It felt like nothing.
I remember when he was standing at the edge my bed, the gun in his hand. He was telling me a story. Talking to me about what it felt like to kill a man. He told me it felt like nothing. There was no screaming, no crying, no gnashing of teeth. He didn’t stick around to see the blood run. He wouldn’t be standing at the funeral. He would never have to see the mother in all black and crying.
Every time I feel nothing when I’m supposed to feel something, I remind myself that this is what it feels like to kill a man: like nothing.
Every time I feel nothing when I’m supposed to feel something, I start to panic. It’s like a secret I hold to myself, this lack of feeling. Just like the secret he told me about what it feels like to kill a man. I try to paint my panic into whatever emotion I am supposed to feel, whatever sadness or regret or rage people expect. I put that emotion on my face and wear it until the mask slips off.
I have started to feel less and less these days. When he told me he missed me, I didn’t know what it meant. It was hard for me to understand, the idea of missing someone. All I could think was: those lyfts must be getting expensive now that I don’t let him use my car. I realized that I couldn’t understand what it felt like to miss another human being, to appreciate fundamental aspects of their personality and crave that.
I started to miss him because I wanted to know what it felt like to miss someone. It was okay – it didn’t hurt too much. It felt fine.
The other night, when he called me, sobbing, telling me he was going to end it all – well, I knew what that was about. I understood the mathematics of our emotions. I got it: I am supposed to hold him through the telephone and say everything is going to be okay. My synthetic emotions weaving in with his. My ability to understand his basic human desires – that worked out okay.
The next day after his suicide attempt when I talked to him on the phone, it was the same as always, the same quick quips without a hint of sadness. It made me wonder: if it felt like nothing for him to kill a man, what did it feel like for him to kill himself? Those howling sobs convinced me that there was at least some amount of pain. But was that just a charade for my amusement? Was he just feeling nothing, like any other time he killed someone, and this is just the same old shit.
And do I feel nothing, too?