“Ghost-Sick Jarvis” – Fiction by E.L. Siegelstein

William S. Marriott and his spirit hands, circa 1910
William S. Marriott and his spirit hands, circa 1910

“Ghost-Sick Jarvis,” E.L. Siegelstein‘s supernaturally funny contribution to our Winter 2015 issue, is an excerpt from his novel-in-progress. And while it makes us want to read the rest of the story right freaking now, we think it also makes for a very satisfying episode all by itself.

{ X }


There’s no sound, but I feel it in my inner ear, a rasping, sickening sensation tugging on all the tubes, nerves, veins and what-have-yous in the back of my brain. Or like a dentist’s drill, if you could somehow remove the actual sound and leave only the way it makes you feel.

This will be accompanied by quick flashes. An image. A phrase, or a word, or just a fraction of a word. Like a vivid dream you forget as you wake. The memory of a memory.

And along with this, a feeling. Sorrow. Frustration. Regret. Joy. Pride. Contentment.

That’s what it’s like to talk to the dead. They don’t appear standing in front of me or anything like that. And they sure as shit don’t like to talk in clear, no-interpretation-needed, complete fucking sentences.

My name is Jarvis Chumley, and I’m a goddamn medium.

Yes, that is my real name. It’s English, fuck off. I started hearing the dead when I was fourteen years old. Nobody else in my family can do it, though my Aunt Nigella claimed to be psychic. She died in a car crash when I was six. My mom, too. Same crash. Anyway.

Being a medium is not the easiest way to make a living. I’ve got a storefront in Astoria, Queens, which I share with another medium, Ivonne, who is a charlatan. There’s also a massage parlor in the back, where you can get the massage therapist to masturbate you if you leave your cash on the table and ask for the full service. No, I’ve never done so; that’s my place of business. All relationships concerning it must remain strictly professional. Also, I can’t come when the girl’s ancestors are screaming at her through me from beyond the grave.

It’s Friday night and I’ve got one last client before turning the place over to Ivonne. She does great business with the late-night drunk crowd, while I have every intention of being part of that crowd. The client is a fat Italian man-child with thinning hair, and I know he wants to speak to his mother even before she starts nattering in my ear. He looks at the door to the massage parlor – GUARANTEED RELAXATION & TRANQUILITY, it says – before looking at me.

“Are you the medium?” he asks.

“Sure am,” I say.

Our little sitting room is decorated in the traditional storefront-psychic style:  a lot of silk, crystals, a weird plaster hand sculpture. The Italian man-child’s name is Tom, and as soon as he walks in I feel the presence of what has to be his dead mother making me want to spray my lunch all over my customer.

“Your mother’s passed, obviously,” I say.

“Yeah,” he says.

“I know, she hasn’t shut up since you walked through that door.” A joke, a smile to set the client at ease. “She was a very bossy lady, wasn’t she?”

“She was.”

“She called you her Tommy Boy.” It’s important to start a reading with a couple of specifics. Little details, the stuff that gets the client to believe it really is their dearly departed coming through. They all need that opening proof, the skeptics and the believers.

He smiles at this. “I hated that name. Like I told you, my name is Tom. My father called me Thomas. She’d always call me Tommy.”

Tommy has a lot of unresolved issues with his mom. She gave him a lot of shit about his weight, and so on. She was a nagging bitch, really, and Tommy Boy had never in his forty-odd years grown a pair of balls and stood up to her. I tell him how proud she was of him, what a fine man he’d grown up to be. He sobs the whole time. What I don’t tell him is that his mom still thinks he’s too fucking fat, that he looks at way too much pornography, and that there’s a girl in his office that he needs to leave the fuck alone because even his dead mother is creeped out by the way he’s hovering around her. When we finish, he wipes his face with a tissue I give him and he pays in bills almost as soggy as the damn tissue. I then run into the tiny closet of a bathroom and vomit.

Ivonne is there when I come out. She’s wearing a clingy silk dress, no bra, and I can see her nipples plain as day. She must have just re-colored her platinum-blonde hair, as the roots have vanished since last I saw her. She smells of nicotine and too much perfume.

“You have a strange aura today,” she tells me.

“New deodorant,” I tell her.

“That’s not it,” she says. “I see something big coming for you. You be careful, Jarvis, okay?”

“Who, me? Always,” I say. She kisses me on the cheek as I leave, pressing her breasts against me, and I remind myself it’s a business relationship. I get out of there, dying for a drink.

{ X }

Like I said, the problem with talking with the dead is that it’s not really talking. There’s a lot of room for misinterpretation, and this is usually where folks who aren’t happy with what they’re hearing start tossing around words like “fraud,” or worse, “refund.” You need to rely on intuition a lot, and this is why women tend to be more successful as mediums. Not to sound sexist or anything, but it’s true. And the best medium on the Eastern Seaboard is Lorraine Jankowsky, who has a storefront on Avenue B, two blocks from St. Mark’s.

Lorraine has full-on conversations with the spirits. She comes up with serious fucking details. She’s never had a client call bullshit on her. She’s never had a client not leave in tears, truly knowing that they’ve connected with their dearly departed. She hasn’t bothered to fake a Romany accent for over a decade.

Lorraine has jet black hair and eyebrows slightly thicker than what would be allowed on television. Four piercings in her left ear, three in her right, and a small dimple on her nose from the piercing she took out years ago. An oval birthmark on her jawline that matches the one on her hip, and a rosebush tattoo that starts just above her elbow, vining up her arm and down her side, taking root at the bounds of her pubic hair.

I get to the bar, and the bartender’s this tall hipster with a hillbilly beard. His dead great aunt wants to say hello but all I want is a goddamn beer and a goddamn shot of whiskey. As he pours my drinks, my head is filled with the image of pushing a little boy on a swing, and I just want to slam my head against the bar to make the buzzing stop. I drink the shot and half the beer, but the buzzing is making me crazy so I ask for another shot. Finally Great Aunt Something-that-starts-with-M– Milly or Molly or Mary– leaves me alone.

Behind me, Lorraine says, “Hi, Jarvis.”

“Hey beautiful,” I say back, and she kisses me, not on the cheek but on the mouth, and I’m thinking, Okay.

She orders a beer for herself and another for me, and as hillbilly beard’s pouring, she reaches over the bar and takes his wrist.

“Did you have a great aunt Missy?”

“Yeah,” the bartender says, his eyes suddenly wide. “Her real name was Beatrice, but I called her Aunt Missy. How did you know?”

“She passed, not too recently, but sort of? Within the last five years or so.” The guy nods, and she continues. “She wants me to remind you how she used to push you on the swing that your granddad built for you on that big tree in his front yard. The one with the little crabapples growing on it. And you kept telling her, ‘Higher Aunt Missy, higher!’ You always wanted to go high, you wanted to soar in the clouds. And she would push you higher, and then you leapt off, from like ten feet in the air. You scared her half to death, but you were just laughing and laughing, and you got right back on that swing and begged her to push you again.”

The bartender’s keeping this gruff, too-cool face, but his eyes are shiny. Lorraine squeezes his hand and tells him Aunt Missy knows he was always meant to fly, he just needs to remember when he was brave and leap from that swing. Lorraine’s drinks are on the house the rest of the night.

We take our beers to a quiet table, and Lorraine asks how I’m doing. She’s wearing a green cotton shirt with a deep plunging neckline, a Celtic cross hanging on a silver chain between her breasts. Her perfume is lilacs, her breath is Orbit gum. She’s wearing makeup– unusual for Lorraine– but she wears it well. Gorgeously, even. I’ve already forgotten her question.

“I asked how you’re doing,” she says, and I say I’m just fine, how is she? She’s good. She’s always good. And then: “I’m leaving, Jarvis.”

“What did I say?”

“No, jackass, I’m leaving this city. I’m done.”

She’s said this before, but I nod like it’s the first time I’m hearing it. She goes into the old litany – it’s crowded, it smells. People are rude. It’s expensive and getting worse. It’s a sinking ship filled with rats, all drowning each other trying to stay above water. Literally, the whole city is going to be underwater in fifty years, she says. It’s a monolith of artificiality, so divorced from everything natural and pure in the world. She says this all the time, I just drink my beer and nod and make noises like I’m listening and try not to be obvious when I steal glances at her glorious cleavage.

“I’m going to Seattle,” Lorraine says.

“Seattle’s a city too, sweetheart.”

“Have you ever been there?” she asks, her eyebrow arched in that way of hers that knows I’ve never been farther west than Philly.

“No,” I admit, “but they have two major sports teams. It’s not the fucking wilderness. They invented Microsoft, for fuck’s sake.”

“I know. I’m not going in blind here. I could be saying a year from now that it’s just as bad, or bad in its own ways. But for now, it’s not New York, and that’s good enough for me.”

“This city will be a bleaker place without you.”

“It’s already a pretty bleak place, I don’t think anyone’ll notice the difference.”

I reach over the table to take her hand and tell her that if she actually left, I would miss her more than anything. What I do instead is knock over her beer and spill it all over her lap. She quickly stands, curses, and grabs a stack of napkins from her best friend the hillbilly bartender. I take half the stack from her and wipe up the table. I go to get her another beer, but the guy’s already poured her one. I need one for myself as well – not because mine spilled, I just drank it all – for which he wants six dollars, plus a tip.

“I’m sorry,” I tell Lorraine, once we’re situated again.

“It’s okay,” she says. “No point crying over spilled beer. Why did you do that?”

“I was reaching for your hand, to say I’d miss you.”

She smiles, but sadly. “Come with me,” she says. “What’s keeping you here? Everything you’re doing here, you can do out there, and it’ll be better for you to get out of New York, too. Get into a different energy sphere.”

I don’t know what to say to that. “You want me to come with you?” I ask, repeating what she just said like the moron I am.

She laughs. “I’m not asking you to marry me, Jarvis, I’m just saying you should come to Seattle. Because I’d miss you, too.”

She reaches over the table and takes my hand, miraculously without knocking over any glasses. I think I should kiss her. I want to kiss her. I think she wants me to kiss her. So what the fuck do I do, I kiss her. She sighs softly as we do, and our lips part and her tongue slips into my mouth and I’m getting hard under the table and it’s time to get the hell out of here.

When we get to Lorraine’s, she tears my shirt open, buttons flying as her robe slips to the floor. She’s unzipping my fly and I’m squeezing her breast. She pushes me and I fly backwards onto her bed, landing on the hard plastic of her personal massager, and I start to say something wry but she’s pulling my pants off and putting a condom on me with her mouth and I can’t even make words anymore, although I guess I do because she climbs on top of me and says, “Shut up, Jarvis.” I’m about to say “Okay” but she covers my mouth with her hand and lowers herself onto me. She rocks back and forth, sweat pouring, face flushed, making sounds somewhere between grunts and sobs. With one hand I trace the outline of her body, up her pale smooth thigh, over her hip, and up her side to cup a beautiful full breast, while my other hand stays between her legs, teasing her clit. She rocks faster and faster, just using my body– I might as well be a personal massager, but that’s okay. She pulls my hair and I kiss her wrist and sit up to suck her nipples, and she pushes me back and comes down with me, her bright red face right over mine. Then she bites down on my shoulder really hard and I scream but she’s still humping away and I’m good for maybe another three two SHIT fuck done, I’m done, I’m done.

Lorraine nuzzles up under my neck and we kiss. In that moment there’s no ghosts, no city, no other people, just me and her and that’s it, and I know I love her, and she’s whispering something to me but I’m already asleep.

{ X }

In my dream I’m a kid again, in the back of mom’s car, she and Aunt Nigella up front chatting away without a care. I know what’s coming. I try to tell them to pay more attention, but no words come when I open my mouth. The car in front of us is too slow, and my mom’s wondering what this guy’s problem is as she changes lanes to go around him, and I’m trying to tell her “No, don’t, stay in the right lane, the right lane is safe,” but it just comes out as air. And that’s when Nigella says, “Oh, I just remembered this joke I heard.”

I see the truck coming the other way, I know what it’s going to do even before it does it. I already know its driver has been on the road nearly forty hours straight, and his stay-awake pills are no longer doing the trick. I concentrate really hard and get myself to say “Mom,” but it’s too late. It always is.

 { X }

I wake up in Lorraine’s bed, alone, soaked with sweat. My head throbs and I need to retch, but it’s not spirits this time, just a regular old hangover. I hobble into Lorraine’s bathroom and realize the condom’s still hanging limply from the end of my flaccid dick like a Santa hat. I drop it in the toilet and sit down to pee, because I know I’ll be spraying in every direction, and standing up for even those few seconds was a lot of effort. I feel the contents of my stomach rising, and I just hope I finish peeing in time to turn around and vomit into the toilet.

Luckily, everything works out. I wash my face with cold water and look for aspirin but for whatever reason Lorraine’s medicine cabinet is empty except for her toothbrush and an almost-empty toothpaste tube. I squeeze a bunch of toothpaste onto my finger and run it over my teeth. I don’t look so good. The spot where Lorraine bit me is a nasty, violent purple, and I can clearly make out each and every one of her teeth.

When I leave the bathroom, Lorraine’s back, with coffee from the deli. “Oh good, you’re up,” she says. “I thought I’d have to kick you out of bed. The movers’ll be here in twenty minutes.” This is when I notice all of her belongings have been packed into cardboard boxes.

“Wait, you’re leaving today?” I ask, and she gets that sad look again.

“Yeah, Jarvis, today. I’ve told you that,” she says, leaving the two-word phrase “many times” unspoken but hanging in the air like a fart cloud.

“Oh.” All of a sudden, it’s a little awkward, and I’m very aware of how I’m standing there naked, so I get dressed.

“I’m sorry,” I say. “I guess I just didn’t want to believe you were really going. I know that sounds like a line…”

“It does.”

“But I’m being sincere.”

“It’s okay, Jarvis. I know…I know what you’re like.”

I’m not sure what exactly she means by that, but this might be our last conversation so I won’t make it an issue. I put my shirt on, but of course most of the buttons are scattered around the apartment, and I leave it hanging open. It’s a Saturday morning in Queens, no one’ll give a shit.

“I’m going to miss you,” I say. “So much.”

Lorraine strokes my cheek, and we kiss one more time. Like lovers, warm and gentle, you know? “Come visit me, okay?” she says.

I say okay.

{ X }

A couple comes into my shop. Puerto Ricans, I think. She’s five feet tall in heels, purple lipstick, “Jasmine” tattooed across her mammoth tits. Her boyfriend’s a foot taller and a third of her weight, with a chinstrap beard, a bowl cut, and gold rings on each finger. They look gold, anyway. They could be plastic for all I know, I’m not a fucking jeweler.

The girl wants to reach out to her dead mother. I take forty bucks from her and go into my opening routine, how the dead communicate with me through feelings and images, et cetera. Really I’m stalling because the only buzz I’m feeling is from the joint I smoked half an hour ago. No moms, no nobody. I breathe deep and hold the girl’s hands. Nothing. I try to clear my mind, but I’m still thinking of Lorraine. She’s been gone three weeks. I called her last night, just to see how she was settling in, but she didn’t pick up. Granted, it was one in the morning, but she’s on West Coast time now, so I figured it’d be okay.

Anyway, whoever this lady wants to talk to doesn’t want to talk to her, so I go for the cold read. Cold reading is an art, and if you’ve ever seen any of the mediums on TV, you’ve seen the masters at work. I am not a master, but I like to think I’m pretty good. I tell the lady to close her eyes, to think deeply about the spirit she’s trying to reach. Then I say, “I feel…” and I let it hang for a second, because this is where the lady will show me her tell. She’s anticipating me telling her something, and her eyebrows raise ever so slightly.

So I continue, “I feel a presence. Someone close to you.” The trick is to talk slowly, watch for tells, see what sounds she reacts to. Her eyebrow twitches at the L sounds, so I keep that in mind. “They passed fairly recently.” “Fairly recently” is a great phrase, it can mean anything. If they react negatively, you can say it just feels like recently, like it’s been a long time but the wound is still fresh. And of course the wound is fresh, people who’ve made peace with their relatives’ deaths don’t come to mediums.

“It feels like, your ffffaa…” Positive tell there, that word resolves into “father;” negative tell, it becomes “family.” This is why faking a foreign accent is helpful, because you can play with the vowel sounds a bit more. But as English is probably not this girl’s first language, I won’t bother with that. Her eyebrow goes up, so I say “father, your father is coming through.”

“My father is alive. I told you, I want to talk to my mother.”

Shit, I forgot that. The important thing to remember about a cold read is that you can never be wrong. “This isn’t your mother,” I say, “it’s definitely a masculine, paternal energy coming through. An uncle, or a grandfather…” I’m betting she has, like, seven uncles.

“I don’t have any uncles,” she says.

“Then your grandfather …”

“Both my grandfathers died before I was born.”

“Okay, that’s who I’m feeling. I see him with a little girl… your mother?”

Boyfriend’s sneering at me. “Yo baby, this guy’s just guessing,” he says, not inaccurately.

“Please, sir, I need you to keep quiet,” I tell him. “Whoever this spirit is, he’s coming through very quietly, I need absolute focus or I’m going to lose him.”

“Bullshit, man,” the guy says, and he pulls his girlfriend out of the chair. “You’re a fucking liar, man, you can’t talk to no dead.”

“It’s not bullshit, man,” I say, “it’s just that they don’t always come through very clearly, especially when there’s a lot of negative psychic energy around. Maybe you should just step outside for a minute, let the air clear…”

“Fuck you, man. Give us our money back.”

“I’m sorry, but…”

And then it hits me. It hits hard. My throat just closes up, and I’m suddenly shaking in my chair, and there’s that fucking buzzing again, deep inside my skull, and I grip the chair’s arms to steady myself and I try to breathe but I can’t. I feel a soft pillow on my face, and then the words come sputtering out:

Why, Luis? Because I cry? Just a baby…big brother’s supposed to protect…

The girl’s mouth hangs open, and the guy’s gone completely white. Then the white turns to red, and the girl asks, “Luis, what does he mean?” I see the flash of gold rings and then a bomb goes off in my face and I’m flying back out of my chair with stars in my eyes and blood in my mouth. The girl’s screaming, and I look up to see my little card table’s been knocked over. The guy picks it up, which I think is very helpful of him, until he lifts it over his head. I put my hands up to protect my face as he smashes it on top of me. Luckily it’s a very cheap table, so it shatters to pieces but none of my bones do. Then Luis storms out of my store, his crying girlfriend chasing after him.

“Jarvis?” I think for a second that Lorraine’s come back, but it’s just Ivonne. She’s started working at the massage parlor some days, when she’s not doing readings. “What happened?”

“Customer wasn’t satisfied with his reading,” I say as she helps me to my feet.

“Jesus,” she says. “What did you tell him?”

I can still feel the pillow on my face, my feet kicking in my little onesie pajamas, my diaper suddenly filling as my short life comes to an end.

“I didn’t say nothing,” I tell her. “The dead do all the talking.”

She runs back into the massage parlor and emerges with a white hand towel that she holds to my bleeding face. At first I try not to think about how much sweat and cum this towel has wiped up in its lifetime and just accept the kindness. Then I smell mildew and Febreeze, and decide I can’t ignore how disease-riddled this thing must be and I push it away—gently, though.

“You’re bleeding!” Ivonne says.

“I know, don’t worry about it.”

“It’s okay, these towels are clean.”

I don’t believe that for a second. “I’m good, really. In fact, that’s where I’m going to call it a night. Shop’s all yours, I’m going home.”

“Come on, you’re hurt. Let me take care of you.”

I don’t want Ivonne to take care of me, I just want to go home and drink. The bleeding’s pretty much stopped anyway. But she insists on following me out of the store, so what can I do? I’m not her boss.

She drags me into one of the massage booths. “Lie back,” she says. I tell her it’s a nosebleed, I’m pretty sure you’re not supposed to lie down, but she insists, so what the hell. I’m lying on the massage table, holding the disgusting towel to my face when Ivonne starts stroking my cheek.

“You’re so conflicted, Jarvis. You have so much dark energy around you, it’s just eating at your soul. Poor thing.”

“It’s true, I’ve been feeling kinda down lately,” I say, and she kisses my cheek.

“Let me help you,” she says.

I’m not entirely surprised when Ivonne unzips my pants and starts going down on me. I drop the towel, not needing it anymore, as all the blood has finished coming out of my nose and has relocated elsewhere. I close my eyes and imagine it’s Lorraine, and I moan with pleasure.

“Yeah, you like that, baby?” she asks, her raspy Lawn Guyland-afflicted voice reminding me that it’s really Ivonne.

“Yeah, that’s really nice,” I tell her, and she laughs, almost killing my erection with her donkey-like braying. I close my eyes and she goes back to work, and it’s all okay again. After another minute she stops, and I hear a zipper open. I open my eyes, and Ivonne is sliding her tight jeans down. She sees me looking and smiles. “I’ve wanted to do this for so long,” she says, and pulls her panties down too. She’s shaved bare, with just a few spots of what I pray are razor burns as she climbs on top and lowers herself onto me.

I’m hoping the booth is soundproof, because she is loud as hell. And then I start feeling the old familiar tingle. Not that one– the one in my head. It’s not bad, though, so I ignore it, and whatever they have to say from the other side must not be that important because after a minute they leave me alone. I close my eyes, and again I’m thinking of Lorraine. I think of her last night in New York, the last night we ever spent together. Then I think of the first night we ever spent together. She picked me up at the occult book store in Hell’s Kitchen, where we were both buying decks of tarot cards. Neither one of us had ever used them or even knew how, but we both figured they’d be an easy thing to get a couple more quick readings per day. When I told her my actual gift was talking to the dead, she’d said, “Nope, nuh-uh, no way.”

“You don’t believe in mediums?” I asked.

“I’m a medium,” she said. “That’s too many coincidences. We’re both in the same store at the same time buying the same thing for the same reasons, and we both have the same abilities. Nope. Way too many coincidences. You have to buy me dinner now.”

I wasn’t about to argue. Dinner led to drinks, led to more drinks, led to dancing, led to making out in front of her building with my hand under her shirt and her crotch pressed against my leg. And then I’m having an orgasm.

“Who’s Lorraine?” Ivonne asks.


“When you came you said Lorraine.”

“Oh,” I say, not sure what I should be saying here.

“Jesus Christ, I let you cum in me, the least you could do is say the right fucking name.”

Ivonne gets off me, grabs a fresh towel from a shelf and wipes herself down, brusquely, her mouth a tight thin line.

“I’m sorry,” I say, sitting up. “I don’t know where my head’s at, this is all very sudden…”

“No, it’s fine, don’t worry about it,” Ivonne says. But I know that it is not fine and that I should worry about it. “I just hope you didn’t get me pregnant, that’s all.”

“Wait, what? Please tell me you’re using some kind of birth control. Something other than hopes and dreams.”

“Why do you care? Does ‘Lorraine’ use birth control?”

“Yes, actually, because she’s a responsible adult who knows how babies are made and where VD comes from and please, please tell me you’ve been tested, I was giving you the benefit of the doubt when you climbed on without anything but now you’ve got me kind of worried…”

The slap comes hard and fast, so hard I damn near fall off the massage table. And with that, Ivonne zips up her jeans and storms away. My nose has started bleeding again and I’ve just about had it with sobriety for the night. I put my pants back on and make my way to the door, only to be stopped by a squat, 50-year-old Taiwanese man: Mr. Lin, he runs the place.

“Hundred dollars,” he says.

“Hey, Mr. Lin, you know me. Jarvis, the medium.”

“Ghost Man,” he says.

“Right, Ghost Man.”

“Hundred dollars, Ghost Man.”

“I didn’t come here for a massage, I just had some trouble with a customer, and Ivonne was helping me clean up.”

“I know what happens in my salon, Ghost Man. Hundred dollars. Or is there a problem?”

I want to hit the guy, but Mr. Lin could kick my ass. So I just pull out my wallet and start counting bills. In the back of my head, I feel that slight buzzing, and I can tell Mr. Lin’s ancestors are proud of his business acumen. I want to hit them, too, a massive Superman punch through however many generations of Lins are laughing at me right now.

“You tip the girl?” Mr. Lin asks.

“Who, Ivonne? No, I…”

“Tip the girl.”

“Okay, what does one normally tip? Twenty percent?”

“Hundred dollars.”

“Oh, for fuck’s sake,” I say. “You take cards?”

“ATM’s in front.”

The ATM in front charges an $8 fee because of course it does. Two hundred and eight dollars later, I’m storming down the street to the liquor store, picking up a fifth of cheap bourbon and writing a note on the receipt to get myself screened for VD. As I’m leaving the liquor store, I think how perfect it would be if it just started raining right then. Instead, the wino begging outside the store pukes on my shoes.

“Your mother’s name is Stella, right?” I tell him. “Or Sara? Something with an S?”

“My mother’s name was Celia,” the wino says.

“Whatever her name is, she is so disappointed in what you’ve become.”

His punch is slow and sloppy and doesn’t go anywhere near me, and I go home thinking, Third time’s the charm.

{ X }

I finish the bottle on my way home, and promptly collapse onto my bed. I dream about the car crash again, only it’s a little different this time. This time, instead of remembering her joke, Aunt Nigella turns around and says, “What are you doing, Jarvis? Seriously, what are you doing here that’s so important?” And I realize I’m not a kid in the dream this time, I’m exactly how I am awake, drunkenly stumbling from my mid- to my late thirties, close to broke, a barely-functioning alcoholic, and without my only friend in the world. I start to cry, and then the truck comes on cue to smash us all to bits.

I wake up with tears in my eyes, and find that at some point in the night I had booked a plane ticket to Seattle.

{ X }

1964908_10152349702663804_515992993_nE.L. SIEGELSTEIN lives in Brooklyn with his wife and a cat. His work has also appeared on the teen pop culture blog Mindhut. He can be found on Twitter @ericsiegs.

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