Lucas Mann is the author of Lord Fear: A Memoir, which was named one of the best books of 2015 by The Miami Herald, Kirkus Reviews, Paper Magazine, Largehearted Boy, and Oprah.com.Class A: Baseball in the Middle of Everywhere earned a Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers selection and was named one of the best books of 2013 by The San Francisco Chronicle. His latest book, Captive Audience: On Love and Reality TV, is forthcoming in May 2018. Mann’s essays have appeared in Guernica, BuzzFeed, Slate, Barrelhouse, TriQuarterly, and The Kenyon Review, among others. He has received fellowships from The National Endowment for the Arts, The Iowa Arts Foundation, The Wesleyan Writers Conference, and The Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. He teaches creative writing at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth and lives in Providence, Rhode Island with his wife.
Photo by Matthew Celeste.
In the old industrial city back East, I wake up early and take the dog to shit on a little dirt patch by the edge of a parking lot on the corner. I’m spacing out, and I look down to see her nosing a hypodermic needle that’s been javelined into the dirt. There are fresh blood flecks around it. I pull the dog off and hear a motor running. A few feet away, someone parked for the night to get high. The window is cracked just enough so they don’t suffocate; the heat is on so they don’t freeze to death.
These are the small moments that still mean too much to me, that I have a hard time walking away from quickly. I stand over the car, staring through the cracked window. It’s a boy, younger than me. His seat is reclined as far back as possible. At first I can’t see him breathing and I don’t know what to do, but then his chest moves, just a little, up and down, and then again. Then he shivers in his sleep. I put my hands on the roof of the car and lean closer. He looks ordinary. Everything about this is ordinary.
It’s the commonness that’s most wrenching.
This is a good parking lot to get high in; they never tow. When this boy wakes, he will drive away and do this again somewhere else because that’s what he does, that’s what a lot of people do. Eventually, I assume, he won’t wake up. I have this urge to tell him, Hey, I knew someone who didn’t wake up. Not as a warning or anything, but because maybe he would be interested.