Samuel James Petersen. I didn’t even know his full name until someone showed it to me in the paper three days later. Donations requested in lieu of flowers. Everyone just called him Pete.
I was the last one to see him, sitting under the jaundice-yellow glow of a streetlamp, cool as a cucumber. Literally in the middle of Market Street. I squinted into the beams of oncoming headlights and jogged over to him. The rush of air from swerving cars blew my wrinkled windbreaker open. It was an effing cold night to be out on the street. And an effing stupid place to be sitting. What was Pete up to?
His long brown hair hung in greasy clumps around his face. Several days’ worth of stubble shadowed his jaw. He looked like shit, save for the beatific smile that arched over his face and gleamed in his cloud-befuzzled eyes. This dude was not seeing the real world right then.
“We gotta get the hell out of here,” I shouted over the blaring of horns. I tugged on Pete’s arm. He wobbled back and forth like one of those cheap-ass bobblehead dolls they give out at Giants games, but didn’t budge from his spot.
“No worries man,” Pete said to me in a calm voice. “It’s just the fairies coming through the window.”
He was seeing fucking fairies now? Coming through the fucking window? Shit. How much had Pete taken? Where the hell did he think he was? For sure not the intersection of Market and 14th. First rule of getting high: Cars are real. Always.
“Not fairies, Pete,” I yelled at him. I managed to haul him up to his feet this time. “Cars. We’re gonna go find a different spot to squat. Come on.”
I’d run into my ex-girlfriend Tracy earlier. She’d been sober for a few months and told me she had a place now. If I could get Pete out of the middle of the goddamn street, I might be able to talk her into letting us crash with her. For old times’ sake. But first I had to deal with Pete and his fucking fairies.
Pete listed drunkenly to one side. A drop of drool rolled down his chin, thinning out as it succumbed to gravity. He swayed back and forth, and then plopped back down on the pavement.
“Don’t wanna go,” he grumbled. “This is my favorite chair.”
A taco truck turned the corner onto Market and spotted us a moment too late. The driver laid on the horn. One hand waved frantically at us to move out of the way. Brakes squealed, and the truck veered out of control. Slithered back and forth down the yellow median line. But still, headed straight for us.
One last tug on Pete’s arm and I bailed. Ran for the curb, piss trickling down my leg. A crunch and it was all over. Closed coffin funeral.
Read the next story in the collection: You Can’t Fly