The Taste of Everyone Who Ever Failed You – Or Did You Fail Somehow? by Alexa Hailey

It’s the taste of biting your tongue while riding a bike down a hill. Like that one time when you visited aunt Linda and uncle Harry and their neighbors had a ton of kids and let you borrow a bike, and even though you never rode one before it came to you like that, fast and unexpected like drunk uncle Harry grabbing your waist and pulling you toward him when you went inside to look at your tongue in the mirror.  

That was it, that was exactly what it tasted like when Dan Renner kissed you in the back of his dad’s Camry after that party, his breath just as stale and lonely and sad as Harry’s had been, even though Dan was only 16 and beautiful and had a thick head of black hair that he would start to lose by 21, just 21.  

And that taste, that’s why it doesn’t surprise you when you see Dan at the Stop and Shop, and he’s fat and bald and his eyes are more grey than blue, and his hair is nothing, absent. And you can tell he doesn’t really remember you, not in a way that counts, not in a way that would make him feel bad for what he did in the back of the Camry, even though you kind of wanted it but really, really didn’t. Not like that. He waves at you, and the wave of his stale breath washes over you, and you hope, you hope he doesn’t have a niece.

Alexa Hailey is a freelance and fiction writer from Massachusetts. Her fiction work has been published in Spelk Fiction, Cabinet of Heed, The Metaworker, and others. Follow her on twitter at @lexabobexa.