Gabriel slowly walked through the cemetery, his feet following the familiar path. Once he reached his destination, Gabriel let his slender fingers ghost over the granite headstone before sitting down, facing it. He studied the epitaph; the words haunted him, even in his sleep. He reached in his pocket and pulled out the joint he rolled earlier along with his red Bic lighter. He took a long drag, savoring the feeling of smoke burning in his lungs. Gabriel exhaled slowly, watching the thick smoke billow out from his mouth before dissipating into the crisp autumn air.

“Hi mom,” he said softly, “I know I haven’t come to visit you. I don’t even know where you are, or if you even know that I’m here but—“Gabriel trailed off, staring at the red and orange leaves of the surrounding maple trees. He took another hit.

“You know, right after it happened, I felt hallow; like I was a ghost, an empty vessel. Jackson’s mom convinced me to start seeing a therapist. She even took me to my first few sessions, I guess dad couldn’t put the bottle down long enough to give a shit,” he laughed bitterly.  “The sessions helped at first, and I got put on some anti-depressants, but they made me feel so fucking numb. It was nice for a little bit, to forget the pain. But then I just got so tired of feeling nothing.  So I stopped taking them, but I keep getting the prescription refilled. I stash the pills in your jewelry box. You know that baby puke green one from grandma that you only used out of obligation?  I don’t really know why I’m saving them. Putting them away for a rainy day, I suppose. I could always pop a handful and wash them down with a swig of Jack when it finally gets to be too much. That is if I could pry the bottle out of dad’s fingers.”

“He’s really lost it, you know.  He spends half his time in a drunken stupor and the other half in front of the TV. He doesn’t even go to work anymore. I think he hit Levi the other day, I wasn’t there but I saw a bruise and Levi refused to talk about it. Then again he doesn’t really talk about anything these days.” Gabriel began flicking his lighter, running his fingers through the small flame, slow enough to feel the burn on his fingertips. It helped. “I’m glad you’re not here to see him like this.”

Gabriel bit his bottom lip, worrying the plump flesh between his teeth. He sifted through the thoughts clouding his mind, wondering what to say next. “I quit going to classes a few months ago,” he began, “I couldn’t stand the pity. The sorry looks from the professors and classmates. I wasn’t ‘Gabriel’ to them anymore; I was ‘the kid whose mom died a month ago’. Even Jackson got into the habit of shooting me worried glances. It was obnoxious. I don’t really see much of him anymore, though.  He has this new girlfriend, and I’m pretty sure he’s convinced the sun shines out of her ass,” Gabriel smiled ruefully, “I started hooking up with this girl, Melissa. But she doesn’t like being with me when I’m high on something, so I don’t see her very often. The time between highs keeps getting shorter and shorter. It’s only a matter of time before I’m permanently fucked up on one thing or another.  It’s not like it matters though, she’s in love with someone else and I couldn’t care about her even if I wanted to.”

He took another long drag of the joint before stamping it out, carelessly tossing it over his shoulder. “I miss you, mom,” Gabriel sighed, eyes downcast. “I miss you so damn much.”

He stood slowly and began retracing his earlier path, shoulders set in determination. Gabriel didn’t glance behind him; he walked with purpose, his mother’s ugly jewelry box clear in his mind. He didn’t look back because there was no need, he’d see her again soon.

Published by Jordan Trantham