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Written Across Skin

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Cleveland, Ohio. Over a decade ago.


I am too sad to cry for others.


"Sam? Are you listening to me?"

"He's an asshole, Michelle. I told you he wouldn't give a shit."

"Sam! What is wrong with you? I just said grandmother died last night."

I am bleary-eyed looking at this angel of a girl, Michelle. I just met her a few weeks ago at Wayne's, a dive bar outside of Akron. She was asking me to buy her a drink, told me she was 18, come to find out she was 17. Been hanging around me ever since, reminding me she was turning 18 in a few days. As hot as she was I barely gave a shit. Banging a teenage girl would do nothing for me. After a stint in prison, no home to return to, and a dead mother, I just wanted to become one with Jack and coke. And by the latter I don't mean the soft drink.

"Goddamn it, Sam. Fucking dickhead!" Michelle exclaimed, kicking me on the filthy couch of the place I'm crashing at. Drug den, really.

But nice. She finally got the balls to swear at me. I knew I'd been pushing her hard. Not showing any designs on fucking her and all. Her friend Nadine was always cursing me up, down, and sideways. Now Nadine was looking down at me like she was going to spit at me.

"Look, sweetie," I say as I slowly try to get up and stand. I almost stumble backwards but Nadine grabs me by the leather belt at my waist. Don't I look my Sunday best. Black V-neck stained with God-knows-what, dirty jeans, prison tattoos, a greasy twisted handkerchief around my throat and expensive boots I stole. I grin at Nadine and as I stand I pull her by her own belt to me. She is a rode hard girl for only 22. She's about my age and has wanted to fuck me for a while now, but shows contempt instead. "Look...I hear what yer sayin'. Your grandmama is gone," I continue turning my head to Michelle. I push Nadine aside and come up to Michelle, putting my hands on either side of her childlike face.

"Nice beard," Nadine says in irritation, looking at my several day old scruff.

I turn and look at her and laugh, "Honey, this ain't no beard. Not what I'm used to growin'." I see her roll her eyes. I turn back to Michelle.

"I'm sorry about your grandmother. My own grandparents are dead. My daddy's gone. Brother is a sunnovabitch," I'm stroking her cheek and a tear runs down one side, "And my own mama is gone. I know what it is to lose.......yer gonna be okay. Gonna live on."


Someone kicks in the front door and it barely wakes Dave, a friend passed out on another disgustingly stained old couch.

"Where's Toney King keepin' his shit?!" a man with a ski mask yells. He has a Glock and a similarly-dressed man behind him has an assault rifle.

"SHIT MAN!" a friend named Big G yells from a second story landing, "DON'T FUCKIN' COME IN HERE LIKE THAT AGAIN!"

The men remove their masks and start laughing. Big G comes down the rickety stairs, angry and glares at the men. G looks like he is about to fight them until they all erupt into laughter, hugging each other and slapping one another on the backs.

"Fuck Toney King! He isn't here to watch this shit, but I am. You gotta show me some lettuce to get into his stash," Big G tells them.

One of the men looks at me with side eye and we don't break eye contact. I feel Michelle come close to me wrapping her arms around my waist.

"Who's this ginger motherfucker?" the man says, pointing his finger in my face.

Big G shakes his head and tells him, "That's Sammy. Just out of the pen. He's one of Toney's and someone I wouldn't fuck with."

The man removes his finger from my face and sniffs. He doesn't have anything to say, but if he wants to go there he's got me. I have nothing to lose and would love to deck him. He has shitty teeth and I could loosen up half of what he has. Teeth falling to the floor like Chiclets. Try me motherfucker. I don't care what my parole officer finds out.

"Yeah?" the man finally says.

"Yeah," Big G says.


The men head upstairs to look at the bricks of powder Toney has entrusted Big G to sell and I turn to Michelle, Nadine coming close.

"Excuse us," I turn irritated to Nadine. She backs off.

I slowly kiss Michelle's lips.

"I'll be seein' ya, baby," I lie to her. She nods.

I leave this shithole intending on calling the man on the business card that was mailed to me in prison.


"Alright, Lex," I say to myself, "Whatya gonna tell me?"