Tom Levy ran out his house waving his dad’s .45 in the air. On top of the hill, I was in my driveway scratching my belly and looking for a quarter I dropped. I looked around embarrassed someone was watching the ridiculous scene. At school last week Tom bragged how he knew the combination to his dad’s safe. Tom never took a math test he never failed, so the thought of him being able to memorize even 3 numbers was cute, at best. Yet, towards me he ran with the piece in hand—his stupid crooked smile shined brighter than the gun.
As he ran I thought about a couple weeks ago when I was talking to Samantha outside school when Tom yelled, “Just fuck her already,” in front of everyone. Samantha walked away with red on her face. Tom flashed his crooked teeth and ran off.
A month earlier Tom came over and handed me a bottle of amyl nitrate.
“No, Amyl nitrate, not anal. But it does loosen your asshole.”
“Why would I want that?”
“It’s for buttfucking.”
“I’m never doing that…it’s gay…”
“Yeah it’s pretty fucking gay. Wanna do some?”
“What do you do?”
“Sniff it. Take a big whiff and you’ll feel like you’re flying.”
I put the bottle under my nose and sniffed like he told me to, passed it back and laid down on my bed; feeling lifted. Tom strongly inhaled and released a big sigh before cracking his neck like an actor playing a deranged person. He looked around my room he’s been in a hundred times as if it were his first, and then at me with the same vaguely menacing look. He jumped on top of me and began grabbing at my hips and pinning my body with his weight with his mouth pressed against my face. I pushed him off and said, “What the fuck Tom,” but Tom got up and ran away without saying anything.
A few years ago Tom slept over. We’d met at camp and got along okay. We joked about girls and liked the same death metal bands. After my parents went to sleep I flipped the channel to find the late night soft-core porn. We watched, then I asked if he minded if I jerked off a bit. He said, “Yeah I don’t care, but could I do it too?” I told him sure and grabbed a pillow.
“I’m going to create a barrier so we can do it without looking at each other.”
Three women fondled each other in a bathtub. I couldn’t tell what Tom was seeing, if it was the same thing I saw.
A half hour later I limped up to use the bathroom. When I came back, Tom was asleep on the floor with his cock still out. I put a blanket over him, turned the tv off, and went to bed. I didn’t see Tom again until the end of summer when we both walked into the same middle school. We didn’t talk about what happened for the rest of our lives.
Tom’s curly brown hair bounced as he ran up the grassy hill—his eyes barely open. I stood and watched as he got closer. Right before he reached the driveway he tripped on a rock, pulled the trigger and shot himself in the head. His skull landed on the pavement. Blood poured out from his curls, flowing down and around the quarter I thought I lost. I walked over and his eyes were already shut; I couldn’t reach him.
An ambulance picked him up, the sky was black. Tom’s dad looked at me like I took his son and planted the gun. I wanted to yell what the fuck do you think is going on here? A game? Something passionate? Something psychotic? Like accidents don’t happen? That there’s a reason for this? He got into the ambulance with his son and I got in a police car with a couple cops.
I got questioned by police for a few hours. I told them what happened. They said I could be in trouble. They talked about cooperation, the truth. They asked if I was upset with Tom, or ever thought about hurting him. I knew by telling the truth they’d put pieces together that didn’t actually fit. So I told them he was my best friend. Told them he never mentioned the gun. Told them I never wanted to hurt him. I even cried a little bit out of self-preservation. They carefully studied me, and in my pocket I rubbed my fingers against the quarter with Tom’s blood while I lied through my teeth.
After waiting in the room by myself they came back to say that judging by the placement of the bullet and the way he fell and where the gun in his hand fell that there was no way I could have planted the gun. A million in one chance. They let me go with my parents. We walked out of the police station, got in the car, and drove home—I never knew a night could be so silent.
I planned on skipping the shiva. Technically I wasn’t invited, but my mom said that Tom’s dad didn’t mind if I was there, which was a good enough message I immediately picked up on. But I still wanted to go to the burial.
It was overcast, and a good sized crowd. I hadn’t realized all the people Tom knew. Family, friends of family, people from school and their families. So many people, an eventful mourning. I walked into the crowd from the back, making my way to the front. Tom’s dad was delivering his speech when he saw me, paused, and continued. I stared at him, then at the casket Tom was in. The rabbi said a few prayers, then Tom’s dad and the other pallbearers lowered Tom into the ground. The rabbi said a final prayer, and everyone threw bits of dry dirt into the grave. People left to sit shiva at Tom’s house and suddenly I was alone. It began to rain. I reached into my pocket and tossed the quarter to lay with Tom. I called heads, but couldn’t tell what it landed on.
As I walked home in the rain, stepping on cracks in the sidewalk, I felt like a movie was being played in an order that didn’t make sense; I couldn’t shake it, but my life up to this point hadn’t felt the slightest bit linear (instantly I craved something to soothe me out, something that’ll focus everything on a fixed frame that has no backwards or forwards, just to exist without existing, be, but not continue) then my fucking phone started buzzing; it was mom, asking where I was. I told her I was going for a walk, that I didn’t know when I’d be back, she said she put money in my bank if I got hungry, “ thanks,” I said and that I’d see her maybe later, and she told me she loved me and so I said it back, then all at once, after hanging up, I remembered Tom without a firm grasp on any single memory we may have shared together, and in the haze of this memory collapse I dropped my phone and felt the screen crack and shatter. I tried walking, but couldn’t lift my legs, I tried standing, just couldn’t, I tried bending over to reach for the broken phone, and couldn’t, so, and as the wind picked up and the acidic rain pelted my coat, blurred my vision, and all the street detritus carried off the ground, whipping itself in a gust away in the distance, finally, a sinking, I sunk to the ground, into the cracks of the sidewalk, my body melting and spreading itself into the seams of the broken concrete where everybody walked on or over, and suddenly felt everything I am and everything I’ve encountered becoming increasingly connected, and permanent. When the city paves me over with fresh crushed rock and sand mixed with water and cement I’ll drown into oblivion like every spider’s web that’s washed away by a storm that seems to never end. The end is a deletion, an edit. Cemented.
Kyle Kirshbom is an American writer. He recently broke down and published his entire manuscript onto its own instagram page @DogShitPoems. His writing has been featured in SCAB, Holler Presents, and Sybil Journal.