during the holidays, chenay, andrew, & i go home to vegas & re-stick together, trying to recapture our undergrad years together. on weekends, we hit up the clubs of vegas. tonight, we meet at chenay’s first, take shots, & pile into her parent’s lexus. they notice i’m not as talkative as we drive, music bubble-gumming: hey! your thoughts belong in the sun. share. i tell them about you—how you threatened to kill yourself, how you face-timed my sister, your ex-girlfriend, while you started pulling a bag over your face, how you’re a milk carton kid right now. my friends reply: we all just went out last week. nothing seemed off. you did seem fine last friday night. you laughed & talked & danced with us. you even shared ghost stories with us after we told you about our haunted college home, even saying, we all become ghost stories, eventually.


we join the swans on the dance floor & swim. we twirl in a circle: become six stomping feet, three swinging scythes, one pixelated phantom. andrew draped in a grizzly bear coat, chenay wearing sharp icicle heels, a dress the color of heartburn. we drink out of pitchers & baboon about: pulling drinks from tables & each other’s hands, pointing at cute boys & girls & plotting promises of romance, trying to get lost in the night.


we don’t talk much about you. we don’t think you’re dead. we don’t think you’re dumb enough, brave enough, sad enough—to kill yourself. you’re being dramatic, we reasoned. exes are just burn marks you forget in time. you don’t kill yourself when someone breaks up with you. didn’t you know that? we do, so we laugh at you, joke you’re already in a ditch, rotting into tumble weeds. but, we also expect you to walk into the bar any minute, like you did nights before—your hair like water, wavy like the sea, ready to envelop us in hugs & erase any burn-marked doubts engraving on our skins.




JJ Peña is a queer, burrito-blooded writer, living & existing in El Paso, Texas. His work appears in, or is forthcoming from, Cherry Tree, Wigleaf, Hayden’s Ferry Review, & elsewhere. He has an MFA from The University of Texas at El Paso. He serves as a reader for Split Lip Magazine.