"I'm here for Kyrie
Andrews," I say to the nurse behind the counter. The lobby has the
chemical smell of a hospital: wax, recirculated air. All hospitals smell that
way -- even methadone clinics.
The nurse looks at me for a moment.
I catch her eyes shoot down, assessing me. Yeah, I think. Look all you want.
I'm wearing an ill-fitting polo shirt, worn thin, with faded blue stripes and a
pair of business slacks with holes in the knees, contrasting with the
smoothness of my face (I shaved at a gas station before I came by). It was all
I could afford on the money they'd given me and still have enough left over to
take Kyrie to lunch, and everything else.
I'm sure this nurse has seen her share of men fresh out of jail. No secrets
The lady disappears without a word,
the backs of her fat knees catching shadows in the flourescent light. I sit, and watch the game on the television mounted behind
an iron-wire cage in the room's upper corner. Behind me I can hear older
voices. Parents, here to retrieve their
son. They speak quietly. Methadone
clinics, all rehab places, mental health facilities -- all have that talent of
making everyone in them ashamed to be there, though everyone is in the same
boat. They whisper so quietly.
Minutes pass, and I hear footsteps
returning. My heart is pounding. I can imagine the smell of her; even if she smells like floor cleaner from being here so long, I won't care. I turn around and
see the nurse, looking glum, with something in her hand.
When I go to meet her she hands me
an envelope and the necklace I gave Kyrie the day before we got busted. Apatite,
blue like sky and ocean, hand-made. The stone hangs crooked from the chain;
when I gave it to her, Kyrie said she liked that it was off center. A little
like you, she said, and smiled. She's funny like that.
I open the letter in front of the
nurse and read it quietly. It's not a long letter.
Formalities of release and some other crap. When I look up, the nurse is
frowning, which is ugly, but then Kyrie is standing behind her, smiling, which
is beautiful. I smile. The nurse gives me a sad look, this jailbird
so happy to get his girl out of rehab, and returns to her chair. Kyrie has lost
some weight, but she's still Kyrie. Still has that long blonde hair that hangs
in her eyes, still has that little gap in her teeth that makes you look at her
mouth when she talks.
"They give you new clothes
here?" I ask her, referring to the tank top and jeans she's wearing. I'm
surprised she doesn't come shuffling out in a gown open in the ass.
"Yeah," she says. "I
"I missed you too, babe."
She kisses me;
her mouth tastes like grass.
The couple and the nurse stare at us
as we leave.
Kyrie eats like a pig. New York steak,
baked potato, salad. She orders dessert.
She can barely talk, her mouth is so full. She explains that at the clinic her
meals were tightly regimented. It was all hospital food crap, she says, stuff
that tasted like cardboard. She stops eating for a second and looks at me, her
head a little cocked like her necklace. She smiles wide.
"So how does it feel being
out?" she asks, exhuberantly, her voice squeaking in that way I like.
"Little strange," I admit.
"Two years is a long time."
And two years is a long time. Two
years in D-Block, that stinking concrete hole with its asshole wardens and my
piece of shit cellmate who kept stealing Kyrie's picture and jacking off to it.
For a long time, the only thing that kept me going was her letters, coming in
every three or four days -- always, I know, knew, with extra fingerprints from the nurses at the clinic reading all outgoing mail.
Soon they just stopped coming altogether. I want to ask her if they started
just holding her mail, or if she lost the energy to write, but I'm afraid to
know the answer; the thought of her losing interest in letters to me is too
much to bear. Instead I feed her a lump of hash-browns.
It's funny that she asks me what
it's like to be out. After all, she spent the same two years locked up. While I
spent all of mine in prison, she only spent four months, with the remainder of
her sentence in rehab. But it's still two years without eating hashbrowns at a
Her track marks
cast shadows from the light outside. She keeps her arms faced down. She chews,
smiling, eyes blue like apatite. She's always been sweet.
The day we got our eviction notice
was a bad day.
This was the controlled-rent place
on Jefferson next to the factory. It was like Fight Club
-- we were alone at night for a half-mile in each direction. Our landlord was a
good guy, so he didn't make too much of a stink when our rent came in late.
That's alright, he'd say when he came to collect in his Vietnamese pidgin English,
his eyes darting to get a glimpse of the place, his nose wrinkling a little
like a peanut (Kyrie insisted on keeping needles in the fridge). But this time
we'd let it go two months, and instead of darting eyes and a wrinkly nose we
got nothing, silence, just a sheet of printer paper tacked to the door reading
Kyrie and I met our supplier Terry on the corner every few days,
a reptilian guy in his early thirties who sniffed a lot and looked at his feet.
To take the edge off of the eviction, we paid him an impromptu visit, me
dressed in pajamas, Kyrie in the tank top she'd worn to go to the bank earlier.
And sure enough he was there, out of the light, pacing in front of the battered
fence surrounding the gravel-processing facility across from our building. He
looked surprised to see us, which was natural, since it wasn't our night. But
he accepted our business. I handed him the wad of money I'd stuffed into my
pocket -- still don't know how much it was, though it was enough for two years
-- and he paused for a second, looking at us, before retreiving the goods from
an inside pocket of his jacket.
Kyrie's eyes were rimmed red while
she watched me make the exchange. Again, Terry looked at us a minute.
There were footsteps, a lot of
yelling. Terry backed off, watching. Three guys, two on me, one on Kyrie. A
knee in my back. Cuffs.
Kyrie was screaming while they read
her her rights.
Kyrie's seatbelt seems to sink into her stomach. She's really slimmed down.
"Terry's dead?" I ask.
When I left prison, I got a set of
car keys with my release money. My Chevy
was waiting in the parking lot. My guess was that my old man
left it there; this was confirmed by a note on the dashboard, hand-written on
college-ruled notebook paper.
Here's your car
don't come home
It smelled like a garage, like he'd
taken it to get a lube job before bringing it by. The tires were new too.
Wipers were new. It was washed. Don't come home.
I smile, thinking about that.
"How long's he been dead?"
"About six months," Kyrie
answers. "He got killed baiting for the cops again. Shot in the
"So we don't have to worry
about him," I say, trying to sound cute, and turn to her. I would have
known, had she bothered to tell me in a letter. But I don't say that.
"Stutz moved too," she
I remember, when I heard the thump
of Kyrie's head smacking the door's outline while going into the squad car,
someone said, "Hey, Stutz, get this asshole's arms," my arms, and
Stutz came by and jerked up, hard, so that my left hand was above my
shoulderblades, and I saw in the half-light of the factory that he had a harelip.
Stutz the harelip. Stutz the asshole cop.
I nod, raising my eyebrows, making a
"no foolin'?" face.
"In the Tierra Shores housing
tract off Newport," she continues, very matter-of-fact. "Do you know
where that is?"
I shake my head.
"That's okay," she says,
and I hear laughter in her voice. "I know the address."
She rolls down her window, really
working -- her arms are smaller than before -- and the wind plays in her hair,
making it catch in her lips, waving it in front of her eyes.
I feel her necklace
in my pocket, against my thigh.
July 15 2005
can't do this anymore
Nightfall, and we can't go back to our place on Jefferson. It's probably occupied by
now, by another couple scraping money
to make controlled rent. I take us past the factory, by the same half-light,
the same battered chain-link fence, and there's no one. No Terry. Terry's in
Don't come home.
So I take us South, away from the
city, away from the factories. Kyrie's watching me drive. Her hair's hanging in
front of her face, and her lips are straight, smiling a little. I find us a turnout
and drive over it, past it, into the brush. Chaparral
scrapes at the Chevy's side panels as we proceed, but I don't care. And for the
first time in two years I take her, take her hard, the grass smell of her
breath condensing on windows warm with body.
I lose myself in that little gap in her teeth, find it with my tongue when I
kiss her; and even though she's wasted away with methadone and hospital food
she is still soft, still all skin smooth and blonde hair that whips in the
wind, and eyes bluer than the sky: still my Kyrie.
When I finish I am crying: I cannot
stop crying. For a moment, she becomes lost in the sobs.
Kyrie's parents disowned her when they found out.
Not about me
-- about the drugs.
It was the state,
paying for the clinic. And after she got the first hysterical call from her
mother, the communication stopped.
The state paid for everything.
"Where's Tierra Shores?" I
ask. Her tank top is wrinkled. The car smells like grass.
She tells me, and I drive.
"Stutz has a pet dog in the
backyard," she says after awhile. "A German Shepherd. So you'll have
to go in through the front."
"He doesn't lock his door," she continues. "It's a safe neighborhood."
After we left Denny's I bought a bowie knife.
I skewered my dad's note on it. Note and knife were in the glove compartment.
"Fast or slow, babe?"
She smiles; her apatite eyes shine
in the dark. "Slow."
This receipt indicates that on October 26, 2006, the following
article previously owned by Ms. Kyrie Andrews was claimed by
her partner, Gerald Wax:
Stutz lives in a nice neighborhood, in one of those Spanish-style houses with
too much concrete between the roofing tiles to make it look all shabby-chic.
The lawn's manicured. He has plastic flamingos. While he was almost breaking my
arm, he didn't strike me as the type to have lawn ornaments.
Sure enough, the front door is
Kyrie strides out ahead of me, going
up the stairs directly inside the house. "He keeps a gun in his
nightstand," she sings, looking back. "Watch out."
I follow her to Stutz's bedroom.
His harelip tightens over his teeth
when I slide the bowie knife into his throat. His carotid artery
lets go; soon there's blood all over my faded Salvation Army
polo shirt. He looks at me, right in my eyes. He makes a little gurgle, reaches
for the nightstand feebly. When he goes limp, he farts.
I hear Kyrie snort a little.
We leave. Mrs. Stutz stirs a little
in her sleep, but does
not wake up.
I'm in the Chevy, and now Kyrie's
not there. There's no more smell of grass, only the oil smell from the shop
where my dad dumped off my car. I am incredibly alone, but I am not surprised.
I've been dreading this, actually,
knowing it would happen.
I tug the letter from earlier today
at the methadone clinic out of my pocket, and look at it again for a second
time, really taking everything
We regret to inform you that on July
20, 2005, your partner Kyrie Andrews died in her room at Riverside General
Hospital. Our coroner confirms that the cause of death was organ failure, after
Ms. Andrews was removed from life support per her parents' wishes.
There's more, but I don't read it
again. Formalities of release and some other crap.
I remember that the day after I got
her last letter, I got a call from her parents explaining how my Kyrie had
hanged herself with her sheets at the clinic. She'd had to strangle herself for
ten full minutes, they said, before she finally lost consciousness and
dropped, and hung off her bed. Persistent
vegatative state was the phrase they'd used. Kyrie
was no longer there, they said. We have to take her off the machines, they said
-- she's gone. She's not the Kyrie we knew and loved.
The state paid for her
In the fifteen
minutes between jail and the clinic, I'd
heard Kyrie's voice calling for me. She wanted me to get her necklace.
"Anything for you, babe," I'd answered, and made a beeline for Three
Pines Methadone. But I knew that my girl had other plans. So I asked for her by
name there, just for shits.
My Kyrie with the blue eyes and the
gap in her teeth, my Kyrie, my god, oh Jesus Kyrie
I have to pull over. Now the car
doesn't smell like grass, or motor oil, but like Stutz's blood.
I feel a hand on my back, soft.
She's back in the passenger seat of the Chevy.
"It's okay," she says, so
quietly. "It's okay."
I quickly regain my composure. Suck
the snot back. I know we're not done yet.
"What next?" I ask.
She smiles her gap-toothed smile. "My dad keeps a rifle in the downstairs closet,"
she says. "He doesn't lock the back door. There's a weak spot in the
backyard fence just across from the dining-room window."
I nod, taking everything in, and get
on the freeway for her parents' house. After she's finished she gives me a
kiss, and I taste grass.