Ready to Read: Last Caress

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Chapter One

“My Love,

You might think me dead, in fact, I’m pretty sure that’s the party line. It was the safest and most humane way to deal with my disappearance. In truth, I left because I had to go kill a man. I know this wasn’t fair to you, to me, to us, or to the man I killed, but the choice was made clear to me the morning of the day I left 20 years ago. It was you or him. That doesn’t excuse me of any wrong doing with respect to our relationship, nor does it excuse me of any of the other sins I have committed since – yes, more killings followed, but it should at least give you the weak reason for why I did what I did.

I’m not writing you for forgiveness. I’m writing so you know more about me. At one point, I thought we might tackle the world together, and, well, I left so, that clearly didn’t happen. I guess this is more so that you have an understanding of my life in the past two decades and why it’s better that you tackled those years with the people you did and not the person you (and I) might have believed you were meant to.

That morning we were supposed to meet and have our first breakfast together. We had spent many nights together over those few weeks but none of it was planned and none of it lasted past sunrise. Before I had a chance to really meet you, the knock on my door, the gun in my face, and the promise of your demise sealed our fate.

Terrence is a brilliant but treacherous asshole. I didn’t know him and he didn’t know me. He sees random people living their lives and has them followed. He tailed me throughout those wet weeks and tailed you as well. When he found his leverage, he used it.

Andrew was his name. He had three kids and a second wife. He drove a minivan, but always wanted to buy a Porsche. At least he liked to stop at the Porsche dealership and test drive the cars. If he was pressed for time he might just get out of the van and stare at the lot, dreaming of the day his alimony payments would disappear, or maybe wishing he had stuck it out with his ex, so he could have found his true freedom on the road with a four wheeled love. This could be true. For every person I was forced to kill, I made up his or her story. I never actually knew anything about them, only what I could glean from their funerals.

This is the very least I can do for you. Explaining everything. I picture you reading this wondering where it is going. Is this for real? Did Travis really write this? This has to be a joke. Unfortunately, this is not a joke. This is my honest gift to you. My last 20 years, so you know you didn’t miss out on anything. You’ll excuse me if I’m reaching there, putting emotions into your head and chest. You might already be over it and that is completely fair. I just wanted to cover all bases because today it ends. My “contract” is up. For better or worse, today is my last day and you deserve to know everything, or at least someone does.

Chapter Two

How did I go from being a run-of-the-mill 30 year-old asshole to a contract killer?

After that first morning, I was moved to a non-descript apartment and every day for two months driven blind-folded to my “training” wherein I was taught how to use the variety of instruments I was told I would need. The first few days were shocking as I still had no idea what was actually happening. By the end of “training” I had resigned myself to the fact that this was now my life and for you to keep having one I must obey my captors, however, that word, captors, is true in a hollow sense.

Terrance set up a meticulous system for every job. After “training” I was left alone and my only correspondence was through mail. I would receive a package containing a burner phone and phone number, a time, two addresses, a kill by date, a picture and an envelope of cash. The first address belonged to my future victim, the second came with a key and it was my new apartment. After every job I would be forced to relocate under threat of exposure and I would send a blank text to the number provided and dispose of the phone and my clothes. I would return the weaponry provided to where I retrieved it and be left with only the key and the address to my new home, where a new phone and all of the bare essentials would be waiting, and where I would wait for my next package. I would never see anyone responsible, nor did I have any desire to discover them. I was told my unsigned “contract” consisted of 50 jobs, with no timeline. The majority of my time would be spent waiting.

Waiting, not hoping or dreaming, but waiting and anticipating I found is not a way to live. I’m sure this is also a truth for those who have ultimate freedom with respect to how they spend their life. I was allowed to leave my various “homes” but felt contact and relationships were not in the best interest of anyone involved, especially those I would be in contact with. I feared it would create even more leverage for Terrance. I would frequent some of the same cafes, restaurants and bars in whatever area I was located, but never return once a job was done. Even when I wished to expand or continue the small connections I had made with a barista or bartender at certain places, I would force myself to shift focus to the anticipation of the next job and the reality of my life to quash any possibility of drawing anyone closer to me than need be.

John Donne wrote, “No (hu)man is an island, entire of itself,” and the gist of his poem, at least my take away, is that ultimately we are all connected. We all should be connected. Before this fiasco, when I had opportunities to connect with others, I feel I took advantage to the best of my ability. I have few regrets when it comes to this. I have had a lot of time to think and had I known that my life would take the turn it did, I don’t feel I would have made some grand gesture with respect to human connection. That’s easy to say, of course, because the past is not a piece of art I can amend or edit, but I do feel I did the best I could. My thoughts are drawn to people that have no external limitations yet place themselves into situations where they fashion themselves a shipwrecked lone survivor. There is definitely something to be said about being content and happy with your own company as you are the person that you ultimately spend the most time with, however, eschewing deep human contact and interaction due to fear, will, in the end, have harmful consequences for you and the world. Again, this comes from me, someone forced to stay just outside the perimeter of the world.

I’m sure you see where this is leading: my hopes for you, of course. And one of those is that you have immersed yourself in the world, in every experience that could have been had, and in everyone who wanted to invest their time in you, with no negative intention. I hope you chose to accept that investment and make one of your own.

Death is the ultimate truth. It is the one experience we will all share, but never be able to share our own direct experience with it. All that we have before death is time and I hope you have spent yours exploring and experiencing and looking back only to learn what you need to move forward and into your life. I’m sure someone said it at some time with more eloquence, but with life, death is the inevitability and time is the enemy. Instead of anticipating the former, I hope you have and continue to embrace and use the latter to live.

Chapter Three

Today is my 50th birthday. I don’t feel “50” per se, mentally at least. Physically there are some complaints. Minor aches last longer than they used to and recovery from everything is a process as opposed to the simple get-up-and-go it used to be. I’ve been forced to stay in somewhat good shape because of my “job” but I’m not sure where the benefit gets paid on that.

I realized when I turned 31 – my first birthday after being dragged into this situation – that I never knew yours, so I made one up for you. It was the only day I looked forward to throughout the year because it reminded me why I had to keep doing what I was doing. The first few jobs were hectic to say the least. I was literally acting and felt as though every time that envelope showed up I would go into a state of shock and become this caricature of the person I thought I needed to be to go through with task at hand. It was only after I developed a daily routine that this new life became an accepted reality and with that reality the new or different me was born. Life was no longer something filled with excitement and hope and the future, it was about surviving to the end of the day. The old me began to slowly rot away with the acceptance that I was now this anonymous monster and your well-being was the only part of me that was truly alive. This is why I created your birthday and celebrated it, because on that fictional day I was reminded that I was actually alive.

I do hope you have had some fun on your real day over the years. When I would celebrate I would try and picture what fun and ridiculous things you would be getting yourself into. Growing up, cake was always a staple for me and my family so I would make sure that I had a slice for you. Do you like cheesecake? Asking that here makes no sense because I’ll never find out the answer, but I picture you liking cheesecake and always having some variety of it at every celebration.

One year I was contracted for a job on your day and it was the first time that I considered cashing in and going to the police. I was steps away from walking wrists first into the station and confessing but I stopped because, beyond the obvious, I had no idea the ramifications of that action. Terrance had made it clear that it was them or you, but this was your day, the one day that meant anything and damned if it would be ruined. I knew he had eyes on you. He would sometimes send me pictures of you going about your life, sometimes smiling, sometimes deep in thought. Would the police be able to find you faster than he could have someone finish you? And so I walked away, did the job, and never got close again because I couldn’t take that chance.

I would like to say it broke my heart being akin to a prisoner for all these years, but that heart belonged to the old me and it rotted along with the rest of that person. The particles that are left are helping me write this and I’m surprised there are even enough of them still around to guide me.

Chapter Four

I’m hesitant to write this next part, because while it has been a big part of my life – and I can’t stress enough, begrudgingly so – I do feel I need to explore it so it is not my legacy. I need to own it so it doesn’t own me.

The package would arrive. It was in a large manila envelope and would be accompanied by a blank text message to my phone from a blocked number. If I wasn’t home I would full-stop whatever I was doing and rush back to my current apartment. It was like a jolt to my nervous system. Would I retrieve it on time? What if someone took it from my mailbox? How would I explain its contents?

With each package the same jitters hit. With time they became less pronounced, but even with yesterday’s job, my hands still had a thin sheen of sweat and a minute tremor. I would dump the contents on the bed and immediately go for the picture. “Who?” and “why?” were always the first questions. I would sit and examine the photo and look for anything familiar. Who and Why turned into “how?” and “when?” The latter I knew was the inevitable, but the former was what would always give me the most amount of anxiety. How was I to carry out this latest atrocity? With every job the how was different. I can’t tell you why because I don’t know. The only reason I can think is that the method was tied to the specific way this person wronged Terrance. Some were shock inducing and some were far too close for comfort for my liking. Not that I enjoyed any of them of course, but placing poison or pricking someone with a needle shone a blazing spotlight on just how crude and cruel this way of life could be. Pulling a trigger from a perch hundreds of feet away allowed for a disconnect and focus to be placed on the post-job disposal of the evidence.

The days leading up to the deadline were not the greatest. The time frame was two weeks, with the one exception being the job that was contracted for “your” day. That was a “by midnight” rush job and, as I said, grinded every emotion into a burgeoning nova because I didn’t have time to travel the sinusoidal path of emotion that the normal two week frame allowed. And those two weeks were akin to some mixed and muddled form of Kübler-Ross’ five steps. At first, I would find every excuse not to go through with it. Maybe they won’t notice? Maybe they made a mistake? What if I just went to the fucking cops? Next I would again question, “who” and “why” and worry that one day I would recognize someone from one of those pictures. Then the “how” portion became reality. How would I do it in the method I was instructed? The week leading up to the deadline I would follow my job and try to figure the best way to complete it without harm to others. Just writing and then reading that looks and sounds absolutely ridiculous, but yes, regardless of the method chosen I wanted as few witnesses as possible so as to reduce the ripple effect of horror and post-trauma.

A few times, this process lasted only a few days and not the entire two weeks. The “fuck it” ethos took over and it was simply looking inside myself, shutting down every part of my psyche associated with empathy and remorse and getting the damned job done. Those times had the longest recovery period because shutting things down is not a real thing. Pushing them down is the better description. Pushing leads to eruption and emotional eruption is what would occur. I learned from this and eventually committed to the two week plan.

Deadline day was like Robocop. I was part machine, fixed on the execution of the plan I had laid out and part emotional wreck trying my damnedest to push away any emotion trying to pull me away from the task. Machine would rule until the job was done and the means and clothing disposed of most often by incineration. During the rushed process of changing into my regular attire and heading to my new apartment was when the reality of the task would begin to hit and I was able to stave off a complete meltdown until I reached the innards of my new prison and let everything go.

The jobs, the “contract”, the kills. I did them. I never knew why specifically each person was the target, but in knowing the little I do about Terrance and his business I can only assume, these people owed something. I’m torn about the extent of my knowledge. Like I said, I would attend the funerals as much as I could. I would try to get any tidbit of information. Once, early on, I tried to research a job but found my tail and abandoned the venture for fear that it was against the unwritten (but still very clear) rules. The one thing I did do was take a token from each. Sometimes, if I was in close proximity to the job, it would be a personal item, and sometimes it was just a handful of dirt from where I stood upon completing the task. I did this because, for me, in a really odd and eerie way it humanized them. I know each had a life and that fact almost killed me with guilt early on, and so taking these tokens allowed me to remember each one in a way that I would and could never forget the lives I had taken for the sake of survival. I wish I could explain it better than that. Being forced to kill, or forced into any situation, I think human beings will always try to find an equilibrium, be it physical, moral, or otherwise and my attempt was taking something as a reminder of the horror caused by my hands.

As for legacy, I feel it is already cemented in your eyes in one way or another. “Abandoner”, “kidnap victim”, “selfish absconder”, “loser”, are all ways I have pictured you describing me to family and friends if you have bothered to describe me at all. As stated, I’m writing to set the record as straight as it can be. “Killer”, “murderer”, “hitman” are ways you might relate my life to those same people after this comes to an end and I can’t argue. My legacy, as with everyone’s, lies in the hands, hearts, and minds of those we have impacted in our lives. I trust your judgement of me and though I am in no place to make requests, I do have one. If or when you speak of me, be honest. Honesty and truth, like love, do not necessitate apology in any form.

Chapter Five

There’s something to be said about living in different spaces. What that is I don’t know but each apartment I was sent to had its charms and flaws. Knowing I would not be in each for a long time also had its benefits, especially for the more dank places. Over the years my accommodations ranged from million dollar penthouses with trillion dollar views to moist and moldy basement storage rooms lit only by a single, swinging, bald bulb. I assumed all of the properties were owned by Terrance under various business fronts with various names, but I could be offside on that.

I’m not sure the exact point of moving me so much but I think it was a way to keep me off-base and always on-call, never laying roots and becoming comfortable. It worked, however, as with any routine whether it involves constant motion or rigid stasis one becomes accustomed to it and this provides an altogether different level of comfort. I knew I was moving so I never became attached. I did manage to enjoy each of the spaces to some degree, even the ones on the more decrepit side. With those there was nothing to focus on but the book I was reading and exploring the part of town it was in. Again, there was no need for attachment and those spaces forced that issue kindly enough. The trillion dollar views were hard to give up. Being able to look out and see the entirety of a city provides a whole other perspective. It begged me to examine this city on a grand scale and during the times I would do so I would be continually drawn to the idea that this place is a giant organism and like every living thing it is made up of cells that push and pull and give that organism life. Each person, from the penthouse dweller to the basement book reader, plays his or her role in civic life, some saving it and some killing it.

With that in mind, I would be drawn in thought to my role. Where and how did I fit in? If I stopped this insane series of events would it make the city a better or worse place? On the whole, I can say without doubt, better. On the micro level, with Terrance’s threat to you, I would argue worse.

One time I was surprised to find I was housed with a roommate at one of the more posh apartments. For three days – until she received her next job – we lived in an odd, mostly silent state. We never formally introduced ourselves to protect each other and our innocent, leveraged charges and spent most of those three days in our respective bedrooms until the day her job package came through and she knocked on my door that evening with the offer of sharing some Chinese takeout. Our conversation was one or two sentence questions and answers at the beginning of the meal concerning innocuous topics from our pasts – school, cultural background, where we were raised – until I was compelled to ask her the question I had been grappling with. Are we bringing good or evil into the world? She was silent for a full minute as she focused on eating her noodles and I thought the query ignored. Then, with her eyes still focused on her plate she asked me why it mattered. It really didn’t matter the moral and ethical implications of the work we were doing, because we really had no choice and if it wasn’t her or I that got dragged into this fresh hell it would be two other poor souls and the work would be getting done anyway. And she was right. Somewhat at least. The good or evil of the situation was moot. Even wasting time thinking about it was, well, a waste of time. Completing the job was the only option unless we were willing to make a great sacrifice and the way Terrance set up us, and possibly others, he knew we would continue to do what we had to do to keep our loved ones safe.

After that we ate in silence. She finished before me, cleared her dishes and without acknowledgment, she left. I never saw her again, but as I was finishing my meal a chill ran through my body. I had seen her before, or at least heard her. I recognized her voice from my training. There seemed to be a rotating roster of trainers, and they were always paired, always masked, and always dressed in black. I never saw their faces. But her voice, I definitely heard her voice during training. Was she a forced assassin like me? Was she one of Terrance’s minions placed here as a test for me? Was she Terrance even? The one question that hit me the hardest was, how long would I be tied to this business? After my contract would I be forced to train the next candidate as that woman might have been? How deep does this shit-show go? The remainder of that night I was restless and would have preferred to lie on the cold concrete in the cellar of an industrial complex. At least in those spaces I felt I embodied the role I played in the city. I was the diseased vermin taking down the organism one cell at a time.

Chapter Six

Living a life with no specific aim or end is like living in a constant state of blur. Days blur into nights. Dreams blur and eventually fade altogether. The future is literally the present because the future isn’t something you are moving toward but constantly living in. The concept of tomorrow is no different than today or even yesterday because each day is exactly the same. My life became nothing more than one continuous day. The only time something changed was when a package would arrive, a job would be done and a move made. Even though the monotony of living the same day continuously was a struggle, the days a job would pop up and break that seemingly endless loop weren’t welcome. Besides the obviously with respect to the job itself, I found that I grew accustomed to the routine of the endless and when that was challenged it threw my new equilibrium out of whack. More so, it reminded me why I was living the way I was and, well, for lack of any better explanation, it was total, utter shit.

To fight the anticipation I felt during the jobless days I took up the activity of vicarious living. To me, everyone became an adventurer, or a grizzled detective, or an alien living a secret existence among the humans. Every person has a story, but to me every person was a story. I wish I had taken the time to write some of them down because I felt maybe with the right brain behind it some of them would have made great characters for a movie or something. I did try it once but felt that it took away from the moment of living in that person’s shoes. It derailed the short burst of excitement. Plus, with my reality it was best not to have any physical luggage.

In the warmer weather one of my favourite places to “experience” others was down by the lake. There was always and eclectic mix of people. Joggers, dog walkers, regular walkers and always one or two of the city’s homeless, which I find I relate to more than anyone. While I have a roof above my head and money provided I can’t help but feel rootless and, in effect, homeless myself. It was when I had this realization that I started volunteering at shelters around the city. It was another level of vicarious living because each person had a real story. There was always a level of heartbreak to every one. My shelter days were some of my most cherished memories. Vince (not his real name) was a man who lived near one of my lakeside vantage points and we actually struck up somewhat of a friendship, though I tried to warn him off. He said my business was my business and his business was his business. We talked mostly about sports, weather, and politics and never asked each other questions outside of those realms. The little I gleaned from him was that at one point he was married. I never found out a name or current status but he always referred to his spouse in the past so I assumed that was where the marriage lived as well. After two weeks of meetings with Vince, I got a job and never returned to that part of the lakefront again. Reality, once again, the pin prick in the endless loop of my forced complacency.

Besides my vicarious living experiments I’ve spent a lot of time with books and movies. This was something I did before my life transition and I never really gave it any second thought. The knowledge I gained from anything I consumed was anecdotal, and would be great conversation topics. But what happens to knowledge that has no avenue to be shared? Is knowledge for knowledge sake really a goal unto itself? I have had casual conversations with people, like Vince for example, but nothing that really delved to the root of anything actually enlightening. I think that’s really what I’ve struggled with. Anything I’ve had the pleasure of enjoying has been an experience I have only been able to share with myself. Sometimes this is nice, but knowing that every experience must be solo is violently disheartening. I used to like to go to the AGO by myself and browse and I would also think how I want to bring you the next time I went or some future time. Knowing I can’t? Honestly? Rip my heart out.

Chapter Seven

When I started writing this I never thought about the variety of impacts it would have on you, only that it would hopefully allow you closure if you hadn’t achieved that already. Thinking about it now I can’t help but think you might feel a level of guilt about what I’ve done. I told you I accepted this life because it was to save yours. If I didn’t do Terrance’s bidding then you were the price I would pay. I don’t want you to think that you are the reason that anyone of my jobs met their demise. All those are on my head and my conscious and I can’t stress enough that you needn’t feel any guilt about it. You were, are, and always have been innocent throughout this whole ordeal and I want you to remain that way and trust that what I have planned will bring justice to the guilty parties, including myself. I’ll explain that later, because right now I want to make sure that none of my faults are translated to you.

I also can’t help but feel guilty for telling you any of this. I’ve thought that maybe I’ll stop writing this altogether, but every time I see you, when you’ve served me brunch every week for the last year, it takes everything I have not to break down and let you know it’s me. I thought you might recognize me, but twenty years can take a toll. I’ve heard that the one thing that doesn’t change is a person’s eyes, but the life that was behind mine has most definitely undergone a transition to where they could be foreign as well.

So, I’m writing because I need to tell you. I’m writing because I’m selfish. I’m writing because someone needs to know. I’m writing because if I don’t share then my life is absolutely meaningless and because this isn’t a dress rehearsal and we don’t get any do-overs, I’m writing so that I at least feel I’ve made an impact, even if it’s akin to the K-T Chicxulub Asteroid.

I am so, so, sorry.

Chapter Eight

Art and creativity are the two most important things that human beings have ever done. The expression that comes from ventures across the artistic spectrum is something that connects us to each other and ourselves. While not everyone will agree on the artistic merit of a creative piece, I think anyone who has ever enjoyed anything artistic will concur that the effort behind every outcome is what is most important. The fact that someone tried to take what is inside and transform it through his or her chosen medium is one of the definitions of beauty. In other words, beauty is in the eye of the beholder but the effort it takes to have it beheld cannot be denied as anything other than a brave act.

Bravery is not something I really have any experience in beyond the external appreciation of it. Artistic bravery, specifically, is always awe inducing. I’ve spent a lot of time watching, reading, and listening. The insanity that might be behind some of the creations is what has kept me mostly sane, and because I haven’t had the chance to connect with others with respect to art, I have had the chance to discover things about myself that I wouldn’t have necessarily been able to find out without the perspective changing nature of what I perceive as “great” art. The books I like are possibly the ones you hate and vice versa. Same goes for music and films. I’ve found that the reasons I enjoy something are threefold: I can relate to it, I find it entertaining, and I wish I had the chance to create it myself. Ultimately, I like things that make me feel something. In feeling and experiencing, we learn. Like most people, I have a soundtrack to my life. Sometimes it’s a conscious thing and sometimes it’s not. The song I think that I relate to the most with respect to you is “Devonshire and Crown” as performed by Tony Sly. It basically says everything I’m thinking and feeling. Which is why I think it’s a great song.

I think every piece of art impacts us in the way it does because it also speaks and represents a part of our lives at the time we experience it. Children’s books and television shows are a great example. I loved “Where The Wild Things Are” when I was a kid, but now, while I still think it’s a great book, I think it’s a great book for kids. But it spoke to me when I was younger, much like the painting I bought from an artist in a building I was housed in a few years ago. It was a tough buy because I hadn’t really thought I could do it without reprisal, but I figured the artist was a nice guy and I liked the painting and if it got lost or destroyed I at least got to enjoy it for the time that I had it. And a small part of me thought that maybe, in some far flung way, I could get it to you someday so you could appreciate it as well. I kept it for a few days in that apartment and gave it back to the artist for “safe-ish” keeping, saying I or someone might return for it and no matter who showed up he should relinquish it without argument. Who knows? Maybe it would a goon with a gun and we both know I don’t need any more blood on my hands.

I wish I had the bravery to create and the extra level of bravery to present it to the world. I don’t 100% believe that people create things “just for themselves”, but if there are people out there that do that then I guess I’ll never know because if their art and work is just for themselves then they won’t put it out into the world so I will never experience it. Kudos to them for that, but I do wish they would give their effort to the world, even if it’s something I wouldn’t enjoy.

Because, ultimately, who the fuck am I to judge?

Chapter Nine

I have been to more funerals than I ever thought I would experience. Besides the ones I went to before I started this business, all of them have been the funerals of strangers. Funerals get a bad rap, because death sucks. Death and funerals are always accompanied by some level of regret for things never said, trips never taken, and emotions never expressed. Funerals are meant to be a celebration of a life and the opportunity to say goodbye to the person who no longer has one. Most importantly, I’ve learned that funerals are about the living, beyond the obvious with the grieving and life lessons and all that stuff, they are about the living because it is the living that are there. If we left funerals up to the dead, we’d be waiting until the apocalypse for anything to get going.

At every funeral, before and after I crossed the hired gun threshold, the person being feted wasn’t a saint nor were they a demon. No human being is of either extreme. The happy memories are always spoken of, but so are some of the sad ones about arguments or an anecdote about one of that person’s shortcomings. The sad ones always end in laughter I find, because I think funerals are not only the celebration of a person, but ultimately of humanity’s belief and hope for the good. Yes, this world has seen tyrants, but you’ll never find one at your “everyday”, or “run-of-the-mill” funeral. We like to remember the good and the good that came from the bad. That act is nothing more than an act of hope and a belief, conscious or otherwise, that while we are going to hurt ourselves and others with some of things we do – this is an inevitability – that we aren’t bad or evil, nor are we righteous. We are simply human.

I’ve spoken about my legacy already so I won’t get into it more than to say I was human as well. I think the evil I brought into the world outweighs the balance of good, but I have tried to stay hopeful that at some I could atone. As I’m writing this I still have that chance, will I, like the brave artists I’ve spoken of previous, take it? Regardless of the “crime” of any of my jobs, their funerals showed me they were loved and that help cushion the kickback I would feel afterward. Even though I took away their life and cut it short, I knew that they smiled and made people smile and I hope that the good that they collectively brought into the world outweighs the bad I have done by taking them all too soon. I know it doesn’t work that way, but I can hope.

Chapter Ten

Do you pray? Like legitimately, on your knees, eyes closed, hands pressed and pointing up, pray? I might have when I was younger, but I can’t remember doing it in the last 40 years. If you do, who do you pray to?

I have always felt prayer is a cop out. Maybe that’s because I’ve never been in a place where I actually thought it might work, but I wouldn’t have any clue who or what was hearing my thoughts of if they could even be heard. Prayer is giving up, isn’t it? It’s giving up our side of hope to something else. If we do that then we can’t necessarily be upset when those prayers aren’t answered. We need to hold onto our side of the hope agreement and put that hope into action. Fate is real but it is entirely created by us and those that have put us here. Two people made a decision to allow us to live and we make the choices within that life and the decision to keep living, which all lead us to our continually created fate.

I am so confused right now. This isn’t where I thought this part of this letter would go as I am in way over my head. Yes, I read a lot and have come across some pretty interesting theories but life philosophy isn’t a forte. But it has helped with respect to my decision to keep going. Would it have been fair to end myself before my contract thus sealing my fate and, apparently yours along with it?

After I started this work, I didn’t start to pray because what if I heard an answer back? What if I was doing what I was doing and closed my eyes one night and was told to stop? What if everything I had every believed to be real was bullshit and vice versa?

I think what I believe in is light. Literally, light. I watched some of the updated version of the TV series, “Cosmos”, originally done by Carl Sagan and now hosted by his protégé Neil deGrasse Tyson. My main take away (to mince their words, theories, facts, and ideas) is that everything relates to light. It is the great equalizer of the universe and we can only see certain parts of it in the visible spectrum. More importantly it helps us see everything. So no matter what people believe, light is the only truth that allows them to see it, and for that belief to have been created in the first place. But what about those who cannot physically see? Once again I have stumbled into territory where no amount of light can make the answers appear.

Chapter Eleven

I’ve been thinking about the power of words, specifically names. Each job had a name. Some of them were unique and some the same as an ancestor or just another person in the world. Regardless of similarity, each person’s name was a part of their identity, though only a part of it. But names. Similar to when I spoke about funerals and the impact of people, each name has an impact. The words that make up that name had an impact. Who defines that impact and who owns the words that make up the name that define that impact?

The power of the ownership of words is something I never thought of before this work, but everyone, whether they have the most common or unique name, is entitled to the ownership of it. How many people take that ownership seriously or even realize they have it?

Words have power by our association to them. Derogatory words are the obvious ones, but names have this quality as well. They are associated with reputations, both personal and public. The validity of public associations can be argued until the lights go out, so I will argue that it is the personal that matters the most. Have you taken ownership of your name? Do you look at yourself in the mirror and recognize that you are who you are? Does your name factor into your identity? Again, moot questions, but I still ask them because when I look in the mirror now I define myself not by the name I have or once had, but by my actions and my interactions with people. I don’t own the words that represent me on my official documentation nor on the variety of forged documents I also carry. These words could belong to anyone and they do, just not me. I don’t really know who I am anymore beyond my jobs and the words that represented all of them. I am each and every one of those people because I am no longer who I was and by doing what I have done I have taken ownership of those names because when I look in the mirror I would rather be any one of them as opposed to the person in the reflection.

The last thing I wanted to say on the subject is make your identity your own, if you haven’t already and don’t let the public – whether it’s your three best friends or a hundred thousand strangers – have any deed to it. Every part of your identity you give away will never return, at least not in the state it left you. I hate saying that, but coming from me, a person who had his identity effectively stolen I don’t want the same thing to happen to you, unless it’s already too late. Then I guess we haven’t turned out all that different after all.

Chapter Twelve

I’ve seen twenty pictures of you throughout the years. Terrance sent them to me as either motivation to keep going or as a way to renew his threat. Or as both. Regardless, each one has been the highlight of my life. I would never know when they would come. Sometimes it would be with a package and sometimes just randomly. I enjoyed seeing you age and see how the years have affected you. Not because I want you to get haggard and old, but because it proves to me you are alive. I would always hold them up to the mirror and compare how we’ve each changed. In some of them you are smiling, in others you have a furrowed brow and are deep in thought. I remember in one you are on a beach on vacation somewhere smiling with friends. I was happy you were getting to experience the world.

I would always wonder what role you were playing in your life. Were you leading? Following? Were you an active participant or a passive observer? I would hope you were doing each at some point because in leading we gain confidence and in following we gain perspective. Both are needed for sanity I think.

The one picture that struck me was one of you working here, in this bar where I sit right now. Like I’ve said, you’ve served me brunch every week for this last year and it was the background in the shot that led me here at first with fear, but because I knew my contract was soon up I figured I would play the odds. That led to a time I’ll touch on later in depth, but I figured if I kept to myself, and didn’t reveal my identity everything would be okay. It wasn’t at first, but then it was. I’m not sure how or even if you think of the brunch me. I order the same thing every week so you might just call me, “eggs over easy, sausage, brown toast” guy or maybe something entirely different. It is here that I have to thank Terrance for proceeding with caution with respect to my brunches – with the exception of the third one – because seeing and speaking with you, even while I have been somewhat disguised and we haven’t talked about much besides the weather or sports, seeing you transported me to another realm. Interacting with you for the brief times during that hour each week was like putting a curtain in front of the last nineteen years and allowing me to forget the horror show behind it. It also allowed me to gain perspective and plan what I needed to do.

The years have treated you very kind. Thank you to them and thank you to you.

Thank you.

Chapter Thirteen

I heard once that the only answer to the question of, “why?” is, “why not?” A professor allegedly asked it as the last question on an exam and apparently, “why not?” was the only correct answer. I’m sure there is some theory behind it for to argued and make some semblance of sense and in thinking about I guess I’m on board with that. “Why?” has always been something I’ve asked myself throughout my life. I would argue it is the most important question that can be asked.

Why am I writing this? Because I need to get it out and have this story heard.

Why do I do these jobs? Because of the threat against you.

Why do we work? Because in the economic system that we follow we give our time in the form of work to “earn” money which we use to live.

Why is the time of people in entertainment valued more than the time of people teaching entertainment or people helping to save lives? Because people would rather be entertained than learn and be healthy. I’ll admit there is a huge logic gap there, and you can fill in the blanks because I really don’t care to and my time doing it isn’t compensated.

But “why?” is the question.

Chapter Fourteen

I know I haven’t spoken specifically about any of my jobs beyond the superficial, but I need to now because this specific job – the most difficult one on every level – was when I really knew I had committed myself to the work. It was depraved and it was the point of no return. Commitment, even when committing to something positive and worthwhile, is the hardest thing a human being will every do because in committing to one thing we are giving up the possible alternatives. With every commitment, be it a relationship, a career, or a simple coffee, we must sacrifice the alternative in the present for our choice. Sometimes the alternatives aren’t what we want anyway, so the commitment is simple. Other times, well, you get it I’m sure. But, again, it was only after this job that I realized how much I was committed to this life and though there were alternatives I wasn’t prepared to give up anything for those alternatives to play out.

It was Christmas night ten years ago and the contract was brutal. Putting the plan in place took a week and it involved a snipe and an explosion. One was to create shock and the other was the end result. I laid the explosives the week prior under the guise of some kind of inspector. It’s been years and I have used many different infiltration techniques, but that is the only specific I forget about this job. The house backed onto a ravine and it was there I set up shop with a clear view of the dining room. It was mild for December so it made for an easier getaway leaving no trace in the snow that had yet to fall. I remember thinking that if I was to do this what was the accomplished effect? It made little sense, but neither did any of this fucking fiasco. The family sat at the table. The father at one end facing me, the mother at the other and flanking the sides were their three daughters and son. You flashed through my head right then as I peered through the sight. I pictured us and the future we could have had. The father stood, picked up the carving tools and loomed over the turkey for a moment, eyeing his family for what would be the last time. Just as he was about to drive the serving fork into the beast my elbow slipped on the wet leaves and my finger yanked the trigger. With haste, I picked up the weapon and was able to see the shot had hit the wall on the far side of the room and the family was racing out of the room towards the front of the house. I had seconds to act. Take them all or fail the job and possibly lose everything. It was just meant to be him with the shot and the house after it was empty to send “a bigger message”. I’m not sure if you remember the news story, but they did manage to find all their bodies or at least parts of them. At least those parts were laid to rest.

Chapter Fifteen

After that job I sat in my new apartment and waited for the knock at the door and for the owner of that knock to end things, be it legally or otherwise. After a week when that knock didn’t come I lost myself in the only things that were ever really able to take my mind off of anything: books. One in particular stood out as it gave me a new perspective on youth and family, “The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay” by Michael Chabon. It’s a fictional account about the beginning of the comic book industry and two cousins making their mark. Besides the grand story, what I took from the book was that, at one time, my grandparents weren’t my grandparents. They were twenty year-old run-amoks with sixty years of life ahead of them and hopes and dreams to go with those years. I might have been one of those hopes and dreams in the distant blurry future they envisioned but in no way was I the dream. They had a twinkle in their eyes for that gasp inducing tall dark stranger or that room stopping beauty. Or just that person that made them smile and feel like everything would be alright. What would they think of what their progeny had become? Did they work as hard as they did so that I could spend my life doing this, regardless of the latitude of choice I had in the matter?

There are many measures of adulthood. Age, financial and personal responsibilities, and employment are some. I don’t think there is an empirical threshold that is crossed though, when we can say we are, 100% adults. It is gradual. Like many things in life it comes in stages. One of those stages I realized after reading the Chabon book, is the point in time when you see your ancestors as people and not as the role they played in your life. They had their diapers changed when they were children. They cried when they didn’t get their way. They had the firsts that many of us do – loves, kisses, heartbreak, successes, failures – and if they have passed on to the great wherever and whenever, the had their lasts as well.

In thinking about that I need to add another answer to the, “Why am I writing this?” column. It is, “because I know I’ll never have a chance to share any of my firsts, beyond the ones you already might know, so I might as well, while going through this process, try to share some of my lasts.”

It’s for that reason and because we never officially really “met”, it’s so that you know I was and continued to be a real person. I was someone with hopes and dreams and firsts and lasts and a name and an identity. Travis was real.

Chapter 16

In keeping with the idea of family and ancestors and generations, I can’t help but think about how my actions have deprived the world, specifically the future world and future generations. I heard that the measure of a generation used to be 20-25 years and now, because of the advancement of technology the gap between generations is only about a decade. I wonder what it will be in another half-century? 5 years? 6 months?

Generations though and everything that the future will never know they missed because of me is crippling. I heard an anecdote with respect to the rapid growth of technology. If someone were to explain a modern computer to Ben Franklin (or anyone from 100 plus years ago) he/she/they would think it would literally be made of magic because no matter how intelligent the student, they wouldn’t be able to grasp the simple concepts or technology behind the device. They would simply be too foreign. And that is not saying that brilliance didn’t exist with these generations, just that the knowledge gap would be too large a leap.

Of every job that I have done, how has that impacted the course of the world? Everything we or a butterfly does in our lives has an impact, but the biggest impacts are felt with birth and death. The beginning and end of life. Without the beginning we would never have accomplished anything and without the end, well, I can’t actually think of a reason for death. But immortality is not a subject I have any experience with, nor is it one I want to tackle.

But I will never stop thinking about the amount of magic I have stolen from the present and future world.

Chapter 17

I’ve come to realize that expectations and reality never really seem to cross paths for longer than a few steps. The result of something is usually a jumbled mess of expectations and plans and the actions regarding both. Examples abound even for the simplest of tasks. One that comes to mind for me was a simple job. I wanted to make a photocopy of a painting I saw in a library book. I walk up to the photocopier and realize I don’t have any change, nor do I have a library card to load money. I ask to break a twenty dollar bill but the librarian doesn’t have the proper amount of change. I place the book on the counter and ask her to watch it, while I run across the street and break my twenty. When I come back, I grab my book and flip to my page and turn to see a line has now formed at the machine. No harm no foul, however, when Jimmy, Sally, Pippy, and Dave have finished with their copies, the machine has no more toner and my simple, expected task of making a copy of a painting I enjoyed, turned into what can only be described as a “clusterfuck.” There also was one of my first jobs that was meant to be simple and to spare you the gruesome details I will say I didn’t play the angle right and the mess was almost beyond repair. The term clusterfuck also comes to mind most often when a group sets out to accomplish something and it isn’t always a negative thing if the majority of that group has a sense of humour. Every day of my life seems to fit on the clusterfuck spectrum. There’s the time I spend thinking about you, the time I spend thinking about my choices with regard to you, the time I spend thinking about the most recent job, the time I spend thinking about the future job, the time I spend thinking about all of the past and future jobs, and the time I spend trying to push all of those thoughts away and escape from this unexpected reality. So, yes, if that’s not a clusterfuck in some form then I don’t know what is.

With respect to the work I have done, the expectations versus the reality of a lifetime come to mind and by extension the definition of a lifetime. I will argue until my own end that because of my actions, lifetimes have ended too soon. But then I am forced to ask – most likely because there is a part of me that tries to paint me as a victim and not a villain – have these lifetimes ended before they were meant to? What is the true definition of a lifetime? Is it the expected average for our culture or the reality of each individual situation? On average we are meant to live into our 70’s and 80’s. Individually, we know this is not often the case. And that brings me to the dilemma I face and one of my conclusions is no matter what age we live to (and no matter how we go) we are all one lifetime old. We are here for our lifetime and then we are not. I don’t deserve reprieve but this helps ease my burden somewhat, because I feel as though maybe I’m not having any impact on the magic of the future as I spoke about previous. Maybe things are working out the way they work out because that is just the way they worked out based on the dynamic set of decisions, choices, circumstances, life intersections and butterfly wing flaps. I’ll never conclusively subscribe to this, but in the clusterfuck of my life and mind and expectations and the reality that is the outcome of it all, I have pondered “maybe” so I can extend my lifetime by another hour.

Chapter 18

I have never been a parent, and most likely will never become one. I remember the first time I had this realization. It was when I was reading the obituaries and found my mother’s name listed among them. At first I felt nothing. It was shocking. After a few years of doing this work, she was someone I always thought I would see again. I must have read the blurb dozens of times trying to internalize exactly what the words meant. My mother, the woman who gave me life, was no longer alive. I remember feeling the same distance at my father’s funeral before I started this work. Eventually, the situation became real and with the support of friends and family I was able to understand exactly what it was like to lose one of the people who allowed you to live. This time without that support it was a harder go. With both events I realized that there are some things you never really understand or get over. There are things that happen in life that happen and there isn’t necessarily a lesson because the impact of them muddles that lesson so much that we are unable to open up and the gain the perspective we need to learn it.

My mother was a strong, determined and compassionate woman. Listing off her accomplishments does them no justice, because the relationships she forged, the lives she touched, and the legacy she leaves behind did more than any list or obituary could. She was a parent and by that I mean she sacrificed and if there was complaint it didn’t show in her actions. What I was able to glean from being at her funeral from afar was that her successes trumped her sins and I was proud of her as her son, but also as a human being that had the privilege of knowing her as intimately as I did. This helped cushion the blow of not being able to share my grief as I was with my father’s passing.

Believing what I do about death and beyond I know it’s too late for me to thank her and I wouldn’t really know how or what to say beyond those two words. The list would be long but I think the longer list would be of all of the things I would forget to say. Thanking someone for sacrificing a large portion of their life for you is almost insulting, because I really have no idea what parental sacrifice truly means. I can think about it and place myself in a position where I ponder the opportunity cost of being a parent versus not, but, as with many things in life, you don’t know how you are going to react until you are actually placed in a situation. The closest thing I had was deciding to go through with Terrance’s proposition but even then, it’s not the same as slogging through a week on no sleep while making sure diapers are changed, bottles are had, everyone is warm and healthy and literate and sane and loved and alive.

I’ll really never know.

Chapter 19

Do you ever think about how the world will end? The idea of the apocalypse intrigues me. We work and fight every day to make it to the next one but one day – be it by our own hand or mine – it will be over for each of us. And baring that, the world will eventually be swallowed by the sun and everything we are doing and have done won’t matter. I’ve struggled with this, but because of everything I have done in the last twenty years it has also helped take away some of guilt of my actions. “Eventually the sun will do it for me,” I’ve thought. It only helped temporarily mind you because the ultimate end is still millions or billions of years away allegedly, but one day my actions won’t matter.

This brings up another question as well. What is the true definition of a beginning and an end? The Smashing Pumpkins have a song about it or at least a title, but isn’t every end a beginning and every beginning also an end? Beyond our literal first and last days, doesn’t the world end every time we fall asleep and begin again every time we wake up?

I think the beautiful part of the beginning and end of things is the middle. I remember reading “Ghost Story” by Peter Straub and there was a quote – I’m totally paraphrasing here – about how the characters were in their “glory” years. The part of their lives that they would look back on someday with a glint in their eye, even though they were so immersed in their lives at the time they never consciously had any time to think of them as anything other than mundane and routine laden. And this always brought me back to the ideas of the beginning and end. And as confusing as it is, my only conclusion is that every beginning is an end, and every end a beginning, and everything is really just one big middle. Everything is one. Every day is the birth and death of the universe and every day is the apocalypse for someone.

Chapter 20

Remember I told you I would keep an item from each job? Some specific and some general? I would store them in a rented locker unit. The building that housed the unit was in a more industrialized part of the city and even though I figured Terrance had eyes on me, I would still visit there after every job and place whatever my new item was into the cardboard box near the back of the glorified shed.

One day, after my third last kill, I went there and my lock was cut and the box was gone. Vengeance I had never before felt coursed through me. It was tamed by a slam on the back of my head and the darkness that followed.

When I woke I was in the dark and the room was cold and the floor concrete. I checked my phone for the time but it was dead. For a moment I thought that this was it. Between my brunches at your restaurant and my box of humanity I had breached the terms of the contract and was now left in a pit to waste away. I thought of every job I had done and if there was one method I had used that would come in handy so I could expedite my eventual physical suffering, however, none came to mind. I had never used dehydration or malnutrition.

I stood up and raised my hands toward the ceiling of the room in an attempt to figure out the size of my prison. Nothing connected with my fingers. I walked a couple steps forward and was pleased to hit a wall, even if it was as cold as the floor. I felt something underfoot and picked it up. In my fingers it felt glossy, like a photograph.

When the light flickered and eventually burned constant I realized I was a prisoner in my own unit but I wasn’t alone. My cellmate was you in what had to be hundreds of different photographs. Each with its own red “X” over your face.

Chapter 21

I stood there eyeing all of the pictures of you I had never seen and realized that I had played too many of the cards I didn’t have. Something caught my roving eye amidst you. I reached down and picked up the corner of a familiar manila envelope. It was thinner than the usual packages I would receive. I opened it with haste, partially tearing the corner of the letter and photograph it contained. I know I’ve lived a life rife with horror. I brought it to people and it always came back to me in some form or another but I never thought I would see this face in a photograph.

The letter read:

“Travis, We’ve known about this for a while but gave you the benefit of this space so as to help you keep your sanity. We will allow you these things and the continued safety of your loved one, however, at the price of our photograph contained herein. Your compliance will be rewarded with your usual fee and the freedom of your collection. Yours, Terrence.”

Expectations and reality. My hubris and the lax attitude that came with it with regards to my collection had now come to roost. And what was with Terrence using plural pronouns? Who was this person, or persons? Even if my plan for justice worked would I be putting more people in danger because of it? Was Terrence just a complex network that included my dinner partner from years before? What is this end game?

That picture though. That face that I hadn’t seen in almost twenty years. How could I do it? How couldn’t I? Both questions haunted me from the moment I saw the photograph until I finished the job.

Horror.

Chapter 22

As this whole thing draws to an end I’ve been grappling with the definition of “home.” Jason Lytle has a song called “Yours Truly, Dear Commuter” and there’s a line in it about being tired and bruised but he’s coming home. I’ve listened to it on repeat because I relate to it but I have no idea of the home I’m coming to.

Is a home a physical space or a place where we feel comfortable and defended against the harsh realities of the world? I haven’t had either for an extended period of time in the last twenty years. I’ve known for a while how I plan to end this “journey” (for lack of a better term) but I’ve also been debating if my intended ending is the best conclusion. It makes sense only in so much that I don’t really have another suitable alternative for myself. I don’t have a comfortable space to retire and if I did I have no clue what I would do. It’s said that home is where the heart is. What the hell does that even mean? My heart has eroded to the point that I wouldn’t trust it even if I found myself in a spot where I felt “at home.”

I think the decision I’ve made is the best solution for everyone involved. I’ve spent enough time tearing things apart for myself and others that my final act should be in congruence with that. It’s probably not the best solution but its finality belies that it is the only solution worthy of pursuit.

Chapter 23

With my conclusion set I can’t help but think about my “in between years.” The best way to describe them would be the years between youth and middle age. They are the years where you build and move into your life, similar to the “glory days” that are defined by the mundane paradise of routine. I like to think of them as the years between “friends” and “The Big Chill”. Between 30 and 50. The years that you reflect on but with a different sort of nostalgia. They are characterized by exploration of life in a different sense. It is not about discovery in so much as it is about relation. Lessons are learned for the second, third and fourth times, with the intended goal of personal growth being second to the goal of sharing knowledge, which, in thinking about it, is probably another reason I’m writing this. By the time we reach our “in between years” we have lived some and while new stages of life are achieved they are passed with more fluidity than a simple threshold moment like a graduation. Maybe the best way to describe them is the “life goes on years” or “the tomorrow years” because no matter how grand and life changing the accomplishment we experience today, tomorrow is a reality and it presents its challenges with no thought to the successes of the day before. So then in effect, today is just “in between” yesterday and tomorrow and the best we can hope for is that failure today doesn’t negate success tomorrow and whatever we do or have done in between will lead to us understanding something more about ourselves than we did yesterday.

Chapter 24

I remember the time I thought I lost you and it was also the third time I came in for my weekly brunch almost a year ago. I walked through the doors and you weren’t working. I didn’t see you anyway, but it became apparent you weren’t in after twenty or so minutes passed. I asked my server if you were coming in and no one had heard anything. It was at that moment I knew you were gone and much like months later, standing in my storage unit surrounded by your pictures, I figured I had overstepped my bounds and the last nineteen years were a waste. When you rushed in an hour later in a huff with sleep still crusting your eyes complaining of the TTC and alarm clocks and cell phone chargers I gripped the sides of my table and held myself back from giving you the longest and most intense embrace of your life, relieved your demise was a thing of imagination.

But I did spend that hour planning out the end game. It is amazing how one event can trigger a flood of thought and inspiration. I thought of everything that Terrance had planned out but I also thought of everything he hadn’t. His entire ploy was based on the heartstrings of the individuals or individuals that he blackmailed. What if I, or we, didn’t play along? In a way it was too late for me to undo any of the wrongs that I had done, but I did know a lot of things that could help an investigation into him or them or their organization.

The emptiness I felt that day when I thought you were gone turned into fuel and even when I heard you walk through the door and saw your perturbed look, I knew that it was time for me to fight back. I would use my last year to formulate my own plan to prevent someone else from ending up in my situation and hopefully prevent two more decades of horror.

Chapter 25

Almost a year ago, the first time I thought I had lost you, the fire began to burn on a plan as to how I could take Terrence out. When I was a prisoner in my storage unit, thinking I had lost you again, I knew that I made the right decision. During that first hour when you were simply late, but I thought you were gone I made a list of every possible lifeline I could use. What and who did I know that could help, without tipping anyone off and actually ending you and me and any other possible targets?

In fifty years you meet a lot of people, however, due to my unfortunate circumstance the majority of the people that I knew I met in my first thirty years. Anyone else was simply a passing acquaintance. This is unfortunate for anyone looking to build lasting friendships and relationships with people, but for me this could actually work to my advantage.

I started heading back out for my walks and I began engaging more with those people on the fringes of mainstream society. I tried to think of ways I could use them to deliver messages to the authorities without having them get caught in the crossfire. I thought about the possible implications. How much more bloodshed was necessary to finish this once and for all? As long as that blood wasn’t yours I was able to accept any amount.

The plan was simple: write down all the addresses, the names I can remember, and the dates I haven’t forgotten. Throughout the year, I met with my various shelter friends and gave them $20, so as to not stir any suspicion if they were searched by one of my tails, with the promise of much more upon them holding up their end of the bargain. At 10:00am on this very date (according to my watch, just over two hours ago) my friends were to head to the nearest police station with a key they had purchased on the way. They were to tell the officer behind the desk the address of this restaurant, the address of my storage unit, and hand them the key and leave. If there was any hassle I would clear it up afterward.

I would make sure that every bit of info I could remember would be in that box along with all of the pieces of the people I ended and come to brunch to make sure that no matter what, I would keep you safe. It was simple plan but a gamble nonetheless. I played the numbers and figured if enough of my acquaintances followed through, each station couldn’t ignore the oddity of the situation.

As I’ve been writing this and staring at the two police cruisers stationed outside, I feel like the messages were delivered loud and clear.

Chapter 26

This day has not been without its drama. Making sure the plan went into action and that my friends came through has been a stress to say the least. That, in addition to writing you this and not knowing your reaction, I don’t think I have felt this uneasy since the first time I pulled the trigger on Andrew the Porsche lover.

There isn’t much left to cover. I can see Terrence’s goons on each corner of this intersection but none have moved a step since the police showed and they keep checking their phones for instructions. I realize that this entire thing might end in vain if his desire for retribution outweighs his desire for freedom. I never actually thought about that outcome. Losing you after writing all of this and having it end in eruption would be fitting in a way. You would receive an answer to questions you might have had, but no explanation. And this letter would end up in the detritus of the aftermath. If you lived you might find it, but more than likely it would be just as much of a target as you. If things do end that way, then I apologize for bringing even more upheaval to your life but if they don’t then at least you will know everything. And I apologize for that as well.

Still no movement beyond nervous pacing from the corners. Thinking about everything coming to an end one way or another is bringing a calm I haven’t felt in twenty years.

Chapter 27

While I still have your attention – and before I destroy it – I want to touch on one last thing: Love.

Love connects us all. Love is inspiring and debilitating. Love is an illusion. Love is real. Love can make the impossible possible. Love can transport you from your worst moment to your best in less than an instant. Love heals. Love destroys. Love is hope. Love is for the hopeless.

If you haven’t already, I hope you find the love of your life. May it be in a spouse or a random person or a missed connection or each and every child you decide to have.

Life is definable in so much as it can be a moment or a lifetime, but love and more importantly your love, I hope, is not definable at all. Be in love with each second because no matter how hard you try you will never get it back. I know that is an impossibility but that is what parents, who unconditionally love their children, hope for them. And unconditional love. Is that even possible? It’s insanity but attainable over a lifetime. Re-enactment is also insane, but what is sane is trying and trying and trying again. Trying, especially with love, is another definition of life. Making the same mistake continually is not as crazy as giving up when one day you might succeed, even if that day is your last. You succeeded at something. You might be classified insane by others and maybe even by yourself, but you succeeded by your own definition of success.

Chapter 28

I’ve sat and watched as Terrence’s minions turn themselves in to the police. I am astounded and can only think and shudder what his end game has become. He is not stupid by any means but this is a turn of events I never thought I would see. I hope the investigation into my jobs and their testimony will bring justice to those who deserve it. With that being said, I must conclude this.

Dearest Hannah, my daughter, thank you for reading this to its end. You know how important it was that I write this and give you an explanation for why you never knew me, your father, and it was because I had to do what I have already described.

That day, when I was supposed to meet your mother for brunch, I knew I was going to “meet” you. She and I had spent many nights together leading up to that day and affection was growing. At some points I did love her. I can’t stress that enough. Two nights previous to that morning, her and I had spent another night together and as I was getting ready to leave I made a stop in the washroom. I found the positive pregnancy test in the garbage and I knew that my life was going to change forever. At first I was shocked but with everything I knew about your mother and how we got along, I knew that no matter the speed bumps and detours we would have to maneuver, everything would be alright. I was excited to have her tell me the news that I already knew. I couldn’t wait to place my hand on her stomach and meet you for that first time. Obviously that plan was disrupted by the events that followed as she and I weren’t the only ones that knew of your eventual arrival and Terrence’s plan usurped any and all moments of joy for me for the next twenty years.

While I feel a sense of relief finally being able to explain why you never knew me, that relief is obliterated by also having to tell you about that picture in the manila envelope from when I was held captive in my storage unit a few weeks ago. Until I saw your mother’s face in that picture, I was sure there wasn’t any more horror I could bring to you or the world. Revealing all of my sins by way of this letter would bring more than enough grief to your life. But having to tell you that you will now have to live the rest of your life without your mother as well, shatters any penance I could have hoped to perform. Sorry, doesn’t do it justice but it needs to be said regardless. The murk and darkness I will live with – even if just for the few more hours that remain in my life – will hopefully provide someone some comfort. I made sure she felt no pain and passed with ease. As I see the final darkness close my vision I will be hoping that the next thing I see – if anything – will be in line with all that I have done.

You deserve better and as my final act I have tried to make that a reality. The key that accompanies this letter is to a safe deposit box that contains everything I have saved from every one of my jobs. It should be enough for you to start a new life doing whatever you feel will fill your heart to its brim and never have it empty. I have taken steps to compensate everyone I have harmed with my work and you are my last and most important victim.

It is odd knowing the day you will die, but I welcome the sweet touch of death because I know that at the very least you know the truth of your life and have the opportunity to have and do anything with the time you have been given.

I love you and I will always be desperately regretful and apologetic even from beyond the borders of this life. Please find the borders of your own and push them until they break.

Love, Your Father, Travis”

Hannah looked up from the letter and focused first on the beach immediately before her. Her eyes then settled on the infinite expanse of ocean beyond the billions of grains of sand. The previous twenty-four hours had been a whirlwind that began with retrieving the contents from her father’s safe deposit box and ending, just now, with her sitting on the farthest beach from her reality. She had read the letter a dozen times, the last reading being the most clear and giving her the focus and direction on how she would act. She agreed that she had one lifetime to love, to live, and to experience and she wanted to use her time to the fullest possible degree, but she knew she had to take care of some business first. A sly smirk crossed her lips when she realized her future business had sort of become the family business in a way, however, she was forced into it in a different way than her father. She promised she would love and live and experience, but over the last twenty-four hours she had learned first-hand that there were people out there who took advantage of others, sometimes to lethal levels, and she wouldn’t rest until she had taken every one of those motherfuckers down.

 

 

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