The Quiet Place
By R. D. Flavin

     I’d been back from Kenny’s apartment for about twenty minutes when I started to get sick.  I managed to catch my vomit in cupped hands and made it to the toilet without spilling a chunk.  As a bonus, not having to clean up the bathroom floor gave me the extra time to toss back a couple of more beers before I passed out for the night.  I remembered that before I left Kenny he asked to go to a quiet place.

     My quiet place has been gone for a while.  I used to tell people that my first moment of wakefulness was a barometer for my soul.  There was this quiet place, this instant of calm acceptance of who I was and my relationship with reality.  It was the brief yawn of an innocent before the accrued shame of a wasted life began to pound in my chest and remind me how far into shadow I’ve traveled.  I’m not sure when I last visited my quiet place, but it feels like it was a long time ago.

     Once, there was magic.  I tasted the magic in plants and dirt, smelled it in the rain of a hot day, felt it in the coarseness of bark and as I caressed soft moss.  There was magic in the sound of a running stream and in the shapes of clouds overhead.  Magic gave me safety in the bushes and let me climb tall trees.  I had an agreement with nature–all I had to do was believe in magic and magic would believe in me.  It doesn’t matter who stopped believing in who first.  Like, anyone would take my word over nature’s. 

     The deaths weren’t magical.  One forgettable day, indistinct and mundane, they started to die.  Family and friends began to pass away and continue to do so with regularity.  My reality is shrinking.  The calendar marks more occasions of deaths than births and I’m no longer keen on time.  Life sucks and death swallows.

     I miss my job at the gas-station.  Nine-fifty an hour, lots of overtime, and I just ran the cash-register and didn’t have to pump any gas.  The station was close enough that I could walk to work, I was able to steal all of my cigarettes, get free newspapers, and occasionally cheat drunk kids out of a few bucks in change.  When the old blonde woman came in and said she’d suck me dry for ten dollars in gas, it seemed like the right thing to do.  I was blowing my load in her mouth when her partner shot me in the back.  The owner of the station got real shitty with the medical bills and things turned ugly.  In court, just to be mean, he tried to suggest the blonde wasn’t a woman.  I yelled that I knew the difference between a man and a woman’s mouth and challenged him to produce a surveillance video.  The judge told me to shut up and made the owner pay all of my bills.  My back still hurts and I miss having a job.

     During rehab I almost got to a quiet place.  Trading pain medication for sex worked out well.  Semi-conscious women can be a real treat and they don’t complain when you bend them certain ways.  Clean sheets, a window looking out over some woods, good drugs and handfuls of butt made for some great times.  It’s where I met Kenny.  The addiction to pain-killers was difficult to shake and the rape charge nearly took me out of the game all together.  I really appreciated that public defender proving the slut had been with four other guys on the floor that night.  I sent him a nice bottle of scotch.  He sent it back.  His loss.

     The shrinks argue that hard drinking and substance abuse is a form of suicide.  They get paid to say goofy shit like that.  They believe the abuser is brimming with self-loathing and lacks the spine to take a bullet or jump without a chute.  It’s ridiculous and petty.  The truth of the matter is that it feels good to be wasted.  Most of the time, that is.  Shitting yourself when you’re wasted is not a good thing.

     It’s hard to say who the landlord hates more, me or Kenny.  I get more complaints because of how loud I play my music, but Kenny draws more attention to himself because he’s always being taken away in an ambulance.  One too many anti-psychotics and Kenny’s got the razor out and cutting deep into his forearms.  I watched him once and even called for an ambulance when he passed out from the loss of blood.  It’s a toss-up as to whether shit or blood is more difficult to clean up. 

     When we buy drugs, Kenny keeps them in his apartment.  The police like to fuck with me because I’ve still got two months on probation.  I should get a medal, but instead they just hassle me whenever they can.  They say I should have got time instead of a year of probation for aggravated assault.  I saved that little boy’s life when I yanked him from in front of that speeding car!  A broken arm seems like a small price to pay to see another birthday.  They said I was drunk and there was no car.  The mother still spits at me when she sees me in the street. 

     I’ve become real good at throwing up–it’s the last thing I do at night and the first I do in the morning.  A puke, a smoke and a cup of coffee, a nice shit, and it’s over to Kenny’s to spend the day getting wasted and watching cable television.  I knew something was wrong when he didn’t answer his door after five minutes of my banging.  The landlord knew it too and so did the police who stood behind him.

     When they opened the door and I saw the knife sticking out of his throat, I remembered the whining and the little bitty cuts on Kenny’s arms.  He’d asked to go to a quiet place and, as I’d brought him over dinner earlier, I just happened to have a steak-knife handy.  I didn’t mind the police putting on the hand-cuffs and throwing me down the stairs.  

     Oh, my God!  I killed Kenny!   

The End.

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