Alex had loved Maya. Still loved her actually. Had loved her even as she looked him in the face and told him that she was in love with her boss at Jamba Juice, Zach.
He even loved her when the words “pregnant and getting married” left Maya’s lips, a moment before the car door had slammed and she drove away. Her car tires spitting gravel and dirt in his direction, the front bumper almost hitting his neighbor’s dog, Spike.
The poor sap was even still in love with her as he fumbled with the engagement ring in his right front pocket, the dust thrown into the air from her tires not yet settled. He slipped the ring on and off his index finger as he let her words sink in. He thought of her face; the cold, hard stance of her jaw as she looked over the top of the Prada sunglasses that he bought her the summer before for their trip to a beach near San Diego.
She hadn’t even flinched as she said the words “pregnant” and “married”. Her eyes should have been red and puffy from crying. He thought to himself, head shaking in disbelief. She’d cried at that stupid animated movie 2 weeks ago.
He feels the tears on his face before he realizes he is crying, his shoulders heaving make him aware that he is approaching a hysterical point of emotion and he slips the ring off of his finger one last time before he grips it by the sides. It is still buried in his pocket because he cannot look at it, and squeezes it tightly. He hesitates as he feels the metal give, shakes his head as he pictures her face in that last moment and resolves himself to destroying the ring. What does it matter now? He asks himself. She will be wearing Zach’s ring soon. He tells himself this as the thin rounded edges of gold meet between his fingertips and what was once a ring is now just a bent piece of metal with a diamond tenuously grasped by deformed prongs.
Alex stands in the driveway for the better part of an hour, looking out toward the street that he had last seen her driving on. The crying stopped with the destruction of the ring. Even though he still loved her, he knew there was nothing he could do anymore. She made her choices and he hadn’t even been aware there was a choice to be made. How many nights were spent together where she been thinking of Zach? How many hours had they held each other and she was thinking of someone other than him? How many “I love you”s went ignored or just repeated back to him with a simple “too” added?
All those afternoons laying in the grass of his yard, planning a future together and now he was left with nothing on the horizon. Nothing except for the shame of facing the people that just yesterday encouraged him to propose to her. His best friend Brad even helped him plan the elaborate proposal for later that night. Now there were dinner reservations to cancel and a hotel room to see go to waste.
The more he thought about it, the more he began to think about all that had been lost, what there was left to live for, and what tomorrow offered him. The more he thought about it, the more he realized that tomorrow promised nothing for him to wake up for, nothing to be happy about anymore. Sure, maybe one day he could settle for someone that had half of what Maya possessed, would be half the woman she had been but he didn’t want that for himself. If he couldn’t be happy with Maya, he couldn’t be happy with anyone. He knew that, like he knew that she made him a better man.
That is when he began to plan his answer. A way for him to not have to deal with tomorrow, a way for him to show Maya how much she meant to him and something that would make sure she never forgot him. As long as she lived, she would never forget the man that loved her as much as he did. He knew the gesture would have to be unique and singular, he knew that it would have to be final and there could be no turning back. Never again would she just be able to turn away from him and drive off, he would do something that she would remember years from now, when she became a grandmother she would still remember what he had done for her.
Alex knew what he needed to do, an idea of what he needed and as he opened the door to his car and fished his keys out of his left pocket, he smiled thinking about how perfect his plan was. Turning the keys in the ignition turns his stereo on and as he recognizes Filter’s “Hey Man, Nice Shot” being played he begins to laugh, not a happy laugh but one born of ironic determination.
“Fucking perfect, just what I needed.” he screams as he slams the car into reverse and turns the car around.
The fact that he is travelling the same path she took as she left is not lost on him. His amusement turns to anger as he wonders what side street she took to go meet with Zach, surely she went to him right after, to tell him all that happened, to celebrate her being free and able to marry him without a guilty conscious.
He picks up his phone to check the time. It is still early, Home Depot won’t be closing for a couple of hours. He has plenty of time to get what he needs. He sends Maya a text message. “Maya, I understand and I am not angry. I want you to be happy. I need to tell you something, but I need to think about how I want to say it. Promise me that in a couple of hours you will read my text and respond to me, after that I will leave you alone.” Reading his own words makes him want to throw up, his hand begins to shake as he hits the send button and he sets his phone back down on the seat before the temptation to throw it out of the car wins over reason.
She responds almost instantly, “I promise, Alex.”
He smiles, she has to respond in order for this to play out right. She is always on her phone, so he knows that she will read what he has to say and he knows that she has to have the last word, she can’t ignore a text message, she doesn’t have it in her.
Alex pulls into the Home Depot parking lot, drives into a spot near the entrance and goes over what he needs to get. A ¾” to ½” copper pressure reducer, a ¾” copper tube cap for one end, a ½” copper tube cap for the other end, copper epoxy and a little roll of 22 gauge electrical wire. I already have the model rocket igniter and some razor blades. He is almost giddy at the thought of what he is going to do, it will be a beautiful thing, this gesture and the device to make it happen.
Not even to himself can he call it a bomb, not even in his own head. He doesn’t see it that way, it isn’t meant to destroy, it is meant to create. He is going to create a way for Maya to never forget him, she has already destroyed what they had, she set off the bomb, he will only balance the damage Maya has done.
He mumbles to himself as he walks the aisles of the store. They were supposed to be going to dinner right now, he should be nervous about popping the question to her right now, not doing this. He shouldn’t be doing this right now, this isn’t how it was meant to be. Anger comes back to him, his hand reaches into his right pocket and feels the ring and he sees a flash of red before he takes a deep breath and approaches the self checkout line.
Calm yourself, Alex. Focus on your plan, man. You got this, this is going to be perfect.
After he bags his purchase and runs his credit card through the machine, the interest he is going to have to pay on the charge is calculated in his mind before he starts laughing again. I guess I won’t really have to worry about that.
Sliding his right hand through the plastic handles of the single bag sitting on the shiny metal scale, he takes the items into his hand and makes his way out of the store, his steps solid and unwavering.
On the drive home he is building the device in his head. First he needs to get a razor blade, the inside of the smaller cap is going to have to be scored so that the blast is controlled and directed how he wants it. A small hole will have to be drilled into the larger cap, so that the lead wires can feed into the charge. The copper epoxy will be able to hold everything together under the pressure, he made sure to check, and it is fast drying so by the time he is done connecting his phone to the wires, the epoxy will be set and ready for the lead to be fed into the hole.
After he packs the larger end of the reducer with the ammonium perchlorate from his model rocket igniter and uses some gauze to act as a buffer, he can pack the smaller end with some steel bb’s. He has to leave enough room to put the engagement ring in, after he cuts it into little pieces. He wants it to sit there among the little tiny balls, shiny diamond resting on top before he packs the end cap on and seals it.
By the time he pulls into the driveway, the fully assembled device is in his mind and ready to be put to use. All he needs now is to put all of the pieces of the puzzle together and send Maya that text message.
The best part is, she will have no idea until the cops are knocking on her door. There won’t be a note for them to read, nothing to indicate why I did it. All they will have is the wires sticking out of my phone to point them in the direction that they need to go. Once they turn on my screen they will see the notification of her text message and some unknown detective will put it together. He and some uniformed officer will knock on her door early in the morning, tell her they need to go down to the station and there he will tell her what happened. How they found me and the planning that must have went into it. She will be shocked, then she will start crying and saying how much she loved me and how she made such a huge mistake. But it will be too late at that point. There will be no going back at that point, she will think about it every day for as long as she lives. I will be the ghost that haunts her, and nothing will make it go away, not her husband or her kids.
Opening the door to his room he walks across the shag carpet to his desk and sits down. Alex empties the bag onto the table top. Catching the small end cap as it tries to roll to the floor, he opens his top drawer and takes out the razor blade to score the inside with a neat quarter sized “X”. Little shaving of copper fall onto the desk as he carves deeper and deeper into the metal before he is satisfied that the blast will force the copper out in a perfect pattern.
Placing the cap on the desk he gets up and retrieves the box that he keeps his model rocket supplies in. Retrieving the two igniters for the fuel they contain and the little hand drill for the larger end cap, Alex walks back to his desk and sits in his leather backed chair.
More copper shavings land on the desk as a 1/16” hole is drilled into the cap, just enough room for the wires to slide in without compromising the blast force. He then uses the epoxy to seal the large end of the reducer and waits a few minutes before packing in the ammonium perchlorate. The ammonium perchlorate will ignite with 750 pounds of force, but the epoxy is rated to withstand much more than that once fully set. He knows by how hard he needed to slam the cap onto the reducer that it is firmly in place, and can take the force but he wants to make sure the epoxy has a good seal before he goes any further. He takes his time with the explosive part of his plan. Making sure there are not any pockets of air and that it is firm but not too firm that he cannot get the leads in place. Once he has enough ammonium perchlorate in to satisfy him, he puts three layers of gauze in, enough space to keep the steel balls out of the fuel and to create a concussion effect when the ignition goes off. With the gauze in place he takes a deep breath and starts dropping the bb’s into the tube. One by one he drops them from his clenched fist, eighty four in all are used to fill the tube to near the brim. He leaves just enough room for the pieces of the ring to be put it.
Taking the ring out of his pocket he sets the nearly complete device on the top of his desk, leaning against his monitor so that nothing falls out of it. He takes a pair of wire cutters and cuts the ring into twelve little pieces. He leaves one piece holding the misshapen prongs that are barely grasping the diamond he had saved so long to buy.
He drops each of the twelve pieces into the copper tube, hearing the gold hit steel every time. The tiny “tink” noise the pieces make seem to Alex like the understated precursor to the end of the world, the end of his world at any rate.
With the disassembled ring resting on its bed of steel balls, Alex knows it is time to seal the device and prepare for the other poetic part of his plan. He sees this as a two act piece of art, the copper aspect is the rough and brutal culmination of centuries of man made destruction, the soft electronic whisper that his cell phone represents is the contemporary response to that evolution, the dichotomy of ancient destruction paired with modern technology, used in unison to create what can only exist when both are together, not alone.
His musings finished, he takes up his cell phone and slides off the back cover exposing the fully charged battery. Pulling the battery out from the phone he unspools two, foot long pieces of the thin wire and strips the ends to expose the fine copper threads formerly encased in plastic. Alex twists the ends of one side of each length of wire together, connecting them in a solid knot that he then slides into the small hole he had earlier drilled into the larger end of the copper tube. He slides the wire in as far as he can without pushing through the fuel, he only manages about ¾ of an inch before the wires begin to bind up. Just to be safe he puts a small dab of the epoxy on the end, better safe than sorry he figures.
The other ends of the wires he twists tightly until he has two separate needle like copper ends, perfect to fit into the recessed plastic where metal connectors are set on the lithium ion battery from his cell phone. He knows that all he has to do is connect one end to the connector marked with a “+” and the other end to the connector marked with a “-” and when enough voltage is pulled from the battery by the phone to activate both the ringer set at full volume and the vibration notification, a current strong enough to travel the two one foot lengths of wire into the model rocket fuel he had stuffed into the copper pipe will meet where he had twisted the two ends together and a spark will be created from the arcing of current, just enough of a spark to ignite the ammonium perchlorate. Alex knows that when the ammonium perchlorate ignites, the force of the blast will be more than enough to project the steel balls and the pieces of Maya’s ring through the back of his head within a fraction of a second. The thing that worries him the most is if the blast of the explosion will do the job before it shatters his teeth and the pipe is able to fly across the room.
He considers taping his mouth shut, maybe tying his jaw with a towel just to be safe. Alex considers the risks and figures that with the amount of fuel he has used, there will not be enough time for the device to leave his mouth before it does the job. It will be almost instantaneous.
Now to put his plan into place. With the battery out, he makes sure that the wires are going to make full contact with the connectors and that he can tape them to the battery without causing any problems with getting the case back on enough to hold the battery in place. He won’t be able to close the case all of the way, but enough to make it work and receive Maya’s text. That is all he needs really, once the text gets through, the phone will just have to sit there waiting for the cops to bust through the door.
He puts the battery back in, confidant that he can make the connections work after he changes some phone settings and sends Maya the text. After booting the phone up, he turns the ringer volume all the way up, sets it to ring repeatedly for 60 seconds and turns the vibration on as well.
With the phone ready to make as heavy a draw on the battery as possible, he thinks about what he is going to text Maya. It has to be perfect, it has to be loving but final and something that she will respond to. Tapping his fingers on his desk he considers a dozen options, two dozen and then he stops keeping track. Nothing seems to sound right, nothing captures the full message of love that he wants her to feel. Finally it comes to him, Alex knows what he must say to Maya.
“Maya, I only want your happiness and as long as you know that I truly love you, I can accept whatever it is that you need to do to be happy. Never forget me, because I will never forget you or us.”
He sends the message and as soon as the time stamp from when he sent it appears on his screen, he pulls the battery from his phone.
He knows he has about ten minutes before she responds, probably less, but just to be sure he looks at the clock on his bookcase and notes the time. Plenty of it left to connect the lead wires, go take a piss and smoke a cigarette.
Which is exactly what he does as he congratulates himself on doing such a good job. Everything has worked out perfectly. The device is perfect, flawless in design and almost impossible for it not to work. The text has been sent and now it is a matter of putting the connected battery back into his phone, turning on the power and placing the device into his mouth. Once his phone is up and running, it will connect to the cell network and receive Maya’s text message. Once that message comes through, Alex knows the ringer and vibration will go off. He might have half a second to recognize the sound it before it is all over.
Looking at his clock, Alex notices that time is up. He walks over to his desk and picks his cell phone up with one hand and the connected battery with the other. He slides the battery into the phone and half slides the cover onto the back. Taking a deep breath he presses the power button, lowers his body into his office chair and opens his mouth wide to slide the device inside. Gripping his jaw tight, he sets the phone into his lap and leans his head back into the leather of his chair.
Alex smiles as he thinks about Maya replaying the events of their last moments together. Alex smiles as he imagines the life they could have had. He smiles as he hears his ringer shatter the silence for half a second.