That’s All It Ever Does

by Joshua Murray

I don’t know how putting cigarettes out on their arms pays any respect to her memory, but they do it right there in the bar and show it off. No one has the heart to tell them it means nothing. Jay is the only one that was drunk enough to call it bullshit, pouring his shot over those burnt, blistering dents. They start shoving each other, bumping into the pool table and rolling on the floor.

Murder in a small town, with all of its goddamn white fences, shatters it all to hell. Everyone seems like they did it. Even the postman and librarians start to look like they have an evil darkness behind their eyes. A few guys beat up the homeless man that used to buy us booze before we turned 21, deciding among themselves that maybe he did it. Now everyone keeps pissing on her dead leg, contesting for who cared about her the most, misses her more.

“They said she was stabbed so much her tit almost fell off,” Drew keeps repeating himself and it fucks me up every time. When people start snorting coke off the bar, I pay for my drinks and go.

The streets look paved with glitter and I can see my breath. The streetlights have a starburst-halo behind them, but I’m not cold and walk around with no understanding of time. One moment I’m leaving the bar, next at the corner, at one point I’m pissing on that fucking museum-house-thing we went to on fieldtrips in elementary school. I can’t connect any of it. There’s a roach in my pocket and wish I took a thing of matches from the bar. Jameson is sleeping in the booth of the bus stop, his cart of cans next to him—tied to his ankle with string. His face is swollen and purple with bruises. I tug the string and he recoils, hands up.

“I’ll give you ten bucks for your lighter,” I say. He hands it over and takes the cash. “Sorry about…ya know,” I tell him and gesture at my face.

“Shit happens.” His words whistle through his chipped teeth. “That’s all it ever fucking does. Go away.”

I’m at the middle school field where they found her. The grass is still trampled from the cops and crime-scene guys. Tire tracks from the coroner and cop cars. I sit in the grass pinching the roach. Her parents’ house is right up the street. So close to home. We all crammed into her room earlier today, dressed in our suits. First time I’d been back there since that night last month, the roach was still there behind the music box where we left it. I light it and lie on the grass.

Staring at the ceiling, my lungs filled with smoke. We passed the joint back and forth. Fuck she’s so pretty. Listening to a mix CD on top of the covers. She passed the joint back and had this look in her eyes. She told me to turn around. On the edge of the bed, my back to her, my mind lifted with the smoke, floating up through her fan and out her window. I licked my fingers, snuffed what was left, and put it on the shelf behind the music box. When I turn around, she was standing there with no shirt on, covered in goosebumps. I ran my hand through the dip between her hip and stomach, trembling as I traced the curve of her perfect breasts with my fingers. But she didn’t flinch. We laid back, her head on my shoulder, and I knew this moment was mine forever.

The light pierces my eyelids and my headache makes me sick. I wake with Jay’s head on my shoulder, passed out where he found me. We all come here. The sprinklers clink and hiss as they come to life, falling on us like rain. But we hurt too much to move so we just let it happen.

Joshua Murray is 33 and lives with his girlfriend in Long Island. He’s an old soul trapped in a younger body, with a love for pinball, retro games, and hard-boiled movies from the ’60s and ’70s. All he really wants to do is tell stories, but in between the stories he works in graphic design.
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