Gone was the comforting darkness of my psychic eclipse. Instead I was poked with a sharp loneliness. The chairs were empty, drinks abandoned. A cloud of cologne hung in the air. My phone gurgled with clogged messages. Laughter trickled through the windows from the glowing tent below. I slunk out the dorm’s fire exit and kept close to the brick, hobbled to the tree line and down the gravel road to the boathouse.
On the lip of the bank I considered wading in and drifting downstream. I remembered movie dogs losing the scent of fugitives in swamps. This thin river ran south. Eventually I’d find my way to a city, ride a wave through penthouse windows until jewelry clung to my fingers like kelp. North meant mountains, a lonely yurt, melted snow in a bowl on the wood stove. But there were no dogs at my heels, no howls in the distance. I wasn’t even afraid of the right things. I was preoccupied with petty concerns: the meanings behind smiles and smirks, my proximity to bathrooms with functioning deadbolts, state liquor laws, the half-lives of a few hot potato memories. The rest was just the usual, both terrifying and beautiful: a low sky crumbling like concrete, panic ringing in the ear canal. And Grandpa Dino says I’ll always be this way, an idiot stuck inside a wrinkled suit. No wiser, just creased with regret after further warring between lobes and valves.
I flirted with a new identity, tried to land on a shiny new name—Max Friday, Dill Carlin, Sylvester Vega—but they all sounded fake, string cheese or borderline porno. Man, I cried like a chick staring down a speeding ticket. I sucked the sleep from my teeth, skipped rocks across the water, shivering with newfound clarity. It was time to twist the locks, shut the windows before the papers blew all over the room, delete cache, clear cookies, reset Safari, prune the playlist, replace the light bulbs with a lower wattage, put the stroke books away, get a night light, an alarm clock, breakfast bars with nugs of real fruit. But I could already see my weaknesses, vices and troubles adapting, summoning a return to chaos with ruthless precision. The nightlight would project freaky shadows, the songs would grow stale, breakfast bars would end up blocking some essential stretch of gastronomical piping. Bad habits would sweet-talk their way right past the doorman. I needed stronger weed killer than simple good intentions.
I scanned possible futures: Alaskan canneries, freelance mule, a final digger into the snow bank outside an unsavory watering hole. I raced backwards through my life, hurdling over caution tape, embracing friends who quickly turned to strangers. Promises were kept, trust was restored, money was saved, words were swallowed, tongues were bit. Bottles filled, powders became plants, wounds healed, fears subsided, anger dimmed, shadows receded. Wound up back in the womb: warm, dumb, safe. But I still wanted more. Maybe I’d light out for the city, spend the summer davenport surfing. My cousin had a glow-in-the-dark croquet court on his roof deck. I’d get real good, hustle idiots for bar money, retire my pants for the season after a disastrous nosebleed marked me with the persona non grata stigmata at the White Party, check into Beddington for a weekend detox, demand an exterminator, then just count the spiders until I fell asleep.
A gust of wind carried horns from the distant tent. I still wanted to belly flop into the blood, revel in the ruins, dance in the dust. I caught my wobbly reflection in the river’s moonlight. I’d need to apply concealer like goddamn war paint, but my hair looked good. That happens sometimes when you least deserve it.