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out, passed out. We fall in and out of love, in and out of debt, things change, nothing changes. People die, we keep on living. I’m a cliché, you’re a cliché, who gives a fuck. I guess what I’m trying to say is that right now might be the single most important moment in my life and I might not even remember it. It is 4:01 am and I do not know where I am. Seven days ago I would have told you that seven days from then I would be in bed asleep with my wife. Seven days ago, I was in bed asleep with my wife. Four days ago my wife died. Twelve hours ago she was put in the ground and an hour after that I started drinking. The funeral was held in a shitty franchise mortuary in her shitty hometown. I found a bar filled with various but equally shitty Americans drinking shitty American beer like every other shitty American drinking shitty beer in a shitty small town. I guess I am one too now, but I can’t really tell you where or who the fuck I am and I guess that’s the point. Wherever here is it smells like shit, literally like shit. The smell of driving to visit your wife’s parents in their shitty hometown. The smell that hits you somewhere in the middle of the interstate and you roll up the windows and put on the AC and think thank fucking Christ we live in civilization. I’m somewhere on the side of the highway next to a field of shit. I don’t know if I’m still drunk because I have no one to compare myself to.
Feeling the black tarmac on my face and the wet dirt on my hands I feel pretty sober. “Not sober” the paramedics said on the side of the road. Not sober. You think drunk drivers are idiot teenagers or dumb alcoholics from shitty bumfuck towns like this one but apparently my Yale-educated New York City wife was one too. Wine, probably. “It’s just a girls night in,” she said, as if I hadn’t heard the story of bestfriend Susie getting her clit pierced in Playa del Carmen on their “girls weekend” last year. I hadn’t been paying attention to my wife’s drinking because no one wants to have an alcoholic spouse. My mouth tastes like asshole and a car is approaching me. I know this because my vision is suddenly so bright I can’t even tell if my eyes are open or closed. “Are you ok?” It’s a bumfuck teenager, what the fuck is he doing driving around at this time of night? “What the fuck are you doing driving around at this time of night?” “What are you doing lying on the road?” The kid is probably sixteen years old and maybe he is driving back from losing his virginity in a barn somewhere or maybe he’s one of those small town drug addict problem children cooking meth in a barn next to that other barn. “I don’t give a fuck where I am.”
“Do you want a ride?” he asks, as if I know where I would even go. It’s 4:13 am and the only thing open right now is Denny’s. Denny’s is maybe better than here. “Can you drive me to Denny’s?” I hate myself. “Sure thing, sir.” I hate how this kid has enough small town Christian breeding to try and give me respect even though I’m lying on the side of the highway and have probably pissed myself. I get into his shitty little teenager car. I smell like piss. I can see him noticing my watch and my wedding ring and comparing it to the stench of piss. When I walked into that shit bar I realized the price of my hand alone could buy the whole place and probably the worth of every fucking patron in there. After listening to fourteen different but equally worthless in-laws say “the city, the city does that too you” while shaking their empty Christian heads and clutching their cans of Coors like the goddamned Jesus Christ incarnate, I’m ok with being pretentious. “If you don’t mind me asking, how did you get to the side of the road?” I don’t really mind but I also don’t have a clue why I was on the side of the road so I say nothing. He doesn’t ask again. He looks like a child that’s been stretched out. He’s probably taller than me and probably weights fifty pounds less. I think I looked about the same when I was sixteen, ugly as fuck.
They didn’t give me a name but told me the boy my wife killed was about to turn sixteen. He had been driving with his permit, and his Dad in the front seat. His dad broke an arm. They said the kid was dead within hours thinking. The guilt of this would have killed my wife. “Do you have a license?” I ask the kid, because maybe the reason he’s driving around at 4: 23 in the morning is because he’s not supposed to be. “Yes, sir.” We drive in silence until we get to Denny’s. It’s close because everything is close except anything worthwhile which is all far, far away. I think I’m not sober because “Moons over my Hammy” sounds pretty fucking good right now. “Thanks for the ride.” “No problem.” I haven’t gotten out of the car yet because I feel like I might vomit. The kid is looking at Denny’s like he doesn’t even see it and then, for some reason I’m saying “hey, do you want some food?” He looks at me like he doesn’t know if I’m going to kill him and steal his car or not and to be honest, I wouldn’t know either. But he nods, and we sit down in Denny’s and it smells like eggs and piss. There’s only one other guy in the whole place and he looks just as likely to maim someone for a bottle of Jim Beam. The waitress’s nametag reads “Stacy” and she looks like every other girl who never really figured shit out and probably got screwed over by some average jackass and woke up at
thirty-three working the night-shift at Denny’s. For an instant I imagine if my wife hadn’t been smart and stayed in this place and was wearing that uniform and breathing, but it hurt too much, so I picture Stacy, mangled and dead, uniform and all in a car wreck and try to shake shake shake my wife’s face from the front of my eyeballs where it has been burned deeper than any amount of alcohol can reach. The lights are like the worst hangover you’ve ever had and I think I am definitely still drunk because I don’t give a shit that I’m sitting here with this poor confused kid and I haven’t said a thing. “Are you okay?” he asks and I laugh but I guess he takes that as a yes and says, “I was pretty scared when I saw you out there on the road.” “Is it really so unusual out here?” He looks at me weird and shakes his head. “People don’t normally pass out next to the cow fields, sir.” “What about that guy?” I don’t bother gesturing. “That’s Stacy’s dad, he comes in to keep her company before his shift starts at the dairy plant.” I don’t feel bad about wishing his daughter had died instead of my wife, but I know that I should, which is better than nothing. I am starting to have to pee and wondering if at this point I can just piss myself again but I guess I am sobering up because I don’t. “So what’s someone your age doing driving around at four in the morning in the middle of nowhere?”
“Coming home from work,” he says, and I think that he must have a fucking kid or a pregnant girlfriend to be working a job like that. I remember being inside of my wife and thinking I am ready to be the father of your children but I was still dizzy from sex and accidentally whispered it into the skin behind her ear. She laughed at me and said something about her body, her job, or her life, and now I wish I had messed with her birth control so I could still sort of hold her. The thought burns deep through my temples and I close my eyes. “You’re not from here, are you?” The kid says. “No, but my wife died, and she was from here.” “I’m sorry.” “Yeah, I’m sorry too, this place is a shit hole.” “At least she’s in a better place now.” I want to say that anywhere would be but I know that he’s talking about heaven so I don’t. I want to say that my wife never believed in heaven but I don’t say it because now I wish I did. Believe, I mean. “Why’re you working such long hours?” “I want to go to college.” “You’re gonna pay for college yourself?” “I don’t know who else is going to.” “Your parents?” “My father passed away when I was 13 and my Mom can only earn so much.”
“I’m sorry.” “He’s in a better place now.” I had meant about the money but now I’m picturing this kid’s dad sitting in that godforsaken bar and I’m doubting that heaven serves Bud Light. I’m picturing this kid working the night shift on the weekends because he has to and I’m wondering what the boy in the car dreamed about at almost sixteen. “Yeah, yeah he is.” Stacy still hasn’t taken our order and I feel too sick to eat. “You know what, I’m not hungry anymore, but thanks for the ride.” I put a twenty on the table in case he still wants to eat. “No, sir, you don’t have to pay me.” Except I do, and I’m looking at the twenty dollar bill on the fake plastic wood and the exhausted kid and I take off my watch and put it down and turn around and walk out of Denny’s. I walk out of Denny’s just like I walked out of that bar, walking towards the road to find my wife, I had walked towards the stars to find my wife but that was too far and the sun is rising now so I can see much better. I can see the road, the sky, I can see her and it burns but I don’t look away because the sunrise on her face is just beautiful.
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