American Past

You came when I was tired, without invitation, for the last time. On my desk, you left a moldy banana and this note: "I hope when you slip, you're protected." This was supposed to mean something, I think. But you've always been more into abstractions then me. You like big, black abstractions and you like long, trippy delusions. Like marriage. I've been meaning to ask you: what does it mean? How's that going for you?

I remember the concrete. Like when you told me you were a heroin addict. You said, I have something to say. I said, anything; anything. What you didn't realize was that I meant it: anything. And so I was frustrated that you were tarnished, but not distracted. I worked very hard not to be distracted by this small fact from your past. When I was on vacation, I always brought you home a souvenir. I remembered your birthday. I was your date. I picked the blue sweater instead of the green one because you like blue. I was so in love with you, I wanted to push my finger deep into your eye and pet your brain.

We've all got pasts, I figure. Yours is like a grainy film with a handsome star doing very terrible things. Your past is like a biography, an American one big as a gold trumpet. Because now you are married to a pretty woman with hair the color of mermaids. Your dream is the American Past.

I was not distracted by this, until you drank all of the whiskey in the house, passed out in the backyard, and told me you didn't love me, in front of the neighbors. I was not distracted until your hands were shaking so bad you couldn't cut a grapefruit, and your only strategy was to make jokes about it. You pretended the whole thing was really, really funny when your girlfriend kept calling me and asking me why I wouldn't leave you alone. She said, don't you know about him? And I said, proudly, "Yes. He's a heroin addict." I told her you had been telling me everything and I didn't care. I also want her to know I got straight A's. And I was an honor student. And after all this, I was a special, malfunctioned wonder. I was the opposite of you. I got worse.

One time on a highway in New York City you flipped over a stolen Jeep Cherokee with your Russian girlfriend while high and then left her to die because you would obviously get in trouble if you stayed on the scene. You'd be finished. Over. Done with. Found out. And that was your biggest regret, you told me. You were pacing the room, telling me everything, so glad that I was only frustrated and not distracted by these things. You made all the regular comparisons between sharing horrible secrets and lifting heavy objects from your chest. Thank you. Thank you. You said somebody should keep your biggest regret and hold it to their heart. I have been holding this regret for you on my burning heart, and I am happy to keep it for you, my dear, but only because I wonder about the Russian girl so that somebody does. I think about how she is probably dead. And I think about how you are married, and your wife is going to have a baby. And how you are starting. Started. Out in the open. Living. Like. A. Real. Person. And you wouldn't know it from the weight I'm getting off my chest. But the strangest thing has happened: I'm proud of you.

About the author:

Dana Masden has an MFA from Colorado State University where she currently teaches Literature and Compositon. Her work is previously published in 303 Magazine, The Santa Clara Review, and Denver Syntax.