By Vito Delsante

David recognized him right away. Tall, broad shoulders on a back that seemed to be built like a billboard. Wisps of blonde hair peeked out from under the ski cap, but his blue, steely eyes absolutely penetrated the wool covering. Manicured fingernails on a hand that held a pistol straight and narrow. Muscles that bulged in all the right places. He knew who his captor was, and despite the fact that he was holding a gun to his face, he had to say his name. “Carl?” he asked and cocked his head. The gunman trained his gun on the bank teller. He looked at David and his memory came back to him. “Oh, shit,” said Carl.

*****

It was only a few days earlier. Carl Stockholm woke up in a strange bed. Carl was no stranger to strange beds, but this one was a little off putting. It looked like something out of a magazine one of his exes used to read. Carl, while happily out of the closet, had always attracted feminine men. It was his curse. When he was a kid, confused about who he was, girls flocked to him. He was the golden god of Freeport High School, lettering in multiple sports and bedding many a co-ed. It threw his father off his scent; act straight in front of him, hurry up and graduate. Getting out of Freeport was his only mission in life. Things were getting confusing. It wasn’t the other guys in the locker room; he saw them as brothers. It was a movie, and then a book, that really started him questioning who he was; Interview With The Vampire. He related to Tom Cruise’s character, Lestat. The need he possessed…the idea of being free of consequences. The idea of being exactly who you are without shame or concern. Carl wanted all of this…and Brad Pitt wouldn’t hurt either. Being a closeted gay in a small town was a great disadvantage; once the mind is awakened to the lies and inconsistencies, all it wants to do is rebel. Hurt. Fight. When he was accepted to Carnegie-Mellon University, he had his ticket out. When his father had his stroke, he had his freedom.

But he never lost his anger.

Carl was among other gays coming into their own. Men and women had formed groups for the advancement of homosexual rights on campus. Carl thought he should join them, but quickly quit. He found that because of his good looks, he was seen as a trophy, something to be shown off. “Look at how gorgeous our friend Carl is. And he’s gay!” While no one ever said it, he could see it in everyone’s eyes. Carl was no poster child. He started going to clubs. He started hooking up. He started having sex. Without even knowing it, he became the picture of the stereotype without being on a poster. Looking around the strange, ornate bedroom he found himself in, he realized that he had to do something…unexpected. David came into the room, asked him how he slept while running his fingers through Carl’s hair. Carl seethed beneath his golden exterior. He didn’t hate David; he actually kind of liked him. He liked all the men he’d been with. He just hated the sentiment and the idea of being the reflection of someone’s affection. Carl was becoming a hostage to his own nature.

It was time to break free before he settled and became placid.

He followed David to his job. When he saw that he worked at Citizens Bank, he formed an idea. The security was lax. The tellers were robots. No one, not even David, acknowledged that he had entered. They were so tied up in their mundanity, that he was effectively invisible.

*****

“Why are you doing this?” David asked. “Was it something I did?” David, unaware or ignorant of the gun in his face, seemed hurt more than he was scared. He thought the hook up was great and that they connected.

Carl was confused by his reaction. “David, I am going to start shooting everyone in here unless you give me what I asked for!” Carl had to struggle to keep his cool. His plan was starting to unravel. “Get the money, get out, go away.” He kept repeating the mantra in his head.

“I…I can’t do that,” David said, stifling back a tear. After a short pause and an extended stare, David looked down and said, “Please don’t do this.”

Carl was conflicted. In his head, an argument. “Why am I doing this?” “Because everyone thinks you’re weak.” “No one thinks I’m weak!” “They will once they realize you’re gay.” “Everyone knows I’m gay!” “Oh, and this guy is gonna save you? Pull the trigger!”

BLAM!

Carl looked down at his gun. It wasn’t fired. He looked at David, whose face was covered in tears and blood. Then he found it hard to breathe. He fell to his knees, gasping for air. His hands around his throat, that’s when he felt the little hole in his neck. Blood poured. His eyes turned up. Carl saw the ceiling and wondered, simply, how they got that mural painted.

–Vito Delsante

Illustration by Julian Lopez