I’m not really sure why I’m here. I exhale. My sides ache. Red-hot irons blister each lung with every gasp. My fingers are numb. I’m having a hard time grasping the ground. I can’t drag myself off the disgusting grass. The grass itches, god it itches, it slides like tiny razor blades digging under my skin. I deserve it. I’m sure of it.
There’s a crooning sound echoing faithlessly. The cacophony seems distant. Fire trucks? Silty tears flow from my dusty eyelashes. I shake my head. I only ever imagine smoke.
Finally, the pulsing numbness is fading. I can sit upright. Ugh. Everything is spinning, a giant vortex of warm colors. Those drenching sunbeams, it makes me feel like vomiting.
I exhale in a gurgled scream. I run my fingers through my hair. My fingers catch in small tangles. Black burning filament falls from the tips of my nails. Ashes? I can’t fucking believe what a wreck I am.
I force myself to inhale. I cough that same soothing smoke that had escaped from my lungs. It feels calming. I should really get off the side of the road.
The pressure makes my palms sting. I stand to survey my surroundings. The dirt from the edge of the road has embedded itself in my blistered palms. The stinging electrifies. I ball my fingers into fists to keep from wiping my hands clean.
I’m not really sure why I’m here. This road leads to town, past the high school. That’s weird. A filthy, small town back road, but a road nonetheless. What a tired town. I would never be caught dead on this road. Hah, dead. It can’t be much worse than this.
I walk the mile to town. My white shoes are ruined. The filthy gravel has grated the smooth sides to tatters. I promise I’m not over exaggerating.
My eyes are red. Those tears were hot. My lips feel dry. I bite the cracks with my teeth. It keeps me focused. I pull on the door to The Grind, our usual hang out spot. The metal door is cold. It seems heavier than usual.
The smell of coffee overcomes me. I start to cough again. All eyes turn, wide and unrelenting. The T.V. murmured in the background. Jada slides out of her chair in the corner.
“Michael’s house burned down. You went home with him.”
Her hand trembles on my shoulder. It feels like poison.
“We were worried. The news said he didn’t make it.” Her voice broke, her head nods toward the mounted television.
News crews, flames, bright, black ashes.
I feel desperate, searching. Every movement feels weighted. My left hand reaches inconspicuously across my waist and fumbles in my right pocket. The gritty side of a small matchbox bites my left palm. My stomach knots.
I’m not really sure why I’m here.