Melody, the jackpot
I wrote this under the influence of several cans of Wired (trademarked) energy drink, and 36 hours of sleep deprivation, driving by myself in the middle of the night. The short and choppy sentences were necessary, as I was driving alone in the dark with ineffective headlights, writing frantically on gas receipts and diner napkins. For the sake of truth, integrity and experimentation, I didn’t edit a single word.
It starts out as just a typical Tuesday night. Finish up a shift at the frozen food processing plant. Bowl a couple of games at Voelker’s with some coworkers. Call my ex-wife from the payphone outside. She doesn’t pick up.
At this time I’ve been in town for almost six months. When I arrived in Buffalo I decided I wanted to become someone else entirely. So I cut my hair and dyed it. Shaved my beard. Began to fashion a new life for myself from a yarn of intricate lies and half-baked anecdotes. None of these things made me feel any better. Just different.
After the bowling alley I grab a bite to eat at the bar by my apartment. Down a few pitchers by myself. Nobody is up for shuffleboards. I hit the video poker machines.
I’m losing money, sipping on a Jack and coke. Sitting next to me is Melody. I’ve seen her around the block a few times before. She has slender hands and smokes menthol cigarettes, which I like. We don’t say much to each other, maybe just a few words. One of us occasionally eyes the other person’s video screen. I see she’s losing too.
And then it happens. About an hour later. Melody hits a jackpot. Three-hundred and twenty-five dollars. She jumps up from her chair. She claps her hands together. She smiles like nobody is watching. She turns to me and asks me what I’m drinking. This marks the beginning of the end.
That night we close out the bar slow dancing to songs from Springsteen’s Nebraska. We sleep in her bed. Rather than go to work the next day I decide to just quit. Never show up again.
We stay together for only a few weeks. Long enough for me to fall in love with her. I am immediately drawn to her intimacy. The ease with which she tells me about her painful past. Her father. Her hometown. Her accident. Her dreams. I tell her many things too. None of them true. She never even learns my real name.
The details that follow are unimportant. Looking back, I feel as though I don’t deserve to remember them anyways. Things will eventually fall to pieces. The yarn unravels. I come home one evening to find a note waiting for me.
I wish you were dead, whoever you are.
Three days later I place an obituary in The Buffalo News for Knox Dupree. I leave for Vermont. The obituary is 325 words long. Every word is true. I wonder if Melody ever came across it in the paper. And if so, would she know it was me?
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