Anhedonia

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It was not the way his mother scolded him with her eyes for his absence all these years that caused Dante to leave his father's wake: oh no. It was, he said, all of the people dressed in black, gripping his hand with both of theirs and expressing their condolences with the same rising cadence. He needed some fresh air. Before he left his childhood home he jogged upstairs to his old bedroom, the smell of sweat and mold like an ancillary coat of paint on the blue walls. The upper shelf of his closet still held a shoebox, containing a crumpled Ziploc full of pot he'd accrued during collegiate summers. He wafted it warily: somewhat dry, but preserved like, well, his father. Pretty inappropriate thing to be thinking, but. He shoved the bag deep within the recess of his jeans and avoided the mourners offering casseroles, dipping into the rental to head to, he just realized, his high school. On the way, he listened to a familiar classic rock station and a DJ who spoke in a raspy tenor, nothing like the basso profundo he remembered.

Eventually Dante came upon the high school baseball field, infamous location of sweaty adolescent trysts and drug dealings, places where teenagers could bridge the gap between sterile childhood and jagged fantasies of responsibility. He sat for a while, contemplated rolling several joints for the hours he thought he would spend sprawled on the pitcher's mound, then decided against it, for no other reason than sheer laziness. He walked out and laid down on the mound, feeling his vertebra shift and thinking of all the suburban Juliets he'd made a pass on, here in the dead of night.

It was approx. twenty minutes before Dante, whose parents named him after the football player, saw a man dressed in shreds of a trash bag and an oversized MADD sweater fumbling towards him. He bolted up, then winced at his alacrity, which gave off the impression that Dante was scared of this derelict stranger. The stranger began to lope towards him, and Dante noticed clenched in his right hand was something which in his (i.e. Dante's) mind resembled a knife, and so Dante began to back away and groped for his wallet, throwing it in front of him like an offering made to a charging rhino. He reached deeper and felt the pot and threw that too, figuring he wasn't going to use it anyway. Mugged quickly, with no fuss.

The homeless man froze several yards away, and he began to stare back at Dante the way a parched man gulps water: the sty in his eye began to rattle like a coin inside a purse. Walk away, Dante told himself, assuming rape. The man, who was mildly epileptic and in the midst of a minor seizure, did not surface from his convulsions until well after Dante made his grand escape. He then blinked rapidly, glared at the penumbral sun, then took a couple pills out of the prescription bottle in his right hand. The grass on his bare feet reminds him of his childhood, the summers in Kansas.





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