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Artwork by Aldwin Li, staff artist

We’re seventeen, sitting on top of Granny Polly’s grave stone. It’s fall, and the blackberries are in full fruit. We pick some to eat, put some in a basket to give Granny Esther tomorrow. We’re laughing, clinking our shitty beers we stole from the saloon together. He tells a joke, something about Zelda, and I choke on the alcohol, slightly thankful for getting the burn out my throat.

We’re talking about how we’re going to get out of this shithole of a town. I’m going to college. I don’t know what for, but the nearest community college is forty miles away, and that’s far enough. He’s going to start selling all the games he makes. He’s hoping to save enough to move out of his mom’s basement. I tell him to go to college with me, but he says some emo bullshit about how he “hates people.”.

We’re happy though we can’t even see each other through the pitch black of midnight. I nearly fall when climbing over the cemetery’s ridiculously tall fence. I mean, really. When does a town of twenty people need a ten foot high graveyard fence? Shane’s laughing at me, thoroughly drunk. He hops the fence even worse than me, actually falling on his face. He’s always been a lightweight.

“Marvelous,” I say, looking up at the sky. I can almost see sunlight poking out from the horizon. Mom’s bound to yell at me. She’s probably going to call Elise, Shane’s mom, too. Say she should have a tighter leash on him. Then Elise is going to agree and do nothing. It’s a routine. Happens every time I sneak out.

“Shut the fuck up,” I hear. I look back down, and Shane’s rubbing dirt off his face and ass. I throw some extra pebbles his way. He responds with another curse and some pitifully thrown dirt of his own.

“Gotta leave. Sun’s coming up soon,” I say, gazing at the sunrise.

“You coming to the saloon tomorrow?” Shane asks.

“Probably. I wanna, but who knows what my mom will say.”

We’re walking away from each other.


*


We’re twenty one and still stealing beers from the saloon. We’re still sitting on top of Polly’s grave, chugging away. This time, I’m about to leave for college after finally getting my GED. (This shithole doesn’t have a high school. There isn’t even an elementary school either. Just Penny.) This time, he’s about to drunkenly proclaim his homosexual love for our childhood friend Sam right before kissing me.

Our noses are almost touching, my faded purple hair touching his shoulder.

Then we’re laughing. We’re laughing too hard but we’re laughing.

“Gotta go,” I say, tapping my fingers against the beer can.

“Will you be here tomorrow?”

I wanna, but who knows.


*


We’re twenty seven. I’m trying to be a graphic designer, and it isn’t working. He’s still trying to sell his games, and it isn’t working either. I’m about to run out of money, so I come home to live in my old bedroom. My hamster is still alive, somehow.

We’re smoking and drinking in the cemetery. Him on top of Polly’s headstone, me on top of Esther’s. I’m dragging in the smoke, trying my best to forget about my bank account balance. He’s twirling the cigarette around his fingers, thinking. I don’t know what he’s thinking about. That’s a lie.

“What do you want?” he asks.

I’m blowing out the smoke when I hear the question. Shane knows the answer. The dead grandmas we sit on top of know the answer. Everyone knows except me.

“I don’t know.”

“Really?”

Shane leans over and takes the cigarette out of my mouth. He takes a drag, coughing the smoke up.

He steals my beer too. Asshole.

“Yes, really.”

I grab it back and take a sip.

“I backwashed.”

I swallow it to spite him before splashing some on his pants.

“Fuck you,” he says. Leaning back, he mutters, “At least I know what I want.”

“What is it then?”

He’s pressing his forehead onon to mine, tightly holding my left hand. I’m smelling the alcohol on his breath. I’m looking into his eyes. They’re brick brown, like the color of an old fireplace. Like home.

“Guess.”


*


I’m sleeping, dreaming next to Shane in the town cemetery. His nose tickles my neck. I want so many things. I want to become a successful graphic designer. I want money. I want to get the hell out of this town. I want to leave.

Yet here I am.


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