When you name a town Empire, you shouldn’t be surprised if it develops a god-complex. A church, a school, a cemetery, a dozen meth labs. Pastures full of cow shit and, according to the crazies, devil-worshipers. My father’s, father’s, father. That’s how I ended up there. It was in my blood. My persecution-tinted, Irish-gypsy blood.
Not that I’m complaining, but our spot behind the cafeteria left grass stains on my mind. Skinned the flesh of my brain until a scar formed. Broke my bones into fragments for a 12th grade art project.
When you were 8 you fell on the playground, split your head open like a damn watermelon. Some industrial worker from the ’70s must have been proud of that rusty nail that pierced your skull. You came shambling across the basketball courts like a zombie, bloodied hands and all. I knew we were going to be friends.
Every night in 10th grade I had anxiety dreams about forgetting my locker number. I never used my locker. Had never even opened it. It may have still held mementoes from its previous owner. Gum wrappers, a hairband, a half-chewed pencil.
When you learned to drive you took me to the Valentine’s dance. We didn’t have dates. Well, maybe you did. You always seemed to. Cafeteria dances aren’t the norm for larger schools, larger towns, vaster empires. I danced with a girl whose name I can never remember.
Empire kids always said that Hijacker’s Hollow was haunted. That the old church was haunted. The cemetery. The burnt out convenience store. The whole damn town was haunted. Removed of self. Google says: “having or showing signs of mental anguish or torment.”
When you race time. When you skip school. When you sit by each other on the bus home. When you feel infinite. When you feel finite. When you wait for the bell to ring. When it finally does.
Falls, that’s what every empire does eventually. My sister just graduated. The last in my father’s, father’s, father’s line. We were the last, but we could have never been the first.