Mom. Dad. Pete. Amigo, the cat. Auntie Anne’s in the mall, the smell of those hot cinnamon sugar pretzels. The feeling of leaving the cinema after a great movie, that first breath of cool air outside the Megaplex.
The Negroni cocktail, unapologetic and delicious. The accomplishment of finishing a tough workout, that routed, slightly nauseous feeling. Stepping out at Penn Station.
Van Gogh’s Olive Trees. The tomahawk steak, a rare-leaning medium-rare. The month of May. October, too. The attentive service at Japanese restaurants. Views from tall buildings. The mountains. Hills and valleys. Creeks. Rivers. Lakes. Fireworks. Good skipping stones. Raging bonfires with tons of firewood and cold beer and girls. Magic mushrooms. Dutch licorice. French press coffee. Bagels with lox and too much cream cheese.
Books. Bill Murray. Not making a move on your prom date, just dropping her off perfectly at her door and saying how much fun you had (!!!).
Driving to Maine. Punk Rock. Metal. Other people’s tattoos. American Spirit cigarettes. Bumper stickers. A girl in Germany. Hammers. Nature shows narrated by David Attenborough. Your sticky leather jacket. Your three-quarter leather boots. Leather, in general. The smell, the feel, the grip.
The sound of the steel drums. Tennis. Joey. Landon. Collin. Zara. The days before the pathology report came back, the not knowing, the beauty of possibility. Being opinionated. Angry. Critical. Cynical. Someone calling you out.
Waiting on line for something, a little miffed, because you have places to be. Being busy. Being bored. Flirting. Kissing. Painlessness.
Your grandmother tucking money into your palm because she thinks you’re poor. Snowfall. Hot cider. Being snowed in. Boners, every single one a gift.
The Jets. The Islanders. Friday nights. Union Square. Saying, “Fill it up, please. Regular, thanks.” The loquacious ugly nice lady at the deli counter who shaved the best smoked turkey around.
Margaret. A woman who will probably see another 25 years. Has she noticed you’ve not been in? Hangovers cured with aspirin. Watching a movie with the whole family, the volume always too loud or too low, not enough room on the couch, not even a good movie but no one saying anything because you’re all together for once in a blue moon.
The moon. The blood moon. The super moon, the one your brother hauled out all of his camera equipment for, because it wouldn’t be this big or bright again for another 8,000 years, or something. It was a cloudy night and you didn’t see anything but a lot of huge, ashy clouds. You got high and watched the clouds anyway.
The idea of God, and what if He actually does exist and you’ve pretty much been a total asshole your whole life? Should you start praying now? No, He’ll see what you’re doing and chuckle pure thunder. Screw it. Damn it. Goddammit. Oh, shit, please, no! Let me live and I will change everything about myself! Please! No. No. No. No! Come on, man, don’t panic again. Dignity. People will remember how you handled it. They’ll show sympathy in front of others, but they’ll judge you in secret.
Bucked and bitched like a cat in a bag. Appearances are always important to people no matter what.
Your brother, who eschewed computers most of his life, has suddenly taken it upon himself to update the world via Facebook about how close you are. Embarrassing. Too bad you can’t beat him up anymore.
Zara didn’t show up this week and you’re scared you’ll never see her again, the girl you dumped like it was nothing but who returned to your side when the pathology came back, maybe the worst of the humiliations. You shut your eyes and try to see her face. Your mom’s the last of the regulars. She gave you life and she’ll see it through. A mother.
She was just here, in fact, but stepped out for coffee. “Can I bring you anything?” she joked. She knows you can’t eat.
“Yeah, I’ll take a Baconator.”
“That giant sandwich from Wendy’s?”
You nod. “It was just on TV a second ago. It looks incredible.”
“Ketchup, pickles, mustard?” she smiled.
We could joke because the pain tapered off somewhere. Probably blowing itself up bigger and better to come sweeping back through all new and improved. Never mind. These little respites are freedom. Painlessness makes a guy feel drunk, which kind of makes a guy feel healthy. Have to relax and enjoy it. The Baconator. You’re too much, man. If she really comes back with a Baconator you’ll just . . .
Terence Lane’s fiction has appeared in a number of magazines, including Avatar Review, Corium, and The Southampton Review. He is currently seeking a publisher for his novelette, “The Doll.”