You think: Where was I when all these dead were dying, dropping off and piling up? Andy C. you knew since sporting chains in junior high. Slit the back of a Fentanyl patch to get at the inside. Time released all at once. Maybe you were tapping after snapping a vial, copped from a girl whose guy got slick, swiped some boxes from a truck. Around the time the towers came down, because you were still living in The Bricks, and despite the nights’ new elevations you’d only begun to get the taste. Amanda K. and Josh P., lingering from way back, each in a car and shouldn’t have been. You down in some city, blacking out and tripping through windows, waking up swollen and scarred, getting a dollar any way you could to keep it going. Carrie with the lip ring and razorblade grin, who told you once, while you were getting right at the kitchen table, her mom disowned her because she liked girls and dope, said, because the devil done got hold of me by the ankle. Maybe while she choked in that upstairs room you and your girl were sticking up your dealer with a steak knife or stripping seals from CD cases to unload up the road, after a three-for-twenty or a single bag. Fawzaan, always falling out, behind the wheel at a four-way stop, in a corner, on a couch—couldn’t come back from the last one. Joey B. with the busted teeth, maybe laid flat while you were towing cars on a quick lick to that shady ass scrapyard across town, or reviving Kyle in the bathroom, smacking around his naked lank, splashing him with cold water—Don’t you fuckin’ die in my house—getting him to suck some air, waiting to see he’d come out of it crying like a child so you could leave him there, sheet-wrapped and wet while you snatched the last of his stash. Didn’t even think, It could be bad batch, before ducking to the bedroom, taking the shot that almost took him down. That kid Kurt you turned on first so you could dip in. Where was I, you think, when he turned up face down by a wife who never knew the truth? Maybe with your girl, the one who worked for the phone-sex line, trading hot words and heavy breath in a back seat for a few balloons, while you hit up front and felt numb. And how many others, picked off while you faked interest in pictures of your friend’s friend’s cat, distraction while he emptied the medicine cabinet, crotching a bag of rigs and a month’s supply of the morphine that helped her cope with the cancer, killing her, you in your own way dying. But you’d go on living and wonder why. Jesse and Steve and Tami J. never could get a grip but you somehow could. And you still wonder and can’t take the worn out platitudes in the rooms, about God’s divine hand. He wasn’t done with you yet—as if the rest were just expendable. He’s got other plans for you—as if their purpose had been served, time used up. The nerve it takes to say such things, and to believe them. Danielle, who was always Danni. You knew her from a damn-near baby. Got so strung out she strung herself up in a closet far away from home, fields stretched out around her. And Donnie, whom you only met once but whose light was among the brightest, taken out like a heel-snuffed ember. Matt, who died on Christmas in a parking lot. Aunt Dee-Dee had a whole life, kids, was a wife, and then traded it all for a fast slide down a slim glass pipe, then some kind of cocktail, keeping her sleeping when she should have woke up. Maybe when you were looting your in-laws—jewelry, antiques, whatever you could hock for a South Side rock. Or by then sitting on your rack down on the compound, that joint surrounded by fences and hills, bitting, flexing, waiting to ride out. Paying that debt that would never be paid. He works in mysterious ways, they tell you. Robbie and Katie and Crazy Ray. They say, It’s for Him to understand and us to trust. Lance and Adam. Some aren’t meant for this world. Your man Taz and Christina from the Heights. They’re in a better place. You let the words, so many words, come at you. You let them land and roll off. Nikki. Denis. Eddie T. You think: All gone. And I’m still here.