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Back You are here: Home Stories Words for the People Poetry April 2011: Resurrection Head Rush
Saturday, 02 April 2011 20:06

Head Rush

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And then…

One

My memory starts black. It’s all I see. Onyx. Pitch. Jet. Dead. Night. It’s black. And then…

Two

A flash and everything appears. A girl on the bus. I used to see them all the time. Who cared? We never got off at the same stop, those girls and I. Men, we have excuses to be on the bus. It’s not easy for us to score rides. It’s mostly men when you ramble around the streets on the bus. The pretty girl was rare on the bus.

There was something about this one though. That’s how it always starts, isn’t it? Christ, not another love story.

Three

I saw her again and there was that warmth again, that tiny rush. Did she feel it too? I kept my cool; I was a fighter not a lover. If she wanted me, she’d have to come get me. I was Mr. Tough. Bloody Knuckles. I had my choice of women right? Right.

Then one day I stepped on that musty, dusty bus and there was only one seat. It was next to that uneven-haired bookworm with the lips. My heart did a skip and a jump and my face flushed and I sat myself down right next to her. She smelled of smoke and falling clouds. And she looked right at me.

Four

We met on the bus.

That’s what we told everyone, Sasha and I. It wasn’t the most interesting story but both of us were great storytellers. Her because she was such a reader. Me because I liked to talk about my youth, my history. Where I came from. What I rose up out of.

Poverty is the best word I can think of right now. I did everything for my mom when she brought the three of us out of harm’s way for good. I owed her. She put the fight in me, not my dad. I only have vague snapshots of his sorry face. I envied people with great and mostly unemotional dads. They always seemed happier than I was, much more stable. Life was a consistent struggle back then.

That’s what was good about Sasha and her uneven hair. She stabilized me. She made the crooked places straight. She swam in my eyes every time I looked at her. She pinched my arm just right and took away my struggle.

Five

That shit apartment. It was stacked up on the fourth floor and we couldn’t even stand on the balcony for a cigarette, it was so small. But it was ours, all of the cracked plaster and strange night-noises. It was no place to raise a baby but we didn’t have a choice back then. It wasn’t an accident but it wasn’t expected either. She wasn’t expected.

Even bulging with new life, Sasha looked fantastic. Plump and awkward steps everywhere she went. Never a moment of fear about that child inside her, even though my every second was terrifying. I woke up afraid for us. But I stepped into the fear, I stepped through it. My mom put that fight in me, remember?

For the longest time, my mom was the reason I fought. I wanted to return the favor. Then came Sasha and Molly. Little Molly. Named after Sasha’s great aunt. Sasha’s family was a big one. Mine was me and my brother and sister and my mom. I didn’t need much else I guess. But now I had Molly.

Six

When I first saw her, there was the same connection I first felt with Sasha. Only now it was split three ways, if that makes sense. I saw myself in Molly’s eyes, in Sasha’s eyes. Here was this new reason to fight, as tiny as my hands, as bright as my new life. My life was about her now, not myself. Not my mom. Not even Sasha. We didn’t have to worry too much about each other anymore. Not with Molly around.

She fit just right into the apartment, we were wrong about that. Baby-proofing is easy. Was easy. Molly would bang around in her walker and roll around on her blanket and yell baby words and throw plush giraffes across the room where she couldn’t reach them. She was a mess, just like we were. A lovely, manic mess full of giggles and little punches. She was learning from the best.

I should have gone to the store that day. I shouldn’t have let Sasha go. Things would have been different I’m sure. But I stayed with Molly, she was big and walking by then. She knew how to say “Mommy, I need you” and “Hi, Da”. How do you explain to a 16 month old that Mommy wouldn’t be back with the milk for cereal? How do you explain EMS and the jaws of life? How do you explain death and heartbreak to an infant?

Seven

I can almost hear Molly’s voice right now. Where am I, anyway?

There it is again.

Get up.

Everything is still black. Something is ringing through my skull. I blink and everything strobes white for a second and it reminds me of that snowmobile trip we took, Sasha and I. It was well before Molly came along. It was back when we were young and insane. It was Alaska, twenty below. That lake was iced over thick enough, laid out flat and epic like an unwritten tale.

Get up.

Sasha gripped my chest so tight; her cheek was nearly attached to my neck. That one little spot was the only warm place that night. Lightning skeletoned and strobed out across the violent blue sky ahead of us. I knew we didn’t have much time to play on the lake. I told Sasha we should head back, even though I didn’t want to yet. I just wanted to pacify her but instead she yelled “No. Go.” and squeezed me tighter and I punched the gas and we shot out across the lake. The wind went sideways and snow poured all around us. Sasha squealed and laughed that laugh and told me not to stop. Ever. I burned out across the lake through the storm and that single memory burned into my psyche forever. It’s my favorite memory of her.

Get. Up.

I blink again and I see where I am. It’s a fight. There’s Molly in the front row with tears streaked down her face and her hands are up at her face like she’s praying. The crowd rises up behind her in her tiny pigtails and her pink jacket with the floppy hood.

“Daddy. Get up!” and she’s jumping up and down and her face is all smiles behind the tears now.

“Eight,” from the ref and I push at the mat and I raise up. It’s wobbly for a second but I’m up now and there he is. My target in the blue shorts. He face is bent in confusion. All I hear now is the crowd and the ref says “Nine” and holds his fingers up in my face.

I bat his hands away with my glove and he slaps me on the on the back and points between me and my target in the blue shorts and I take the biggest breath I can and let it out and the world evens itself out with the exhale.

Then I fight again, Molly cheering in my ear and Sasha cheering in my head.

 




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Stephen Conley

Stephen's single claim to fame is interviewing crime master James Ellroy, which may or may not be published in a 2011 collection. His work can be seen at Pulp Metal Magazine and in local rag SWIRL Magazine. When he's not writing or drinking himself into a stupor, he can be found watching Peep Show on BBC or fruitlessly chasing girls with boyfriends.

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