Toxic Nostalgia
By Kyle Yadlosky

I have to wear a mask to make sure the present doesn’t kill me. I’m sitting in my apartment, and a grey haze drifts through the window. I’d shut the window, but what’s the point of getting up?
I don’t have cable, so I’m staring off into nothing-at-all. It’s not too bad. My mind keeps me busy. My memories keep me occupied.
Life used to be so good.
I remember I was one of the last kids wearing bellbottoms. Everyone at school called me gay for it. It was eighth grade. Melisa, a school slut, liked the bellbottoms a lot, though. She whispered it in my ear during gym: “I’d like to see what’s underneath them.” It was a victory over every bully in the world that day.
She blew me.
I have those pants in my closet. They hang on the inside of the door, so I can look at them while I get dressed. They don’t fit, anymore.
Industrial equipment sounds from outside. It’s a construction site out there—all around, really. The grey mist is from the wrecking ball wrecking everything. It swings, and there’s a deafening SHATTER. Then, more grey haze wafts in. It’s the mist of what-once-was soaring up into eternity.
I wonder if the workers remember I’m here.
Grey mist—I had a grey mutt. His name was Scout; I named him, myself. That made him mine, even if my mom fed and walked him. We were always together. He’d bark and roll around, and we’d play. I was seven. I lived in a town where no one was afraid to let their kids play alone outside.
Now, it’s dangerous to leave your apartment.
There’s a WHOMP of the top couple floors of a building near mine being wrecked. I’m on the sixth story of an eight story building. The WHOMP is drifting closer. I can hear its steady fall closing in. My eyes go to the ceiling. The visor to my mask fogs up with my every exhale. The WHOMP hits, turning to a CRASH, SHATTER, and BOOM. The light falls from my ceiling and smashes on the top of my blank television. I can see myself, hunched over on the couch and clad in gasmask, reflected in the screen.
There’s a steady sifting sound above. Then, there’s a CREAK, and my ceiling tears back and cracked concrete rubble plummets through, exploding my television to sparks, glass, and plastic.
Now, I live on the top floor.
My television was an old fat-back. I bought it when I was seventeen. It was my first purchase with my first paycheck slinging burgers. I remember I stayed up three nights straight trying to get porn to show on it. I eventually unscrambled the end of a sex scene, saw a nipple, and then the movie had ten minutes of dialogue and ended. The station scrambled again, before anything else came on. I was still excited by the little I saw.
There’s a banging on my door. It’s locked. Workers are calling through, “Are you still in there?” “You have to get out!” “The building’s gonna cave in!” There’s a pause, then, “We can hear you fucking breathing!”
They can. I breathe in that serial killer way through the mask, making sure the fumes of now don’t seep through and change me.
I rented this apartment three years ago. I pulled together all the cash I had working day-and-night as a manager of a burger joint to make the first month’s rent. I’d see this apartment complex driving to work every day, and I’d tell myself I’d live here. It was an exciting day. I felt like my future was opening. That night, for the first time since eighth grade, I found a woman and made love to her. I did it in this apartment.
We made love in my train-shaped bed. She thought it was strange, but it’s a big bed. I got it for Christmas when I was six. This was before my parents were divorced. It was the last time I saw them smile together.
I sleep in it every night, completely at piece.
There’s a yell of, “Shit, we gotta go!” then they’re stomping down the stairs. The CREAK presses the ceiling down; it strains further. I inhale, exhale, and my eyes fog over.
The manager told me four months ago that the complex was being torn down, changed into a retirement village. He told me I’d have to find somewhere else to live. I remember how I stared at him; my eyes shook. I pushed him against a wall and told him, “No.” It was simple and direct, and I marched away.
It was the bravest thing I’ve ever done.
The fact is that a cut on girl’s tongue transmits herpes, men in baseball caps will shoot your dog in the woods, televisions shatter, parents divorce, and hookers charge extra for fucking in weird beds. The place you spent your life working to live will get torn down no matter what you do.
The fact is that the past is and always will be better than the future, because you can forget the parts of the past you don’t like. In the future, the parts you don’t like are all you have to look forward to. I had four months to think about the end of my past, and I couldn’t deal with it. I fought against it.
I breathe in and out more quickly, beginning to hyperventilate. The CREAK turns to a steady RIP. The ceiling is tearing under the heavy slab of concrete property. I stare, and I stop breathing. My vision clears.
For a second it’s silent.
Then, there’s a CRACK and a THUMP and a CRASH. I SCREAM, and the rubble of what-once-was buries me alive.
The fact is that the future will always move on without you.

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Voodoo, sideshows, and a good ghost story—if it’s outside of the everyday, Kyle Yadlosky revels in it. He lives in-between corn fields in Pennsylvania and has been published on Dorkly.com and in Shoofly and Essence literary magazines.

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