Peter Ramos ~ No One Here Gets Out Alive

The day after the tal­ent show, my broth­er and I got on a Greyhound to vis­it our old­er cousin, Reynaldo, who attend­ed Frostburg State University in west­ern Maryland, a good three or four hours away. Reynaldo was my father’s sister’s son, and he’d come from Damascus, Syria (where his alco­holic father was sta­tioned as Venezuela’s ambas­sador) to study sci­ence and engi­neer­ing at a US uni­ver­si­ty. Reynaldo learned English when his fam­i­ly had lived in London, so he was flu­ent. He’d been telling us crude sex­u­al jokes and help­ing with our alge­bra home­work for the last few years. Early October and the leaves had explod­ed into blood, wine and fire. Frostburg is par­tic­u­lar­ly beau­ti­ful then, full of green hills, gold­en wheat fluff and those leaves, and as we got off the bus at the col­lege cam­pus, it was still ear­ly after­noon, bright and warm. Reynaldo walked us to his dorm room where we met his room­mate, a guy named Ed. Ed liked to fish and hunt, most­ly, and drink lots of beer. It would be the only semes­ter he attend­ed. They had a mini fridge, stocked with Busch Beer in cans, and I asked if I could help myself. Ed said sure thing. I don’t think I’d ever been drunk before in my life. I was 14 at the time. I may have had a slight buzz once when my father let me have a small glass of Sangria at a restau­rant, the year before. And when we were much younger, Stephen and I would ask Dad if we could have one or two bit­ter sips from his Budweiser can at crab feasts. Now I drank five cans quick­ly, one after the oth­er, in this dorm room, and the drunk hit me hard. I felt elat­ed and scared. The leaves out­side the win­dow blurred and bled. At the time I dipped Copenhagen. So, drunk and spit­ting into an emp­ty beer can, I swayed, my head float­ing. Later we went out for piz­za, and after that we went to the movies. Eddie and the Cruisers was play­ing, a film about a pop­u­lar band in the ear­ly 1960s whose lead singer was mys­te­ri­ous, hand­some, enig­mat­ic, and by the film’s end­ing, he’d giv­en up his career to sink into anonymi­ty by fak­ing his own death. The last shot of the movie is of Eddie, now with a full beard, stand­ing out­side an appli­ance store, watch­ing tele­vi­sions through the shop’s plate glass win­dow, see­ing the news cov­er­age of his fatal car crash. It was pret­ty clear­ly an homage to the rumors about Jim Morrison’s faked death. When we were back in the dorm room, Reynaldo and his room­mate in their beds, my broth­er and I in sleep­ing bags on the floor, Ed made the Eddie/Jim Morrison con­nec­tion for me and my broth­er, but we’d already made it. I knew the sto­ry from the famous Doors biog­ra­phy, and I told Ed so. Stephen didn’t drink at all that day, and I was still buzzed, hours after drain­ing the five cans. “You all are young,” Ed told us, in the dark­ness. “You don’t know any­thing. One day you’re going to dis­cov­er what it’s all about.”
Peter Ramos’ poems have appeared in Colorado Review, Puerto del Sol, Painted Bride Quarterly, Verse, Indiana Review, Mississippi Review (online), and oth­er jour­nals. Nominated ten times for a Pushcart Prize, Peter is the author of two books of poet­ry, Lord Baltimore (Ravenna Press, 2020) and Please Do Not Feed the Ghost (BlazeVox Books, 2008), as well as three chap­books: Television Snow (Back Pages Books 2015), Watching Late-Night Hitchcock & Other Poems (hand­writ­ten press 2004), and Short Waves (White Eagle Coffee Store Press 2003). Peter has been invit­ed as a poet­ry fel­low to the CoLab Residency at St. Mary’s College of Maryland, the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts (VCCA), and the Constance Saltonstall Artist Residency, among oth­ers. He holds grad­u­ate degrees from George Mason University and the State University of New York at Buffalo. A pro­fes­sor of English at Buffalo State University, Peter teach­es cours­es in nine­teenth- and twen­ti­eth-cen­tu­ry American literature.