Stomach is a damn hard taste to forget. Even before the bile claws its way up your throat, you can taste it—hot metal and candy aspirin. Then you can smell it, too. Sharp and noxious, the promise of chewed food and belly acid to come. I hate to even think about it, but memory’s a certain breed of sadist, and it knows what we dread the most.
I’ll be damned if it ain’t creative though—memory. Oh, the places your mind’ll go if you just let it. It’s special, going through time like that. I mean there I was, shit deep in god’s forgotten country, doing god’s forgotten work, and all I could think about was the taste of puke and those childhood fevers. That’s something else. And that’s exactly why you can’t trust it, especially in moments like this. See, when you’re taking a life, you have to stay present.
Staying put isn’t easy though. You’d think it’d be, but pulling the trigger isn’t exactly an active experience when you can send your mind through time and space at will. So, you gotta find other ways to stay. Otherwise, the whole damn thing just gets, well, easy, and that’s a bad place to be. That’s why I stay in my moment, why I go back to it every day. Over and over and over. I make it real and inescapable and I live that life on loop.
Hours stretched longer under the dry heat of that desert. It was quiet and still, save for the rustling of stray breezes. We were alone. Miles of wilderness interrupted only by forgotten husks of brokedown cars long planted atop mounds of dried earth.
There, in the garden of dust, rusted aluminum panels and stray scrap metal pieces formed walls to keep us from god’s prying eyes. Sunlight cracked through every imperfect space in thin jagged lines. And those little bits of light birthed our violent shadows.
He knelt there by my design and I stood before him like a pseudo titan waiting for frenzy to take me again. During these respites, he’d look up at me from on his knees, somewhere between defiant and defeated. It was honestly hard for me to tell the difference.
The features I’d memorized had collapsed. I beat pale skin into one swollen purple mass. His square jaw rounded. His puffed chest folded in. His strong bones bent outwards and poked through skin. I had to be more careful. Had to take my time and stop more often. Make sure his breaths were still coming—how spastic or irregular didn’t matter, as long as they kept coming. I had eternity to fill after all.
We started and stopped. Rage and hopelessness. Rage and hopelessness. Rage and hopelessness. Over and over and over.
We kept up our routine ‘til yellow light grew pale and our shadows disappeared. The white of the moon crept in differently. It bent around what young metal hid amongst the rust until it found the gun on my waist. I looked at my weapon for what felt like the first time.
I’d never held a gun before this, and you could tell. That’s all I kept thinking: He could tell. I hated that. I hated wondering if when he looked up past the barrel at me, he saw a scared child—not the apocalypse that had come for him. I hated that, but the thought wouldn’t pass.
Insecurity made me vicious in ways violence couldn’t comprehend. Then terror poisoned my thoughts. Rage and hopelessness. Rage and hopelessness. Rage and hopelessness.
Over and over and over.
I thought of him and what he did to her. Rage and hopelessness.
I thought of that terrible truth that only they could ever know. Rage and hopelessness.
I thought of the horrors I created to fill in the blank spaces. Rage and hopelessness.
I thought and I thought, and then I saw everything. Over and over and over.
I saw one hand move down, from her neck, to her chest, and then to her stomach. I saw the other curl from a claw around her throat to a fist across her jaw. I saw her scream into a noiseless vacuum to realize that no help would come. I saw it all and I see it now. Over and over and over.
And then I hear him.
I hear laughing and the clumsy rattle of metal. His big chief belt buckle shaking loose below her waist. I see and I hear and I live every explicit detail because that’s all I can do. I wasn’t there. And I never can be. So I stay in the moment I’ve made.
I look down at the broken body before me. Rage and hopelessness.
I look down at the body I’ve broken. Rage and hopelessness.
I live the violent life I’ve made. Rage and hopelessness.
And I make the best of it. Over and over and over.