Round 2 finalist: “Life, Heart, Head, Fate” by Hyl Norman
I brought you your crystal and some cigarettes. You won’t mind if I smoke one. Someone has been here before me and left you their pocket change and a dopey ceramic angel.
I remember when we rode our bikes to the palm-reader. We sat in her living room and handed over our damp ten-dollar bills. The wind blew in through the screen door. You had crosshatching, a sign of trouble, but my lines were forked. Frayed, she said. On the way back we raced to the lake and you gave me the crystal you’d stolen. She didn’t see that in my palm, you said. We were thieving little kids.
We lay down by the water’s edge and even rolled together a couple times, our foreheads touching. We clasped our coded hands as we made our pact. In the afternoon glory I cannonballed into the water from a six-foot high rock and you found a ten-foot one. The moment of impact was much greater. You were a showoff.
That, my friend, was one of the last easy days, when the sun was warm and our bodies fearless. Life was a long arc, a line to be written by us, a story told by our own hands.
We got older and shrank to eating-disorder thinness, drank too much, had regrettable sex with the nearest body when it got late. Failed our moms, skipped funerals, stole money from trusting uncles. Left school, left home, left the state. Left the church. Left jobs, left roommates.
At least that’s what I did. Somewhere on the way, I looked around for you but I’d left you behind.
Here’s something I didn’t have a chance to tell you. When I steered in front of an eastbound truck and it skidded and swerved around me I felt alive for at least five minutes. When I took 53 Xanax and walked outside to look at the world one more time I felt alive for nearly ten minutes. I cut my wrists and the drip of blood made me feel alive till I passed out. I ziptied my wrists to my ankles and stepped into the ocean. I felt so alive.
I am a terrible suicidist.
Finally you showed me how it’s done, crashing through the event horizon of your death. After all my ridiculous attempts, you managed it effortlessly, sailing off an icy road on a winter morning, on your way to work. Now you’re on the other side, incommunicado. And I’m not feeling too alive.
My landscape is post-tunguska and you were the comet. You wouldn’t be able to bear the winter light of my devastation if you were able to see it.
You will never say goodbye to one another, she said. That was one thing the woman got right when she told us our lines.
Hyl Norman write novels and short fiction. She lives in an industrial town in the Ohio River Valley. She is working on a historical novel set in Cincinnati during the cholera epidemic of 1849.