Was it just this morning that she left? It feels so long ago. She was so calm and I knew she was sad so I thought maybe she would stay. I really wanted her to stay. She even gave me an option. If I could just step out of the house and take her hand, she would follow me back inside. Inside. Inside. She even took off her glove and I know her hand was freezing in this weather. I just wanted her to stay with me. Inside. That fucking car. I don’t know if I would have done it but that fucking car just came out of nowhere and I jumped. For now I will blame the car. Trying to save a semblance of pride, how can I be proud of what I’ve become? She knows I’m hopeless. She didn’t offer an option, not a real option. She knows by now, I have no options. I’m hopeless and she’s gone. These are fleeting thoughts as I sit here in my living room with a gun to my head and some asshole screaming at me. Something deep inside tells me that I have something to do with the situation I’m in. Somehow this, too, is my fault. My name is Philip but I’m called Flip. My sister, Jessie, couldn’t pronounce Philip and therefore I’ve forever been known as Flip. Sarah is the girl who just left me. She and I have been together for 15 years. She really brought out an adventurous side I never knew I had. She took me skiing and introduced me to the kind of people who I always wanted to be like. Eventually she moved in with me. Sarah had just met my dad before he died from brain cancer. She didn’t really know him but she knew my mom or she knew how to handle my mom. Nobody knew how to handle my mom, even Jessie was mystified at the way Sarah seemed to be unaffected by my mother’s negative and shallow nature. Jessie had a nickname for Sarah, “the womb”, because everyone always felt safe and secure when she was around. My mother had a way of victimizing herself which only got worse after my dad’s death. She screamed for attention by locking herself inside her room and not speaking. We took turns sitting beside her but she liked it when Sarah was with her the best. Sarah explained that my mom just needed to feel safe again. That losing my dad had left her feeling helpless. Helpless and scared. Sarah, the ultimate empathizer. If there was a mental illness for being too empathetic Sarah would be diagnosed with it. For I knew too much to empathize with my parents. They didn’t deserve Sarah’s loyalty or “understanding”. My father was fairly absent even before the tumor had turned him into a different person. Not like he spent all night out and came home at 4am smelling of booze and hookers absent, but absent in that he took absolutely no interest in any of us. I would have preferred for my shitty father to have at least been a little bit interesting or mysterious but he was just a shitty father who liked his steak well done and his wine sweet. Ironically, he became more present after the tumor started to grow and fuck with his temperament. He hated everyone and he made sure we knew it any time we were around. My whole life I just wanted him to be more vocal, and then I got my wish in a fucked up turn of events. He used alcohol to curb the anger which, in turn, made it worse. Jessie and I avoided him and my mother seemed utterly unfazed by his mood swings. His death didn’t leave my mother any different than before. She had always been this way. And she had taken it out on Jessie and me our entire lives. Helpless and scared was her fucking excuse and the only way she could justify the mind games she put her kids through. If it weren’t for Jessie, I would have been right next to my mom, stuck. trusting no one, fearing everything. If not for Jessie…. No mom not again! Flip has to go to school or you’ll go to jail! Dad is here somewhere you’ll be fine. Let’s go Flip. Eventually my mother died of a heart attack and Jessie and I were left feeling relieved, albeit guiltily. Sarah was probably more impacted than either of us but she kept it in. She knew there was more to the story of my mom but she never pushed us to tell. She’s a keeper Flip. Don’t let her go or you’ll be alone forever Jessie married her boyfriend, Paul, a freelance artist who was growing in notoriety as a marketing specialist. He had done it all right. Paul was great at his job and he was humble about his successes. In hindsight, Paul is partly why I didn’t propose to Sarah. Not that she ever pushed it. Why didn’t she ever push it? Watching Paul, the way he was so much more than me. Where Paul was confident and mindful, I was insecure and selfish. If I had half of his talent and success, I would be proud and brazen. But not Paul, he was smart. He was humble. I never understood what Sarah saw in me. She could have a Paul too maybe now she will. You idiot Flip! See what happens when you leave your mother alone in the house. Now I’m hurt and it’s your fault I idolized Paul almost as much as I did Jessie, in fact, I used to idealize a world where I lived with them. Sarah and I could rent a room from their house and stay there. She used to look at me funny when I brought it up dreamily. I will always protect you Flip, that’s what sisters are for. It wasn’t long before Jessie got pregnant and had a son, Zachary. Zach was spoiled by all of us. He was never without a loving family around and I think Jessie was secretly glad Zach never had to experience our parents. Paul’s parents lived in Ohio but they visited so often I don’t think Zach even knew they were ever gone. And Jessie absolutely loved them. She would have given anything to have a normal relationship with her own parents and I was elated to watch her flourish with Paul’s. And of course Sarah had her own bond with Zach, like she had with everyone she came in contact with. And I, well I felt safe. I felt happy. Then everything changed Where’s Zach? He’s not in the house. He’s not….. That fucking car Inside. Flip? Jessie and her family moved to Ohio after the funeral. Being in Colorado was too much of a reminder. But despite the pain I felt after losing Zach, I was petrified of losing Jessie. Sarah would fly out and visit them but I couldn’t get on an airplane anymore. Sarah offered to drive us once. The road trip to “get it all out and help mend the pain”. I packed my things but the night before, I ended up in the hospital. A panic attack disguised as a heart attack. I should have seen that as a sign but Sarah and I ignored it. I became more withdrawn. I called myself an introvert. It was easier than explaining something I didn’t understand. Not fully. It’s OK mom. Don’t cry. You don’t have to come to my recital. Jessie will record it for you and dad. Being a recluse turned out to be easier than one would think. I was already working from home occasionally so I took that and manipulated things so that I was remote all the time. Sarah was harder to convince. I did do things with Sarah, like go to the store and out to bars. But little by little I began to stay home. Eventually I stopped driving all together. That’s what broke any silence. It was the first straw that brought Sarah to a different level of concern. I think she was fine with my homebody attitude; we had done enough traveling together. But when I stopped driving to even the store, that’s when she began confronting me. I hated those confrontations. What am I supposed to say? That is correct Sarah, I am oddly nervous to do what was once considered normal, thanks for pointing this out, AGAIN. There’s no need to be embarrassed Let me help you I understand. I gave her nothing. How on earth could she understand much less help! Not abandoning me would have been helpful. I’m sorry Flip but I think if I stay here I’m only enabling you. I don’t know. I guess she was right. The only time I’ve even tried to leave was to find her. It feels like she’s been gone for months. I have to credit her for sticking around as long as she did I guess. Yet I still hate her for leaving. By the time she decided to go I never left the house. Groceries were delivered, my job was fine and I had no need to step out into the world that invoked only fear. If anything enabled me it was the internet’s ability to reach vast resources. Hell, I even had a doctor appointment online. I gave my symptoms and he gave me an antibiotic prescription and my pharmacy delivered it! She didn’t even pick up my medicine for me. That’s so unlike her. But the bottom line is I don’t really need Sarah for anything. Except; I mean in all honesty, being alone, truly alone, brings a fear just as strong as the fear of leaving. I remember shutting the door after she drove off, I remember feeling dizzy. Just get to your desk. Bury yourself in work. Shut this out, Shut this Shut out Out Mom? So the video didn’t record Flip? How convenient! You’re punishing me aren’t you? It’s your fault I didn’t go. I don’t remember what happened after Sarah left and the haziness of my mind took over. All I know is when I came to, I was sitting in my dining room on the floor. And Marco was there. I have no idea who Marco is or what the hell he wants but he snuck in through my basement and is holding me at gunpoint. He’s all over the place, screaming at me, screaming at random, pacing back and forth from the front window back to where I’m seated. I scan the room around me and see my phone. I instinctively reach for it but am cut off by Marco who snatches up the phone before I can reach it. I thought you said your phone was dead? You lying to me? I shake my head, I have no idea if it’s dead or not but it doesn’t matter, Marco takes the phone and smashes it to pieces. I want to suggest an anger management group but I don’t think he would take that well. He can’t be a day over 25 but he has at least 2 feet on me and can probably bench press me without breaking a sweat. Hey man? Marco turns and gives me a hard look. What are you doing here? What is it you want from me? Marco cocks his head slightly and looks at me funny. Then he lets out a sarcastic laugh. You’re a funny man? You’re fucking with me right now? You must have a death wish. He emphasizes ‘death wish’ in my face in an attempt to scare me. I know fear, and I wish he knew that nothing he attempts will succeed in inducing fear out of me. I stay quiet and Marco evaluates me again. This time he looks unsettled. You’ve upset your mother again Philip. If you don’t go sit in there with her I’m going to make sure you don’t sit for a week. Man you need to have your head examined. I already told you what I'm doing here. Refresh my memory then. Please? Marco seems exasperated but he takes a deep breath in and squats down next to me and fills me in on some crazy elaborate story that involves a convenience store and a robbery gone bad and a bunch of shit that sounds embellished. But my house was the only one unlocked and so he’s hiding out here until things cool down. You robbed a convenience store and then shot someone? Marco’s heads spins and he locks eyes with me. What man? How the fuck did you get that from what I said? I don’t even know to be honest. He has a gun. His clothes are stained. It could be blood. There’s a convenience store not too far. I love that convenience store. They actually will deliver to me! Ironically that store actually brings down the real estate value in the area but if people knew just HOW convenient that store is, the housing prices would go up. Marco is still watching me. I have to be honest, I don’t mind this strange interruption. He doesn’t seem like he wants to shoot me. Nothing about him actually is threatening to me. It feels like I’m watching a guy pretending to be a bad guy. Like he’s seen this on tv and so he’s just playing the part. No matter how much he cusses or paces around, his energy feels quite soothing. Why do you keep looking out the window? Do you have a friend coming? What.. when.. how the hell would I have gotten hold of a friend to begin with? Listen, uhhh what’s your name? Flip. He laughs to himself before he continues. Well Flip, I don’t have time to counsel you right now but you should consider therapy. Anyway, I have to assume somebody saw me running this way and it’s only a matter of time before the cops show up. That’s why I’m looking out the window. I nod as that makes sense to me. I try to make small talk but he doesn’t open up very much. He thinks my name is amusing. I guess it is. And that makes me think about Jessie. It’s ok though. I like thinking about Jessie. We sit there in silence and I can’t help feeling relaxed. Marco grabs a picture frame of Sarah and me. This your girl? Was. Ah was… she obviously was the one who cleaned the place too. Marco scans my house in disgust. She left this morning. Marco lets out a small laugh. Obviously not. As he opens his mouth to say more we hear police car sirens and the lights are visible through the window shades. Marco jumps up. Shit! Fuck fuck fuck!!! Marco puts his gun to my head then pulls it back while cursing and rambling. I try to talk to him but he shushes me and continues to talk to himself incoherently. Suddenly Marco stops. His face lights up and he actually smiles right at me. I smile back. Ok. I got it. Let’s go, get up. Marco pulls at my arm and I hesitantly stand up. Marco seems annoyed at my reluctance. Let’s go!! Where? It would help if you told me this immaculate plan of yours. You’re practically glowing. Marco looks at me with dead serious eyes. Listen Flip, I’m not going to hurt you but I need you to help me. Will you help me? I…. I guess so. I mean how can I possibly help? I’m not getting out of this. But if I go out there I don’t know what those cops will do. So I just need you to come with me. I’ll keep the gun to your head like my hostage and we will walk just to your driveway and that way I can talk to them before turning myself in. My head begins to spin. I aggressively pull away from Marco’s grip. F...f..fuck N..noooooo! I’m sorry? What do you mean no? I can barely control my breathing. I start to scramble backwards. Flip, it’s just a formality but I need to take you out front with a gun to your head so I don’t get shot. The look on my face must have brought out an ounce of empathy because he continues to try to soothe me. I know I know it’s scary but I promise nothing will happen to you, I’m ok with going to jail. At this point I’m backing up so fast I hit a corner. Marco continues to try to calm me by soothingly telling me to just relax but there’s no fucking way I’m placing a foot outside this house. I know he’s getting annoyed and anxious and I’m trying to find somewhere to hide. I decide to try and run towards a small corner with a tiny space between a wall and the side of a heavy wooden desk. If I can get there I can buy some time. I don’t even get one step away before I feel Marco grab me by my shirt. He puts me in a headlock in order to gain complete physical control over me. But I fight. I fight like there’s nothing left in the world. I kick and scream and wrestle Marco to the floor. You would be surprised how strong someone can be when that kind of adrenaline is pumping through. Marco has to struggle but eventually he is able to get a hold of me. He holds me against a wall with one hand and takes his gun in the other hand and firmly pushes it against my forehead. Listen, I will pull this trigger. I will blow your brains all over this place. It will look like a Jackson Pollock mural in here. I try to calm my breathing and my shaking and with all of my effort I grab the shaft of the gun and give added force to my forehead. I steady my eyes with Marco’s. If it’s a choice between a bullet and going outside, I’ll take the bullet. Marco’s face contorts into the same expression I’ve seen from just about everyone I have ever known. And man, I don’t get it either. Marco sits down, defeated, the gun on the floor by his side. I’m sorry. I say. He nods and shakes his head. What the? I mean, what is wrong with you? Flip come back. Flip!!! Mom don’t cry please! Flip she is sick and you can’t fix this. You are only making it worse. Trust me, I’m your sister and I love you. Shaking off these random thoughts I decide to indulge Marco. I haven’t left the house in over two years. How is that possible? I work from home, my groceries are delivered. The internet is very resourceful. Why? I shrug my shoulders. Scared I guess. Scared? Ha. Of what? Big mean guys with guns? Guys like me? Scared of myself. Zach? Flip you let him out alone? ZACHARY!!!!!! Marco scratches his head. It doesn’t make sense man. It’s complicated. Try me. I don’t know. I used to go out but then I began to panic. I would have to come back in. It became easier to stay home. Sometimes when Sarah would have to leave I would panic even in here. Marco leans his head back and sighs. But now she’s gone. Now she’s gone. And you’re all alone. All alone. Maybe she will come back. Flip, man, how long has she been gone? Really? Since this morning. Marco’s eyes look sympathetic. He gets up and walks towards the front door. Don’t forget to wear your gloves, I say almost robotically. It’s 97 degrees outside. Marco keeps shaking his head in disbelief. Of all the houses, I pick the one mother fucker who is crazier than I am. I smile to myself while fixated on his gun on the floor. When did Sarah leave? I wish I could call Jessie. Is that my phone? I pick up my phone and my boss is calling. I don’t understand who fixed my phone. I have 43 missed calls. I look back over and the gun is gone. Marco is gone. Why would he say it was 97 degrees outside? How did he lock my house? The police are gone. Everything is quiet. I am alone again. The familiar fear quickly fills my head. Maybe Marco will come back. Or Sarah. Or Jessie Paul Or Zach. Or dad. Maybe I’ll call my mom. I’ll tell her, I’ll ask her to come over. I’ll tell her I’m scared. I’ll tell her I’m sorry. I understand now and won't leave again. We can just stay here, inside.