The morning before I met you, I found a dead bird in the parking lot of the Li’l Peach on Rantoul, and I stepped over it and went inside to buy a jar of strawberry Fluff and a scratch and win. I came up with two lemons and a cherry, and the safety seal on the Fluff was ripped, as though by aliens or communists.
The day before I met you, I attended a dog wedding in Salem Commons. The groom was a pug; the bride was a mix of some kind, and in the middle of the ceremony she ran off to the playground and lay down on the cool sand beneath the swings and began to eat her bouquet.
We did our best to comfort the groom. We petted him and told him he was a good boy.
“What can you say?” said his owner. “It wasn’t her first marriage.”
The evening before I met you I played Keno for three hours in the back room of Arnold’s Discount Bread on Lewis Street; I played 14-17-24-27 and lost two hundred bucks. Mr. Olan’s kid came back and sat with me. He hit me up for a Sky-Bar and I told him, look, the universe pretty much has me whupped here. But I bought him the candy bar because children intrigue me. Like old people. Or ethnics. In movies and books they have special powers that can be exploited for personal and lottery purposes if you are a decent enough guy, and since Olan’s kid is a kid and an ethnic, I felt my odds were pretty good.
I said, “Tell me the secret of something.”
He said, “Sometimes my grandmother steals from the till.”
“How old is she?” I said, because, you know, why not?
The night before I met you, I went home with a bag of Doritos and played Resident Evil until midnight. Then I watched some movie about Christopher Reeve going back in time to find Jane Seymour and I slept, and in my dream Christopher Reeve was a zombie at a dog wedding draped in feathers and discount bread saying, it’s all true, it’s all true, it’s all true. And, there was light—like this—and it woke me.
Do you know how that is to wake up from a zombie dream and the sun is so bright it feels like a trick? Do you know how that is? Do you know it is to go outside and walk to the Li’l Peach on Rantoul to look for a dead bird and not find one? Just blood in the parking lot, and white streamers in the park, and old ladies on the lam? That’s how it was for me on the first day that my life wasn’t a scam.