Your life really comes into perspective when there's a gun pressed against your chin. Fleeting memories rush past your eyelids; the things you did, wish you did, and regret doing. Your heart races in your chest, attempting to get in a few more beats before the end.
I only know this because the one holding the gun was me.
How did I get there? It was simple. My roommate, a total NRA fanatic, happened to keep a .22 magnum revolver in a box under his bed. He claimed it was for those weekends out in the country, when he got bored and wanted to shoot rabbits. I think he kept it for self-defense, but refused to admit it.
He went away for the weekend, but forgot to take the gun, which he lovingly called "Pete." Now Pete was going to be my company, my friend, my ticket out of this hellhole.
I drew the shades, turned on some Bob Marley (I don't know why, but I wanted "Don't Worry Be Happy" to be the last thing I heard), and prepared to soar into oblivion.
The barrel was loaded, the gun was cocked, and my finger quivered on the trigger. This was it.
Then, if you can believe it, I was stopped by my damned cat. He came prowling into my room like he owned the place, jumped into my lap, and belligerently stared me down.
Oh, shit. I had forgotten to feed him. I'd heard somewhere that when a cat's owner died, they would eat them. Just march right up to their beloved master and chomp away. I couldn't bear the thought of that, so I put Pete down to feed the stupid animal before carrying on.
"Come on then, you little creep," I griped at him. I swear he grinned as he followed me down the hall to the kitchen.
As I went about feeding the stupid cat, more memories came to mind; these were not inspired by the cold metal of the gun. Actually, I was recalling exactly how the cat came to be in my possession.
I was twelve years old, and in my prime. I was the friggin' basketball CHAMPION of my seventh grade gym class. Girls swooned for me, and guys wanted to be me. Okay, maybe I'm embellishing my story a bit, but you get the idea. Life was good. I had no worries.
Then the fights started in my house.
It was quiet, to start. My folks would have these kind of smoldering, belittling kind of arguments that would escalate into full-blown screaming matches. My mom really knew how to push my dad's buttons.
One day, my dad finally pushed her back.
In the flashing red and blue light on our front lawn, my mom explained to me that it was time to go. She still had a black eye from some fight previous, and now she was limping from her flight down the stairs. She was lucky that's all it was. My dad's rage was a sight to see when it boiled hottest.
Anyway, within days we were packed and off to our new life in my mom's hometown. After my dad was sentenced and things had settled a bit, my mom remembered that it was Christmastime.
Lo and behold, she came home with that cat on Christmas Eve. He was small, helpless, and (I grudgingly admitted) pretty cute. I named him "Shaq" after my hero of the time, and we were inseperable.
Never in my young mind did I consider the fact that I had lost a dad and gained a cat. To me, it seemed like a pretty fair trade.
Shaq followed me everywhere, and I never heard from my dad again. My mom moved on; there were other boyfriends, and even a potential stepdad, but it never went anywhere. I finally grew up, packed it all, and moved to the city for Uni. Shaq came too; I wouldn't have it any other way.
That stupid damned cat represented all I had lost, and found again. When the kids bullied me for having a dad in jail, I would go home and share my sorrows with my buddy. Shaq never judged me, and had nothing but love (and some attitude) to give.
Seeing him moments before I did the unthinkable served to remind me that it wasn't over yet. I may have lost a chunk of my life, but I still had so much to gain. Shaq wouldn't be there forever, but hope would.
I went back to my room, grabbed the gun, and jammed it back in the box. Then I poured gasoline on every shattered memory and lit it up.
All thanks to the timing of one damned, beloved cat.