I tucked diet plans away in the back of my mind in case my hair started to thin out. I didn’t think I could handle being fat and bald, not with my accent. I was hell-bent on being one or the other but didn’t have the dedication to be neither.
When I talked, it always sounded like I was apologizing. In a moment of fatigue, lost in a soundtrack of white noise, I stood at the top of the spillway on the backside of the dam and thought it might be nice to be dead. I climbed up the first rung of the railing and listened to the metal clang under my weight. The water drowned out most of the questions some stranger was lofting my way. Were there really any strangers there? Weren’t we all just one commoditized family? Surely there was a gift shop on Interstate 64 that sold it on a t-shirt.
“Where do you work?” He asked, and I didn’t answer. “How much you make an hour? He asked, and I took another step up the railing, closed my eyes, and sipped in shallow breaths. “You’re gonna be late for your shift,” he said as the cheap plastic laces in my dress shoes broke free, and I fell over the ledge. I wondered what shoes they would bury me in after they pulled my body out. I felt the water spray my face and a hint of human waste across my nose as I plummeted to my death.
What should have been a splash followed by lasting silence was replaced with a high-pitched whine coming from my guts and the bottom of my throat. I couldn’t even muster a guttural moan as my final sound in the world.
The carp swimming upstream to nothingness were so thick I didn’t even submerge in the water. They were a safety net of scavenger fish, woven together like a basket. Fish scales slid under my fingernail, cut my face, and flew into my eyes. I would have sworn I heard them whisper affirmations in my ears about the importance of carrying on. They passed me onto a shallow bank past the white water, and I clawed through the mud and up the hillside. My hair wasn’t even fully wet.
I limped down the sidewalk and heard the stranger yell out, “I think I went to school with your uncle,” before making my way back to the picnic area. My cousins were still throwing lawn darts.
I made myself a plate of potato salad, and blood trickled down the plastic fork and mixed with the yellow. A Kentucky Fish and Wildlife officer wrote me a ticket for fishing without a license. I felt the sun burning my scalp through thinning hair.
Parsons is a Kentuckian, a professor of Human-centered design, and holds an MFA in filmmaking from Ohio University. His previous work as a filmmaker has been published by comic and graphic novel publisher Top Shelf Productions, and his films have played at festivals across the world. Twitter: https://twitter.com/paxappalachia; Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/mockingbirds_comic/