display | more...

"I'm here for Kyrie Andrews," I say to the nurse behind the counter. The lobby has the chemical smell of a hospital: wax, recirculated air. All hospitals smell that way -- even methadone clinics.

The nurse looks at me for a moment. I catch her eyes shoot down, assessing me. Yeah, I think. Look all you want. I'm wearing an ill-fitting polo shirt, worn thin, with faded blue stripes and a pair of business slacks with holes in the knees, contrasting with the smoothness of my face (I shaved at a gas station before I came by). It was all I could afford on the money they'd given me and still have enough left over to take Kyrie to lunch, and everything else. I'm sure this nurse has seen her share of men fresh out of jail. No secrets here.

The lady disappears without a word, the backs of her fat knees catching shadows in the flourescent light. I sit, and watch the game on the television mounted behind an iron-wire cage in the room's upper corner. Behind me I can hear older voices. Parents, here to retrieve their son. They speak quietly. Methadone clinics, all rehab places, mental health facilities -- all have that talent of making everyone in them ashamed to be there, though everyone is in the same boat. They whisper so quietly.

Minutes pass, and I hear footsteps returning. My heart is pounding. I can imagine the smell of her; even if she smells like floor cleaner from being here so long, I won't care. I turn around and see the nurse, looking glum, with something in her hand.

When I go to meet her she hands me an envelope and the necklace I gave Kyrie the day before we got busted. Apatite, blue like sky and ocean, hand-made. The stone hangs crooked from the chain; when I gave it to her, Kyrie said she liked that it was off center. A little like you, she said, and smiled. She's funny like that.

I open the letter in front of the nurse and read it quietly. It's not a long letter. Formalities of release and some other crap. When I look up, the nurse is frowning, which is ugly, but then Kyrie is standing behind her, smiling, which is beautiful. I smile. The nurse gives me a sad look, this jailbird so happy to get his girl out of rehab, and returns to her chair. Kyrie has lost some weight, but she's still Kyrie. Still has that long blonde hair that hangs in her eyes, still has that little gap in her teeth that makes you look at her mouth when she talks.

"They give you new clothes here?" I ask her, referring to the tank top and jeans she's wearing. I'm surprised she doesn't come shuffling out in a gown open in the ass.

"Yeah," she says. "I missed you."

"I missed you too, babe."

She kisses me; her mouth tastes like grass.

The couple and the nurse stare at us as we leave.


*


At Denny's, Kyrie eats like a pig. New York steak, baked potato, salad. She orders dessert. She can barely talk, her mouth is so full. She explains that at the clinic her meals were tightly regimented. It was all hospital food crap, she says, stuff that tasted like cardboard. She stops eating for a second and looks at me, her head a little cocked like her necklace. She smiles wide.

"So how does it feel being out?" she asks, exhuberantly, her voice squeaking in that way I like.

"Little strange," I admit. "Two years is a long time."

And two years is a long time. Two years in D-Block, that stinking concrete hole with its asshole wardens and my piece of shit cellmate who kept stealing Kyrie's picture and jacking off to it. For a long time, the only thing that kept me going was her letters, coming in every three or four days -- always, I know, knew, with extra fingerprints from the nurses at the clinic reading all outgoing mail. Soon they just stopped coming altogether. I want to ask her if they started just holding her mail, or if she lost the energy to write, but I'm afraid to know the answer; the thought of her losing interest in letters to me is too much to bear. Instead I feed her a lump of hash-browns.

It's funny that she asks me what it's like to be out. After all, she spent the same two years locked up. While I spent all of mine in prison, she only spent four months, with the remainder of her sentence in rehab. But it's still two years without eating hashbrowns at a cheap restaurant.

Her track marks cast shadows from the light outside. She keeps her arms faced down. She chews, smiling, eyes blue like apatite. She's always been sweet.


*


The day we got our eviction notice was a bad day.

This was the controlled-rent place on Jefferson next to the factory. It was like Fight Club -- we were alone at night for a half-mile in each direction. Our landlord was a good guy, so he didn't make too much of a stink when our rent came in late. That's alright, he'd say when he came to collect in his Vietnamese pidgin English, his eyes darting to get a glimpse of the place, his nose wrinkling a little like a peanut (Kyrie insisted on keeping needles in the fridge). But this time we'd let it go two months, and instead of darting eyes and a wrinkly nose we got nothing, silence, just a sheet of printer paper tacked to the door reading "30 days."

Kyrie and I met our supplier Terry on the corner every few days, a reptilian guy in his early thirties who sniffed a lot and looked at his feet. To take the edge off of the eviction, we paid him an impromptu visit, me dressed in pajamas, Kyrie in the tank top she'd worn to go to the bank earlier. And sure enough he was there, out of the light, pacing in front of the battered chain link fence surrounding the gravel-processing facility across from our building. He looked surprised to see us, which was natural, since it wasn't our night. But he accepted our business. I handed him the wad of money I'd stuffed into my pocket -- still don't know how much it was, though it was enough for two years -- and he paused for a second, looking at us, before retreiving the goods from an inside pocket of his jacket.

Kyrie's eyes were rimmed red while she watched me make the exchange. Again, Terry looked at us a minute.

There were footsteps, a lot of yelling. Terry backed off, watching. Three guys, two on me, one on Kyrie. A knee in my back. Cuffs.

Kyrie was screaming while they read her her rights.


*


Kyrie's seatbelt seems to sink into her stomach. She's really slimmed down.

"Terry's dead?" I ask.

She nods.

When I left prison, I got a set of car keys with my release money. My Chevy was waiting in the parking lot. My guess was that my old man left it there; this was confirmed by a note on the dashboard, hand-written on college-ruled notebook paper.

Here's your car

don't come home

— Dad

It smelled like a garage, like he'd taken it to get a lube job before bringing it by. The tires were new too. Wipers were new. It was washed. Don't come home.

I smile, thinking about that.

"How long's he been dead?"

"About six months," Kyrie answers. "He got killed baiting for the cops again. Shot in the face."

Good.

"So we don't have to worry about him," I say, trying to sound cute, and turn to her. I would have known, had she bothered to tell me in a letter. But I don't say that.

"Stutz moved too," she says.

I remember, when I heard the thump of Kyrie's head smacking the door's outline while going into the squad car, someone said, "Hey, Stutz, get this asshole's arms," my arms, and Stutz came by and jerked up, hard, so that my left hand was above my shoulderblades, and I saw in the half-light of the factory that he had a harelip. Stutz the harelip. Stutz the asshole cop.

I nod, raising my eyebrows, making a "no foolin'?" face.

"In the Tierra Shores housing tract off Newport," she continues, very matter-of-fact. "Do you know where that is?"

I shake my head.

"That's okay," she says, and I hear laughter in her voice. "I know the address."

She rolls down her window, really working -- her arms are smaller than before -- and the wind plays in her hair, making it catch in her lips, waving it in front of her eyes.

I feel her necklace in my pocket, against my thigh.


*


July 15 2005

Babe

I can't do this anymore

I love you

Kyrie


*


Nightfall, and we can't go back to our place on Jefferson. It's probably occupied by now, by another couple scraping money to make controlled rent. I take us past the factory, by the same half-light, the same battered chain-link fence, and there's no one. No Terry. Terry's in the ground.

Don't come home.

So I take us South, away from the city, away from the factories. Kyrie's watching me drive. Her hair's hanging in front of her face, and her lips are straight, smiling a little. I find us a turnout and drive over it, past it, into the brush. Chaparral scrapes at the Chevy's side panels as we proceed, but I don't care. And for the first time in two years I take her, take her hard, the grass smell of her breath condensing on windows warm with body. I lose myself in that little gap in her teeth, find it with my tongue when I kiss her; and even though she's wasted away with methadone and hospital food she is still soft, still all skin smooth and blonde hair that whips in the wind, and eyes bluer than the sky: still my Kyrie.

When I finish I am crying: I cannot stop crying. For a moment, she becomes lost in the sobs.


*


Kyrie's parents disowned her when they found out.

Not about me -- about the drugs.

It was the state, paying for the clinic. And after she got the first hysterical call from her mother, the communication stopped.

The state paid for everything.

"Where's Tierra Shores?" I ask. Her tank top is wrinkled. The car smells like grass.

She tells me, and I drive.

"Stutz has a pet dog in the backyard," she says after awhile. "A German Shepherd. So you'll have to go in through the front."

"He doesn't lock his door," she continues. "It's a safe neighborhood."

After we left Denny's I bought a bowie knife. I skewered my dad's note on it. Note and knife were in the glove compartment.

"Fast or slow, babe?"

She smiles; her apatite eyes shine in the dark. "Slow."


*



This receipt indicates that on October 26, 2006, the following
article previously owned by Ms. Kyrie Andrews was claimed by
her partner, Gerald Wax:

one jewelry



*


Stutz lives in a nice neighborhood, in one of those Spanish-style houses with too much concrete between the roofing tiles to make it look all shabby-chic. The lawn's manicured. He has plastic flamingos. While he was almost breaking my arm, he didn't strike me as the type to have lawn ornaments.

Sure enough, the front door is unlocked.

Kyrie strides out ahead of me, going up the stairs directly inside the house. "He keeps a gun in his nightstand," she sings, looking back. "Watch out."

I follow her to Stutz's bedroom.

His harelip tightens over his teeth when I slide the bowie knife into his throat. His carotid artery lets go; soon there's blood all over my faded Salvation Army polo shirt. He looks at me, right in my eyes. He makes a little gurgle, reaches for the nightstand feebly. When he goes limp, he farts. I hear Kyrie snort a little.

We leave. Mrs. Stutz stirs a little in her sleep, but does not wake up.

I'm in the Chevy, and now Kyrie's not there. There's no more smell of grass, only the oil smell from the shop where my dad dumped off my car. I am incredibly alone, but I am not surprised.

I've been dreading this, actually, knowing it would happen.

I tug the letter from earlier today at the methadone clinic out of my pocket, and look at it again for a second time, really taking everything in.

 

Dear Mr. Wax

We regret to inform you that on July 20, 2005, your partner Kyrie Andrews died in her room at Riverside General Hospital. Our coroner confirms that the cause of death was organ failure, after Ms. Andrews was removed from life support per her parents' wishes.

There's more, but I don't read it again. Formalities of release and some other crap.

I remember that the day after I got her last letter, I got a call from her parents explaining how my Kyrie had hanged herself with her sheets at the clinic. She'd had to strangle herself for ten full minutes, they said, before she finally lost consciousness and dropped, and hung off her bed. Persistent vegatative state was the phrase they'd used. Kyrie was no longer there, they said. We have to take her off the machines, they said -- she's gone. She's not the Kyrie we knew and loved.

The state paid for her burial.

In the fifteen minutes between jail and the clinic, I'd heard Kyrie's voice calling for me. She wanted me to get her necklace. "Anything for you, babe," I'd answered, and made a beeline for Three Pines Methadone. But I knew that my girl had other plans. So I asked for her by name there, just for shits.

My Kyrie with the blue eyes and the gap in her teeth, my Kyrie, my god, oh Jesus Kyrie

I have to pull over. Now the car doesn't smell like grass, or motor oil, but like Stutz's blood.

I feel a hand on my back, soft. She's back in the passenger seat of the Chevy.

"It's okay," she says, so quietly. "It's okay."

I quickly regain my composure. Suck the snot back. I know we're not done yet.

"What next?" I ask.

She smiles her gap-toothed smile. "My dad keeps a rifle in the downstairs closet," she says. "He doesn't lock the back door. There's a weak spot in the backyard fence just across from the dining-room window."

I nod, taking everything in, and get on the freeway for her parents' house. After she's finished she gives me a kiss, and I taste grass.

 

Log in or register to write something here or to contact authors.