Death Sentence

By Andrew Bourelle

After I first saw you at Melanie Davidson’s New Year’s Eve Party, when you smiled at me from across the room; after we shared a White Russian and took turns wiping the milk off each other’s lips; after you asked me if I’d ever been with a woman; after I took a lock of your long blond hair and twirled it in my fingers and said, “There’s always a first time”; after I woke up next to you on New Year’s Day and you declared this was going to be our year; after grocery shopping and bar hopping and holding hands at the movie theater; after Melanie looked at us and said, “So you’re gay now?” and you and I just laughed because we felt like we’d figured something out that no one else could understand; after I snorted my first line—off of your stomach—and we stayed up all night talking and talking; after you taught me the difference between snorting and smoking, how the high is more intense but doesn’t last as long; after I lost my job for missing work and you said it was OK, we had each other; after we sold my TV and the necklace your grandmother left you; after your mom called the police because we took the cash she kept stashed in her Bible; after the court hearing where the judge dropped the charges and your mom wouldn’t look you in the eyes; after you cried in the hallway, relieved or shamed I wasn’t sure, and I hugged you and said, “It’s OK, we have each other”; after you asked me to blow the guy at the bar because you needed a fix; after I was finished, when he laughed and said he didn’t have anything, and you smashed the beer bottle over his head, and we ran, giggling, even though I could still taste him in my mouth; after the morning when the sun came in the window and bathed you in light and I saw that your skin was pale and your hair, always so beautiful, had become dull and listless; after I argued against The Plan and you talked me into it; after you put the pistol in my hand while you looked for a hidden key, saying, “It’s got to be here”; after I stood there waiting, nervously shifting the gun back and forth between my hands, saying over and over that we should just go; after you said fuck it and picked up a rock and smashed the window; after you plucked the shards from the frame with your gloved hands and reached through to unlock the door; after you took the gun back from me and went inside; after I stood there for a moment, just a moment, knowing this was worse than anything we’d done before, and then I followed you because I didn’t care how bad it was as long as I was with you; after your mom came down the stairs in her nightgown with a look in her eyes that said she wasn’t surprised it was you; after you pointed the gun at her and she still wouldn’t tell you where she’d hidden her jewels: the pearl necklace, the diamond earrings, the engagement ring that had belonged to your grandmother; after she said she would always love you; after gunsmoke filled the air; after I stood paralyzed, my ears ringing, unable to believe how much blood there was; after you screamed, a shriek unlike any sound I had ever heard, and you ran out of the house and down the street; after I caught up to you and I hugged you and told you it was going to be OK as long as we were together, and I believed it, even though I realized that you had dropped the gun and that you were wearing gloves but I wasn’t; after the handcuffs cut off the circulation to my fingers and the cop hit my head shoving me into the police car; after the days of withdrawal in my jail cell, when my orange jumpsuit was soaked with sweat and I pissed myself and even then the guards wouldn’t give me a change of clothes because they said I would just soil them too; after the public defender told me you made a deal and were going to testify against me; after I saw you in the courtroom, your eyes clear, your hair golden again, and you told the judge how it had all been my idea; after you described with such detail the way I held the gun, the way my hands didn’t tremble; after you looked me in the eyes and I saw no apology there; after the crack of the judge’s gavel and the word “Death”; after the years of hearings and appeals; after my lawyer shrugged his shoulders and said, “There’s nothing else I can do”; and after my daydreams of you, out there in the world, living a new life, smiling at someone else the way you used to smile at me; after this, after all this, when I think of the time—and I think of it often—when you asked how much I loved you, lying in your bed in the afternoon light, warmth emanating from your body like a sun, your gravity pulling me into you, I remember how I held you close and smelled your hair and kissed your neck, feeling your pulse with my lips, and I know that even now I feel the same way as when I said, “I would die for you.”



Andrew Bourelle is an associate professor of English at the University of New Mexico and the author of the novel Heavy Metal, which won the Autumn House Fiction Prize.


Art by Ed Bourelle.

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