The gun was pointed between his eyes; he could look right up the barrel into the darkness that could end his life. He began to sweat as he faced the moment of truth. Two others had stared down the barrel and let Ralph pull the trigger. One bullet, six guys with nothing to lose. Or did they? Did he? He thought back on the last three months of his life, all that had happened since Sara had left him. They had been so happy together, they spent all the weekends together and days they didn’t have sports games. It had been awesome, like they had known each other forever. One day after her volleyball game she had said that she needed space, that he was crowding her, and walked away. He’d often see her in the halls, sometimes watching him, sometimes with friends. He knew she wasn’t dating anyone, even though it had been nearly three months since they split. He had started skipping classes, things like history or math that they shared, and hung out in the guys’ locker rooms or bathrooms during those classes. It hadn’t been long before he started to talk to the other guys in there, the ones who smoked all kinds of things in the bathrooms. Soon he had been skipping most of his classes and smoking cigs. He finished his homework after a night bumming around town so his mom wouldn’t wonder and miraculously his grades hadn’t slipped below a B. His mom…How would his mom and brother feel if there was a bullet in that gun? He could feel sweat run down the back of his neck to be soaked up by the collar of his t-shirt as he saw an image of his mom and younger brother at the hospital last year when he’d been in the car crash. He had survived more scratched than injured but his friend who had been driving had nearly died. He remembered the pain and fear on his family’s faces as well as the fear of loss that his friend’s family had shown. He couldn’t stand to give his family that much pain, the thought of them at his funeral was nearly unbearable.
But his friends had done it. Two friends had looked up the barrel and faced their possible death. They would think he was a coward, that he would wuss out when they had managed it. They would never let him forget it. He gazed beyond the barrel, up the arm of the only one of the group who ever seemed to have ideas of things to do and beyond his leering face to the ceiling high above him. They were in a warehouse on the outskirts of town and a thought occurred to him. If he died, would his family be able to know? Would anyone find his body before it could decay beyond recognition? His family would think he had run off, they’d always worry and maybe blame themselves. He heard the click of the cocking mechanism and saw the finger tightening on the trigger. It was time for new friends, he thought as he spun off the chair to the floor as the bullet ratcheted off the pavement behind him. It was time to wake up and get back to his life. That thought in mind, he stood up and walked out of the warehouse, all the way back to his house and those he knew would always love him.