Strangers

I saw a man this morning in a dead sprint down the highway carrying a baseball bat, and though I wondered about his crusade (it was surely nothing less), I didn’t dare speculate. Maybe he was the leadoff guy for a sour ass fast-pitch team with the 9 am slating and he knew that, without him, they were dead bones by noon.

Maybe his son was the actual leadoff guy, in the shit with the dented TPX (the only other bat in the dugout light enough for him to get around with), and he still thought his father his hero–his dad didn’t want to let him down.

My brother bought a bottle while he was at work today and had to hide it behind a tree because he couldn’t fit it under his motorcycle seat.

Now we’re on our way to retrieve it.

Life is fun sometimes.

It gets so hard sometimes.

I remember a Saturday morning about ten years ago, toting a blanket and a pillow with vomit on it fifteen blocks to a Burger King to get to my car, wondering what all the cars passing by me were thinking.

A lack of self-awareness may be the true beginning of wisdom.

I once saw a man in the Texas panhandle pulled over by a highway patrolman on the side of an on-ramp. A shotgun rested on his hood beside his head while he was being cuffed, with his windshield blown out.

I once came across a guy in the checkout line buying a single rose and twelve long-stem condoms.

Or they guy carrying a dozen roses and a jug of bleach down main street.

You’ve been there; I know you have.

We shake our heads. We speculate.

We keep life spicy, don’t we?

Keep making them wonder.

The highway is just long enough for questions like why, and if I ever meet you someplace with a few minutes to spare, I’d love to hear the story.

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Final Things

The look in her eye said something about love, but it said more about longing. It spoke of the weight left over from the loss of true love’s weightlessness. Where she had once been like a feather, she now stood stone-still, weeping against weight of its memory, of separateness, the cool breeze blowing against her wet face and chilling her to her soul.

On the other side of the motel room door at her back was the man her age. They had been in the same class way back in high school. He had looked at her from across the room of the Chemistry class they had shared, all those years ago, across all the pages of numbers and equations and things that made mathematical sense. Her parents were rich and sophisticated; his belonged to the lower middle class, and where her parents drank wine occasionally with their dinners, his father drank beer every night to get drunk.

With tears rolling down his face and neck, he turned and looked through the peephole to catch the parting shot of her now walking away from him forever. The visual would stay with him in his mind: her flowing hair, the clouds in the darkening sky pregnant with rain, the pine trees across the road winding around the bend and shooting off into the rumbling distance…

She had only been in town for two hours; long enough to drop off with him the photo album she had borrowed so long ago. Long enough to share the embrace of a moment of love beneath the summer-weight sheets on the bed which now lay on the floor in a heap. Long enough to grasp back the piece of his soul he felt had finally been returned to him from so long ago: something to remember him by.

He cracked the tab on his final beer, the 16-ounce, the pounder, the Rocky Mountain Piss, the last silver bullet. He didn’t know what he would do next. Maybe he would take the room key back to the sweltering little office and slide it back across the counter, or maybe he would take a bath first. All he knew was that, even though this was the last beer he had, and even though it might well be the last beer he would ever have—even though he may yet weep shameful tears in its memory, he heard his father say to him one final time from across the eternal chasm of years gone by: “Even the last beer is better than no beer at all.”