Sammy Banyan was twenty-six years old when he died. He slammed into a wall diagonally at sixty miles per hour in the railway underpass on Cherrywood Street. When he smashed through the windshield the glass tore off the front of his shirt and most of the skin on his chest. He left a smear of blood on the stone wall of the underpass five feet long. The police covered it up with the grey paint they used to cover graffiti.
Banyan had thick shoulders, long red hair he tied back with a bandana, and a Neanderthal ridge on his forehead. He was a co-captain on his high school football team, where he played linebacker and fullback. A few of his football buddies were now his drinking buddies. Most of his high school girlfriends left for college. One of them stayed and had a kid with him, but they lived in New Jersey now. After high school, Banyan stocked shelves for a while at the Wegman's before quitting to work in the kitchen at the Applebees on I-76. One day he came into work after eating a bag of mushrooms, but his co-workers were able to get him back out the door before the manager came in. Melissa Hedgerow drove him home. She wrapped her arm around his waist and led him up to the door of his small, one-story brick house. He said that he was hungry, so she led him to the refrigerator. He grabbed the handle but didn't open it. He stared at the grime on the linoleum at the edge of the cupboards. The grime seemed to be growing as he watched. Melissa shouted from the doorway, “Remember, you can't leave this house.” She closed the door. He panicked. He thought that she meant that he literally could not leave this house. He tried to walk from the refrigerator to the front door, but with each step the door seemed to get farther away. He lay down on the carpet in his living room and looked up at the ceiling and cried. The ceiling was covered with glow-in-the-dark stars, like his parents put over his bed when he was little. The stars spun and spun and smeared together.
When he went into work the next day, his co-workers laughed and patted him on the back and called him an idiot. And he smiled and said, I know, man, I'm an idiot. I'm just an idiot.
On the small bookshelf in his apartment he had On the Road, The Dharma Bums, Syd Barrett: Crazy Diamond, the Oxford Thesaurus of English, and the collected poems of Dylan Thomas. On his coffee table was a cable bill and two grams of cocaine. Next to the futon where he slept there was an empty guitar stand. On the floor next to the guitar stand was an unlabeled notebook with nearly all of the pages torn out or scratched over with a pen. The very last entry, which hadn't been destroyed, read:
The universe is empty, so
I try to fill the emptiness with blooming swirls of warmth and color, but
Real art is painted in blood and shit on prison walls, and
This is not a very good poem, though
I wish it were.