A dirty sun had perched over the city as he reached the thickest part of its guts. The news was blue. A grey sky overhead colored his every word. Brain boiling black. Fingernails bit into his palm. The freeway was a blur of metal and motion. His dark eyes drifted left and right. Exhaust fumes were a balm to his troubled mind. At seventeen, he knew his end was close. No Medicare for him. The thought of growing old, church functions, ice cream socials and Viagra filled him with a raw red panic. His blood thrummed. He was the kind of kid that others called, “Strange”. Snorting in laughter, he changed lanes almost hitting the car beside him. Middle finger sign language passed between them. “Fuck. What’s so strange about Sigur Ros and poetry?” As far as he was concerned, they were the ones that were fucking strange… slaves to parents, schools, jobs and expectations. He had read a book by Talbot Mundy who said, “The only safe thing I know is to follow opportunity and leave others behind to do the worrying. More people die lingering, ghastly deaths in arm-chairs and in bed than anywhere.” He fully agreed.
He went down an off ramp, slowed as he passed an accident and pulled into a line of glass-fronted buildings just off the freeway. Sitting in his car, he calmed himself. “Jesus…” He liked accidents. Hurt and happiness are one. Always. His reflection looked back at him. Empty eyed. He was a book with no pictures. Only mirrors. He reflected nothing and everything. He was whatever anyone wanted him to be. No identity. Cipher. Whatever caused him to end up like this, he didn’t know. He always felt dead inside. His one emotion was wrath… Going into a bookstore, he purchased a journal and paid for it with a stolen credit card. The clerk must’ve been stoned. He kept up some happy talk to distract him, commenting on the Phish t-shirt that the clerk was wearing. “Oh yeah, Phish bro… great band.” Had the clerk looked closely, he would have noticed that the customer certainly didn’t resemble a female named Cynthia Dottingham. He walked out of the store smiling. Underneath his sweatshirt were two books of poetry by Baudelaire and Bukowski. “He had it coming. If you’re too dumb to do your job right, you deserve to be ripped off.” Driving across town, he spotted a young schoolgirl on a corner with her mother. “Not bad.” he thought. He stopped by his friend’s apartment and bought a shard and took the speed home to smoke it.
Empty house. Empty street. Empty pool. His yard was full of trash and junk that his mom’s boyfriends left laying around. She’d come home from the bar with some shithead and he’d soon move in. A few months later, another. Then another. He didn’t even talk to her anymore. He’d be eighteen soon and he’d never allow “It” to tell him what to do ever again. He exhaled and looked out the back window. The dirty glass was cracked. His brain squirmed and his thoughts moved like ants on a hot summer sidewalk. The old pool squatted there in the weeds and grass. When he was a boy, they would swim in it. He shook his shaggy head. He couldn’t recall the last time. It was a shame… at least the neighborhood kids would come talk and hang out. It was the only cool thing about being a kid that he could remember. He mattered. He fit in. No more… Thumbing a stray strand of black hair from his eyes, he picked up the pipe again. Thank you to MRZ and Rick Stine. Skate- Ozzie