you've stood in line for three minutes behind the drunk woman who can't pick the right pack of cigarettes, and you offer the pimply guy with the neck tattoo behind the counter a weak smile when he makes tired, desperate eye contact. you're clutching a six pack of brunch eggs at 2 am, a testament to how much you've sobered up and how much you're looking forward to making pancakes the next morning without having to leave the apartment. she finally picks the right pack, gold, stabs her card into the reader and vanishes in a swirl of black.
when you leave, the doors of the 7/11 slide open and you catch a face, bloodied and drooling, in the dark street. there are voices calling mads, but they are lazy. there's a group of teenagers, one couple clinging and falling into each other, and the look on the others' faces approaches concern but doesn't quite make it. they're fucked up but mads is really fucked up, and fucked, and you feel a sharp, shooting pain of fear and disgust in your stomach as you follow his friends' attention to his tottering, teetering frame, perched atop a bike, in the middle of the busy intersection.
his eyes are distant, his face is scraped and bleeding, his mouth is red and open, and saliva is oozing out. he's blackout, biking, he swings the handlebars to and fro in slow motion, his bike tracing haphazard arcs and loops in the bike lane, except he's not in the bike lane anymore, he's in traffic, and as he gets further and further away (mads, his friends are feebly calling, mads, kom nu) the next arc finds his hunched silhouette lit up by the lights of a bus, and he wobbles, and the bus honks, and he swings away from the lights, but the next loop is into an oncoming car, and you watch with a sinking feeling in your stomach. is tonight the night you watch someone die for the first time, is this how it happens? or are you just old, overreacting, american? is it so unlike the drunk football players at college that insisted on getting behind their cars, stubborn and big? you were unable to change their mind, or push them, and you felt angry and exhausted that you couldn't seem to do anything.
you can't quite shake the morbid feeling of his face, of the dead eyes, and the broken mouth, and whatever's already happened to him that clearly didn't stop him from swinging wildly in traffic, and his friends, watching but doing nothing, as if their gaze alone will protect him, and your own thoughts, small and hard, at your own drunken bike ride just the week before. he's gone, so far down the street you cannot see him anymore, except for the occasional honk, and his friends are looking at cell phones, and you'll crack three eggs hard against a bowl in the morning and wonder.