Tyler James Russell
You tell yourself you aren’t doing anything, not really, nothing strictly wrong. This is just how things are, and the headlights in the other lane are blurry as stars but brighter and the rain is throbbing on the roof and a girl with thin legs in the passenger seat is looking out the window like you looked out, just a few weeks after moving into your first house, at your wife’s friend chainsawing your fallen sycamore, blown over from the neighbor’s side of the fence but technically your side of the property line, the neighbor said, and when are you going to take care of it? You brought your wife’s friend lemonade in the August heat and he seemed to tower over you the way your father did, the way the neighbor boy lifted you by the back of your underwear until they ripped and you threw them away and lied when your father asked if you’d been crying. You are always lying, you realize, even now when you attempt small-talk with a girl you paid for, and she reminds you of how it may have been when other men kissed your wife before she was your wife, which is never far from your mind. The rain has been falling since before you found the truckstop, Penn 80, the one past the exit you take for work, and it makes the world blurry and bright and hides the stars and you apologize for the broken AC but the girl just shrugs because she is immune to that low level of discomfort but tonight, you tell yourself, will be different for her, you will surprise her with your potency. You will be the best. You aren’t a bad man, you tell yourself, you just never feel more alive than nights when you’re the big one.
Tyler James Russell is the author of To Drown a Man (2020), a poetry collection, and When Fire Splits the Sky (2022), a novel, both from Unsolicited Press. A high school English teacher and a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania and the University of British Columbia, he now lives in Pennsylvania with his wife Cat and their children. His work has been nominated for the Rhysling and Best of the Net, and has appeared or is forthcoming in F(r)iction, 365 Tomorrows, and Sepia, among others. You can find him at Tylerjamesrussell.com, or on Twitter at @TJamesRussell.