At the dingy bar on the corner of Third and Fairview, we sat on those high wooden stools with the black paint that’s peeling, empty beer glasses littering the tabletop. His lips pulled back like theater curtains, exposing teeth that were separated, a happy divorce. His hands clenching into fists on the table, head thrown back, throat exposed. Ben was laughing from deep within his stomach, closing his eyes, allowing them to scrunch in the corners.
Ben who years ago stuck needles in his veins. Ben who said he’d forgotten how to feel. Who didn’t want to. Who once had dim eyes filled with lightning strikes of red. Ben who has a cat he found under a half empty pizza box in a dumpster, wet and malnourished. Who laid the cat next to a space heater and fed it lunch meat until it dried off, meowed and fattened up like an Easter ham.
Ben who once had a girlfriend that cried often, trying to explain her emptiness to a man who knew too well how vast the hollow things feel. Floating in negative space, eons away from anything solid, he never unloaded his emptiness. He delicately held her hands. Adding cards on top of each other. Afraid to breathe. Afraid of falling apart. On the verge of caving.
Ben who once walked up the stairs of his childhood home, fingers wrapped around the white railing. White knuckles. He watched the smiling faces of his loved ones tarnish and deteriorate. Who watched the wooden boards fall out from beneath him, into a pit where foundation and food should have been. Who recited his mother’s words, I’ll always be here, but remembered her pulling the blue band tight with her teeth. A teenage boy who stared at the ceiling of his room as though he could see straight through to the stars.
Angelica Mari Ramos
Angelica Mari Ramos is a creative writing undergraduate at Susquehanna University. She writes fiction and non-fiction and plans to go to graduate school and teach the next generation of powerful female voices. “Being a woman is important to me because we lead by example and we hold power in our minds and voices that inspire future generations.”