We were a trio.
90's alternative had been playing for maybe
three-quarters of an hour, and at this point
we were all mostly toasted.
A shot of beer a minute.
Talking ****, shuffling the deck.
Nick laughed, Luke mocked.
I cheered them both on.
In that moment we all lived in the golden light
of youthful ignorance and concrete friendship
that can only be fully grasped by a drunken trio of guys
in their mid-twenties at 2:00 AM on an idle Thursday night.
We all cracked fresh cold ones and lit up fresh cigs,
and I raised the burning tobacco in a toast:
Luke matched my pose, left arm outstretched.
We caught each other's eyes, and without missing a beat
his right hand plunged the cherry into his left forearm.
I looked down and saw myself doing the same,
yet felt no pain. We stayed that way until our embers died,
and relit the remaining smoke off of a shared flame.
Nick never matched our level of commitment,
I doubt he even bears a scar these days.
My scar still itches from time to time.
I wonder if Lukes does, too.
I started seeing tunnels
and soon, gravity took me.
Horizontality was my fate.
I was the first to fall,
the first to succumb to gratuitous consumption.
Birds chirping, deafening in the late morning.
The angry sun cast slotted beams
through the still-lingering twines
of cigarette smoke from the night before.
I watched it slowly twirl and stir through slitted eyelids.
My eyes hurt, and my neck creaked as I looked around.
Nick passed out beside me, I figured Luke got the top bunk.
In the daylight I could always see the apartment for what
it really was.
One room, bunk beds, and abject emotional destitution.
I rolled over on to the floor and steadied myself with
closed eyes and a palm planted on the ***** carpets.
My phone was on the desk in the corner, I grabbed it
and headed towards the bathroom.
**** cascaded, and through the open bathroom window
I could hear it echo off of the buildings lining New Street.
My hand floated up to the back of my head
and picked at something. Something hardened.
There was a thick layer of something
on the back of my scalp,
down the back of my neck.
It felt like wax.
We were burning a candle last night.
They must've dumped it on me
since I was the first to fall asleep.
I quit picking when I was struck by a sharp pain in my arm,
my left forearm.
A bit of my hair had probed an open wound,
a round burn mark.
I sat down on the floor and remembered for a bit.
My phone turned on with a melodic series of beeps,
it had been awhile since I turned it on.
One new voicemail.
I dialed the number 1 while picking wax from my hair,
put my passcode in,
Mom called me last night, she was crying.
I was used to that sound at this point.
"Otis wont get up, I think he's dying Justin."
A brief pause.
"Please come home."
I'm sorry Otis. I loved you.
More than a dog, you were a canine brother.
Raised alongside me.
Raised by the same parents.
I didn't come home,
I still think about that night,
My scar itches.