Conjugate “to be”, using complete sentences, by Ani King

I am, was, will be You are, were, will be He/She/It is, was, will be
Present I am sitting in the front seat and the cracked leather is biting into my thighs. He is tapping on the steering wheel while Amazing Grace plays. His rhythm is off. He’s off. I’d like to find a bathroom and wash up before he asks what they all ask. I don’t mind so much if I’m out of my mind. If I can just lie back and close my eyes it really isn’t too bad. It’s worse when they want you to look at them. You are pretty and he likes your curly hair. He wants to know if you dye it, but it doesn’t matter. It suits you. He says, “A bathroom? Sure, sweetheart. Next exit, we’ll stop at a gas station. Get some coffee. It’s a long way to Chicago. You don’t do drugs do you honey? That stuff is real bad for you, you know? You can find peace without them. I sure did. Took a few years in NA.” She is supposed to be home because she has group tonight, and if she doesn’t make it to group, then her probation officer will count it against her, and dear God, her mother “is so tired of this shit.” She can’t afford to pay for Horizons again; she can’t afford to bail her out again. “This is it. Next time she can stay wherever she ends up,” her parents tell people.
Past I was sick of it, all of it. So I popped another Lortab and walked towards the freeway. I wore my dad’s old jacket and pulled the collar up so no one would see me. The oxy kicked in a little before his car pulled up and I smiled the best I could. You were in the hotel tub with the curtain closed when he yelled, “Come on out or I’ll come in after you. Did you think this ride was free, did you honey? We used to say, ‘Gas, grass, or ass,’ when I was younger, but I’m clean now.” She was tangled up in the shower curtain when they found her. She was glassy eyed, barely breathing, so they sent her to rehab, again and again. They huddled in emergency rooms and waited for the worst. “She was always so sweet, how could this happen?”
Future I will be floating in the bathtub with my eyes closed. He will sing Amazing Grace as he holds me under, and it will probably be the same song that plays when my mother and father finally accept that I am not coming home. “You will sure be sorry now, won’t you? Taking rides without paying? Think this is free? Nope. Fucking junkie. Should have just come out of the goddamn bathroom. Pardon me, Lord, I just get so upset.” She will be home, eventually. She always comes home.

Ani King is a pen stealer, notebook hoarder, unreliable knitter, and obsessive reader from Lansing, Michigan.


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