Marcus by Katie McGinnis

Marcus was a poet. A man pumped so full of lithium that his arms had swollen into sausages. So fat that I could hardly find his eyes. According to him, to his eyes, the world draped around the sky like a curtain. And who’s to say it doesn’t? That was his point. Marcus was also a philosopher.

The man spoke nothing but poetry. Words didn’t exist for him like they do for us. They sizzled over and out of his lips like the water of a pot forgotten on the stovetop. Most people use erasers for erasing but Marcus used them for creating. He scribbled Shakespeare on chalkboards and Pope on the black varnish of his fridge. He wrote love letters to the girl who delivered pizza on the dollar bills he tipped her with, letters of complaint on slices of ham to the man who repaired the dishwasher (but accidently broke his oven).

I used to sell him LSD. Not every day, or every week—but every month or so he would come to me with cash and ask for a few stamps. We’d trade and say goodbye and he would sit right on my front porch and lick his stamps and then come inside and make himself a cup of coffee with the coffee maker my grandmother gave me shortly before she died. Marcus didn’t even like coffee.

One evening, he told me he was searching for salvation. Or had been. One of the two. He abandoned Deism for Catholicism and experimented with Buddhism before determining that there was no such thing as salvation. That it didn’t exist in this world. That no one likes to be alive. We all just find ways of coping. Then he took a sip of the coffee and reached for the sugar jar and measured about four tablespoons into his cup before emptying the whole thing in the sink. He said it was shit. All coffee was shit. He took some carrots from the fridge and went to go feed the twelve horses in the living room.

The horses were between fourteen and sixteen hands high. Marcus demonstrated this to me with his hand, and then my own. As a child he had worked on a farm with horses. He wasn’t sure what farm, exactly, but there had been a gravel road leading to the barns and a rooster that picked at the earth. People from the city couldn’t afford to keep horses in their living rooms and paid the farm to watch after them. I was an exception.

I knew Marcus and his philosophy. He was going to be published in some literary journal out of Wichita. Nowhere else, really. One Sunday I found his obituary in the paper. He had a mother in Florida and a father somewhere in Sweden. A sister named Lula. A dog. Marcus had gone for a swim one night at the lake—but it was November, and the lake was dammed, and after the thirty foot drop from the bridge he met earth, not water. Toxicology tests at the time were pending. They were never published. The dog was put up for adoption.