A deer died at the mouth of the tunnel, I never thought to question how. He was shot, I supposed, but why did someone shoot a deer and leave it lying there? Over time, the body decomposed. The smell was terrible, reaching to the overpass, where we would scale a concrete barrier and slide down the embankment.
"Hold on, there's a car," I said, and we'd crouch in the tall grass.
Sometimes the police would stop us as we hoisted ourselves over the wall, and take us back to high school.
Once, my legs simply stopped working, and I tumbled forward, skidding on my belly and thighs, the palms of my hands ripped raw and embedded with black gravel. I spent a week picking pieces of granite and obsidian from the tough layer of skin.
"This was okay, wasn't it?" you said. "This day? It didn't go by too fast, did it?"
Getting into our family station wagon, my mother behind the wheel, was like having a bright light turned on me too quickly. She always arrived on time, never early, because she didn't want to appear to be watching me as closely as she was. She loved to poke through the ashes of me, to flip through my pages, but she didn't want me to know. One time, she asked me, "Do you need to drink alcohol to fall asleep at night?"
I never knew what she meant. She must have found the waning bottle of scotch under my bed. I placed it there on the weekend. I drank with my friends on the weekends. She asked me once, "Is it crack?" I guess she smelled smoke in the hallway upstairs.
I smoked in the crawlspace where we kept our Christmas decorations. Jumbled boxes of bent tinsel and wooden ornaments with the painted eyes scratched away. There was a loose floorboard that I lifted and placed the burned ends of cigarettes inside. I just huddled there under a bare bulb with a pull chain, smoke diffusing the light.
I was up late a lot, pulling the cord of my telephone and pinching it under the funny, slanting door. The receiver was heavy and clumsy and fit neatly into the cradle. There was an all encompassing silence, pushing down on the smooth rectangle of plastic that signaled; we are finished talking, tonight. I would laugh at things that were stupid and call you names, accuse you of being weird, when really, you were wholly an unremarkable person.
Why didn't I ever say what I was really thinking? Why did I comb my hair and puff myself up, why did I dare you instead of telling you, "I am so angry and sad that I feel like I might disappear. I feel like I might walk the tracks until I collapse and my body turns grey. Oh, and also, I know that you don't really like me."
Isn't it ugly what happens when something dies? The deer fell in a graceful heap, limbs draping over one another, its tongue plunging from between a sturdy set of teeth, smooth and pink. Over time, though, pressure built up inside and everything started to point obscenely at the sky. The skeleton was overcome and reaching to escape. Where was God in all of this?
God wore heavy on me, and you didn't know. You cut your hair because someone called you vain. You destroyed a picture of the two of us because your sunglasses were crooked on your face. God wore heavy on me, and I didn't actually like you, either. I just needed something to be.
The tunnel was long and black. A patch of light in the distance, the opening at the other end... it kept me company as I stepped solidly on damp wooden slats, slick with mold and darkness. I was with my friend in the afternoon and we saw men with shotguns crouching around a fire. "Did they hear us?" she asked.
"Run," I said, and we panicked back the way we came, slipping on the wetness, fumbling wildly in the dark.
We collapsed against the side of her car, a Volkswagon with the floor rusting through, and laughed until we choked. There was actual danger, here, and it made us feel pretty and vulnerable and perfect. The men with guns in the sunlight made us feel like children. I had a glass pipe that fit neatly into my palm and its cool, smooth curves were reassuring in my fingers, like a worry stone.