Communication With A Terrorist In Business Casual

Let the roar of the plastic explosives scare the hardwood floor into knocking you over with a sharp bounce, because you, John McClane, won’t have a choice anyway. Repeat “I have no choice” line five times, maybe six, so McNulty doesn’t have to hear about how you were too weak to live up to who you must have told him a dozen times is not your namesake. Take a moment to let your eyes tire themselves out from trying to swim right out of your head. Try to focus on the painting of the sunflower in the jar, because unlike the building you’re in right now, paintings never move on their own. The gasping screams of a man who must have thought origami staircases and those fish tanks with a sugary sheen meant that he’d for once be able to leave his facemask at home will bring your hearing back. Realize that you have never met him before. You cannot decide whether his presence over your body sprawled on the hardwood floor is comforting or imposing. The light off of his bald head burns like the sun in your uncoupled eyes. He will shout at you.

Shin. Shin. Shin!

Feel like you are craning your neck up to the ceiling just to look at your legs. They’re fine. He will pull you up by a hand slippery with Purell, or maybe that’s just your hand. This is where you should have paid attention: he was actually saying the Chinese word for “wake up,” not trying to prove that he knew the name of that bone in your leg. Try to stay alert. This is your chance to earn that honor that’ll quiet everyone who ever made fun of your name. Now he’ll get a good look at your face and wrench up his face in disgust. You must have drawn blood when you fell to the floor, because only now does a drop of blood decide to plunge off your eye. Your relief over his universally understood gesture will open up that pit in your stomach, and you will laugh for the first time of the night after you see the irony in your constant worry that the pit was a tumor.

Next he’ll say something like drawn more or dawn floor but he will duck around that wall with the painting where the lily pads look like eyes and pop open the Emergency Exit door. Some kind of gas will burst through the air vents on the ceiling, which will be your cue to imagine Bruce Willis in those vents suffocating on the gas like he should have during Die Hard. Watch for the other downed bodies and leap for the door. You’ll want to stop it from closing even though it won’t lock if it does. Listen for the man’s snare drum footsteps pounding against the stairs leading down. Place your hand on your head like a faith healer and pick a good one-liner as the door slams behind you. More gas will breach the air vents, sounding a late starting gun to a race between you and the gas to catch up with the stranger. Flail your arms as you run down the stairs because it might make you more aerodynamic.

Don’t look at me. I don’t know everything.

Keep going. Dig your loafers into the floor when you catch up to him at the door leading out into the lobby. He’ll be pinching the lapels of his jacket between thumb and forefinger, fondling and straightening them like there would be a red carpet leading right out of the front door. He’ll be smiling at “Emergency Exit” painted on the door as if it actually did mean “freedom.”

You’ll need to think about how to get out because you can hear yelling through the door. The noise on the other side is losing the fight to be understood with the snare of the gas emptying into the stairwell and the ramblings of the Chinese man. You’ll think about going back for a fire extinguisher or a fire axe or your steel water bottle or anything hard because the likelihood of crossing the open lobby with a scared-looking Chinese man and a building that’s still falling apart will look suspicious through the entirely windowed lobby to anyone passing by. But there are clearly hostile men on the other side of the door and if you get caught you will most likely join those bodies on the floor back upstairs. Outside all of that was the inevitability that someone was looking for him. You won’t go back, but you also won’t go through the door because the stranger will open the door. You’ll strain to stop him by the hem of his jacket, but he’ll have already rounded the corner of the recessed wall. Don’t follow him. Tell imaginary McNulty to stop laughing. Press yourself against the wall, crouching to peek around the corner. There will be a dozen men in matching fatigues. They will all be holding home camcorders with blinding lights all pointed right at you. Stand up and come out from behind the wall. Level your arms at them like you’re holding a pistol, but twitch because you don’t want to be too obvious about it. The man will be sitting with arms on the Secretary’s desk and head down. It’s like America’s Funniest Home Videos, but for the Hostage Negotiation Team, the stranger will say into his hands as he thrusts them toward you like he’s holding a pistol. Something in the shape of a gun barrel and still warm will jab deep into the small of your back. Don’t be a hero. Apologize to Bruce Willis. After all, five films ruined his namesake too. The butt of a rifle will slap against your temples, and you’ll remember what sleep feels like as you glimpse something alabaster and bald dragging itself through the empty air vents.

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