“You wouldn’t have known me a year ago,” I pleaded.

“And I wouldn’t have cared, though I would have recognized,” he replied.

He added that I would have been the same person then and still am now and how do you stop being you and when are you ever not?  I didn’t respond and my shoulder bled and the asphalt burned against my left cheek as my right eye glared at the failing sun but I didn’t blink nor attempt to rise so I told him that people change all the time.  He arched his back as he laughed and his large buckle blazed in the sunlight just before he spat and told me that a being who changes is still the same being who was changed and he held the black canvas bag open to the wind and money fluttered and tumbled like green butterflies ascending until the sun was blotted out by his large silhouette as he leaned down with the barrel hovering just above my temple.  He began to speak.

“An individual only stops being once that person can no longer choose.”  I could smell tobacco as the barrel ran against my skull and the metal was warm against cold skin littered with marbles of sweat.  “Choices that lead to a future self are actualized from the consciousness,” he continued, “and the physical wiring of brain itself, along with the circumstances that surround it, do not solely define that being. “  He took a deep breath and smiled warmly.  “The essence of a being is a process, a process of choice within the confines of immoveable facts.”  He stroked my hair then stood and broken glass scraped against his soles as he walked behind me with sirens growing in the distance and I closed my eyes and told him about my dead wife and my lost job and my sick daughter and I had no choice and there are no choices and choice is a cruel and unforgiving delusion sent to torture and he yelled the words to the sky choosing not to choose is still being.

“It is time that is a construct applied through reason—it is what is illusory,” he said as he pulled the slide back and locked it in place and checked the chamber before he added, “the you that you were a year ago could easily be known today or in the future or in the past for the being that is you is immutable except in the vacuousness of death.”  I rolled onto my back and held my shoulder as thin streams of red rushed between my fingers and he released the slide and it snapped forward with an echo and he placed the gun on my chest and the barrel glared in my eyes and with sirens were now growing louder as he towered at my feet and added, “as long as there is being there is choice and to believe otherwise is to subvert the will, your future self—to deceive the self.”  I watched myself as I pushed the barrel past my lips and felt my teeth scrape against metal and I pulled the trigger and the gun whispered click.  

My eyes snapped open and my daughter was calling me out of the darkness, arms outstretched and suspended by small plastic tubes that ran to bags of clear liquid.  I jerked out of the chair and tripped over a stuffed bear that sat askew on the linoleum floor next to the heart monitor.  An ambulance pulled to a stop three floors down, its siren still blaring.  The rain beat the window panes until dawn and I held my daughter tight as she vomited and shook and wept and clinched her stomach, all while black glass eyes watched from the floor without blinking.

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