I walked out of the bathroom at the Phillips 66 gas station finally feeling relief after an hour of riding in a car and sitting on what felt like a gallon of pee. Across the store, my boyfriend Freddy was buying gum and a Sunny-D. As I walked over, the cashier who had had too many plastic surgeries and tanning appointments blew a puff of smoke in Freddy’s face from her cigarette.
“Have a good nigh’,” she mumbled.
Freddy held the tinkling door open for me and let me out first.
“Sunny-D, fruit punch,” he said with a shy smile, handing me my favorite drink.
I twisted the cap off and took a few gulps, staining my lips and the skin around them red.
Freddy watched me drink, and we just stood there next to the giant ice machine and the signs advertising cheap Bud Lite. It was a perfect moment.
“I love you,” he said to my red lips. I swallowed.
We had been together all weekend, visiting his grandparents in Pawtucket. It was our first road trip; Freddy had just gotten his license three months ago. Why hadn’t he said it to me when we were sitting alone on his grandparents' deck that night? Dang it, Freddy. I don’t want to remember you saying that for the first time outside a store that sells shirts saying “Kiss Me I’m a Redneck.”
Across the parking lot, I could hear a few men arguing. They started yelling at each other, but neither of us looked over. Freddy kept staring at my mouth, waiting for my “I love you, too.”
It would never come.
Suddenly, a man’s feet started pounding on the gravel as he ran closer and closer to us.
Bang! Bang! Bang!
Three gunshots. Three bullets. The second one went through my head.
I looked up at Freddy the instant before it happened. His face was white and freckly one second, anxious for me to say those words, and the next second it was splattered with my blood.
We finally made eye contact just before my body collapsed on the pavement.
I didn’t get a choice to pass on. There wasn’t a tunnel with light at the other end. I didn’t get to fight for my life. I was looking up at my boyfriend, worried about my breath, did I zip my fly, and then I was looking down on him and the fallen body that I used to own.
The Sunny-D had spilled and mixed with my blood which was already beginning to pool underneath me. I watched from some high place I had never been before as Freddy dropped to his knees and rolled my body over. My nose was gone and blood flooded out so easily, like it had been wanting to do that forever.
Nearby, a man also lay dead in the parking lot, two shots in his back. There was blood under him, too. In my high place I looked around for him, but I was alone. There was nothing around me. It was like watching a horrible movie in a dark, empty theater, and you can’t feel the seat underneath you.
A black SUV tore out of the parking lot of the gas station and disappeared. The cashier who had assisted Freddy ran out of the store with a cell phone, screaming at Freddy what happened, what happened.
Freddy didn’t leave me the whole time it took police and ambulances to come to the gas station. He just stared down at me, like he was still waiting for me to speak.