Honestly Kid

by Daniel Damkoehler

 

premature fiction

Burnt

William walked home in the dark feel­ing stu­pid. In the down­town res­i­den­tial streets of Brenlee, each block had it’s own street­lamp. It was usu­al­ly enough. On most nights like this one — warm and dry, sum­mer or autumn — the sounds of kids play­ing late into the evening or mus­cle cars revving filled the air. Tonight, only the buzz of the high met­al arc lamps and a slight breeze.

Still, down here on the side­walk, it was dark between the lights. It felt dark­er than usu­al. Darker even, than those late nights dur­ing win­ter when the fog is so thick that peo­ple lose their way and walk into tele­phone poles. William could see only the ground before his next step. After leav­ing the walk­way from Hernandez’s apart­ment, he moved care­less­ly along, not try­ing to see his own way. He just felt it. Knew it. He let the grav­i­ty of failed dreams, burnt mem­o­ries, and loss pull him home­ward. That grav­i­ty had nev­er failed him. It didn’t tonight.

He sat on his porch and looked out at the dark­ness, behind and through which neigh­bors, teach­ers, paris­hon­ers, chil­dren, par­ents, and some­one who killed chil­dren and child­hoods moved. Breathed. Slept. Cried. Laughed. Forgot and remem­bered. He didn’t want to cry, but felt he should. He rubbed the cor­ners of eyes. Dry. He couldn’t sigh any­more, his stom­ach couldn’t take it, so he took in only shal­low draughts of the ubiq­ui­tous dark­ness.

Nothing he could do would fix this feel­ing and so he would nev­er change. He had tried run­ning. Leaving Brenlee in the dust. Not even men­tion­ing this tired old town for years at a time. Now he had tried return­ing; he felt some part of him­self gag­ging and strug­gling and fail­ing to emerge into his pol­lut­ed life. It felt stu­pid. Like puk­ing over some­thing he had seen years before. Like not hav­ing puked in the first place. Like going to Hernandez with no idea what he want­ed. Like being so Californian every­where else he went that he could nev­er stop say­ing ‘like’, and so every­where else when he was here that he could only hate it for its beau­ty, size, atti­tude, and mis­us­es and abus­es of lan­guage.

Then, final­ly, William, Billy, Will — this earth­bound, pro­fane three-in-one — stopped think­ing. The dark­ness grew still. He hadn’t noticed it mov­ing before, but would lat­er remem­ber this still­ness and the mil­lion crawl­ing fin­gers of grasp­ing dark that inhab­it­ed that night. He let his eyes close, but he did not sleep. Without try­ing, his breath grew a lit­tle deep­er and a lit­tle calmer. He did not move. He and all his pain, all his mem­o­ries both mis­er­able and won­der­ful, became a pil­lar of ash await­ing the wind, long­ing for and dread­ing that final col­lapse and dis­ap­pear­ance into the fab­ric of the things of this earth, solar sys­tem, galaxy, uni­verse.

He awoke in that chair on the porch ear­ly the next morn­ing. As far as he knew, he had not moved. He did not remem­ber his dreams. He could feel the air grow­ing warmer as the sun rose over the Sierras. He was still here in Brenlee, but for the first time since he returned and buried his moth­er, he knew he would leave and this time for good.