Small Town Blues (Sometimes Somewhere Somehow) by Tyler Gates

You wake up and immediately regret it. You peer out of your dusty blinds, there’s cops out front. They station themselves next to the stop sign down the street, you’re paranoid. That old man who collects mannequins lives across the road. He hates kids and has a “keep off the grass” sign on his lawn during summer. He faces the mannequins so they stare at his neighbors houses, you can see them looking out the windows. They stare at you and you don’t trust them, you put on your glasses and glare back. Digging through your dirty clothes you wear a pair of pants and shirt you had on three days ago, unwashed. Your lower back and neck hurt, you’ve had the same mattress your entire life. You go downstairs and go directly for the fridge, nothing except three jugs of tap water and an empty bottle of ketchup.

You go into the bathroom to shit, you sit down and as you wait you run your middle finger across the scars on your leg. You realize you have to work tonight, you work evenings at a retirement home. You leave your house, its freezing out. Its -10 degrees Fahrenheit. With the windchill they say its close to -40 F. The cold burns your skin, your lips crack and bleed. You drive through a foot of snow, skidding through stops signs along the way. You are the only one on the road.

Your knuckles are bleeding.

At work you sit at a desk as senior citizens sleep, You read emails and watch television. You watch documentaries on dead rock stars and presidents. You chew NoDoz to help pass the time. You work seven twelve hour shifts then get seven days off. After work you sometimes go to the local strip club. Five dollar cover. The city council won’t allow it within city limits so you have to drive a few minutes out of town. There’s one pole, seven girls, and no door on the bathroom. You know, to keep hicks from jerking off in there.

You order a vodka 7 and sit alone. Its late, they’ll close in little over an hour. Next to you three hillbilly’s cat call the dancer. They all have cowboy hats and plaid shirts on. You grip your drink and take a heavy pull. You stare. Its hunting season, they’ve probably been drinking all day. The stripper is young, early 20’s. She has brown hair and seven inch scar across her stomach. You move to sniffers row, you tip her one of your dirtier ones. She moves in, she breathes heavy in your ear, purrs and asks:

“How are you doing tonight honey?”

You say:

“Better than I deserve.”

She doesn’t respond, she dances over to the hillbilly’s. You decide to leave. You get in your car and drive home. You pass the sign that says Waterville Pop. 20,000. You think you see something in the headlights of passing cars. You start to feel sick.

You think you might be friends with a serial killer. He tells you he knows of 100 different places to hide a body. This state is all corn fields, he’s probably right. You feel like throwing up. You keep your knife sharp.

Once home you decide to go for a walk, you need to get out. It takes almost ten minutes to put on all your winter gear, you begin to sweat almost immediately. The walk doesn’t help, you can’t stop thinking about your own funeral. You walk a mile or more and see a deer in someone’s back yard. Your hands and feet are numb, you love the sensation. People are up getting ready for work. The garbage truck rolls slowly down the street like a tank, the flashing light on top cuts through the still falling snow. You decide to go home.

You decide to kill yourself.

Your roommate has a loaded gun, a cheap 9mm. He never puts the safety on. He’s at his girlfriends house. You decide to shoot yourself. You enter the bathroom, turn the water on as hot as you can tolerate. You step in, you stand naked in the dark. The only light comes from a small water resistant radio. It plays country music, you hate country music.

Your skin is red. You are going to miss your cats. You are going to miss her.

You hope the shower will contain most of the mess.

You put the barrel between your eyes. Water beads run down the barrel and through your hands. You press the barrel hard into your head, your hands shake. You wonder why you’re pressing the barrel so hard so you try to ease up a bit. Seconds crawl by and you wonder what death will taste like. You didn’t leave a note, you have nothing to say. You stare at the barrel, expecting it to end everything at any moment but in the end, like always, you chicken out. Although, this time was the closest you’ve ever gotten. You dry the gun off with a towel. For the first time in months you’re not afraid of yourself.

You wash your hands 27 times a day. You imagine germs and bacteria reproducing on your skin. You think everyone hates you. You used to be sad. You’ve gotten worse since then. You thought you’d be gone by now. You have spider bites on your neck and stomach. You need to wash your blankets.

She keeps telling you that hope lies somewhere inside it. You pretend to believe her. You feel like you’re living on borrowed time. You tell her that it feels like you have glass in your lungs. She says she cries when you speak like that. You wonder if you are alone. She tells you she loves you, that it’s the kind of love that shatters the sky. You pretend to believe her. When you tell her she deserves better, you mean it.

She sleeps in the same bed as you almost every night. While she falls asleep calmly in your arms you tear yourself apart from the inside. You stare at the wall as you painstakingly relive every mistake you made throughout the day. She rolls over, nestles her head on your chest and breathes a heavy sigh. You feel like you are going to die.

Two days later, you regain consciousness behind the wheel of a moving car. The sky is the loneliest shade of gray. You vomit in the cup holder as you idle down the road, past the bowling alley. Hot stomach acid drips out of your nostrils and you begin to feel reality shifting away from you once again. Trying to hold on, you grasp at nothing but air. You feel your heart collapsing and something somewhere begins again.