Matthew Malachi took no pictures. Not even of the train sets in the natural light of the glass ceilings. He descended to the Riverwalk past the replica of the Spanish Mission and strolled through the indoor vineyard. By the side of the pool he drank a Blue Moon without an orange peel–the waterfalls there his shower after lifting weights in the fitness center. Then a filet at the Zeppole Coastal Italian restaurant. FILETTO AL BAROLO. Crumbled bleu cheese atop, whipped parmigiano potatoes and crisp grilled vegetables red and yellow peppers with asparagus over a red wine reduction sauce. He drank Pepsi with his meat. A glass of wine was $12. The meal voucher was for $35 to include gratuity. The menu said 34 only the roasted veal chop more expensive. The waiter had him sign no receipt. Not even his name and room number on the meal voucher. And so Matthew retired to his room on the fourth floor after shopping in the boutique having spent nine dollars for a beer, thirty dollars for two Texas t-shirts one 4T and one small for his daughters, and seven dollars for a sign for the kitchen of his ex-wife which read: I kiss better than I cook.

so what you don’t know
you can’t forgive

no and what that means you can’t forgive me for you don’t know what to forgive me for public scandal of Man secret sin of God and so listen to that cry marked by a time in the field the fruit of that most requested song the indulgence of well-placed motives like ad services that know what you want what you fear and why… to sell sell sell

yes and what that doesn’t mean what they say about even good people going to hell and God yes God has put eternity in our hearts this the great amoral anguish of our existentialism the idea the very indignity of free food and drink after a prodigal sunset and so… Eighteen years ago I was twenty still a virgin when I flew in to San Antonio to make hospital corners before I knew what love stains meant

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and the Priest says Look at your hands and I look

He doesn’t seem the part. No white collar. No black smock. He wears the uniform of the Air Force–a lieutenant colonel–the silver leaf on his shoulders. A bald pate. Glasses. The comfortable pudge of mid-forties not quite reconciled with youth but not yet banished into old age. He too a virgin–or I assume. Here with us behind doors locked from the outside. I am twenty-three now. Yesterday was my birthday. The day before I died. It’s a good thing that I’m not Catholic.

Take and drink she says
I don’t… no

This is my body it is naked they do not cover me

Do you want us to pump your stomach? Drink it
But what…
I tell you the truth unless you drink you have no life in you
I don’t… no But what… what is it?
Liquid charcoal

And she hands it in a paper cup the priest saying

Do no wrong to do what is right Heaven is like your hand in that you focus on the lines you see the fingers bend and straighten and even if your eyes are closed you may still reach out and practice the art of feeling You may You may… see that as a guide like unto a fiery pillar which though you must exit it shows you the way you must go from the way in which you came for Man is not destroyed you are free to make the choice and if it be sin that rules over you you see your hand for one thing while I see it as a negotiation a greeting between you and me for the pragmatic has the eternal in it in that if it does or does not work it comes down to moral reasons questions of conscience for all good is in how it feels after you feel it and if that can not be shared who are you to call it good? See not the before See not the after The night has the day in it the day the night so are you surprised that in death there is life and in life there is death?

I am an anathema of composites

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He awakens. It is day seven and the sun has already set. He can hear them in the other room. They are laughing. His daughter is laughing… and I will lay in bed here I will lay and listen like all stories are heard how all stories are told a man writing them down from a woman who has his ear because I died here before and I died twice after that and now that I am thirty-three I must look back on the missing years and try to forget that I need to remember anything for how lucky can one man get to know his stories come from a woman who he wants to be no one else who to save her own life from death lets me die so as not to kill me and she tells me she tells me her truth… the picture framed now from when she was two her sister unborn yet conceived on that day a picture of her laughing her hands clasped between her legs leaning forward in the frills of a purple princess gown her mother bought for Halloween her blonde hair still the fine baby strands almost too fine for her mother to braid and she’s wearing her Cinderella slippers made of plastic which as she walks the sidewalks of their employer-paid housing in College Station go Clip-Clop Clip-Clop echoing through the stairwells of the apartments above she is laughing laughing through the echo as I chase her the instant the moment captured on her mother’s cellphone camera before she makes it to the wooden bridge which leads to Wolf Creek… yes I will lay here and listen until it is time to work through the night one day soon she will love a boy she will tell him stories of when she was a child the friends she had the friends she lost one day soon she will be as her mother was to me and

You must commit
I’ve been committed…

A lot of my high school friends have died car accidents drug overdoses suicides don’t ever turn when someone waves you through they might be trying to be nice but a car behind them might try to pass that’s what happened to Melissa and she got side-swiped she didn’t die instantly she bled to death in the helicopter to the hospital Jessica she had Lupus she was always wild she’d break into her uncle’s house and drink from his liquor cabinet each glass she took she’d measure out the same amount of water and pour it back into the bottle and mix it up she died of a cocaine overdose you have to do a lot of cocaine to overdose and Oceana she died from heroin she was vomiting and passed out with her head in the toilet she drowned her father found her that way Elmer shot himself Matt too and Big Joe and Timmy they hung themselves I don’t know why they did that seems like it’d be a lot easier just to blow your brains out you know a lot quicker a lot less painful

for all things come to the good of those that love but be not weak to your own hands how it all seems so small so short-lived how in the days of your youth you fear someone will hurt you and then someone always does you are betrayed you love and are not loved back you are lied to and you lie to someone else about the lie yet you still live you still breathe and even with no one to trust no one to turn to you have yourself you’re only fear the fear itself and it’s there it’s always there an old friend now and you look back to look forward

and someday Lord there will be no mirrors
to see yourself and what’s behind you

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Matthew Malachi knew it was time to face the music. But nothing happened…