by Paul Rinn
“We’d be driving around in her Cavalier and she’d get all excited to show me that she could competently break the weed up, sift out any seeds there might’ve been, and then craft a perfectly shaped joint. One that wouldn’t sidewind or snake out of control, one that wouldn’t have to be relit every time you took a hit. One that any stoner would be proud of, you know what I’m saying?”
After a beat of silence I pick up on the subtle sound of a snore and figure my cellmate must’ve fallen asleep during the reverie. I roll back over and stare up at the ceiling, biting my lip to stifle any signs of weakness. Never in my life have I felt so alone. These people in here, they’re not like me. I don’t fit in with their Neanderthal ways of thinking. Not that I really fit in out in the world either, but at least out in the world I had that one person to whom I could relate.
She was supposed to come visit me in prison. The last time I heard her voice she was crying, telling me how her mom wouldn’t fork up the money for her to go to Africa with her class on some field trip. So she was going to come visit me instead. Three weeks passed by and when I called her apartment, one of her roommates told me that she was in Africa. Another three weeks passed by and this time when I called, her roommate told me that Chelsea was dead. An overdose in Amsterdam.
I didn’t want to believe it at first. None of it made any sense; I thought they were lying to me, that it was all just an elaborate scheme to keep me away from her. I mean, her mom blamed me for everything, just like my mom blamed Chelsea. But as I laid awake that night in my bunk listening to the songs on the radio, they told me that my woman was gone. They said she talked to angels and that they called her up by her name. I made another call in the morning; my knuckles turned white as I gripped the receiver until eventually my knees buckled and I slid to the floor in tears.
I take a guitar out to the prison yard, lean up against a tree on a summer day, and sing my own version of the blues. Chord changes from A minor to E minor, with a B7 for the bridge. This is my cathartic release. Sad songs that allow me to lionize her in my memories. Long forgotten are the manipulations and arguments. They’ve been replaced by my romanticizing over stories of shooting heroin by the side of the road and dragging her lifeless body around to the passenger seat.
My friend wrote me a letter saying that I need to let her go. I wrote him back trying to explain that it’s hard when the last mental image I have of freedom is of her. It was a sunny day; warm for the middle of December. She had pulled up to the curb outside of the train station and I was getting out of the car when I turned and leaned back in and kissed her affectionately, savoring the feel of her lips in mine. I told her I loved her and that I’d see her later that night. Never did the thought cross my mind that that would be the last time I would ever see her again.
“We’d go to the park and play ball against whoever showed up. Two dudes, it didn’t matter. She’d set up out beyond the arc and I’d dish it to her when they’d double team me. She had a pure three-point shot that would swish the net with a silent thwap.”
But all that’s gone now.