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WARNING: violent imagery!!

You know, it's amazing how quickly things can happen. Incredible how emotions can get the best of a person. Unbelievable how in a matter of milliseconds, eighteen years of a person's life can be blinked away, obliterated and never to be lived on.

When I was around eighteen years old, I worked as a waiter in a small restaurant, in a small town, with not much more than a school, a grocery store, and a few shops near it. I had gotten off of work one particularly normal Friday and I went to the bank to cash my fresh, new, and sorely small paycheck. I was planning on going to the movies with a friend, his girlfriend, and a girl they were trying to hook me up with. I guess it was supposed to be a blind date kind of thing. Isn't it funny how plans change? Anyway, the bank happened to be inside the grocery store next to the line of cash registers. While I was standing in the long, boring line at the bank, my eyes and mind started to wander. I noticed one of the hot cashier girls at the register closest to me. I'd seen her before; I personally thought she was the most attractive cashier in the store. I'd gone through her line before just to get a good look at her, though I never got up the guts to ask her out or anything. Seems childish, I know, but you do stupid stuff like that when you're a teenage guy.

Anyway, as I was standing there, I slowly became aware that I was staring at her yet again. I found myself trying to remember her name; I'd seen her nametag many times before, but I couldn't quite remember at the moment what was on it. I looked down at my watch: 6:27 PM. I glanced back at the line ahead of me and saw that it had moved up maybe two people in the last ten minutes. I sighed and glanced back at the hot cashier who had a long line of customers as well. She smiled her warm and seemingly undying smile at the customer currently at her register. Suddenly, out of nowhere, I heard someone yelling, and looked to see where it was coming from. What I saw was two guys that looked about my age, standing in the middle of the hot cashier's line, engaged in a lively "discussion" about something they both apparently had very different ideas about. I stretched my neck to see the loudly bickering duo a little better. At the same time, the cashier saw the two and the beautiful, youthful smile faded from her face quicker than the setting sun at dusk. She ran around the register and quickly shoved her way through the line of irritated customers to the now fighting teenaged guys. I couldn't hear much of what was being said between the two because of the noise in the busy store, but I did hear what was said once the girl arrived beside the two nearly fist to fist guys.

The taller one, who had been behind the other one in line yelled at the girl, "This is the guy you left me for??!? This is the guy you've been screwing around with?!?!"

The other one, who was a few inches shorter than the girl, and almost a foot shorter than the other guy yelled out, "Well, there must have been some reason she left you!!"

By this time, everyone in the front of the store had turned to look, including the bank tellers, the other cashiers, and their lines of customers. The girl, red in the face and close to tears, tried desperately to get the two to shut up and go outside, but now they were even more pissed off at each other than before. As we all stood and watched, they argued more violently and started to push each other. I looked around to see if anyone was going to call security or something but everyone was too stunned by the previous outbursts to move.

I looked back at the three to see the girl making an attempt to get between the two guys at no real progress until the taller one suddenly pulled a small handgun out of his jacket. My jaw dropped as I stood stunned at the drama happening before me while I became vaguely aware of other people starting to scream, duck, or drop to the ground. Most of the people around me ran out of the store but a few stood, bewildered and astonished at what was happening before them. The gun-wielding taller guy yelled a few more choice words at the unarmed shorter guy, while Short Guy mocked and dared the Gun Guy to shoot. The girl, now fully in tears and screaming at the two to stop, was still trying to get between them when Gun Guy raised his weapon and aimed at Short Guy. The girl screamed, "No, Mark! Stop!!" and finally succeeded in getting between them as Short Guy backed off a step. She boldly grabbed the barrel of the gun and tried to push it away when the gun went off.

Time froze for what seemed like forever. The volume of the gunshot was beyond deafening, and I fell to the ground covering my ears in reaction to it. I became aware of a screaming voice somewhere close by. It took me a few seconds to realize that the screaming voice was my own. When my head stopped reeling long enough for me to bring my head up and look around, I saw that most of the remaining people had run or were on the ground. The other cashiers had dropped behind their registers, the bank tellers were behind their desks, and the other customers had run away or were crouched screaming and crying behind cash registers and magazine racks. My eyes landed on a little girl, frightened and somehow separated from her mother. She was crying, curled up in the fetal position behind a candy rack displaying Butterfinger bars and Snickers bars. As my glance lingered on her, I noticed how much she looked like the hot cashier that I had been staring at, the one that got in the middle of the in-store gunfight. At that thought, I looked up to see what happened to the three after the gun had gone off.

What I saw was a sight that I never want to see again, and hope no one else will ever have to see. The gun guy, or "Mark" as the girl had called him, was still holding the gun, though very loosely in one hand. His face was condemned and he looked like he was going to pass out or puke as he looked at the girl with wide, stricken eyes. The girl, her once beautiful face now streaked with tears, had a look of horror across it as she clutched her stomach with both hands. When she removed her hands, a river of dark red blood flowed from a ripped and jagged hole just below her rib cage. She looked down at her soiled shirt and at the blood on her hands, then looked up at Mark, who dropped the gun to the floor.

"I'm sorry. Oh my god, I am so sorry," he whimpered. Tears began to fall from his eyes as he stood petrified in place.

The girl started to fall but the shorter guy, the guy she had gotten in front of the gun to save, caught her in his arms and gently lowered her to the ground where he knelt with her head and shoulders on his knees.

"No. No, you can't leave me. Please don't leave me, my Love," he whispered as tears started to form in his eyes. It was amazing how silent the store had become; the shouts and cries had stopped, and the people those cries had belonged to were now just cowering quietly and hoping it would all be over soon.

The girl looked into her lover's despairing eyes and tried to say something to him. Perhaps she wanted to tell him that she loved him. It's sad that no one will ever know. The blood pouring from her stomach had made it's way up into her throat and came oozing out of her mouth with what were to be her final words. And with that, life drained from her once beautiful, vibrant, and youthful body.

Her lover bent over her body, screaming, "No. No, please no! NOO!!" His cries and tears flowed forth harder and with more force than any great river or waterfall.

The other, Mark, stood like a frozen statue, transfixed on the sight before him. His tears suddenly burst from his eyes and he reached down to pick up his gun yet again. He screamed a final bloodcurdling "I'M SO SORRY!!" Then, he raised the gun to his head and pulled the trigger.

I had to take another few seconds to allow my spinning mind to calm down after the earsplitting sound before I looked up again. When I did look up, I saw his body lying lifeless on the floor near the crouching lover and his lifeless girlfriend. A pool of dark red blood was already beginning to form around the fallen gunman's head. The lover, still stricken and tearful, looked from the expired body before him, to the body of his lover, whom he still held close despite her quickly fading color and the blood that was now draining onto him. Then, his gaze fell upon the gun, which now lay halfway between him and the fallen gunman. He looked back at the frail girl wrapped in his arms and with a gentle, tearful kiss, he set her carefully on the ground beside him. He then moved slowly towards the stone gray gun lying on the floor. He picked it up gingerly and stared at it for a while, turning it around in his hands, the tears still falling from his sorrowful eyes. He looked around the store, only to notice that the scene had been mostly deserted. I was one of six people that remained in the store during the whole episode; all the others had run away. But he couldn't see me, and he apparently didn't see the others either. He simply looked back down at the gun, then moved back beside the girl's body as the faint sounds of police sirens approached.

He took no notice of the impending sirens and curled up next to the girl's body. He wrapped one arm around her again and with the saddest look I had ever seen on one person's face, gave her pale cheek a final kiss good-bye, then raised the gun to his own head.

I stayed there, lying low on the floor in front of the bank in this small town grocery store, starring at the ghastly scene in front of me after the unimaginably loud sound allowed my eyes to focus once more. I stared at the three lost bodies until police officers burst into the mostly empty store, guns drawn. My gaze fell once more upon my watch: 6:29 PM. The whole thing had lasted two minutes.

A few weeks later, after almost constant police questioning and even more frequent interviews, I was finally able to piece together most of the story of that ill-fated evening at the local grocery store. The taller guy, Mark, had been the girl's ex-boyfriend. She broke up with him nearly two years before that night for her own reasons, but he was certain that she'd left him for another guy. She did eventually end up going out with another guy, though not until a year and a half following the break-up. The other guy was the shorter guy involved in the fatal argument; his name had been Devin. Mark had found out that his beloved ex had lost her virginity to this short, wussy looking guy named Devin, and he became insanely jealous protective. So, he did the first thing that came to his maddened mind; he took out his gun. However, his shot missed Devin and hit the girl he was so in love with. His guilt overwhelmed him and he shot himself. He had recently been taken off his previous heavy doses of Prozac.

Devin, who was very much in love with this girl, had been planning on asking her to marry him. He was saving his hard-earned money for an engagement ring and was deciding when he should pop the question. He didn't know the girl's ex personally, and met him for the first time in the check out line at the grocery store. The two had gotten into a discussion about the girl and eventually figured out the other's identity. Each guy became very protective over the girl they both loved, and they got into an argument.

As for the girl, I finally remembered her name. Her name was Kapera. I'd always thought it was sort of an odd yet beautiful name until one of my friends told me that every name has a meaning. After reflecting on that thought, I found a book of baby names and looked up her name. I nearly choked when I saw the meaning of that strangely beautiful name: "this child, too, will die."

Two minutes. Two minutes and three lives are gone, and many more damaged by the incident. Too many, if you ask me. Isn't it amazing how our emotions can control us and drive us to madness? Isn't it incredible how quickly and easily a life can be blinked out of existence?

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