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Image by Ant Rozetsky

‘A Last Goodbye’

I figured I’d go to work, anyway. Boss told me to take some time, whatever I needed and whatnot … but it just didn’t seem good for me. My coffee was cold. The pot was from last Thursday and I hadn’t bothered to make a new one. Still, it might help my hangover some.

Eyes were glued to me until I looked up. That’s when everyone became fascinated with the walls. Which one would be the first to say something?

It had only been a day since the service. The funeral director put his hand on my shoulder. He’d give me a minute to be alone in the room and say my goodbye. In the small pine box was Steve. His small body, quiet now, with too much makeup. No more pain. No more laughter. 

I walked up and slid his baseball glove next to him. He didn’t look like he was sleeping. He looked like he was dead. I took his cold hand and said, “I’m so sorry.”

The room was cold. Only a few tissue boxes out of place. “I lied to you. I promised that it would be alright.”

Steve fought. Nobody would ever say he didn’t. Right to the end and with a smile on his face too. Poor kid. Nobody deserved to go like that. By the end, he could hardly eat. I’d wanted to save him. A piece of me even thought I could save him but here he was – eyes glued shut.

He’d wanted to go to the fair. I thought it was strange. I hadn’t been since I was his age and had never brought it up, never really thought about going. Steve must have heard about it in school or wherever kids learn about things. He wanted this cheeseburger with donuts for buns. He had it and then he threw it up after his first rollercoaster.

Sitting in the breakroom at work, I looked around. It was the same as ever, except that it would never be again. Maybe a lightbulb just burnt out. Either way, I was told I needed a break. Didn’t matter how long I was in there, nobody would blame me, they just couldn’t have any more accidents on the machines. Pulling codeine from my pocket, I took it with the Jim Beam I’d snuck in my coffee cup.

“You need to take some time off. Real time. For your own health.”

“No. I can’t.”

“I’m being serious. You’re no use to us here and you’re only hurting yourself being here.”

“Don’t tell me what the fuck I need,” I shouted. It wasn’t supposed to sound so harsh but I needed the conversation to just end. He walked out of the breakroom when I began to cry.

I couldn’t stand to look at Steve anymore. I couldn’t stop, either. Other countries never had an open casket. It would be too morbid. Why did we ever start having them in the first place? It couldn’t be long until they came in for me. Maybe they were just waiting for me as long as I stood here. The last time I was here was after his mother drowned herself. I had let Steve see her body. I had some idea that this would be the right thing to do. There was a reason for it, but I didn’t really know what it was anymore. 

Steve couldn’t hear me. He wasn’t there anymore, but I still had more to say. I wanted to tell him that I’d see him again but didn’t really believe that was true. How could it be? There was no God, no Heaven and Hell. There was nothing after you died. I knew that now. I sat by him, held his hand while he died and he still died alone. He went into eternal blackness alone. I would have done anything to go before him but it was too late now.

I wiped a tear away. I used to think it would be good to grow old but now I knew that there was no glory in being the last man standing. 

We were supposed to go to the beach this summer. It would have been a nice distraction – a reward for … it didn’t matter now. I’d given him as good a life as possible, even if we’d missed out on so much, big and small, together. I pulled some codeine out of my pocket–it was hard to say how much–and swallowed. 

In the bathroom at work, I got sick. There wasn’t much left, though. Bill came in and stood at the urinal for an eternity. There was no sense pretending I wasn’t there, so I came out, rinsed my mouth. My eyes were red in the mirror. Bill came up next to me and stood for a second longer than he needed, before asking, “Are you alright?”

“Oh, you know.”

He was quiet for a minute, looking for something to say, “I kind of don’t. Excuse me.”

Before walking away from Steve, I took out a picture we’d taken a few years back. Everyone healthy and smiling. It would be good for him to hold onto. Then, I told him that I loved him again but couldn’t say goodbye. I just didn’t have the spirit for it. 

I looked out the breakroom window and could see my machine. What would it feel like if I shoved my arm into it? Somehow, I doubted it would hurt at all. I got up to go out and get back to work, figuring I probably wouldn’t stick my arm in. I’d probably come to work tomorrow, too; it was better than sitting alone at home. 

Dan Morrison is a college sports writer living in Central Florida and originally from Massachusetts. There, he attended the University of Massachusetts. He lives with his fiance and their two dogs. In the past, his work has been published in journals like Space City Underground, Brilliant Flash Fiction, and Zoetic Press’ NonBinary Review.


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