Walking down low burning streets lit aglow by half-empty bars, people trailing in and out, in front of and behind us, everything soaked and scattered with wet leaves piled between the gutters and pavement and trapped onto the metered cars parked along, Martin and I spoke little to another, nor cared to. Not at least until a passing female reminded me of the girl I’d seen dancing, prompting me to ask him about her. He had wanted to know what she looked like, and the best description I could give him was that of his neighbor from the walkway before, the one that had confused me for him.



“You think she’s cute? She’s a little older than us. Graduate student. Doubt it’d been her.”

“Maybe it’d been the lighting.”

As we continued to walk, Martin seemed to have been injected with a bit of restlessness. Along the way, he went up to every passing person he knew to strike up a conversation, ending it by letting them know he would hit them up later. He did this to about six or seven different people, each of them in their own little group of others, except for one or two that had been alone. He continued until the campus college bar streets dwindled with fewer and fewer people, our last stop being a visible commotion occurring further down what turned out to be a body being dragged out from the middle of the road and onto the sidewalk. It took us a while to realize that the bystanders were trying to help the person and not simply messing with another unconscious drunk, yelling for someone to call the police as they took turns trying to resuscitate, what was now visibly, the body of a boy. Was it the same boy I’d seen before? I couldn’t really tell at the moment; I was too caught up in the situation, overhearing contradictory shouts from the crowd as to how he’d been found. Some claimed he’d been face down on the floor outside a building with no pants on, while others swore he’d just been slumped against a park bench, naked. Eventually, the campus police and EMTs arrived, bringing the boy oxygen, which jumped him awake and babbling about having wandered into “the nearest room.” The nearest room of where, he didn’t say, only that he’d found himself inside a corridor that lead nowhere but to an old caged box made of cast iron black bars with a system of chains running in throughout the walls and ceiling. He had tried to turn away, he said, to flee, but that there, in the corner, had been, “the man with the mangy mask who keeps perfume inside his pockets.”

“Was that the kid you saw running down the street earlier?”.

How many kids running around half-naked could there be in this town? I told Martin I wasn’t sure if it’d been the same kid or not, but we decided, nonetheless, to tell the police about it. Their response was to ask around what time the sighting had occurred and by what intersection. I could estimate the time, but the street names I didn’t know. Martin suggested it had to have been at least five blocks from where we were standing now, and as if expecting this to have been our response, the cop smiled with a nod, saying, “See, we got a call about that earlier in the day. Turned out to have just been some public intoxication. Teenagers visiting from out of town. This kid, he probably came with ‘em. His eyes looked like he was on drugs, fellas.”


We arrived back to the apartment about a quarter to midnight, Chris telling Martin he’d left the door unlocked, warning him not to do it again, with a sternness that hadn’t been there before. Martin had mostly shrugged off the guy’s complaint, calling him paranoid and going on to grab a red Solo cup from underneath the kitchen sink, followed by pulling out a plastic, half-gallon of vodka. He asked if I wanted some and had handed me the bottle, but the smell running off its tip had been uncannily familiar, reminiscent of the same foul odor from inside the bathroom before. I declined to take a drink, saying I’d rather have a beer, and looked up from the bottle to catch both Martin and Chris drinking the stuff straight. The sight was enough to give my stomach a visceral tug that was two steps away from sending me searching for the bathroom. Instead, I asked Chris if he still had any of his beer left inside the cooler. He told me to go ahead and check, not to mind the mess, so I left, the two in the kitchen beginning to discuss how many people were going to be over, Chris sounding a little disappointed with just a small number.

The room, whose floor had once been covered in dirty laundry and a semiconscious young man, was not remarkably different now. The clothes were up on top the bed, the pornography confined to only a single television, the music nowhere to be heard, credit cards and Traggs missing. The newfound cleanliness of the room took me a minute to rediscover the Styrofoam cooler, but when I did, in the corner, I quickly grabbed three beers of what was there and walked back out to the kitchen. “I got you guys some, too,” I called out, only to find Chris uninterested as he was unscrewing capsule after capsule of some powder together on to a blue china plate, Martin asking him if it was safe, and “probably not” being the response.

“What’s that?” I asked.

“Methyldespozelocaine. My guy got it. Said a shipment just came in from up north. Wanna try it?”


Over the course of the next several hours, people—some of which I vaguely remembered from our walk across campus, others of which I was sure I had never seen before and had to of been invited by Chris, or perhaps by no one at all—began making their way into the apartment. For the most part, I spoke to no one, struck with a paralysis simply standing behind the kitchen counter, watching as the party unfolded before me in a fast-forward, color-faded motion similar to a worn-out VHS tape, my beer, at some point, being replaced, unsure of by who, to that of another red Solo cup filled with who knows what. I watched as temporary greetings were made and awkward introductions were said, beers were brought, beers were opened, drinks were mixed, liquids were spilled, stuff was rolled, smoke was blown, windows were cracked, drugs were bought, drugs sold, music played, and pictures or videos taken over phones. By the time my body stopped feeling frazzled and chemical, capable of moving with confidence again, I was staring off and sitting alone on top a lone caquetoire chair, my face slapped on with a dull gaze while my feet planted to the floor near a trash line of beer cans. I was pressing a hand to my temple while the other dangled with my phone, a coolness rolling across my brow from out a cracked window; autumn winds dragging in a wet, yet sunny, orange leaf through the balcony. I raised my phone to check the time—it had to have been somewhere between one or two in the morning—to find a shaky, slop-sided video playing full of unnecessary zoom-ins and out-of-focus angles as a gang of black youths tracked down a man jogging across an unassuming, downtown street.

“You okay?” I heard someone say. “You’ve been sitting there already for almost half an hour.”

The girl from the walkway was standing there beside me, almost as if she’d been standing there, waiting on me, saying something about me having had a video to show her. I told her I hadn’t been able to find the video and quickly closed the now-occurring beating taking place over my phone, slowly realizing it’d actually been a Facetime call. “Bummer,” she’d said. She asked if I still wanted to change the music to something more electronic like I’d said before. I had no memory of saying anything to her before, but went along with the idea. As I stood up to walk toward Chris’ laptop, I heard her laugh suspiciously behind me, the thought that maybe she knew I couldn’t quite remember the past 30 minutes passing over me. The worry was cut short though, as upon reaching the laptop, we found that someone had, strangely, changed Chris’ wallpaper to that of, what I assumed was, a still from some porno of a woman smiling defiantly while a crown of cocks rested on top her scalp.

“Jesus,” I said aloud, yet beneath my breath.

I tried to fumble around the laptop, looking for acceptable music to play, until I heard Chris’s voice commenting that I shouldn’t say “the Lord’s name in vain, like that.” He was sitting to the side of the Formica table with several others around him, small shot glasses made of a stainless steel scattered about the surface. I called over to tell him, “Yeah, I guess, sorry…” and he burst out laughing hysterically, beckoning me to come take a seat. I walked over, realizing the girl to no longer be present or anywhere around me, until almost as if via telepathic prompt, she appeared in my sight’s periphery before vanishing yet again as I looked away. I guess this was why, when I reached the table, Chris asked if I was alright, stating that my eyes were zigzagging all across the room, looking for something that wasn’t there. He told me that he’d simply been joking about the Lord’s name, saying, that when it came to religion, he wasn’t all that pious. “But who is? Right?” he’d said.


“You religious?” he asked me.

“No. I mean I worked at a church once.”

“Yeah, they pay you in choir boys?”

“Haha, no, not much. Nothing, actually. It’d been community service work. They’d offered me a job, though. Would’ve probably been minimum wage, if I’d taken it. But I’m here. Doing this.”

I’m not sure what triggers what inside of us, but at that moment, my hands had gone digging inside my pockets to feel for that damn sobriety chip, to know that it was still there and had been there the whole time. But it wasn’t; I couldn’t find it in any of my pockets. Discouraged, I took a glance over the table to tell Chris I’d see him later, only to be further unsettled as he and everyone else appeared to have been laughing over a joke I hadn’t heard only to have stopped midway while I had searched for my sobriety chip and having resumed yet again once after, the dark table itself now aged and ancient-looking, apocryphal with fissures and clawings having materialized over its jagged, uneven edges. My mouth moved to say I needed to lie down, but I’m not sure if any words had actually come out. Retracing my steps back toward the caquetoire chair, I had a look around the apartment to see if I could spot my cousin Martin, only to realize I no longer recognized anyone around me at all. The vast majority did not even appear to know as to who my cousin was or that they were inside his apartment. Eventually, a man who was playing with a saffron vial told me, in a manner as if it was the second time repeating himself, that Martin had left with a girl earlier. The words had left his mouth as his hands had placed the saffron vial inside a perfume bottler on top the Formica table. Had I walked in a circle around the apartment? How? I could have sworn I had been walking exactly away from the table, toward the bedrooms or balcony, anywhere but back toward the living room. I turned to ask how long ago exactly Martin had left, only to watch as the man squeezed the round atomizer bulb and out sprayed a reddish, chloramine mist into the air; the bodies around, struggling over another to breathe, eat, or simply be touched by the drops in any way possible.

A copper metallic taste swept into the air, filling me with a nausea that sent me stumbling, coughing with my head bowed through the crowd, before falling backwards onto the living room couch. I laid there, feeling the sounds of my chest beat, staring at the ceiling as a dim frost light emanated over a strange transparent yellow creeping out from the dark corners of the room. I felt the weight of a body sit beside me, and rose to see the girl from the walkway once more. She told me I had left my phone by the chair and informed that I had three missed calls: “Must be pretty important to be calling at this hour.”

“Thanks,” I said. “Was it my cousin?”

“No, some 773 number.”

There were only two people who knew the number to my phone. One of them was Martin; the other was the person I had dialed in the bathroom earlier. Why they would need to ever call me again, I wasn’t sure. Nothing good, surely. Something must have gone wrong.

“Are you going to call them back?” she asked as I grabbed the phone.

My hands clenched into fists that I brought to my face and slowly rubbed my eyes against. When I stopped, I placed them down to my lap, near my phone, and took a long, sweeping view across the apartment interior, taking in all the sights and sounds of excess and lechery occurring around me, from the people cramming out onto the balcony and spilling into the living room floor, to the bodies going in and out of the bedrooms, both girls and boys, to the long, broken bathroom door, and the deranged magic forming from the Formica table. With a short breath in, I closed my eyes, felt my blood vessels loosen, felt capable of taking in just the slightest bit of oxygen more—briefly in health—and the breeze from before now ocean-like, fluttering past, playing with my hair.

But with an exhale out, it stopped; it all stopped, and I once again felt nothing. I opened my eyes to the reality of the situation: everyone there, beyond me, the skin of their own bodies, twitching and nudging out, in a series of short lived, full-body, physical vibrations.


For all installments of “A Sigh from the Depths,” click here.

Previous installments:

  1. Part 1
  2. Part 2