By Mathew Serback
Breathe – or don’t.
The metal rails of your bed weep with the sweat from your palms as you raise yourself to meet the tape recorder with your eyes. The tape recorder meets you with silence.
Your eyes are all twisted up – or is that your stomach twisting up the necks of the butterflies trying to escape your stomach?
Is it love – or fear?
The last thing you remember is bending over backward – literally – but not literally. You remember bending at the waist and twisting – like your eyes – all at once toward the ground.
Remember – or don’t.
You reached for the counter and missed it. First, your hands came back with open air. Then your hands came back with a glass of water – was it half full – and the cherry pie you were prepared to heat in the oven.
You press play.
Who wouldn’t press play?
Static and white noise bathe your face in fluorescent light. There’s some kind of death in the seconds it takes for you to get used to the noise. You imagine that’s how long it takes for you to get used to something – seconds.
Really, you’re elastic within those seconds. You’re nothing more than conjured bones, and you’re the stone skipped to the horizon and infinity. You’re everything you wanted to be when you were young, and you’re the blade of the guillotine as it rushes for the neck.
The static breaks – or is that your bones – or your eardrums?
“It’s me, and everything isn’t going to be okay.”
What came before bending over backward?
The chicken and the egg.
There are more than two people in the kitchen. You know that much because two shadows reach around you before you descend to the tile and the grout and memories lost – until now.
Breathe – or don’t.
The shadows swell in the sunlight. One of them – a vision of ether – slinking through the door. Another shadow moves from behind you to in front of you with a slender set of wrists begging for forgiveness.
Remember – or don’t.
All that crying and all that dying didn’t matter, did it?
There’s a ghost in the tape recorder.
Who didn’t see that coming?
“You’re alive,” the voice says.
You know who it is – because you remember – but you don’t remember to breathe. Your insides turn to cherry pie – all gouped up and chunky. Your throat has that sinking feeling, and your heart has that sinking feeling, and your mouth goes dry and numb at the same time, so, you want to drink water but can’t.
That’s you walking the tight-rope underneath the pole.
Fall – or don’t fall.
Your best friend is dead on the floor next to you.
The shadow wasn’t a shadow.
You must’ve figured that out – by now.
There’s a knife wedged somewhere between your best friend’s rib cage. You can see flaky crusts of bone matter mixed with flaky crusts of the cherry pie. There’s not a knife in you – but there was a knife in you.
That’s a distinction you feel is important to make.
The shadow moves around the house now. It dumps things over and dumps things out – like your insides.
Human beings and the never-ending search for something.
The ghost in the tape recorder continues, “And the worst part of all is never getting to say I love you again.”
You crawl over your best friend. You try to remember what Wikipedia or Friends or your mother told you to do when someone was bleeding out through a hole in their chest.
You ever swallow too much water and try to cough it all out at once, but instead of it slowly and smoothly flowing from throat to mouth, it gurgles around – in limbo – between them and some spills out of your nose?
That’s what your best friend’s blood is doing.
You realize it’s over.
“Breathe,” you say.
You’re crying – now and then – now and again.
You stick two fingers in the hole in hopes that’ll clog it for long enough. You know it’s a worthless endeavor – but sometimes you feel like you’ve just got to try something just to say that you tried something.
How else would you answer why your best friend is dead?
Between the gurgles and cough of blood, you let your fall – or don’t fall – to the tile next to your best friends.
Dying is fairly tiring.
“The worst part,” you mumble to yourself. “Is never getting to say I love you again.”
You wake up with a light in your eyes.
“You’re going to survive,” someone says. “Breathe.”
But you don’t want to.
About Mathew Serback
Mathew Serback is an existential pianist. Never set so much as a buttcheek on a piano bench., but you can’t prove that. You can follow Mathew on Goodreads.