I loved a bastard. He was awful sometimes but also his parents never married, a true bastard. When we met he was holding a radioactive drink and I wanted to lap it from his hand. He had an eyebrow that looked like a phrase in Morse code. And I had a scar from a gunshot wound that made for a good story at certain types of parties. I was also a bastard. I gave good face, kept a job, and was pretty nice to people and all. But I knew what I was and know it to this very day. He liked me immediately. He also liked pills. I didn’t know about the heroin until six months in. I found him sitting in front of a tiny pile of powder folded into a scrap of newspaper—from the comics section—and, as he stared at what lay before him, his face looked strange. Eager, of course, and a little surprised. He couldn't believe this shit, either. But he knew exactly what to do with it. We had some great fights and great nights during the years we were together, blah blah blah, and summers were kindest. Dark diamond sky and outdoor lights where the moths flew. The grass fluoresced blue. Beyond the buildings the fields stretched open toward the mountain. We walked along the train tracks, the distant city lights polluting the darkness behind us. They say you should not love an addict. But his mother loved him. His daddy loved him and I loved him. Loving someone is not hard. Near the end of summer it would get too hot to sleep with sheets on the bed so I sprayed the bare mattress with Febreze and let it dry and afterward I'd lie on it and he'd run his fingers over where I'd been shot and he'd call it my ice cream scoop. There was an ugly dip in the flesh around the scar. One night we got silly and he disappeared into the kitchen and returned holding a real ice cream scoop. He laid it in the wound, and, don’t you know, it fit perfectly. When he got sepsis right before he died he stayed conscious for a day and a half. I went to the hospital and held his hand. I hadn’t seen him for a year. He reached for the dip in my arm and mentioned ice cream. You’re a real dish, he said. The nurse who overheard him thought it was sweet, how beautiful he found me. He really thinks you’re something else, she said. And I cried and cried. I did not explain. Who can explain such things?
Ashley Hutson's work has appeared in several places, including Electric Literature, Wigleaf, Fanzine, matchbook, and SmokeLong Quarterly. She lives in rural Maryland. Read more at aahutson.com.