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OK, OK, you all got Shelly’s—who hasn’t been to Rome, but definitely wants to—but let’s see if you can guess mine. Remember, two truths, one lie. See if you can tell which is which, and if we can “build inter-team member trust and cooperation,” or whatever Jerry said.

First: One time, I had pizza for every meal of the day.

Three meals, and every single one of them was pizza. Not even different kinds of pizza. Just cheese, all three times. I had run out of groceries, and the bus wasn’t running, so I made do with delivery. And honestly? I don’t even regret it. Pizza’s delicious.

Second: After I hit that kid, I just kept driving.

I’d been out all night drinking, because Claire, my wife, had threatened to leave me if I didn’t stop. So I was just giving it one last hurrah. One last night out! I just wanted to have some fun, I never feel like I get to have fun anymore. It’s all arguments at home with my wife, requests for money from my deadbeat sister, passive-aggressive shaming from my dad, and the mind-numbing tedium of work.

These once-a-month team-building exercises are the closest I get to normal human interaction.

So I was out at Louie’s. The bar. Blowing a week’s pay, earned by burning my eyes out staring at a computer screen and pretending to sell insurance. I’m blitzed by the time they throw me out for starting some argument I don’t even remember. I’m staggering over to my car, and I figure: it’s just down the street. That’s as far as I’ve gotta go. The thought entered into my head that maybe I shouldn’t, that maybe it was a bad idea, but I just didn’t want to be back late and have another fight with Claire about how I spent my time. Took me three tries to get the keys in the ignition, and even then the battery almost died on me. Something about the cold.

I pulled out from Louie’s, taking the turn at the edge of the parking lot a little too fast, and clipped a stop sign a little too fast as I sped through it. I turned back to make sure I hadn’t wrecked it or that nobody saw me wreck it—I don’t know which I’d prefer—and while my head was turned, there was that kid.

If the feeling of the impact didn’t jolt me back to sober, the sound sure did. Bones breaking on the car’s frame, the windshield’s glass splintering, and then the final thud on the pavement behind me.

I still hear it. All the time.

Right now, even. Playing over and over again. I stared at the broken mass out my back window, glowing a hellish red from my brake lights, the useless brakes I’d applied too late.

I thought about how worthless my life was, about all the filth that gets thrown my way, and I looked at this hoodie-wearing kid (couldn’t have been more than 16, I could see the metal of his mangled braces), lying in the crosswalk he’d been walking through, and I decide somewhere deep in the rotten core of my soul that I was not going to be ruined any further. The red lights disappeared as the car started to drift slowly forward, and the kid’s body faded into the rest of the black, black night.

I drank even more after that. I didn’t leave the house. You all remember. My two-week sabbatical. I claimed it was mono. It wasn’t. Claire left, and everyday, I wanted to drive over to her mother’s and beg her to come back. But that would have meant taking that tarp off the car. Seeing the broken glass, the dented hood. Holding that black tarp and thinking about the black body bag they must have used for the kid.

I couldn’t do it. That car’s still sitting there. I use the bus now. And every time I do, the route takes me right by Louie’s. It stops, though, before it gets there. It stops at a little crosswalk a block away. And every time it does, I can’t help but notice the shrine someone built. Someone who loved that kid. A whole bunch of someones, probably. It’s across the street, so I can’t see it clearly in the morning, but in the evening when I’m riding that bus back home, I can see all the faces in the pictures. Smiling. Hugging. Loving him. And then I go home. To my empty house. I go home to my empty house, and I drink.

Third: I’ve been to Rome.

No, wait. That was Shelly’s, wasn’t it? Hold on a minute. How about… my favorite color is… green?

Elijah Sloan

Writer of societal manifestos, ransom notes, bomb-making manuals, secession declarations, new constitutions, and children's picture books.

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