tape rips off your mouth, and the gun pinches the back of your neck.
“I’m going to give you one last chance to say something true before you die. If you want to apologize to me, whatever. But it better be the truth.”
Slowly, you spit the sock out of your mouth. It lands next to the frame, and you take the deepest breath you’ve ever taken.
You close your eyes.
You say, “I had a really nice time with you tonight.”
* * *
When you come to, you are flat on your stomach, spread eagle across the pink shag carpet. Your headache is massive. Everything’s blurry.
You struggle out of the tape handcuffs and find a large bump on the back of your head instead of a hole.
The apartment door is swung open. You get to your feet but immediately collapse on the couch. To help with the pain, you know you should get some aspirin, but you honestly don’t know if you have any or where the bottle would be.
As you peer back down towards the carpet, your picture frame has company. It’s easy to miss because the pink gun blends in so well with the shag.
You fall forward to pick it up. It’s still so small and easily dwarfed in your hand. The handle feels solid, but the crude paint peels to the fingernail. It doesn’t take long to uncover “CO2 BB” engraved in the barrel.
The sliding glass door to your porch is sticky but eventually pries open. Below, the river rages. Leaning against the rail, you wind your arm back and hurl the gun towards the rapids. It spins and becomes one with the darkness. And as it disappears, you can’t help feel this had been your best date in a long time.