The Bends

The Bends


It was just past four AM on Fremont and Margaret shot way more smack than she could handle.

I knew the look.

Her eyes were glazed like two honey donuts stuck in between drops of rain that may as well have been morning coffee. Marge pulled on her hair when she was too high. It came out in bright blonde chunks and became waterlogged bits of litter on the city streets.

I wish it were the sixties, I wish we could be happy, I wish, I wish, I wish…” she mumbled and repeated the words to that stupid Radiohead song all night. We heard the tune playing in the convenience store when we bought our water bottles. It was stuck in my head too.

I laughed at her crazy ass as she chased the wet clumps of hair down the broken blocks of the sidewalk.

Baby’s got the Bends?” I asked.

“*Matt… M-m-m-m-m-Matt. Your name rhymes with bat,” she nearly tripped over her heels when she spoke.

Has anyone ever told you that, Matt? You are Matt the Bat,” she giggled like an idiot this time before pouncing on a piece of blonde tumbleweed. It slipped out from under her in the whipping wind to the sounds of her disappointed screech.

That made me laugh harder.

No, no, no Matt. Matty I need my hair. Mom will always notice it missing. Mom and old Uncle Dom. Huh-huh-huh. Mom and Dom. Did you know that rhymed?

I didn’t. It was weird, actually. I had an Uncle Dom too.

When sprinted down the street, chasing the strands of hair still falling from her head, I followed faithfully.

Part of me felt responsible for the fuck-up, even though we barely knew one another. She was my companion for the trip. We met on a Friday night, and after hours of searching, we scored the drugs Saturday morning.

It was the buddy system. Every addict needed an escort.

After she swept the shit from the city street off her shirt, she turned to me and said very seriously –

I want to see Mom.

For the first time in six hours, she spoke without a stutter. It was strange. Now that she composed herself a bit, I could see a bit of beauty poking through cold sores and needle marks.

Margaret’s Goldilocks-blonde was wet, patchy, and matted that dark night. She wore an old leather jacket and tight black jeans, both of which which were exposed to rips and holes throughout.

And still… there was something so oddly disparate about her appearance. Like an angel stuffed into a costume comprised of bad clothes, breath and baggy eyes.

I wanted to kiss her.

I know, I know. It was wrong. We just met. But something about Margaret made my hope fire up. She looked like the ghost of a girl I should have met a lifetime time ago. In those pale blue eyes, there was a vision of what days and nights could be for the both of us. Mornings with Netflix or our favorite movie on TV. Evenings bundled up in bed with a hot cup of tea.

I just wanted to grab her, hold her, sober us both up and go to a world a million miles away from shady city corners and busted street lights. And so I tried. I reached out and tried to grab her slumped shoulders and pull them towards me.

Margaret smiled a sweet one with all her bright white teeth, then stepped steadily back in a tease. She never saw the double-deck bus approaching from C Street.

It hit her head on. That was when the lights when out.


I woke up chained a hospital bed with a brain fixated on the color red. I ripped at the IV in my arm and screamed frantically for a doctor, or my mother, or Margaret, or somebody to tell me what the fuck was going on.

Everyone was gone.

In eight elongated minutes, an annoyed orderly walked in the room and gently pushed me back down.

Is your name Matthew?

I nodded.

Were you under the influence of narcotics two nights ago?

I nodded again, hesitantly. Two nights ago?

You were in an accident. Do you remember that at all?

I shook my head and replied. “Margaret was hit by a bus. Where is Margaret?

You were hit by the bus son. You were the only victim,” she said, studying my reaction worriedly.

We have not given you any morphine or pain management medication. Immediately after treatment is complete, you will be transferred to an outpatient facility.

It took me a few moments, but then I started to see. There was never a Margaret.

Only me.