A Conversation about a Hostage Situation


Ashton Bruce

“I grin at him and toss the magazine onto his face. The cover has a picture of Angelina Jolie, and before I can read the gossip that has about a half-chance of being true, he groans and tosses it onto the floor. He crawls onto the couch, his left arm stretched across the back of it, and he smiles a Cheshire-cat grin at me.”

Ashton Bruce, Staff Writer

“I had a dream about you last night.”

“What about?” It’s a question, but the way he says it makes it sound more like a statement. His voice is garbled, due to the way he uses his mouth like a garbage disposal, shoveling handfuls of chips into his face and chewing them without ever really closing his mouth.

I roll my eyes, feeling less inclined to tell him as I flip through the pages of a magazine I haven’t ever really tried reading before but has been in my living room for about six months. “It was weird.”

He’s sprawled out against the beanbag chair about two feet away from the television because his eyes are bad at being eyes and he can’t ever read the tiny words when he plays video games. Somehow, he looks like he has six limbs rather than three, his body slung about the furniture like an octopus. He has two legs and one arm—I guess I’m his replacement best friend, because the other had to go after he called him ‘Stumpy’. He looks back at me from his spot on the floor, his dark eyebrows raised while his eyes maintained an expression of both curiosity and boredom, as though he already thinks that my dream is going to be a waste of breath. He says anyway, “That doesn’t answer my question.”

I grin at him and toss the magazine onto his face. The cover has a picture of Angelina Jolie, and before I can read the gossip that has about a half-chance of being true, he groans and tosses it onto the floor. He crawls onto the couch, his left arm stretched across the back of it, and he smiles a Cheshire-cat grin at me.

“Please,” he says, though it doesn’t sound as much as a beg as it does a tease.

I roll my eyes again. I feel as though I spend more time rolling my eyes at him than I do talking. “I was scared to go into the grocery store.”

And even though I expect him to laugh, he only stares at me. His eyes are the color of the burn on the carpet in my bedroom from when my sister dropped a lamp on the floor and left it there until the bulb burned a brownish discoloration onto the beige carpet.

“I was scared,” I start, my voice slow and calculated, “because I thought we would be put into a hostage situation, you know, like a shoot-up.”

At that, he laughs. I don’t know why.

“Then what happened?” he asks, once the laughter drained from his voice. The smile remained even so.

“We went in,” I say, shrugging. “You convinced me. We were arguing in the parking lot. Then I guess we went inside. You were playing the drums on melons, and I was drawing a mural with icing. And a guy with a gun came in and said, ‘Nobody move!’”

He smiles wider, quirking up a brow in question as he cocks his head to the side. “What did we do?”

“What do you mean?”

“What do you mean, what do I mean?” he asks incredulously, raising a hand up off the couch and shrugging both of his shoulders. “What did we do?” When I reply with a grin and then a shrug, he sighs in exasperation and sits up. “Come on. A guy walks into the grocery store with a gun. What do we do?” A pause. “What do you do?”

I smile and laugh. “I lean over to you and say, ‘I told you so.’”

At that, his eyes crinkle. He has a bit of a potato chip in his teeth, but I don’t bother telling him. He laughs. “That’s my girl,” he says, and he playfully taps his knuckles to my cheek. “So is that how it ends? What happens to the robber?”

“I don’t know,” I reply, picking up his wallet and rummaging through it for the sake of something to do. He doesn’t have any money, but he has a member’s pass for Chuck E. Cheese’s from when he was eight. “I guess we just die.”

He snorts, amused. “What, we have heart attacks and die? We get shot in the head, in the heart? A meteorite strikes right in the damned produce aisle? Details.”

I laugh, and I shrug. “I guess he just shoots us.”

He rolls his eyes and swears under his breath, looking towards the cobwebs that formed in the corner, a home for spiders and dust. He hesitates for a while with nothing to say, but as soon as he finds a thought he feels needs to be vocalized, he turns again towards me, his temple resting in the heel of his hand. “What are my last words?” he asks thoughtfully.
I’m solemn. For a moment, I ponder back to the dream that was vivid in a snapshot sort of way: the pieces I remember are crystal clear, and then there are passages where I miss what happens completely. Most of what I remember is assumed, not seen, and I suppose it works just as well that way. I shift in my spot, my elbow leaning into the cushion of the couch with my head in my hand, my fingers drumming against my hairline. I pucker my lips in thought and then I sigh wistfully. I purse my lips. I look sad. “You were shot. In the chest—I think you made some rude comment to the guy with the gun, and he didn’t think it was that funny. I thought it was, because I fell over laughing and he shot me in the arm. You were pushing your hand to your chest to keep the blood from gushing out, ‘cause I think you saw that in a movie once. You would’ve put pressure against my arm, too, and I could tell you were thinking about doing it but you were also thinking, ‘Damn, this hurts like hell.’ And you were smiling at me.” I pause to laugh. “And you said, ‘Charlotte. If this is my one last chance to tell you, I might as well tell you now.’”

His eyes are brimmed with interest, his lips occasionally twitching upwards in a smile and denting his cheek with a dimple. He scoots closer to me again. I can feel his breath, warm and balmy, brushing against my lips. I never thought I could’ve liked the release of carbon dioxide from someone’s lips as much as I like his. He cock his head to the side more, his hand dropping. His finger grazes against the fabric covering my knee. “What did I say?” he whispers.
I smile, pursing my lips, and then I lean forward. When I speak, my lips graze his softly, subtly. My eyes are half-lidded, watching his fall with the calm sweetness of my voice.  “You look me in the eyes. You touch my chin, and you whisper to me, and you say…” I pause, my voice lowering to an alluring whisper. “‘I’m gay’.”

Immediately, he lurches away from me, erupting into laughter, and I laugh just the same, covering my face as my cheeks burned, lit aflame by partial embarrassment and then something else I couldn’t quite recognize. He swears at me again and stands, sipping at his soda as I stretch, taking up the entirety of the couch. He kicks his foot up and calls me something vulgar before asking me if I wanted to play video games.
“Why? I always beat you anyway,” I reply, and he chuckles, tossing his bottle into the trash bin.

“I live in hope of the day where I demolish you,” he answers, flopping down into the bean bag that wheezed. The game console hummed, and then he added, “You know, I feel like you have an inherent advantage at these things since you have two arms.”

I roll my eyes, once again, and I laugh. Sometimes I feel as though I’ll spend the rest of my life rolling my eyes at him.