For Marco

You’re fifteen, you’re trembling. The only working street light flickers and omits an ominous orange glow. Everything else is dark–the night, the thoughts in your head, the gun in your hand. The car slows as you approach the corner. There they are, Uncle Joe whispers, tonight you become a man.

Sweat oozes from your pores and clots in the newly sprouted patches of peach fuzz on your chin, chest, pits and balls. You remember everything Uncle Joe taught you. You remember how he took you in when no one wanted you. You remember how he cared for you even though Vietnam left him “scrambled.” You’re thankful for Uncle Joe–and he scares the hell out of you. You put your finger on the trigger and raise the gun to the open window. This is it boy, he whispers, just like I showed you. You notice how heavy the gun feels. NOW, he says, NOW–you’re frozen. You can’t move, but you feel everything. You feel your heart trying to leap from your sunken chest. You feel the cold barrel of a gun press against the back of your head. You feel Uncle Joe’s warm, wet breath on your neck as he whispers– do it now or I’ll do them and do you next. Your thoughts evaporate. There’s the pop of shots. There’s screaming. There’s screeching tires. You hear none of it–only ringing in your ears. Uncle Joe puts a blade under your nose with a clump of white powder on the tip. Here you go, he whispers. You snort. The powder burns your nostrils and throat. Get all of it now–remember this– when you catch feelings out here, you die. When you catch feelings, you get rid of them. You got that man?

You realize he just called you a man.

B. S. Dixon is a writer and social worker from Boston, MA, USA, whose work is inspired by the homeless population with whom he has the privilege to work with. His writing has most recently been printed in The Red Eft Review, Right Hand Pointing, The Eunoia Review, the Mindful Word, the Unbroken Journal and will be printed in upcoming issues of Nine Muses Poetry and the Front Porch Review.