By Brian Ellis
Shout-out to when you were 22 and living on a saggy, semi-inflated mattress on the floor of the duplex apartment your parents left you in after they’d moved to Mobile, Alabama, and your checking account balance was -288.31 and so you subsisted on beef jerky, leftover Chinese food, and a plastic jug of gin your mom kept hidden in her closet, and the lease was about to end and you had nowhere to go so you thought about moving in with your pal Eduardo, the dope dealer who played drums in one of your shitty punk bands nobody cared about, thinking he might let you borrow his car because he was always too strung out to drive it himself and because it would’ve been easier for you to find a job and not have to remain rotting inside some smelly duplex apartment because it really sucked not having a car or a permanent place to rot inside of, but you knew that if you moved in with Eduardo, the two of you would just sit around all day strung out and only talking about doing great things/not actually doing great things which was just too sad, so you wasted more time listening to a CD-R of Lou Reed’s Transformer album and watching overdue VHS tapes from Blockbuster Video you’d never return, and the only person who came to visit was this girl you’d first met on Myspace but then met IRL when she was dropped off at your parents’ apartment wearing a trench coat with nothing on underneath it and you dated for a few months until she moved up north, but anyway she was in town visiting and decided to stop by though it was brief because she had a ride waiting outside and it hurt because it felt like love and you never saw her again and you can’t even remember her name now, and for a while it was nice to lay around naked/alone/surrounded by blank walls because the walls spoke to you/sang to you—without sound—without lips, teeth, tongue—without opinions, lies, complaints, false flattery, blind hatred—and it was nice putting holes into them because it didn’t really matter and because it felt like love, but then the food and the gin ran out and the walls turned on you and it felt as though they were closing in, crushing you, and the apartment got scary, so you kept all the lights on until the lights were turned off by the light company and you had to deal with the loneliness, the bad dreams, all that psychic terror in the dark until you could no longer take it and so you walked downtown to a bar, which is where you met Karen, a 38 year-old divorcee whose ex-husband was locked up for robbing a Captain D’s seafood chain, and Karen got you drunk because she was drunk and then took you home with her, and home to her was a low-rent apartment building that looked more like a motel because it had a pool and a Tiki lounge, and later that night you told her about your parents’ duplex apartment and how the lease was just about up and she felt bad and decided to have you move in, which was weird at first because she lived with her 17 year-old son who was named after a character from an Anne Rice novel she kept on top of the toilet, but he was cool and you all got along and cooked meals and drank together and shared cigarettes from a carton that was kept in the freezer, and also there was a poodle with no legs that got around by crawling on its nubs/belly—it all felt like love—but a month later Karen’s ex was released from prison wanting another chance at love and so Karen moved out, taking with her the son and the legless poodle but leaving most of everything else, which included furniture, a few bottles of liquor, a stack of LPs, and the Anne Rice novel on top of the toilet, and after a few days rotting inside another lonely apartment before the lease ran out you drank the liquor, broke the furniture, smashed most of the LPs, puts holes in the walls, and read passages from the Anne Rice novel while crying on the toilet before packing a bag and heading downtown, where you met a hustler named JJ who coaxed you into the bushes behind an abandoned parking lot to smoke crack, and when you got high you told him all about your problems and how you needed to get somewhere and he nodded and offered to put you on a Greyhound if you let him suck your dick and you reluctantly agreed and it didn’t feel like love and you didn’t finish but it got you on a bus to Mobile, Alabama, where you sat and thought about Karen, about how you missed her and would probably never see her again and you never did and it hurt for a while—it hurt like love does—but you got over it, and you thought about the time you looked into the rear-view mirror of a taxicab and saw Eduardo stoned and swaying in the driveway in front of his house while deliriously taking sips from an unopened pack of Marlboros, which is the last image you have of him because his heart stopped working several months later, and you considered writing JJ a postcard addressed to the bushes behind that abandoned parking lot, thanking him for the bus ticket but also apologizing for not coming, but you didn’t, and so you reached into your bag and pulled out the Journey Frontiers LP you salvaged from Karen’s apartment, one of the few LPs you didn’t destroy, a sad keepsake, and you remember it was between that and the first Suicidal Tendencies record but for some reason you chose Journey, a decision you regretted for a while but you got over it.
BRIAN ALAN ELLIS co-edits the literary journal Tables Without Chairs (with Bud Smith), and is the author of The Mustache He’s Always Wanted but Could Never Grow, 33 Fragments of Sick-Sad Living, King Shit (with Waylon Thornton), and Something Good, Something Bad, Something Dirty. His writing has appeared at Juked, Hobart, Monkeybicycle, Literary Orphans, DOGZPLOT, Connotation Press, Vol. 1 Brooklyn, Heavy Feather Review, Diverse Voices Quarterly, Out of the Gutter, Hypertext, Electric Literature, People Holding, The Next Best Book Blog, Lost in Thought, and Atticus Review, among other places. He lives in Tallahassee, Florida.
Art: “12 Years After the Storm” by Michelle Johnsen
Michelle Johnsen (art editor) is a nature and portrait photographer in Lancaster, PA, as well as an amateur herbalist and naturalist. Her work has been featured by It’s Modern Art, Susquehanna Style magazine, Permaculture Activist magazine, EcoWatch.com, EarthFirst! Journal, Lancaster Farm Fresh Cooperative, and used as album art for Grandma Shake!, Anna & Elizabeth, and Liz Fulmer Music. Michelle’s photos have also been stolen by AP, weather.com, The Daily Mail, and Lancaster Newspapers. You can contact her at mjphoto717 [at] gmail.com.