from the collection of: d. heidel
My mind is still humming (please, no, don’t shoot). The neurons, I swear, do not register my need for sleep or even, now at 4 in the morning, my need for quiet. They move. They fire. The lines outside my home buzz with some thousands of volts of alternating current; the lines in my body thrum with some couple millivolts of charge. There are memories and wishes and regrets and they run the tangled network until the brain is, itself, like a muscle that has charlie-horsed into itself. I tell you, my mind is still alive and it will never be otherwise (don’t shoot, don’t, don’t… POP). It will never be otherwise, you see, because the need for thought is irrevocable and even as I lie abed at night, I do not sleep (despite my exhaustion) because the thoughts whir and buzz and thrum and hum.
Last night was still and quiet when I stepped out for smoke. I had quit months ago. But I wanted to feel that smoke in my lungs again. I unwrapped the fresh pack as I gripped it delicately in my right palm. Footsteps from down the sidewalk. Footsteps coming closer. No hurry. No hurry at all. Black shoes. I look up – a kind of hello. But as I nod, I see the steel gripped in his right palm. Rising, rising. I have to go back to my desk, I tell him. I’ve got more work to do, you see, because I have to keep this job to feed the ones who wait for me.
There is no comprehension in his eyes. There is only want. I am reminded of a bird pecking at roadkill. Uncooked meat, bled dry beneath the sun, flies gathering, and still the bird’s beak dips down, tears, pulls a dangling scrap, rises, and swallows. Animal. Bird-like.
My legs could no longer support the old weight. I crumple. And as I breathe, I notice there’s a bluish smoke coming from my mouth. Tastes like sulfur. Not what I wanted. Not what I wanted at all. I never wanted any of this. I should have told him to turn the eff around. (And maybe he would have.) I should have told my boss to knock it the eff off with all this required overtime. (And maybe he would have crawled back into the hole of his own office.) I want to kiss my kids goodnight. I’ve wanted to kiss them goodnight for the past three weeks as I’ve been crunching numbers there at my desk. I’ve wanted to kiss them goodnight for the past twenty years as I’ve been – what have I been doing? I’ve wanted and wanted. What do I want now? My eyes are moving. I can feel the delicate motion of the orbs glistening beneath my eyelids but all is darkness. They dip this way and that, looking for a piece of sky to tear off and swallow. My mind is humming with wants (please, please, no, I need sleep). Wants like varying voltages and roadkill feasts and goodnight kisses that will never happen, but still my eyes roll. And I dip and tear and pull dangling scrap after dangling scrap: why? and how? and—and—…