You are late again. The boss is waiting for you at the door to your office. The look on your face is that of a dog who has misbehaved and is helplessly submitting. He shuts the door behind you and proceeds to go through the general rules of the organization. You watch and sweat as he writes up the pink slip and tells you that you are on probation for 2 weeks. You look like you are about to cry, but you attempt to hide it. This attempt makes it even more obvious that you are upset. You wander out of the building after lunch time and , when you are beyond hearing distance, you call “him” up: the one who has caused you to become something that you are not over the last two months.
He scolds you. You desperately search for an explanation. He is not buying any of it. It is obvious that you are lying. He knows it and you know that he knows it. So you will play this charade until one of you backs down. It will be you. That is clear from the current conversation. He has you cornered in more ways than one, so the only way out right now is to become another person entirely and drop your life as you know it. You had opened up too much to the person whom you should not have trusted. He is used to it though. Most people do. Can one really blame oneself for being manipulated?
I call the number. It is the last thing I want to do. My voice cracks as I tell him that I am not going to help him today. I attempt to explain that I am ill, and I need to sleep. I try to tone down my normal enthusiasm and make my voice monotone and languid. There is silence at the other end of the line. Oh shit. He replies, “I have another job for you. I expect that you do it. We made an agreement.” The firmness is almost palpable as he says this. “Please. I just can’t. I won’t do well, and I will blow the cover I have taken so long to create. Not today. I just can’t do it!”, I plead. I suppose I must sound desperate. But can he tell I am lying? “2 pm. Markham Square. The man in the yellow.” That’s all he says. There are too many moments of silence that follow. I hesitate on how I should respond.
1:55 pm. You wait. You have on the outfit you normally wear. You are The Man in the Red. Funny how this phrase can have multiple meanings. Did he give you this intentionally? You pace along the fountain’s edge. A man walks up to you asking for change. You pace away, stumbling a little, eyes darting around hoping that no one saw this. You are determined. That is clear. But you are obviously nervous, and everyone around you is giving you sideways glances. You are calling too much attention to yourself. Your backpack is heavy, and it is weighing you down. You start to slouch forward to compensate. The heat is getting to you today, but you are trying not to show it. You continue to pace: back and forth along the circular path of the fountain. The lady that is sitting at the path’s center seems nervous and is watching you. She is eating some kind of energy bar. She is wearing a tailored skirt and a floral blouse, all in accents of red. You could both be inside a store display window, you match so well. “Sir, is there something wrong? You seem nervous. Can I help you in some way?” At least she knows enough to trust me. I haven’t blown that cover. A spot of yellow leaps into your field of vision, and you are startled. You never respond to the woman. You see the man stop in front of the hedge in the distance.
You watch precisely where he places them. He follows instructions carefully. He is calm and relaxed and does not call attention to himself. He deserves a medal. A few minutes later, after he places the remainder, he walks away. He did not follow the plan. You stop and stand there in shock. Sweat pouring down your face. Now what?? The woman continues to watch you. There is a policeman walking down the sidewalk near the street. You sit down on the edge of the fountain. You are obviously relieved, and this calms your nervousness somewhat. You watch as the cop turns the corner onto the next street. You catch your breath and appear to think on what to do next. You look down to the ground.
A quick POP is heard. Like a champagne bottle being opened. No one seems to notice. The hum from the crowd and the cars appears to have muffled the sound a little. You fall to the side. Or should I say “slump”. You remain in the same position, just horizontal instead of vertical. There is a far away look in your eyes as the red from your shirt appears to bleed into the surroundings. The fountain fills with your blood as if someone opened up a plug in your back to release it and drain you. Your expression is one of relief and calm, as if the disease has left your body. People start to notice and run around in panic. Your eyes close.
A sharp jab. The pain is unimaginable. So this is how it feels. He shot me. That was the plan. The man in yellow follows through without fear.
So, so tired. I’m going to rest now. My body feels lifeless, and I long to sleep. I will allow it to happen. Why fight it now? Relax and let the inertia take hold. I lie to the side to just feel the calm. I close my eyes and just... let it happen.