Wake up in the driveway with a hundred spiders battening me down. From the tailpipe of Noah’s flatbed, one drip regards me with a glistening eye. It shakes a chill of disapproval then leaps for the pock its kind have been working into the pavement. After it has gone, a new drip takes up post. The truck engine is still clicking. Noah hasn’t been home long from clearing that wreck out on 52. The spiders aren’t real.
So much of concrete is fossilized shell. My mom taught me how to identify every pebble, cemented them into prehistoric formation, terraformed the Midwest of my mind with her glacial judgement. “What if someone pulled in during the night and ran you over,” I hear her voice through the tailpipe. “How would you feel about being killed.”
There’s still time. I’m still intoxicated.
Mom taught me so much. One day maybe I’ll forget arthropods. Maybe I’ll forget trilobites and be one of those women who don’t close their mouths because of insensible pain.
Gina tries meth in a blackout drunk and I watch like it’s an Afterschool Special. We all watch.
She’s a stop-motion time lapse through winter: new boyfriend, new friends, all men. Shake-n-bake Mountain Dew bottles pile up in the backseat of her Nissan. Her gums recede, make way for dark wolf teeth. She’s not allowed into the McDonald’s she used to manage.
Noah stiffs me on his half of the rent. He pawns my jewelry. My phone’s gone.
February 12, close call:
Wake up in a cold bath marinating in vomit the texture of shredded pineapple and oysters. The apartment’s clawfoot tub is older than the walls caging it. A smell conjures itself after years, the tractor grease armpits of my dad in chemo. Ethyl, saltwater taffy, something awful working out of my body.
Strange attentiveness accompanies drug injury. I lie on the rug populated with other people’s pubes. Noah’s are the color of winter wheat. The floor under the tub is linoleum. It’s patterned like a Persian rug.
The tub itself is a dark insect circus on bottom, a pitcher plant deathtrap on top. Thin silver spiders hunt earwigs. Lacy, translucent centipedes race from the hole under the radiator that connects to the Early Cambrian. The spiders are real. They sense my breath, trapeze in their webs, and we all celebrate another day.
Noah dies from a blood clot in his leg. Everyone keeps their mouths shut.
His sister sells his flatbed to the junkyard that bought all his scrap metal no questions asked and takes his ashes home to Portsmouth. Now the driveway has more room to lie down in. His place is marked by a sludge of oil, a partial fossil record of what he used to be, what I can grieve for.
The polar vortex leaves filthy glass-studded parking lot glaciers until April. Gina is missing.
The storm drain near the Speedway where I’m working nights holds a gathering of orange plungers, syringes from a hundred midnight highs; a gathering, too, of yellow-eyed men who shatter their own teeth with clawhammers to get emergency prescriptions, women hip cocking at the corner. They all look familiar. They could be anybody.
This is the last time. June 20:
Wretch into an ice-cream bucket a blackout-sensible-me set beside the bed, but explode all over the carpet anyway. “Fire, aim, ready,” Noah would have said.
A corpse never leaves you. The dead weight of soft tissue. Every close-up of a pomegranate, a miracle which I have never tasted; every spoon gouging a grapefruit. I can’t forget.
A corpse never leaves. I’m moving. This is it. I’m making a change. I cup my hand and scoop a delicate anemone of bile from the floor.
What happened to my eyebrows. What am I doing to myself.
August 25, Mom’s birthday I didn’t forget this year:
Still inebriated, I write her a letter on a yellow legal pad, telling her I’m done with drugs. Calling it addiction. Saying I’m sorry and I don’t really want to destroy my brain or my teeth or die of a blood clot, telling her I guess I need to deal with grief over Noah. Over Dad.
She’ll read it and walk down to the creek to think. She’ll find her hundredth perfect trilobite and recognize I’m still not fully accepting responsibility. And she’ll know if she lets me come home I’m possibly going to relapse again and lie again and steal Dad’s power tools out of the shed and disappear again.
I write to convince myself. Over the top of the ledger, I flap page after page, my handwriting loping harder across the lines. I write until my hand cramps and I think of getting a bottle of gin with tonic water which then makes me think of Gina insisting it was good for us because it contained quinine.
Memories stir alive. The time she puked sticky gin-and-tonic down the outdoor steps of the Days Inn in Chillicothe as an elderly couple was coming up and the woman made Gina cry because she looked like her shitty, dead mom. I may have a lot of problems but a shitty, dead mom isn’t one. Resolving to mail the letter before I change my mind, I sign with love and seal it up in a business-sized envelope and two Forever stamps.
On my way out the door I walk through a yellow orb-weaver’s web and it rushes its huge prehistoric rump right up my face. The shock feels good somehow. I’m still alive.
The spider bungles out of my hair and leaps into the hedge. It’s real, it’s real, it’s real, and in a neon yellow flash it has vanished into the purity of real life.
Biography: Edie Meade is a writer and artist in Huntington, West Virginia. Recent work can be found in Invisible City, (mac)ro(mic), Atlas & Alice, The Normal School, Pidgeonholes, and elsewhere. Say hello on Twitter @ediemeade or ediemeade.com.