by Madeline Paoletti
The smoke from my joint clogs the air inside the truck, so much that it’d suffocate any person who remembers to breathe. The radio tries to play a song, but static only blends with incoherent words, vibratin’ the smog clogged in my throat. I should turn it off. Instead, I take another drag and look out towards the desert. Rangers rarely traverse this far south of the park, or else maybe they would’ve found him sooner. Maybe if I’d thought he were doin’ anything but getting out of hell like he always talked about, then maybe I would’ve found him too. Maybe.
People ‘round here like to say the desert is a holy place, where one can connect to God. I wonder if my brother felt that here while bleeding out. S’pose he thought I sent the football team–guess I did in a way. . . always said I’d protect him, but back then daddy’s blows seemed easier than queer kisses.
Can he even get into heaven?
Back then. . . right now, today, I got into this car ready to drive towards nothingness, desperately tryin’ to forget any memories holding me here, or there in that bedroom. Shouldn’t have cared when I found him with that boy, doin’ things. Back then that kinda love wasn’t seen as beautiful, but his life was. Beautiful.
Jonathan, you always warned me that I had his temper, his draw to numbin’ pleasures. Is this my punishment? Instead of fists I armed my words, fueled by the fire burnin’ down my throat. I called you names, stuff others heard. I am your Judas. I harmed you because of my bitterness, my pain,
my memories. I never let pops fondle you, but he always liked touchin’ me.
The ringing in my ears becomes stronger than the one in my fingers. My vision blurs.
Do you see me up there? Can you even look at me?
I gasp for air, letting my senses return, letting the scars retreat. I open my eyes: red knuckles, broken glass and, finally,
a silent radio.
Stumbling out of the door, I fall to the ground; bitter air nips at my skin, sand sinks into my cuts, warm tears kiss dry cheeks.
I remain here, breathing, for a while. Couldn’t tell you why. Maybe I’m waitin’ for a different comedown that won’t come. Maybe I’m hopin’ you’ll hop out that truck door; that you’ll lie with me, pretending we’re looking at the stars and not thinking ‘bout the pain that keeps us prone.