What I Am

Flash Fiction by Joshua Stelling

Arch & Gravity Publishing 2002, 2021

Blood is red. Eyes are blue; even dead eyes keep their color, even though they can’t see anything anymore. They are still tired looking, still old. Cheeks are rosy, even if it is just the rose of blush. Things are easy to understand sometimes. Her arms are limp, crossed over her belly, thin and pale white as is all of her skin, not counting where the blood drips from her wrist. There she is, all crimson. Her legs stretch out in front of her, in jeans on the floor. She is propped up lifeless against the cupboards. It is cold in the trailer, because the door is cracked open a little and it’s snowing outside. I am sitting in a wooden chair, at a wooden table so familiar to me, but it is all so strange. The curtains hanging over the window over the sink are thick and block out the light, even if they are torn up a bit, just from age. I didn’t cut them. I didn’t touch them. I swear it.

It smells like Hell. I think it’s the dishes piled in the sink. It’s so damn quiet and I want to scream, but I can’t somehow. So I just sit here, looking at this place I’m in. It is so strange. I want to cry.

I close my eyes and try to block it out, but it’s there and can’t be changed like a channel, or ignored like unwashed dishes. This surreal bullshit has got to be a dream.

What the fuck is going on?

I am fifteen years old, this I know.

My mother has raised me but I don’t think I’ve been her son. I’ve lived in her trailer but I am not trash. I’ve lived here all my life but I’m no poorhouse freak, no Coloradan, no American.

There are a lot of Mexicans and blacks around here but I’m not one of them. My head is shaved but I’m not a racist, even though they call me one, even though my father was, because I’ve seen Hitler on TV and that guy’s a closet homo, if anyone is. I’m not gay. There are some Jews and Christians around here too, but me, I don’t believe in God. They get together and pray for people like me. But I say fuck ’em. They live in trailers too, no better than me. Do you think you are better than me already? Well, fuck you too then.

I don’t have many friends. There’s Jose and Jim and Jack and that’s about it. I’m not really like them either, but they don’t hate me for it. We get together and play video games, because Jim’s got a Nintendo, and we get high or drunk, because his parents have liquor and pot and they don’t hide it well. And there’s Julie too. I see her at school, when I go and I don’t go much. She’s so pretty, even though she’s got a lazy eye and I think I love her sometimes, but she doesn’t ever talk to me. I can’t talk to her. I’m not smart enough to know what to say. Fuck her, I don’t want to be in love. I don’t care about anyone. I’ll just go and watch a porno instead because Jose gave me some pornos.

I’ve seen people have sex a million times. I watch a lot of TV, even though I think it’s mostly stupid, even with cable. But I’ve seen a million hookers, and I’ve seen a millions lesbian Nazis, and a million pre-teens that are hooked on crack. I’ve seen a million people die on TV. I’ve seen cops in shootouts, and seventy car pileups on the interstate and I laughed because the people were stupid. I’ve seen Vietnam and World War II up close. Hell, I even played this game where I was in the war, and I killed all the Nazis by myself. Hitler, don’t you fuck with me.

I was raised by my mother but I wasn’t ever really her son, I don’t think.

I open my eyes and I’m so cold and I don’t think I’m breathing right. The air tastes so much like Hell. It’s so quiet that I want to turn on the TV and turn away and watch something else, even Springer, but I don’t think that’s right. I hate myself for this but I didn’t do anything!

The blood is red, dripping from her wrist, thick and dark, like the tears from my eyes. I can’t think anymore, I don’t want to think. I can’t distract myself from this horrible vision. Finally I stand and my knees are weak and I drop down onto the floor and I crawl to her. There is a bottle by her one hand and a knife by the other, the first drooling vodka into a puddle, the second dripping blood. I hesitate and close my eyes. My body shakes and I can’t control myself.

Eventually I find the will to crawl up beside her and I take her one arm and pull it over my shoulder and I wrap my own around her middle. I press my cheek against hers and she is not entirely cold and I cry for a long time and we don’t move.

I am not like my mother. She was weak. She was mean. She was an alcoholic and she always used to yell at me but I never listened to her. I don’t yell at people. I don’t ever really talk to people. Everyone can just go and fuck themselves. I don’t need them. I don’t need her.

But I am hungry. I am lonely. I am tired. I am afraid.

Mother, I say, don’t leave me, hold me. Mother what have you done to me?

I am your baby.

First Published in Progenitor Magazine, 2002, Issue XXXVII

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