We stood there, arms length apart and feet planted firmly in the ground, for what felt like forever. I stared at Mike, he stared back at me. This was the first stand-off I had ever been involved in, and I think I handled it well because finally, Mike pointed to the kitchen table and led me to one of the folding chairs lining it.
We sat across from each other, him with his hands folded on the table, me with my arms crossed. He dropped the bag of weed in the center and leaned back in his seat.
“I guess I’ll go first,” he said. “I get it, man. She’s a great girl. Funny, ambitious, smokin’ hot…so I can understand why you would be pursuing her.”
When you’re a kid, your parents tell you that honesty is the best policy. That you’ll get in more trouble if you lie than if you tell the truth. But as you grow up, you come to learn that this isn’t always true.
For example, when you’re in a stranger’s home with an intimidating man sitting across from you, accusing you of trying to sleep with his girlfriend, and him being right about that accusation, lying may be the best move you have.
“Hey man,” I said, “I completely get where you would get that idea. I’m 24, I know kids my age have a stigma attached to us. And you’re right. She’s gorgeous, and genuinely nice and generous. You’re lucky…”
I looked up from the table in time to see him leaning forward, putting his hands on the table.
“Where you going with this?” he asked. I lost my train of thought. Oh shit. Where was I going with this? Lying is so much harder when you’re faded.
“You’re lucky…” I started again, “To have found someone like that. But honestly, I didn’t have any intention of sleeping with her. I thought we were having a great conversation and I was running out of cash at the bar, so we decided to head back here.”
He nodded his head and sat back in his chair.
“Charlie,” he said, “Do you consider yourself handy?”
“H—handy? How so?”
“Do you build things? Can you put together a shelf if you wanted to?”
“Closest I’ve come is putting together Ikea furniture. Why do you ask?”
Mike stood up from his chair and pointed towards the back door.
“I want to show you my deck,” he said.
“Just to clarify, you said, ‘Deck,’ right?”
“Yeah man, my deck. Why, what did you think I said?”
“Nothing, never mind.”
Mike started giggling as we walked to the back door. Something seemed wrong with this situation. I hadn’t quite let my guard down yet, but I hadn’t had a chance to leave either. I was wondering what I said that would lead him to show me his back deck.
And then he opened the door and ushered me into what looked like the Kill Room from Dexter.
It was a back porch a little smaller than a dorm room, lined from floor to ceiling with plastic tarp. There was a small flap on the other side that you could walk in and out of. To my right was a card table littered with power tools and hardware equipment. The room was lit with bright white LED lights.
“This is it,” I thought to myself. “This is how I die.”
Mike slammed the door behind us.
“How fucking great is this?” he said, walking towards me. “You hear how quiet it is?”
“Yeah, man,” I mumbled. “It’s, like, dead fucking silent out here.”
“Isn’t that awesome? The duct tape and plastic have been keeping out noise for a while now. We can talk as loud as want, hell, we can scream out here and nobody would be able to hear us.”
“Are—are you sure that’s true?” I asked.
If you ever find yourself in a situation where you are being approached by someone that may be setting you up to be serial killed, you really shouldn’t question their logic. Because then, they might do something like this.
“The hell are you trying to say?” Mike said, walking over to the table with the tools.
“I—I’m just saying that I wouldn’t think that such thin plastic could hold the sound of a scream in here.”
Mike picked up a nail gun.
“Lemme show you something,” he said. He paced over to me, holding a nail gun at his side. As he approached, he pointed it in my direction. Then, he pushed past me and held the nail gun up to a post where the plastic tarp was held up.
“Not only did I insulate this thing with duct tape, I nailed the motherfucker down. This shit’s not going anywhere. I’ve sealed it twice over, so that no cold can get in and no heat can escape. Sound’s not getting out either.”
During this whole time, I was backing away from him. My knees were bent, just in case I had to move quickly. I found my way back to the door when Mike finally turned around.
“Oh, shit! There’s something else I want to show you,” he pointed to the light switch. “Flip that switch.”
“Yeah…I’m not going to do that, Mike.”
“Oh, don’t be such a pussy,” he said as he sauntered over, still holding the nail gun. He flipped the switch and the LED lights went out. It was pitch black. I could hear my heart beating in my ears. There was a thud and a click, and Mike finally flipped the lights back on.
He was standing in front of me, now holding a drill.
“You see how bright these motherfuckers are?!” he yelled. “They’re LED! I installed them myself with this exact drill.” He held up the drill to my face as I backed against the wall.
“Hey…hey Mike, I think it’s getting pretty late, man.” I mumbled. “I think I should probably head out.”
“What? We’re just getting started! Wait ‘till I show you what I have in the garage…”
“No, no I’d rather not. Honestly, man, I have a bunch of shit that I have to do tomorrow, and I think it’s best if I head home.”
Mike’s face dropped. I had disappointed him. He opened the door to the apartment and walked inside with me. For a brief moment, I thought to myself that, maybe this guy wasn’t trying to murder me. Maybe he’s having trouble making guy friends, and wanted to show off all the cool stuff he built. Maybe he just wanted some validation.
As I walked through the apartment, I hit the front door and turned around. He was standing at the kitchen table, staring at me.
“Thanks for understanding,” I said.
“Who said anything about understanding?” he asked, picking up the bag of weed and walking towards me. “So far tonight, you’ve tried to fuck my girlfriend, drank my beer, eaten my pot brownies—“
“Well, technically, I didn’t know they were pot brownies, and they were offered to me, so—“
“GET THE FUCK OUT OF MY APARTMENT.”
“Yep, fair enough.”
I’ve never run out of a doorway faster in my life. I ran through the streets, and once I was a few blocks away, I checked my phone. It was only 1:00 in the morning. I had a couple DMs from strangers. No other plans. And so I did what any other person in my shoes would do.
Walk a mile to the nearest hot dog joint and try to process what the fuck had just happened. .