Transistor pt.7

Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6

1% decided to have a drink and kick its feet up. It took residence in my frontal lobe and all the other lobes as well.

I spent the next few days deliberating with it, like a man who understood how to budget talking to the world’s shadiest car salesman.

His pitch was convincing.

I mentally tracked the details. A to B. B to C. C to D. Therefore and vis a vis. Ipso facto. I followed the threads between actions and events like they were pins on a cluttered wall and I was buying in to being a serial killer detective.

I actually put together a wall of pins and threads. I walked through it while 1% turned to 11% turned to 43% turned to 71% turned to 99% with a smug smile and a too-firm handshake.

I walked through my mugging and the woman who I saw standing there while I was being mugged.

I thought about the assholes who mugged me and how I’d spent the night before, my brain filling in sections of a color-by-number drawing, wondering why I found it so easy to omit such obvious sections.

I thought about how I’d wanted more than anything to not have to go back to work, and how now…I had it. Bereavement time for everyone. Nevermind that the guy went through cars like wives and wives like bottles of whiskey. Nevermind that he probably didn’t know the names of half the people who worked there unless he thought he had a chance with them in a supply closet or after a late night office party when morals were low and inhibitions were dull.

As a company, we clearly needed to mourn.

I thought about that picture. That big fucking sombrero and that margarita that should have been served with a DWI and the side of Brad’s face giving her a kiss on her cheek. And of course, I was there. My face only partially in frame.

It had felt so terribly apt: never quite in frame, never quite in focus.

And I thought about how pettiness wins. Cruelty wins. Darkness wins.

We win the lottery of life and we find ourselves ready to lord it over others. Ready to either show them what they were missing or else show off what they can never have.

It’s how I ended up here, I suppose, with a picture in my hand.

Because 1% told me I won the lottery of life. It said it until it was Mr. 99% and I facts and reasons moved aside like he was a bright light in a room of roaches. And when I saw the deck of life sitting before me saying, “Your deal…”

I didn’t shuffle.

We never really do.

Because we know, I suppose. We know deep down that we can’t buy our way out. Not really. We see our question of “Why him? Why not me? What was so wrong?” And we want to believe it can be something simple. Something we can fix. An answer we can buy.

But the truth is terrible, and simple, and cruel.

While I meandered through a world where it seemed like everyone prepared sad eyes for me in the lament of who I loved, and she seemed somehow oblivious, I was given the mantra of “Maybe she just doesn’t know.”

But the truth is dark, and brutal, and so concise.

She didn’t love me, and if I was honest, I knew the reason why: because she didn’t.

The whole, cohesive element that was me was not a blip on her emotional radar. I was an empty sky and unblemished ocean. I was something that did not disturb her senses in the way that mattered.

But then, pettiness wins. Cruelty wins.

So when I thought about what I’d done that night and how the next day it seemed that, “well, how about that?” the muggers suddenly got a dose of what they gave. And when I thought about how I thought my boss’s boss was an asshat, and I just wanted to be home, alone, in the dark – fold into myself and let my mind rattle around like a quill in a nearly-empty inkwell only to find that he’d died…

Autoerotic asphyxiation. Happy birthday, indeed, El Presidente.

I thought about how I was trying to stifle pain with pain. Treating the cut by adding a burn. Filling whatever part of me with enough venom and poison that I could hurt in a way that could numb the pain that I was just so tired of feeling.

I found myself looking at my lottery ticket. The one that 1% told me was a winner. “Just check the numbers and you’ll see!” And I knew deep down that the answers I wanted were made for questions that no one was asking, and the questions I had were meant for answers I didn’t want…

Well…I guess pettiness wins, doesn’t it?

And that’s how I wound up here, holding a picture of her. A picture of just her. An older one. One from before. From when I was just me and she was just her and I hadn’t decided that her answer to the question I never asked was no…and that it always would be.

She was the last thing I saw because I suppose that’s how it works.

Pull the petals of she-loves-me-nots and let the wind take them to their destination. Let my metaphorical butterfly flap its wings and cause a storm in China.

If 1% was right, a cut on my hand would find its way to someone else’s. A punch in the face would do the same.

So when the light flooded my eyes, leaving me standing there like the world’s dumbest deer, I think I almost smiled.

I cried, of course. Jesus, I cried.

While the sound came roaring at me, that doppler effect of noise as it barrels toward you was like a storm of horns and trumpets forged in hell.

The sound of metal on metal screamed while the tracks fought against wheels.

The conductor was about to have a really bad day.

And as the train came forward to take the one kiss that I’d never had a chance to give her, I whispered. Even had I yelled, no one could have heard me. I don’t even think I could have, but it didn’t matter.

I whispered all the same.

I whispered, “Give her my regards…”


Transistor pt.6

Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5

Contact was like the splitting of an atom.

Like the fusion of two disparate eternities.

I was a million, million six-sided dice, and every single one was rolling one.

I’d evaded any post-operation check-ups with she who was survived by the passing of he who I never wanted to name. I’d cowardly sidestepped an appearance at a funeral.

Work. Super busy. Obviously.

I always wondered how you were supposed to tell people that you care about that you can’t care about them because they cared about someone else when you needed them to care about you because you cared too much about them.

Maybe there’s a word that means that. If there is, I never knew what it was.

I spent my days in something of a haze. I spent a lot of it drunk.

I saw the ragged edges of stupidity weaving together like a man looking at a map of the world and pointing out where Pangea must have been. That self-assured notion that if you budge this landmass, and shift that one, and – well, sure, you have to remember erosion and the movement of tectonic plates to account for all the parts that don’t quite line up – well, it pretty much lines up perfectly.

You see it, right?

I waited for calls from cops that never came.

I waited for calls from James to ask if I was okay while he alluded to “You know…I mean, with everything that happened…” Never really saying what happened. Never really putting a name on the placard. Like an office that’s labeled with only a title – a position – a concept.

I scolded myself as I saw patterns that I told myself weren’t there. They weren’t there like faces weren’t on pieces of bread. That’s the human mind creating patterns – not finding them. It’s looking backward and connecting the carefully selected moments with a string like on those overly-elaborate boards you see in movies from an obsessed detective, or a serial killer, or an obsessed serial killer detective.

Somewhere along the way, my brain decided to play chicken with a world of what-if. It was that irrational mindset of a person thinking that if they wore the right color and said the right words then – quite like magic – the Somewhere’sVille Ball Throwers would win the World Bowl Cup-athon…or whatever.

So like an idiot who was trying to find enough sand to bury his head so that he could pretend reality was somewhere far away and twice-removed, I started small.

I tried to pull and release one of the outer balls of my hypothetical Newton’s cradle and then I stood back and waited. I waited with bated breath. I waited for the other shoe to drop.

When nothing happened…no metaphorical click-clack…a solid 99% of my brain was content. Convinced.

“You’re an idiot. You knew that, though, didn’t you?”

My 1% was like a salesman’s foot in the doorway saying, “Well now, sir, if you’ll just wait one more minute and I can show you the power of the Sucker Deluxe 4000. This baby can clean the wood flooring UNDER your carpet, and you wanna talk about the best sleep you’ve had in ages? Sir, look no further…because this baby here is the answer to your prayers. Yes, sir, outta be called the Sweet Jesus Five Billion…”

I drank my 1% by ounces and gallons.

Maybe it was just easier to hold on to than truth is. Maybe that’s why people believe in god. Maybe that’s why they believe in yetis and the Lochness monster. Because it’s something to hold on to. It’s that teddy bear that you cling to because, without it, all that’s left is that terrible, looming night with lonely crickets singing lonely songs. Because sometimes, you need to think there’s still one grain left in the hourglass…

When I woke up on a foggy Tuesday morning, my left leg filled with pins and needles from what was definitely the world’s worst sleeping position, I felt like I was watching the grain fall. Or maybe I was just finally accepting that it already had and that moving around it and looking at different angles wasn’t going to change it.

I went into the kitchen and made coffee which didn’t nothing to take away my headache. I saw blood in the sink and couldn’t remember if that was something recent. I didn’t feel injured, and I was pretty sure I hadn’t killed anyone.

I squinted in the too bright day of barely-after-sunrise while I drove to work while my view of the world felt like it was moving through damp cotton balls…my brain feeling far too much the same.

Inside, I zombie walked toward my desk, at first paying little heed to the rest of my coworkers. I gave the customary “passing by people who you definitely know the name of, so you do that little upward head-tilt” thing. My fuzzy brain shrugged off details like it was a coat in a room that was too warm. The information was there, but it didn’t register.

I felt like it was Monday morning and Game of Thrones had aired the night before. People seemed huddled together. People who didn’t normally talk to each other were talking to each other.

It started to settle in. The details were sharpening.

I did that awkward approach to the front desk where Tim was stationed talking to Stephanie and some other woman whose name I didn’t know.

I didn’t even have a chance to be “that guy”.

“Can you believe it?” Tim asked in that way people do when they know that you most certainly should not be able to believe it.

“I just talked to him yesterday, “other-woman was saying with that weird tone of resignation. That tone of someone in pseudo-shock about something terrible that happened and it made perfect sense for them to have very deep feelings about it.

“I think I’m a bit out of the loop,” I said with a bit too much space between all my words.

“Yes, sir,” my 1% chimed in, “this baby right here…oh…this right here is the genie and the lamp, but no need to make three wishes. Oh, no…this little gem is the only one you’re ever gonna need.”

Part 7

Transistor pt.5

Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4

Pressure that was both pulling and pushing as if the world was a black hole and I was made of light – though more than ever, it was a great miasma of light and I an endless black hole.

Yet it pressed against me.

A tornado rushing on a horizontal plane.

Thunder moving the wrong direction.

A storm running away from me while it’s bitter entrails of lightning reached out and pawed at me like the fingers of the dead.

My mind had been in a fog while I drove.

It was that feeling like something was wrong but it was so vague that it didn’t make sense. Like I was locked in the feeling of “I think I left the oven on” plus “I forgot to do my homework” with a side of “I showed up to class naked” all sprinkled with a layer of “I might have pissed on my neighbor’s car last night”.

It was a feeling like every part inside of me was trying desperately to be on the outside and every part outside just wanted to wrap itself in a cold, dark shroud and hibernate until some time next century so that I could call a mulligan on my current life.

I imagined wonderfully elaborate scenes of being in a dimly lit interrogation room – two-way mirror on the wall at my right. The eponymous good cop/bad cop routine playing out in stock 80’s movie fashion.

The detective smoking a cigarette while the cool-headed partner lingered in the corner with his arms crossed…just waiting to come in and be the voice of sympathy and reason.

Words from a stubbled jaw saying, “Seems like a lot of shit’s following you around these days. And we have…” he’d thumb through pages as if it were an unplanned action, “…yeah…right here, phone logs. You say ‘Someone died’…strange way to put it.”

And the partner would come in, “Coulda been shock,”

“Oh yeah,” the bad cop would say, “sure…” he’d snuff out a cigarette in the ashtray that they clearly didn’t bring in for me because I didn’t smoke. “Could be shock. But it’s weird, right? Cocksuckers take your stuff down in Allensville. Boom! Dead. And then…I mean…I’m looking at this browser history of yours and…”

“Look,” good cop would say, “we’re not saying you did anything, but if you did…or even you know something…”

My head was like a saturated bandage. It was like a mouth full of gauze after the dentist removes all four wisdom teeth. I passed the address without even realizing I’d done it and had to double back.

I sat in front of the house like an idiot for longer than I should have before I finally got out. My fingers hurt where I’d gripped the steering wheel like a man riding a raging bull down into the depths of hell.

Steps to the door were an eternity, fraught with moments where I wanted to just turn around and leave.

I knocked on the door like a kid who doesn’t want to tell his mom that he got in a fight on the playground or an ‘F’ on his recent test.

I tried to take the lack of answer as “no one’s home” and I was about to turn and leave when the door finally opened.

Her face had no composure, eyes were ringed in red, and her nose was clearly rubbed raw. Her chin hat that tremble to it. That movement like anxious feet on the starting line of a racetrack made of agony and sadness.

I couldn’t help but recognize the shirt she was wearing. I’d seen it recently. Not in person, of course, but I’d seen it in a picture. In it, she was holding her arms out in a look of photographic excitement with an overly large sombrero on her head. A margarita that could have put down a narwhal was on the table. The whole scene was blemished by the side-profile face leaning in to kiss her on her cheek. Brad.

Fucking Brad.

“I…” she was trying to say, but words didn’t come out, instead, she just uttered a string of incoherent syllables and reached out like I was a long lost teddy bear. I wanted to find solace in that, but a part of me knew that it was a hollow a moment as I never wanted it to be.

“I mean, look,” bad cop would say, “no way we think you tracked this guy down at 3 am and then ran him off the road, but it seems strange, you know? Pretty lady like that. She leaves you. It gets under your skin, yeah? Maybe someone knows you’re hurting, right? A friend of a friend sees the guy…yeah?”

“Best we can tell,” good cop would say, “you were at home all night. Nothing says you left. Car never moved. No taxis or ubers or anything. I mean, look, we’re just trying to sort this out. We’re on your side here. You gotta get out in front of this before other people start filling in the blanks for you.”

She felt soft in his arms. She sounded sad. I told myself that some of that sadness was for me. That is was because of…

In my mind, the oven was still on, homework still forgotten. I was standing naked in the classroom on my first day and I’m sure I pissed on my neighbor’s car. Everything in the world felt wrong. Holding her felt wrong.

I stood there silently while she cried. I didn’t offer any kind words.

When she finally muttered the tear-soaked words of “I miss him so much” between great heaping sobs, I clenched my jaw and closed my eyes.

“I know,” I finally said with words I carved out of ice and disconsolation.


Part 6

Transistor pt.4

Part 1, Part 2, Part 3

A roaring like some ancient god screaming.

A thunder like some terrible demon tearing free from a chrysalis of old prayers.

Darkness was but a pinhole in a blanket of endless yellow light.

I was a fly on a pane of heaven’s glass.

I could see the hand that meant to swat me.

Days dragged on and my nerves felt stretched like taffy being pulled between the fat, greedy fingers of overweight children who now struggled over their sweet prize while their chainsmoking mother sat in the catatonic glow of her smartphone.

I’d come home at one point and found myself in the churning thoughts that accompany so many but are seldom said by most. That series of thoughts of “what if I just snapped? what if I was one of ‘those guys’?”

I looked around and thought how sad that very thought was. That knowledge that I wasn’t cut out for that life. That realization that said that the cops would come in prepared to see an outfit made out of spare ballerina parts and a clown’s wig, a closet filled with “Faces of Death” videos and a copy of Helter Skelter that had been read one time too many. That realization that they’d come in and see…

I imagined cops coming in and just saying, “Fuck…no wonder…” Not the statement of “this man was troubled and this was the only way he could say it,” nor the statement of “this man was sick and it was just a matter of time before he spread his infection,” but the statement of “fuck, I feel pathetic just being in here.”

I looked around at the staggering mediocrity of it all. The plain wood paneling that was probably just as depressing to the last twenty occupants as it’d been to me. The carpet that had been replaced, but already looked like it was old about four years ago. The bookshelf with just enough books to say I was literate and too few to say I was impressively so; a fine haze of dust to let the world know it wasn’t my current hobby or fascination. A small loveseat that had seen more casual lounging and unintended naps than it had ever seen of love.  A videogame console that was apparently a season away from being two generations old. A collection of DVDs and no obvious way to play them. A TV that hadn’t been impressive even when it had been purchased new.

The last thought caught in my throat. I clenched my teeth. That sort of clench where you’re fighting all the words you never said because they showed up too late to the party where you’d forgotten to invite them.

I remembered when I’d gotten it. I remembered the endearing statement of “Well, I’m tired of trying to watch shit movies on your laptop.”

Strange the way some sentences stick with you. Like little blemishes in a book that were never intended, but now you look for them every time you see the page.

Self-deprecation and worry met somewhere on the intersection of Alcohol Avenue and Zero-Moderation Street. At some point between listening to tragic music and scrolling through names of people that I’d be better off not texting, life had gotten hazy. That sort of haze where I started not quite recalling what I’d recently been doing, but thinking that I must have come into the kitchen for some reason.

I woke to the sound of my phone playing the stock alarm sound that it was initially set on. I had the distinct feeling that it had played several times already. I woke without a headache, which also told me that I just hadn’t sobered up yet, which was far from encouraging.

When I went to move, I saw that my pants were mostly off, and I was short one shoe. Apparently, my hero’s quest to my bed had been vanquished by failing ambition or else failing mobility. It was likely a combination of both.

I looked at my phone though eyes that wouldn’t focus and finally made the noise stop.

I took a deep breath before looking at my phone to see what damage I might have done.

Sent emails. Sent texts. Browser history. Phone calls made.

I hadn’t worried so much about the voicemail notification. It was later than it should have been and work was likely wondering why I wasn’t there.

I didn’t find any need for any immediate social triage. In a still-blurry state, I chose to focus on a hot shower and enough coffee to kill an angry giraffe. I swiped around on my phone to cue up work so I could let them know that I was clearly sick and etcetera…etcetera…vomiting or whatever.

One missed call.

It made sense, there was a voicemail after all.

The number wasn’t one I immediately knew.

It was one of those numbers where it felt weird. Like when I’d seen a call and I knew beyond knowing that it was some horse-shit salesman trying to tell me about how I qualified for a new loan from Moneypit Capital or whatever. Like when I’d see a call and I just had a feeling that it was someone who knew me…back when I was the me they used to know…and they’d somehow found the new me that I’d become and had some desire to see if they were the same person.

It was the sort of number that made my stomach clench. The sort of number that made my finger hesitate when I finally hit the voicemail icon.

It asked me to enter my pin number and I hesitated like a man putting in a keycode for a bomb that was ticking down to the last few seconds.

“First message,” it began.

I listened like a man being told a terrible joke that never got a punchline. Like a string of words from a person who’s only speaking half the right words in half the right language. I clicked the disconnect button and found the number to work.

Like a chainsmoking mother lost in the glare of her smartphone, I spoke to Amanda in HR who I told that I was sorry that I didn’t call earlier. I wouldn’t be in today.

“What reason would you like for me to put down?” she asked.

I felt like it was someone else’s words coming out of my mouth like my brain was sleepwalking and my mouth was being moved by a bad puppeteer.

“Someone died,” I said.

I hung up as I heard her say, “…Oh…I’m…I’m…sorr…”


Part 5

Transistor pt.3

Part 1, Part 2

A whirlwind of screaming beckoned. A tremolo effect that saw a roar of life and death set in peaks and valleys turned sideways and then shifted backward into yesterday; stretching forward into tomorrow. The world was a blur of dizzying light and chaos. A veritable vista of vibrant views that now played upon a viola at three thousand decibels and slowed down to one seventieth its natural speed.

The earth was nothing but quakes and quivers and my legs were very much the same. My heard pounded like a timpani beneath the world’s most aggressive arms playing Tchaikovsky in the world’s most extreme orchestra.

Life was a wall of death that spanned millennia. Death was a dot on the horizon that called like a siren song. Sang a tune of sweet nectar that flooded my ears with the warmth that might have just been blood.

Trepidation stayed my feet while curiosity moved my arms. Doors parted like the red seas before Moses. The person at the front was hidden behind a sheet of glass that only reflected my face – some unknown entity that made me think of the Wizard of Oz. It was like trying to exchange pleasantries through a glory hole.

Name? Why was I there? Who did I need to see? Take a seat.

Life in a standstill.

Eventually, I heard the buzz. Saw the man enter. Clean shaven, all blue and black and brass. Said to follow him.

T.V. always made it sound like you walked in and just asked for the detective. This made it feel like I was turning myself in. I started to wonder if that’s what I was doing.

We entered a room that actually looked a lot like T.V. shows seem to depict. Desks and shitty computer monitors, towers that were probably still getting Windows Vista updates. The door closed with a heavy thud – like a gavel hit from an annoyed judge.

Suddenly, I felt like all eyes were suddenly on me. It was that creeping sensation like when you wake up from a night where you’ve clearly drunk too much and you’re waiting for the proverbial shoe to drop. Waiting for that one person to finally say, “So…how you feeling today?” with that look in their eye that says they know more about what you did than you do.

I walked past desks until the officer points forward to an actual office.

“Detective Harvel,” he introduced himself. “Have a seat.”

My heart is a hive of hornets. My skin is nothing but goosebumps and sweat.

He pulled out a bag and put in on the table. My heart stopped and my ears dreamt a million accusations and a great blank space of rebuttal. My mouth hung open like a fish gasping for air. I barely heard his words.

Life in slow motion.

“You okay?” he asked.

I gave him one of those, “Huh?” replies that I imagine cops love so much.

“These are yours, right?” he said with a tone that implied he was repeating himself.

I looked over the contents. Wallet, movie ticket stub, key to my high school locker. Why the fuck do I still keep that? Oh…yeah…I suppose that…

“You need some water?” he said. “Coffee, maybe?”

I didn’t understand.

“I’m sorry,” I said, “I’m just…” I just…what? “I’m having a hard time processing this…”

“Well,” he said, “these appear to be your things unless that license belongs to your twin…who also has the same name as you and lives at your address and has your same phone number.”

“Right,” I said, “I…I mean…I get that,” I half-lied, “but…”

“Like I said,” he said, “we found it on some guys down in Allensville.”

I looked at my hand. I thought about my injuries.

My desire for an inquiry was buried beneath a hesitation that said that too many of the wrong kind of questions would make me a suspect. “Uh…I…uh…” I eloquently replied.

“Look,” he said, “we got a call. Intersection of Marvin Boulevard and 36th. Get there and we got three dead. Still not sure what the hell happened. Turf-related, maybe. We’re still trying to sort it out. We found your wallet on one of the guys, a…” he flipped through papers while the silence spread out like an old afghan on a cheap bed, “a….Mr. Timothy Wallers, alias T-Wall. Ringing any bells?”

I shook my head.

“I was…” I paused, measuring my words, “I got mugged about a week ago. Wrong place, wrong time kind of thing.”

“And what were you doing in Allensville?” he asked.

“Stopping for gas,” I lied. “Guys came out of nowhere. I gave ’em what they wanted and limped on home.”

“And why didn’t you report it?”

“Group of random guys that I can’t describe in a bad location who took a wallet. I might not be a cop, but I know that the odds of that panning out is pretty slim.”

“Didn’t happen to be there last night, did you?”

“I was at home last night.”

“Anyone able to corroborate that?”

“I…I mean…I live alone, so no.”

He gave me a mile long stare. He sat silent for just long enough to make me feel more uncomfortable than I already did, and then he kept going for another minute.

“Well,” he finally said, “glad to get your belongings back to you.”

“Yeah,” I replied as smoothly as a man who doesn’t know if he’s guilty or not, “thanks.”

I went to leave while I stuffed my wallet back in my pocket. It felt out of sorts. It felt like there was something in it that didn’t belong. I knew I’d have to wait until I got home to find out what.

“Do me a favor,” the detective said, “don’t leave town for a while. In case we have more questions.”

“Roger dodger,” I said, knowing that I sounded like a fucking moron shortly after saying it.

Part 4

Transistor pt.2

Part 1

A wall of yellow-white stretched out before me while a cacophony of a world gone wild played a symphony of iron drums, on clouds of steel that screamed out thunder made of rusted nails that scraped a blackboard of confusion. All around me was the whirlwind of inevitability – the final sum of things.

I held the picture so hard that I felt my knuckles strain, felt my fingertips driving into one another. Even had I brought it to my face, I don’t know that I would have been able to see it over the glare. I was being swallowed slowly by a miasma of forced circumstance.

I could feel my heart vibrating – pumping like cannon fire. My lungs squeezed and heaved, and I couldn’t tell at times if I were breathing or not. I tried to tell myself that it didn’t matter. Part of me wanted to run from that revelation as sure as I wanted to flee the raging torrent that barreled toward me – unrelenting. Ravenous. Unforgiving.

I almost let a tear form when I realized that I was not so different.

I spent days mulling over what to do. Like the appearance of strange advertisements on the sites I frequent online, I saw connections and told myself they weren’t there.

Unless they are.

I thought about heading back but thought better of it. I wasn’t a private detective, I didn’t need to return the scene of the crime. Even if I did, what would I say? “Hello, I’m…uh…well, actually you don’t know me…and so, yeah. Hey, do you recall about a week ago…”

I’d driven half the distance there on three occasions before I finally realized I didn’t have the stones to do it. I tried to find more information, but news has a strange way of not staying at the forefront of a news cycle when it isn’t big enough…dark enough…violent enough. I found little more than what I’d seen when it’d first been reported.

Boy returned home. He’d been missing for over a year. Person who had him had run a red light, hit a fire hydrant. He’d fled the scene, so the cops went to his house. He’d made it inside and died of a cerebral hemorrhage. Cops found the boy in his basement. I couldn’t imagine what he must have looked like. What came to mine was these big, vacant eyes – a catatonic expression…like a body whose soul was now missing.

Bad shit happens to good people. Sometimes bad shit happens to bad people, too. Maybe it happens with the same frequency. Maybe we just hear about it in different quantities.

I still had dreams. I’d wake up in a cold sweat, my stomach tightened so hard that it was cramping, my teeth clenched so hard that my jaw ached.

James had been right, to a degree. Things hadn’t been going well. Not after…

Don’t say her name…

I didn’t know enough about drugs to try getting them from somewhere that I shouldn’t have. It was my own fault. Bad shit happens to good people. Sometimes bad shit just happens to people like me…not good…not bad…just…  …just… whatever…

I stayed home most nights after that. I didn’t have the stomach to put up with James. We’d been friends by default for too long, and actual friends almost never. Like that last two drunk people left in a bar that no one goes to anymore. We just kept talking. Maybe it was because we didn’t know who else to talk to. Maybe we just didn’t know how to talk to anyone else. Maybe we’d given up trying.

With a half a fifth of cheap whiskey in my stomach, I’d thought about that night. Half-pissed at myself for being stupid. Half-pissed at myself for being such a pussy. Fully pissed at myself for just being myself. The night turned into a blur of empty glasses and failed attempts to fill in the emptiness with the right song from the right artist or band. As if the right set of words or notes could make it better – a bandaid for a wounded soul.

When I woke up, my head was pounding. My skin felt tight and ill-fitting around my forehead. My right hand was cut but there was too much dried blood to tell where the wound was.

Two ibuprofen and a hot shower later, I put a bandaid on my left eyebrow and put gauze on my hand. I tracked down the part of the wall that I must have punched but couldn’t figure out what I’d hit with my head.

Two days later I got a call from the police department.

Part 3

Transistor pt.1

I stood there looking forward into what might as well have been the abyss. Some great, cavernous reality that was speeding forward at a rate that felt forever faster. It met me with beams of light that shifted from dimes to nickels to quarters to plates to a wall of yellow-white – a sprawling canvas of termination that was stretching out and away, reading itself for the paint of finality.

All the while, the world trembled and shook. Reality itself in the throes of a great, growing earthquake. The ground went from the slow oscillations of a giant’s hand steadily drumming upon a hollow drum of broken earth and grew in waves into a cauldron of storms that lashed out and through my mind – like a star gone supernova.
I clenched my hands, felt the wince of pain from where knuckles were still bruised, cuts were still fresh. I waited patiently. My other hand held the picture like a man of unwavering faith with a cross while he looked upon the growing visage of demons rising from the charred remains of a now-desolate church.
I waited.

And I thought about how I’d gotten here…

I sat across from James while I picked at scabs while simultaneously worrying about making them bleed. My knuckles were bruised, and I could tell by the looks I was getting that the black eye that I’d previously believed “wouldn’t be that noticeable” was anything but.

“The fuck you get into, man?” he said while he turned his tumbler around on the table as he was wont to do. The glass stuttered along as it turned back and forth – a noise that I always found somewhat grating. I found it even more so now.

In the distance, the TV was on but inaudible over the sound of other patrons.

I looked at it for a minute before looking back. “Got into a fight,” I said with the tone and timbre of a man who says such a thing nonchalantly, knowing I was anything but.

“And?” he said, eyes widening.

“We came here to drink, Jimmy. Can we just do that?” And who the fuck goes by Jimmy at your age? I thought to myself.

“No…I mean…” he shied back a bit, “Yeah…no, man. I’m not trying to pry…”

Yes, the fuck you are…

“I just…You know. I mean…”

“I’m me.”

“I mean, if someone’s fucking with you, man…”


“No. No one’s fucking with me,” I said with little finger quotes. “I was somewhere I shouldn’t have been.” I took a small drink of beer. “Lesson learned.”

James nodded, looked around a bit. “Where at?”

I gave a sigh the size of Texas and said, “Allensville.”

His face said plenty that his mouth didn’t. “Look, man, I know that shit’s been rough since…”

Don’t say her name…

“Well…since…well, you know.”

“It’s fine…”

“I’m just saying, man…”

“I…” I paused, “Wait. Are you saying…”

“Hey,” he said, his hands raise, “no judgment, man. I mean, hey, I know guys who pay for it. But, shit, man, you know. Just like…be careful.”

“You think I went there for a hooker?”

“You went there for not-a-hooker?”

I ran the words through my head. I thought about the truth. I thought about the lie. I thought about the lesser of evils.

“I mean, either that or you put a hood with bat ears on and go fighting crime,” he said with a laugh.

“Yeah, not really my skill set,” I said.

Silence stretched for a moment while the noise of the small bar moved to fill in the gaps.

“Just don’t tell anyone,” I said.

“Hey, no big deal, man,” he replied. “Who the fuck would I tell anyway, right?” he offered with a smile.

Literally anyone you talk to…

Yeah…no big deal, I thought while I picked at the scabs on my hand while trying not to make them start bleeding.

On the TV, I saw the news unfolding. I recognized the face I was seeing, even if I didn’t recognize the story that was circling around it. She’d been standing on a corner not far from where it had happened.

It was one of the only things I remembered clearly. Well…that and how much it hurt.

“How much did it cost you?” James asked playfully.

“More than it should have,” I answered.

Part 2