Chris Milam

Chris Milam lives in Middletown. Ohio. His stories have appeared in Jellyfish Review, Lost Balloon, Molotov Cocktail, Ellipsis Zine, JMWW, and elsewhere. You can find him on Twitter @Blukris.



I tell my therapist that her milkshake brings all the depressives to the yard. She laughs. I laugh. I don't tell her I spent hours the night before trying to think of something funny to say to her. I also think: I love you. I think: you plus me equals happiness. I think: when does this session end? I think: I want to sleep with you to help murder the pain. She goes on about reframing or something. I'm still focusing on my joke. Time's up. Fuck.


A murder case on Dateline. A beautiful wife is found dead in the snow in Ohio. I know it's the husband. It's always the husband. Plus he had a girlfriend on the side. Fast forward to the end. Guess what? It was the husband. I think: I knew it. I think: what do I do now? I think: I really want to die because I'm so depressed. I think: just do it, coward. But I don't do it. Instead, I watch more true crime. Men doing terrible things to women all day long. It's revolting. I don't leave the couch. I smoke a shit ton of cigarettes. I don't eat. I don't sleep. I miss my therapist.

Wednesday and Thursday 

Nothing. 48 hours of blue death. I can't move. I don't want to move. Though I want to fly with birds, maybe a sparrow or a crow, just soar far away from the darkness inside me. I want to stare at the sun and let it melt my sadness. I want to stop breathing. I want my therapist. I feel lonely. No, worse than that. I feel completely devoid of life. I am nothing. I take my pills. Candy for the mentally ill. I think: please work your magic. I think: will I ever feel normal? I think: maybe I should take the whole bottle of pills. I think: goodbye, everyone. At night, I stare at the ceiling. I don't count sheep, I count things I've lost.

The weekend 

I pick up my daughter and her best friend and go to the roller rink. She’s a bit awkward on skates, but she holds her own. I watch and watch her. She doesn’t see me looking at her. I’m glad. She prefers I not stare at her. She prefers I keep my distance. I’m not cool enough for her. She’s at that weird age where adults are not to be seen. I don’t tell her it hurts me a little. I don’t tell her how much I need her love and approval. I don't tell her about the black days. I look around the place. I think: all the other dads here are better than me. I think: they are kinder and more loving and less sad. I think: I want to disappear. I want to dissolve in my chair. I also want to be them. They seem so content. I buy the girls pizza and drinks before leaving.

The next day I take them to see a horror movie. They debate who has to sit next to me. I don’t tell my daughter that I feel hurt again. I don’t tell her to please sit next time to me, it will make me happy. I don’t say anything. They eat popcorn loudly. The movie is terrible and predictable. On the drive home, I secretly listen to their conversation. They talk about boys. I think: please stop talking about boys. I think: boys only want one thing. I think: boys grow into men who kill their wives and are shown on Dateline. I don’t speak the entire way to my house. I take them home the next morning. I tell my daughter I love you. She mumbles something that sounds nothing like I love you, too. I think: I’m going to miss you. I think: you are so beautiful. I think: don’t go, honey.


I have no funny lines for my therapist. We talk about depression and anxiety and techniques to cope and whatnot. I just stare at anything other than her. I wish I were a poet so I could tell her how gorgeous and special she is using better words than gorgeous and special. I think: I'm not a poet. I think: I want to crawl in her mouth and knock on her heart. I have questions to ask of that muscle. I think: will her heartbeat be a song, a melodic longing for the client sitting in front of her? I think: please cure me, fix me, remake me. Baptize me. Love me. I think: stop being delusional you fool. In a flash, time's up. Fuck. I think: I survived another week. 


Continue Reading...

PHARM BOY by Chris Milam

At the grocery, I was debating which would pair better with a chicken sandwich when I saw a ponytailed head wedged inside the refrigerated glass doors inspecting a carton of eggs.

“Hello there, do you have a preference in pickles?”

“Excuse me?”

“Pickles.” I held both jars in front of me. “Bread and butter or dill?”

“I don’t eat them. Sorry.” The smack of flip flips on linoleum trailed her into the next aisle.

I accidentally bumped into her again minutes later. I didn't need her to be anyone specific, not Rachel, not my mother, or the bored college girl who worked at the gas station I went to every night for energy drinks. She didn't have to inhabit their skin, take on their personality, mimic their cadence. I only wanted her to help me make a proper decision. Just play along. Fill a hole. “Should I go with rye or whole wheat?”

“What is wrong with you? I don’t give a fuck what you eat. Leave me alone.” Smack, smack, smack around the corner. In her basket was a loaf of pumpernickel. Was hoping she would’ve steered me in that exotic direction.

Bent and back home, Rachel clung to air and fabric. The apartment, post-evacuation, was nothing more than a gigantic Rachel fingerprint. I had met her at an NA meeting. She was on step 12; I was on step burned all bridges. Connection erupted seamlessly after that; delirium jabbed us both in the addicted heart. We found a quaint loft, painted the walls champagne, rented a leather couch, did some volunteer work. Went to church. We were all about spackling cracks.

When I relapsed, when my whole existence was lapsed, our love bottomed out. I pawned her jewelry, mocked her metamorphosis, and prowled the streets. The last thing she said to me: “Do you want to stay high and live low or stay with me and live with hope?” She bolted instead, I stayed and free-fell, landing in the arms of shadow. If not for a mother’s unconditional enabling and charitable pocketbook, I’d probably be living in the woods behind the supermarket.

A week later and I’m stuck again. "Horseradish sauce or mayonnaise, which one do you like?"

Her blonde friend in dark denim eyeballed me for a tick. “I’d need some burn, go with the horseradish.” She peeked at my cart. “And you can't go wrong with dill chips, so crunchy and sour."

We headed to the parking lot, sat in my car. “You wanna listen to rock, alternative, or hip hop?”

Lily flicked a veiny hand. “Let’s skip the nonsense. She had me text you for a reason. How many you got?”

“Hold on. Tell me something, a morsel of information. Is she still dating her sponsor? Is she happy?”

“Yes and maybe. But she’s falling, said you had the remedy.”

“She has my number, could've just called me.” I handed her six pills. “Tell her no charge. And ask her if I should move on or not. Will you do that for me?”

“You know what happened the last time you had her number. Your phone voice is a bit emotional. And yes, I’ll ask her. Gotta roll, take care.”

“Wait, does she still cut her sandwiches in half, diagonally?”

“I don’t know. I’ll find out when I drop these off.”

“Thanks.” And with that she jogged to her Mazda and blasted away from the storm surge.

Later, at a meeting, I spotted her boyfriend. Lewis was slurping coffee from a styrofoam cup. Black v-neck, grey slacks, dollar store tortoiseshell readers, silver rope bracelet, same chameleon smile; repulsive to me, an aphrodisiac to recovering, vulnerable women.

I assaulted his personal space, jaw to jaw. His coconut shampoo was intoxicating. “Do you love her or are you just using her? And a little bird told me that Rachel is popping again. Nice work, being her sponsor and all.”

“I’m not doing this tonight. You should just focus on step one and let me worry about her. Okay, Jason?”

He looked at me the way a father might when his golden boy wets the bed: a slurry of indignation, detachment, and empathy. “Yeah, better watch her close, friend. She knows I’m around.”

We admitted we were powerless…

Eat some cotton, man, climb that stairway and find enlightenment. Step 13? Walk away, sprawl on the couch, and kiss God flush on the mouth.

She’ll come back to me. Opiate love is true and eternal.

Continue Reading...