Wasting Time

I could only hold my breath for two minutes, precisely, I’d counted it out as we lay in the Smoky Mountains surrounded by bears, the first time I thought I’d die, before the fake heart attack, panic attacks, fainting spells, the fake colon cancer and fake lymphoma, hemorrhoids and acid reflux, before the fake sensation of sinking into the earth, before actually sinking into the earth. This time, there is no doubt. I look through the gray dark, see only gray dark. I conjure her face for comfort. Each second a different expression, a different moment to keep her with me. I see only her last expression, distracted as I hit the railing, coming apart like a projection on steam. I would have to see it to remember it. All of the warming old grins were forced out of my crammed-full mind. Max died too young. I fixated on a lightning bug that had gotten into the house. He walked around all night not believing what his friends told him. Euronymous planned to kidnap him, tie him to a tree, and camcorder it to sell as a snuff film through a clandestine smut network. After killing Euronymous, in self defense, so he claimed, stabbing him in the head on the top landing of the apartment complex, his friends ceased to believe the snuff film story. The police never did believe a word he said from the very beginning, not about boating on the bay to fish for sturgeon, not about the bleach smell in his kitchen. And why did he add the porno channels to his cable, why did he sell her car, if he ever expected his wife to come home? Her soft face. Then there was the blond goatee that miraculously appeared. They were married in a dugout canoe. How could he have forgotten that? Stephen King forgot writing The Shining. He was up early writing on a deadline, no earlier than usual, but more feverish, when the phone screamed in the dark. A military transport plane was returning to the airfield, in this town, carrying a renowned nuclear scientist, his team, and their security detail. When the hatch opened, the doctor staggered out, looking sallow, shriveled, and shrieking while stabbing the cameraman. The true nightmare, however, was the remaining passengers, insane with radiation poisoning, heavily armed, faces covered with glued-on hamburger. They flooded into the streets upon news that a man was stalking downtown after murdering a judge and bailiff in the courthouse. Inverted burial is for suicides. Everyone was on cell phones letting their loved ones know they were safe. They had ridiculous audible conversations. I would have to hear one to remember one. Someone give me one. “Man, if I worked at Starbucks…” Well, I’d sit on the brick pavement in the little plaza on my break. I’d fixate on a man with an earpiece and hard nipples, ordering. He was killed by a truck, relishing the whipped cream, and he deserved it, I thought.

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