Everyone works at the restaurant, I think. Dave does. He busses tables. Christine does. She hostesses. I do. I wash dishes. Christine and I started seeing each other in March; it’s November now. I had just come from another place. They asked me where they could drop me off when it was time to leave. They said where do your parents live. They said what about your brother. They said isn’t there anyone you can think of. They dropped me off in front of a coffee shop downtown when they tired of asking. Christine was out front. It was March then, like I said. The air was nice and cool. Christine was out front of the coffee shop downtown enjoying the nice, cool air and wearing tennis shoes with a skirt. The skirt was very short. The tennis shoes were very cool. Christine was very pretty. I asked her if I could sit down and join her, I said I just came from the nut house everyone says I’m cured it’s a miracle let’s celebrate I’ll buy you a drink, do you drink hot chocolate? I bet this place has good hot chocolate. God, I was feeling chatty. God, what an embarrassment I was. Christine didn’t mind. She liked me right off.
What music do you like? I said this is the music I like. What movies do you like? I said these are the movies I like. What shows do you like? I said I don’t watch shows. I don’t got that kind of time. Who does? she said. Who knows? I said. I made her laugh three times. A few weeks later it was April and warmer and I was walking up the stairs to her apartment. Don’t worry about my roommate she might be home. I won’t. It’s kind of a mess. I don’t mind. It’s actually really fucking messy. I seriously don’t care: I sleep in a bathtub I have severe anxiety disorder nothing you show me will make me not love you. But it was very messy, she was right about that.
Are you going to cum she asked. She was tired of doing all of the work especially since she had finished I could tell. No, probably not I said. Do you ever cum she asked. Only when I do it myself I said. I don’t like it when you do it yourself she said. I know I said. I want to do it for you she said. I understand I said. I’m sorry we said.
Dave dropped off trays and trays and trays of dishes constantly. I washed them. Dave wanted me to turn off what I was listening to in the dish pit and put on something cool. Dave said he could get me whatever I needed. I just need you to drop off the dishes that need washing, Dave. And take back the clean ones to the front of the house. They’re low on pint glasses. There’s a situation with the pint glasses developing up front. It can’t make its way back here it just can’t.
Then it was August. Christine started mixing coke and water and tapping it straight into her veins. I punched a college kid. Dave bought a gun. Everyone was floating in their own free world.
Christine had her tennis shoes dangling over my legs. We were lying together on the couch. I stopped using she said. I’m so happy I said. True Dreams of Wichita by the band Soul Coughing was playing loudly in another room. It stopped and then it started again. Now it was stuck in my head. My head kept thinking: Pull your eyes towards heaven / outside Topeka in the phone lines / Her good teeth smile was winding down. I started to feel the bad stuff coming on. I was sitting on a couch before. Last year. When they came and grabbed my arm. One of them did. One of them grabbed my arm. The other one whispered gently trying to make me feel calm. I don’t feel calm. I feel like a million stars are inside my chest always exploding and my body is set to explode too. I have been seeing Dave she said. What does that mean I asked. It means what you think it means she said. I didn’t say anything. I was crying. Dave sold her coke which she mixed with water and tapped straight into her veins and he owned a gun and put black-out curtains over every window in his tiny, smelly, suicidal apartment and there were pictures of naked women hanging up on the walls with scotch tape like he was proud to be an asshole. He listens to the worst music I said. She laughed said you are listening to Soul Coughing I don’t think you can talk. I didn’t put it on I said. You aren’t turning if off she said. Screenwriter’s Blues by Soul Coughing was playing loudly in another room. It stopped and then it started again. Now it was stuck in my head. My head kept thinking: Gone savage / For teenagers with / Automatic weapons and / Boundless love. I threw up all over her short skirt.
It’s November now anyway.
Dave has nodded off in the front seat of his car. His car is parked on the shoulder of the highway. The last full moon before the winter solstice is the Mourning Moon. Dave has been missing for four full days. Dave has promises and friendships and love like everyone else and all of that feels broken now. The knock on the driver’s side window wakes Dave up. Dave is startled. The officer asks Dave to step outside the vehicle. Life is a collection of stories. The ones we end up telling always surprise us. Officer down. Dave runs to the woods with his shotgun in hand. He has been trying for four days to kill himself with heroin but the heroin sucks in this town. Everything is bright under the Mourning Moon. The grass glistens from a recent rain. Dave is headed toward the creek. Dave stops and remembers everything then blows his head off. Little bits and pieces of himself shower down, many of them embers. The sound travels. Little bits and pieces smolder on wet grass. Smells like Autumn. Animals desperate to feed. It’s still. Everyone everywhere who ever will tell you the same: it’s still.
They say you could walk up that path toward the creek decades later and still be picking up the pieces. I know what that’s like.
Derek Maine lives in North Carolina with his wife, two children, and dog (Gidget). They also feed an outdoor car, Lily. Derek has stories published or forthcoming in X-RAY, Ligeia, Expat Press, SCAB Magazine, Misery Tourism, The Tower Babel Notice Board, and elsewhere. He is on twitter too much @derekmainelives
image: Lindsay Hargrave