You think: Where was I when all these dead were dying, dropping
off and piling up?
Andy C. you knew since sporting chains in
junior high. Slit the back of a Fentanyl patch to get at the inside.
Time released all at once. Maybe you were tapping after snapping
a vial, copped from a girl whose guy got slick, swiped some boxes
from a truck. Around the time the towers came down, because you
were still living in The Bricks, and despite the nights’ new
elevations you’d only begun to get the taste.
Amanda K. and Josh
P., lingering from way back, each in a car and shouldn’t have been.
You down in some city, blacking out and tripping through
windows, waking up swollen and scarred, getting a dollar any way
you could to keep it going.
Carrie with the lip ring and razorblade
grin, who told you once, while you were getting right at the kitchen
table, her mom disowned her because she liked girls and dope,
said, because the devil done got hold of me by the ankle. Maybe
while she choked in that upstairs room you and your girl were
sticking up your dealer with a steak knife or stripping seals from
CD cases to unload up the road, after a three-for-twenty or a single
Fawzaan, always falling out, behind the wheel at a four-way
stop, in a corner, on a couch—couldn’t come back from the last
one. Joey B. with the busted teeth, maybe laid flat while you were
towing cars on a quick lick to that shady ass scrapyard across
town, or reviving Kyle in the bathroom, smacking around his
naked lank, splashing him with cold water—Don’t you fuckin’ die
in my house—getting him to suck some air, waiting to see he’d
come out of it crying like a child so you could leave him there,
sheet-wrapped and wet while you snatched the last of his stash.
Didn’t even think, It could be bad batch, before ducking to the
bedroom, taking the shot that almost took him down.
Kurt you turned on first so you could dip in. Where was I, you
think, when he turned up face down by a wife who never knew the
truth? Maybe with your girl, the one who worked for the
phone-sex line, trading hot words and heavy breath in a back seat
for a few balloons, while you hit up front and felt numb.
And how many
others, picked off while you faked interest in pictures of your
friend’s friend’s cat, distraction while he emptied the medicine
cabinet, crotching a bag of rigs and a month’s supply of the
morphine that helped her cope with the cancer, killing her, you in
your own way dying.
But you’d go on living and wonder why.
Jesse and Steve and Tami J. never could get a grip but you
somehow could. And you still wonder and can’t take the worn out
platitudes in the rooms, about God’s divine hand. He wasn’t done
with you yet—as if the rest were just expendable. He’s got other
plans for you—as if their purpose had been served, time used up.
The nerve it takes to say such things, and to believe them.
who was always Danni. You knew her from a damn-near baby. Got
so strung out she strung herself up in a closet far away from home,
fields stretched out around her. And Donnie, whom you only met
once but whose light was among the brightest, taken out like a
heel-snuffed ember. Matt, who died on Christmas in a parking lot.
Aunt Dee-Dee had a whole life, kids, was a wife, and
then traded it all for a fast slide down a slim glass pipe, then some
kind of cocktail, keeping her sleeping when she should have woke
up. Maybe when you were looting your in-laws—jewelry,
antiques, whatever you could hock for a South Side rock. Or by
then sitting on your rack down on the compound, that joint
surrounded by fences and hills, bitting, flexing, waiting to ride out.
Paying that debt that would never be paid.
He works in mysterious
ways, they tell you. Robbie and Katie and Crazy Ray. They say, It’s
for Him to understand and us to trust. Lance and Adam. Some
aren’t meant for this world. Your man Taz and Christina from the
Heights. They’re in a better place. You let the words, so many
words, come at you. You let them land and roll off. Nikki. Denis.
You think: All gone.
And I’m still here.
William R. Soldan grew up in and around the Rust Belt city of Youngstown, Ohio, where he lives with his wife and two children. He's a high school dropout and college graduate who holds a BA in English Literature from Youngstown State University and an MFA from the Northeast Ohio Master of Fine Arts program. His work appears or is forthcoming in publications such as New World Writing, Jellyfish Review, Thuglit, (b)OINK, Anomaly Literary Journal, The Best American Mystery Stories 2017, Ohio’s Best Emerging Poets, and many others. If you’d like to connect, hit him up on social media.
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