• By Tristan Mortimer (he/him)
  • Art “Untitled” by Sebastian Anaya (he/him)
Pushing the final glazed plastic button
Through my navy tweed jacket
                I brush my fingers through my hair, the muscles above
                my cheeks
   Coaxing my eyelids to kiss yet again, to embrace once more.
   I yawn, stepping into the blinding sunlight that pains the inside of my brain.
                “Coffee,” I think to myself. “Iced, perhaps.”
                I wait amongst the the filed strangers, addicts in an ironically ordered line
                Waiting for a daily meeting with their favorite dealer
                                I step forward, peeling my eyes off my phone screen
                                As I look to get my newest re-up…
                                Something’s happened.
A bomb, no, a dozen bombs have gone off in my skull
                I’m disoriented, my adrenaline kicking in, heart rate pumping
                “What can I get you?” she says, wearing a smile that could melt through marble.
Every cell in my body absorbs every drop of adrenaline that my thin, awkward frame holds.
My knees lock as my throat becomes a dry desert, my tongue a wilted leaf on cracked cement.
Just waiting to be stepped upon, crushed.
I seem to have opened my mouth, yet I’m vaguely aware of the whole opening portion of it.
The second half, the whole closing portion, I can’t seem to recall.
                My brain begins to sprint forward through my own imaginary timeline.
                I see our life together.
                We go for an activity on our first date,
                maybe bowling.
                                She’s not very good, but I let her
                                win anyways.
                Months of bliss pass.
                She likes dogs, so we get one.
                His name is Mocha.
Years now, and sweat runs down the inside of my shirt as I open 
the small box
That holds our future together.
We have a spring wedding.
                I get promoted, and we get our first house as we
                welcome the newest member to our private club.
                She stays home to work on her art, I’m doing well
                enough to support the both of us these days.
                I fall asleep every night to the smell of her blonde hair,
                never without a smile...
                                She gets sick.
                Nothing painful, at least she seems to claim.
                The doctor says it’s genetics.
She moves her belongings into that white purgatory with 
the bright red cross.
Biding her time before stepping onto that eternal 
I read her favorite books to her every night.
Sometimes, she watches as I try to paint for her. She can’t keep it in anymore. 
Her raspy laugh holds that whispy cough a little longer each day.
I feel my chaotic consciousness stringing itself together as I lose her.
Every moment a constant cacophony of explosive emotion 
                                A cyclone of chaotic joy,
Bound together in the cage I am lucky enough to call myself.
It sounds intense, troublesome…Because It Is.
                I’ve loved every second of it.
                Every second, all the way to the end
                                To the last smile she ever gives me.
The question cuts like a hot knife, and I’m snapped back to reality.
                The disarray of my brain settles to a soft boil as I place my hand in my pocket.
                Stammering to look relaxed, yet confident.
                                “Uh, just an iced coffee, please,” my voice cracks out like a whining kettle.
I’ve blown it.
Any opportunity I once had is gone.
My face is red hot as I shuffle away from her, our dreams crushed and my life wasted.
                                “One iced coffee!” shouts another dealer.
                I sheepishly grab the frigid drink, turning it over:
A small heart drawn next to my name, delicate yet loud.
                I glance over at her.
                                She smiles at me before looking away, her cheeks blushed red.
                                                As if she wished to speak again some time.
No bombs this time.
                                Just fireworks.