It’s cold when I come to.
Night has fallen, and it’s no longer raining but sleeting.
I am lying on my stomach on the ledge of a bridge in nothing but a thread-bare t-shirt and jeans that have way too many holes in them to hold any warmth. There’s an empty bottle of Lagavulin 16 tucked into my chest, and my hand dangles lifelessly off the edge.
300 feet of open air awaits me.
How long has it been since I blacked out?
The bottle rolls off behind me as I force myself to sit up, falling to the patch of vegetation sprouting up between the rusted train tracks. My stomach roils, and I have just enough time to turn to the side before all the scotch I drank comes back up.
I should be dead.
How the fuck am I still here?
I wipe the back of my hand over my mouth when I’m finished, eyeing the pool of vomit dripping down the sides of the concrete barrier.
It tasted almost as bad coming up as it did going down.
Makes me wonder what was so fucking special about it.
If there were two things my dad actually held any sort of value to, it was this now-empty bottle of scotch, and the picture of my mother he didn’t know I knew existed. The one he kept tucked safely under his gun in the top drawer of his nightstand. The one he’d sob and rage at late at night when he didn’t know I was awake, listening from my room across the hall. The one I stole tonight.
My vision wavers as I glance toward my right.
I should care.
I should care that the picture has been ruined by the rain.
But I don’t.
My dad was right. I am a fucking waste.
I slide my eyes shut and swallow back the burn of bile as I reach for the gun, grabbing the picture before it can blow away.
The pistol is heavy and slick in my hands. Somehow still cool to the touch, even though I’m well past the point of freezing.
Stuffing the wrinkled Polaroid in my pocket, I turn the gun over in my palms a couple times, wondering how many bullets are inside.
My dad never taught me how to shoot a gun. I don’t know why, but it makes me laugh. All that talk about making me a man’s man, and he never once fucking taught me how to shoot a gun.
I laugh until there are tears joining the sleet melting down my face.
I laugh until I’m screaming.
I laugh until I’ve got my knees pressed against my chest; and I’ve got the barrel of my dad’s .45 squeezed between my hands, cradled under my chin.
I’m laughing and I’m crying and I’ve got Tom Petty in my head, singing about stupid nonsense.
Won’t back down, my ass.
God, I fucking hate this song.
My hand slides down the barrel, lifting the gun in the process.
The voice singing in my head starts to shift and twist. Growing into something lighter. Softer. An echo of one I thought was long forgotten.
I thumb the trigger, screw my eyes shut . . .
Out loud, I start whisper-singing along with the phantom voice in my head.
—And I let the ocean carry me away.