SHARED PAIN - AJ HAYES
The way it happened was a woman in East L.A. answered her doorbell one warm summer night and took a full load of double ought buck from a sawed off Remington twelve gauge square in the face. It was a good thing that she went first because she didn’t see her kids get it. Twelve year-old twins though you couldn't tell that after the buckshot did its job. The dog was just a pile of scraps with no head. The first cops that got there spent a couple of minutes puking. Then they called me. I identified them all. My wife, kids and the dog. I wasn’t good for much of anything after that.
Another night, another fucking court mandated twelve step. All that, Hello I’m Gina, jive. Followed by my sad story. Followed by a parade of losers telling theirs. Here’s a tip. Never share. Because the next asshole in line will have a much more tragic tale to tell. I say: “My Mom and baby sisters were murdered and I was away at night school and Dad killed himself a shot at a time. Boo fucking hoo.” Then you wait for the next guy. Usually goes, “Hi, I’m fuckface and I drunk-drove my semi through a convent. Killed sixteen nuns and a blind newspaper boy.” Shit like that.
Then a big guy stood up. Started telling the group how he thought he was the one who’d taken my life away from me. How he had been crazy drunk and jacked up on PCP. I didn’t believe his story. Just another jerk trying for my panties. I mean there’s a lot of fucking going on after meetings. So I just figured. Then he mentioned the dog.
That got my attention.
“Baby,” Gina’s voice, as always, makes me want to pull the blankets over us and stay all day. “Angel, open your eyes, baby.”
I reach for her and there’s a clank. I wake up fast. I’m handcuffed to a rusty pipe that runs along an old brick wall. I try to jerk away.
Something in the way she says it makes me freeze. She’s sitting, knees against her chest, across the room. It’s almost dark in here and it smells like wet dirt.
“Got to tell you some things, babe,” she says.
“Remember this place?” Her green-gold eyes make my heart thump.
I take a look.
“Sure. That crappy twelve step. You saved me. Here.”
Her soft laugh hits me hard.
“You love me?”
“’til the wheels fall off, baby.”
“Did I take away your pain?”
“Yes.” My mind fills up with her and our twin girls growing inside her.
“I’m glad,” she says. “That’s why I drugged you and brought you here.”
She shakes her head no when I start to speak.
“We have to talk about pain now, baby,” she says. “I worked hard at yours. Held you in the dark with my body, my mind, my heart until all your nightmares finally stopped and that was so damn good.”
Her eyes are far away.
“But there’s another kind of pain, baby. My kind.” Her face caught in shadow. “As much as I love you. I can’t share this pain. I can only give it away.”
She lets her knees drop so I can see the bloody wreckage where our babies used to be.
“They didn’t feel anything,” she says. “Their heads were close together. One shot. No pain. Me though ... that’s different.”
She coughs a bright spray of blood. Slides something across the tiles.
“You got a choice, baby. Live with my pain ... or not.” The coughing stops and so does she. I look down and see a gun and a cell phone.
We sit for a while: my dead wife, our babies and me.
I make my choice.
“I love you,” I say.
BIO: AJ Hayes is from San Diego and -- god help him -- good friends with Jimmy (Mad Dog) Callaway, who provides great advice and the occasional smack in the mouth with the butt of a .45. Check out his poetry in the latest issue of Yellow Mama.