Night Terrors

Names have been changed to protect subjects’ identities.

The new guy’s been bailed here from gaol.
His name is Ryan.
Ryan has been put in my room.
Ryan and I stay up ‘til 2am talking.
Three and a half years he’s done.
Ryan is twenty-seven too.
Says his parents are ‘well-off’.
Says he’s detoxing.
Ryan is not detoxing.
Takes one to know one.
He’s been dealing since he was sixteen.
Did a six-month stint for a drive by he didn’t do.
Got pinched out the front of his own house.
Says he got in his car, says he got his gun.
Says he forgot about the sniper rifle in the boot.
A sniper rifle.
In the boot of a sedan.
In suburban Melbourne.
Says his house was the target.
Says they missed.
Says he knows who they are.
And he’s waiting.
Waiting in his car.
I think he meant he’s waiting for them.
Maybe they’ll return.
I don’t seek clarification.
Not at any point, not over anything.
He talks and talks up on his side, pen and paper in his hand.
Half way through a letter to his girlfriend.
He nods off while waiting.
Waiting in his car.
Says the cops went through the windows.
Says they smashed their way in.
Says all the doors were unlocked.
Says they did the same to his house.
Says they dragged his mum out the front door.
Left her hog-tied on the lawn next to him.
Broke his nose. That much I can see from my side of the room.
Emptied capsicum spray into his eyes, shotgun to his face.
Ryan says a lot of things.
I believe him, too.
Says his last stint he got pinched for trying to run over a cop.
Says he wasn’t even trying.
Says if he’d been trying he’d be in for life.
I believe that, too.
He wants to get clean for his girl.
Nobody ever gets clean for their girl. Not for long.
JJ says it’ll look good on his rap sheet.
But he was on the gear last night.
I can feel it in the room.
It clings to the ceiling.
It threatens from all sides.
When we turn off the lights the silence is deafening.
The moment breaks with violent kicks.
The sheets pitch upward.
His legs contort and he gasps.
His arms stiffen and loosen and stiffen.
He can’t breathe, I can’t watch.
Squirming and kicking like worms in the sun.

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