Sometimes I want to eat myself to sleep. I want to pierce myself into submission, taming
these dreams and rebellions and words. I want to release these narratives, all possible, and
make my enemies sing at my feet. I want to rip my skin off and line my bones with soil, then
bury them with things I forgot: the characters I’d loved, the recipe that hung on my tongue,
the number on my mailbox, and think maybe, these will grow into stories.
I want to fall asleep in your arms and pretend the last eight years of my life didn’t go by as
fast as they did. I want to worry less about time and more about dinner. I want to make a
pizza that tastes as rich and greasy and cheesy as any pizza ever was, and not get fat.
I want to die on my patio in my hammock with a glass of wine in my hand. The glass will fall
and the wine will trickle over the edge of my balcony, raining purple drops on my
neighbor’s children. I want to come alive again and tell everyone I met god or satan or a
unicorn and write a book about it. I’ll make thousands of dollars and predict the END OF
THE WORLD! I’ll be wrong, but it will be okay.
WHERE THEY WERE
Franklin—In the bathroom, alone
On the ground, a tooth, in a bag, with a name written in sharpie. FRANKLIN, crossed out to write FRANKIE on top. He had tripped, moving too fast—being too scared—and hit his jaw on the counter and his tooth came out. It was already lose, one of his baby teeth, so it didn’t hurt that much. But it did hurt.
He put the tooth in a plastic baggy, just like dad always did, and slept with it under his pillow-that-wasn’t-a-real-pillow because he was sleeping in the bathroom. In the bathroom, with music on, he couldn’t hear the screams outside or see the smoke in the distance. There were no windows in the bathroom. His dad always said if there was an earthquake or tornado or crazy person in the house, the bathroom was the safest place to be. He slept in the bathroom, with his tooth under his head.
He knew the tooth fairy wouldn’t come. But he hoped his dad would. He knew his dad wouldn’t come. But he hoped he would. He slept in the bathroom, but with the door unlocked, his tooth under the pillow.
Down the hall, in the master bedroom: a bottle of empty pills. On the bed, a body of emptiness. His father took every pill, just to be sure. The cap had rolled under the bed-that-wasn’t-his-bed-anymore because his family wasn’t there. His son would live, but not much longer. His son would die, but he couldn’t be the one to kill his son.
In the bathroom, tears. Franklin-called-Frankie-by-only-his-dad, vomited. He was thirsty and tired and crying so hard that vomit came out of his nose. He was thirsty, but had to pass his dad’s room to get water, so he clenched the FRANKIE-tooth-bag as he vomited, alone.
Maria and Erin—Rooftop, together
Under a shirt, a needle and a spoon. On the shirt, a bra. Small drops of blood on their shirts made them feel hardcore and bloody and endless. They were laying on the rooftop under the stars. No clothes. Clothes didn’t matter anymore. They threw their shoes off the edge of the building, watching them disappear under their industrial horizon. They made love. They fucked. They punched each other, shot up, talked about their queerness. Talked about the words they learned to identify with, and how they didn’t matter anymore.
They threw their narcotics anonymous tokens off the roof. They held each other’s hand. They talked about the last meeting they went to together and how stupid their sponsors were. How hopeless the druggies in the group were. They would observe each one and make bets on who would fall first. Oscar, who Erin thought for sure was doing just great as he often said, was admitted to rehab after a few weeks of NA. Erin had handed a 50 over to Maria, her face shrouded in sadness for him.
Maria and Erin had went to the meetings as usual after the news hit. They had smoked cigarettes and waited outside the room, but no one showed. NA seemed like a happy-fucking-druggie-family-in-recovery but when the earth started falling apart, when things got bad, in the end, they were all druggies like they always were and would be.
As they laid on the roof, Erin told Maria she was scared. Her family was out of the country, so she wouldn’t be able to see them. Tears fell down her cheeks, her chest felt heavy. Maria rolled Erin into her arms, hushing her softly. She rocked them together, under the stars-they-couldn’t-see-because-of-light-pollution-but-knew-were-there-because-of-hope.
Maria said she was glad they could die together, on their own terms. She’d rather OD—something she knew and knew how it would feel—than die into the unknown. Maria said it was good they’d all be dead. The world was a terrible place anyway. Maybe humans would get to restart. Maybe they’d all get to restart.
Bill—Front office, over Daya
Tears, on her face. Pens, markers, clips and papers on the floor. Desperate, in his hands. His hands that once belonged to a man, a good man, but now belonged to a good-man-who-does-bad-things.
He hovered over Daya. Did bad things to her. She stopped yelling. She cried. She didn’t know him. He knew her. She was the Latina lovely. The coworker down the hallway. She was perfect; until Bill ripped off her clothes. She had a pooch of fat in her lower belly and stretch marks on her hips. Her large breasts, perfect, they seemed, had stretch marks too, and sagged. She must have worn push-up bras to make them sit so perfectly. She must have worn panty-hose to make her legs look so smooth. His disappointment only made him angrier.
He had a woman, a wife, but she died. They had no kids, not really. There was one, a daughter, but she hated Bill and refused herself as his child. Bill hadn’t heard from her in five years.
The hot air coalesced his body, hanging like the heat of a fever. He felt sick, but knew it was just his anxiety tricking him. His anxiety always told him he was dying. This time, though, his anxiety was right. He just wanted to feel the touch of a woman one more time. He missed his wife. And he was going to die.
Daya—Front office, under Bill
Daya closed her eyes to this-thing-that-she-couldn’t-stop. Under her shirt, a pencil jabbed into her spine. She pulled a tack that pierced her side, thought about stabbing him with it. But let it roll away instead. She looked at her shoes under her desk. They were her “statement” shoes: a red ballet flat with a gold sequined bow. Scuffed at the toes from a surprise hike in the woods with her husband. He had taken her to top of the small mountain after their picnic, knelt down, and presented a box.
Daya laid still and thought about being anywhere else. She thought about her little sister. She thought of how they laughed when the global warning hit. Dying didn’t scare them. The things-in-life-you-couldn’t-stop were worse than death.
She lied still and quiet, resisting.
Mai and Kevin—The kid’s bedroom, together
They didn’t want them to suffer. They didn’t want them to be scared, to see the fear in their parent’s eyes. They wanted them to drift off, peacefully, with their family, in their home, unafraid.
Mai and Kevin had talked it over many times. They argued. They wrote lists. Pros and cons. Their kids were smart, so they had to be careful. Mai didn’t want them to suspect anything.
So they walked their children into the master bedroom and sat them on the bed, they watched a movie together, a funny cartoon, and pretended to be happy. They laughed with their kids and kept the tears from escaping their eyes. They fed their children the macaroni and cheese and poison, and cleaned their faces when they got messy. They were so excited, eating in Mommy and Daddy’s bed and watching a movie together. They licked their bowls and wore them on their heads.
Kevin pulled his daughter into his arms and kissed her head. Her soft arms, her plump cheeks, each rough little nail. He pulled her close, put his hand on her chest and felt the beating. Mai held their son, buried him in her chest and smelled his little boy hair. Their daughter said she was sleepy. So Mai and Kevin tucked the children in and laid next to them while they drifted away and their hearts stopped beating. Once they were gone, Mai and Kevin wanted to go quickly. They didn’t want to wait for the pills or poisons to work.
So they put guns to each other’s head, kissed, and then pulled the trigger.
D’aja—the pews, alone
A ring, in her hands, made of 14 carat gold, with a cross on it. Her pearls, white, old and still on their string, placed gently around her neck. They had been her mother’s, and now they were hers. If she’d had a daughter, they would have been passed down. But there was no daughter. There was nothing in D’aja’s womb and never would be, so she wore the pearls, counting each one as a lost egg, lost child, lost daughter she could have had.
Each pearl had a name. Names for her lost children. The pearl in the very middle, the one that was a bit scuffed and not as perfectly round as the others, was named Yalonda.
Yalonda would have been a dancer. A ballerina, or something else as graceful. She would have worn her hair in braids even though the other girls wore a bun. She would have been good at math, unlike her mother, and would have gone on to be some kind of mathematician or scientist or doctor. She would have travelled the world: danced under the Eiffel Tower, drank wine in Italy and swam in Venice’s canals to prove she could swim wherever she wanted. She would have been magical and perfect and ruled the world.
She would have.
The pearl next to Yalonda, a little darker in shade, was named Alonzo. He would have been a good boy and better man. D’aja didn’t have time for political correctness and progressive thinking; her son would have been traditional, a gentleman, a man’s man. But he would have fiercely loved his mamma. D’aja believed any good man was a mamma’s boy.
Alonzo would have looked after his sister and respected women. He would have been the football player, or basketball star, and some kind of artist. She would have wanted him to know it was okay to be creative and be an artist and still be a man’s man. He would have crawled up next to her and talked about the first girl he fell in love with, and how much it hurt to love someone. D’aja would have smiled and pat his head and held him close.
D’aja kneeled in the pews, her head in her hands. She wasn’t afraid of dying; she knew when she died, she could finally meet these perfect, beautiful children. She could finally see what they would have been. So she held the pearls, and waited to meet them.
Jourden—the woods, running
She wouldn’t be collecting years her life anymore, so she started collecting things. Her favorite thing to collect was playing cards. Not new ones, but the ones that were abandoned. The ones you found on the street or near the dumpster. She had 36 cards. It was her goal to find a whole deck before she died. Years back, on her and her husband’s first anniversary, she created a silly deck of cards. Something she found online, but thought the idea was cute: 52 reasons why I love you. She had written a reason on each card and strung the deck together for him to flip through when he was down. She only had 36 cards, but she didn’t have any more time to find the rest.
She figured she was going to hell. She prayed to “god” in her head and screamed. Though, she was sure there wasn’t anything there, and even if there was, would he/she/it listen to her? Why, when she had so strongly disbelieved her whole life? Even when her family tried to save her, or when she secretly prayed to the darkness during her panic attacks only to look away once she was better? She didn’t believe. She wanted to. She’d tried to believe. She believed she was going to hell, but she couldn’t believe in any “god.” Her soul clung to her bones. It wouldn’t let go.
She kept running still.