Words by Phill Pappas
Illustration by Shea Cadrin

My mother said I’d met Eddie at the swing set in Bannister Park when we were two years old. I don’t remember it. Anyway, he was like a brother to me. Eddie stayed with his uncle, Mike, just down Fulton Street about ten blocks north of my house. It was hot out – the type of day you sweat through your shirt without doing anything in particular, and the asphalt has that shimmering quality to it.

Eddie stood on the broken curb, next to a blue, 1980s, two-door, rusted out Buick, and yelled across the street. He’d yelled at every pedestrian that passed us for the last hour.

“Hey, you bitches,” Eddie said, “ditch the fags and come hang with me and my friend.”

He gestured down at me and chuckled. The guys across the street yelled back as they walked away. They didn’t want to get involved with what looked like, and was, a hopeless dickhead looking for something violent. Eddie walked into the middle of the street.

“What’d you say?” Eddie’s arms spread wide. “Yeah, keep walking you fucking faggots.” He picked up a stray bottle, and he threw it at them. It landed thirty feet short.

He walked back over to me. Eddie held a wide grin on his face, and his eyes flashed satisfaction.

“See man, bunch of fuckin’ pussies around here,” he said.
“Yeah, yeah,” I said. “You’re so hard. Talking shit to a couple of idiots on their way to a show.” I sat on the curb and smiled.
“They ain’t gonna do nothing,” he said. “I mean, fuck, it aint like there’s anything better to do.”

I hit the joint, and raised it to Eddie.

“Fuck off,” he said. Eddie had never done drugs, had never taken a drink – not a sip, a hit, nothing. I did a lot of drugs.
“Whatever,” I said, “it’s something to do.”
“It’s shit,” he said. He sat on the curb next to me.

It was Thursday night. Clyde Street was broken, filled with busted cars missing wheels, engines, seats. Empty houses filled with vagrants and plastered with boarded windows. High grass in abandoned lots. Cracked and misshapen concrete fell into bruised and battered asphalt. The only redeeming quality of Clyde Street was that it was broken and gone, and, so, nobody cared.

I hit the joint again, stubbed it out on my tongue, and put the roach into my pocket. I grabbed at the neck of the bottle beneath me and drank. Eddie stood up. He looked at me.

“So that’s the plan?” he said.
“Fucking, plan?”
“You just gonna sit there and get twisted?” Eddie said. He walked over to the Buick, bent over, picked up an empty bottle and passed it back-and-forth between his hands.
“Yup, sure am,” I said.
“Just sit there until something happens? Until you run out of beer or need to get more weed?”
“And then what?”
“Then I’m gonna keep getting fucked up,” I said.

Eddie turned toward me and threw the bottle over my head – it shattered on the iron bars of the forgotten storefront. Shards of glass bounced off my back and neck. He wanted to piss me off. He wanted a reaction. He wouldn’t get one. He wouldn’t get one.

“Nice shot, dickhead,” I said.
“Yeah, maybe next time I’ll try.”
“Then what? We gonna scrap after that?”
“You’ll be pissing blood from your face, that’s what.”

Eddie stood in front of me, fists balled at his side. In the dark and dim light on Clyde Street, filled with anger and resentment, he was unrecognizable.

“Eddie, man,” I said, “you’re fucking with the wrong person.”
“Why? You think I’m lying?”
“No, you fucking idiot. You’re picking a fight with somebody who actually gives a shit about you.” I turned my head and spit.
“Bullshit,” he said.
“You don’t think I care about you?”
“Nobody does.”
“What the fuck are you talking about?”
“It doesn’t matter if I go to jail or die right now. Right fucking now.”

I stood up from the curb, and I took a swig from the bottle.

“I’d care,” I said. I tapped my chest and repeated the words.
“No you wouldn’t.”
“Eddie, you’re my best friend. I’ve known you my whole life. What the fuck are you talking about?”
“I got nobody,” he said.

I stood next to a cracked curb on an empty street and watched the mind of a young man accept the lies that he’d heard his whole life, accept the bullshit about bloodlines and nobodies, give in, and then become everything he hated.