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"Long Black Train" • Lee Hazelwood (by Tyler Dempsey)

Most of my friends eventually grew up. The rest grew mustaches.

In the event one spins circles down a sidewalk you’re on, or whizzes past you in a Whole Foods aisle, dirt and campfire smoke and earthy, less-identifiable substances from whatever ayahuasca-soaked rainforest on their poncho, the outline of two craft beers bulging under it as they slip past, you’ll flatten completely against the perfectly stacked chocolate-covered everythings, or take a step from the sidewalk, draw your girlfriend so close your strides resembles a poor person’s scarecrow. Glaring. And without saying anything, say everything you think about them.

Their kind.

They’ll go on that night, getting so drunk off two-buck-chuck they forget their parents, who, together at that moment, are staring down the length of their driveway, as far as the light goes, and for just a second, it’ll be worth it: the weightlessness they gave up everything for. And the friend they’ll find dead in the sand in the morning, already so stiff the wind howls through the crook in their arm, will also be worth it, since the sadness they felt in their prior lives would’ve killed them anyway. They’ll go on. Looking older than their years, because stolen or faked happiness gets hard on a body. Never thinking of you again.

You’ll find your home safely and after a half-hearted attempt your girlfriend will flip, back facing you, muffling her sobs while you count their rhythmic shudder through the mattress, and you’ll think about the character with wild eyes and a mustache while facing the ceiling. The following day, you’ll slip from bed alone and hope she doesn’t hear the sound of the razor. Hit the train station early, steam curling from your Styrofoam coffee beside you on the hill, fabric of your Carhartt jacket audible in the morning air along with your clapping hands as you work to retain their feeling. You’ll stay there all morning, silencing and eventually powering off your cell, watching through the warped refraction of tears the long black trains as their brakes squeak and choosh, disappearing them off toward the nothing, where men and women make fortunes, then ride them home again.

Tyler Dempsey is the author of 4 books, most recently Will We All Still See Each Other Afterward, and host of Another Fucking Writing Podcast. He lives in Utah with his dog. Find him on Twitter/X @tylercdempsey.


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