NARRATOR: Don’t worry, there’s no point. 

          SFX: [Window opens] 

NARRATOR: In the summer of 2015, I bought a bike from a guy on Craigslist. The bike was $40, so it was shitty, so it suited me. I met the guy outside his house. A woman, who was possibly his wife, hung around and made occasional interjections, which he seemed experienced in ignoring. I asked if I could try the bike before I bought it. Let’s see the money first, he said. His words were kinda slurred and his balance was kinda wobbly. His possible wife told him to cut me a break, which he ignored. I just don’t want you getting any ideas, he said. So I gave him my backpack, rode in a circle, got off, gave him the money, got my backpack, and rode away. It was downhill from there. 

          SFX: [Window closes] 

NARRATOR: Like video games, and birding, and heroin, people who’re into cycling are really into cycling. As for me, I wasn’t into anything. 

I was living in State College, Pennsylvania and taking classes at Penn State. I lived off campus, so on weekdays I rode to class, and on weekends I rode around aimlessly. I’d recently changed my major from engineering to English, but I still remembered that total energy is equal to the sum of kinetic and potential energy. Now that I had no use for this information, I realized that it’s actually quite useful, that you have to take into account how fast you’re going as well as how much faster you can go. 

          SFX: [Wind clipping] 

NARRATOR: The church I went to held monthly volunteer projects, usually at places far from campus. I never went before, ‘cause I didn’t know anyone who could give me a ride, but now that I had a bike I signed up. One month, we painted a guy’s house. His name was Tony and he sat at the kitchen table and chain-smoked as we painted the walls. During a break I chatted with him. He told me he had bronchitis and I avoided pointing out the obvious. 

The next month, I cleaned out a dead woman’s house. She’d died of cancer. One of the volunteers there, Brian, said she lived alone and didn’t have many friends. Her kids didn’t call, so she would call Brian at midnight and she wouldn’t stop talking ‘til four in the morning. He didn’t seem too torn up about her death. Brian did IT for Penn State. He went to school 

here in the 80’s and stuck around for a few decades. He was her only friend, if you could call him that. 

          SFX: [Record needle] 

          MUSIC: [“Lord Knows Best” by Dirty Beaches] 

NARRATOR: There’s a videogame called Gone Home where you wander around your family’s empty house. It’s dark and thundering outside, and you go from room to room turning on the lights and looking at different objects: notes on the fridge, your sister’s report card, your parents’ divorce papers. The stuff is scattered about seemingly at random, but it’s actually arranged in such a way so that a story emerges about the people who lived there. How your parents met and married and had kids and divorced. How your dad was molested when he was thirteen. How your sister fell in love and ran away. 

          MUSIC CUTS 

NARRATOR: The woman’s house had no story. Her personal effects, clothes and photos and letters, had already been disposed of. What was left were boxes filled with yellowed magazines, empty printers, broken CRTs, stereo sets, couches, mattresses, chairs, sheets, lamps—a mountain of material with no throughline. 

We started with the home office. It overlooked a dumpster in the driveway, so we threw stuff out the window. 

          SFX: [Window opens] 

NARRATOR: A girl from Germany helped me defenestrate. 

          SFX: [Crash] 

NARRATOR: She was a high schooler who through some sort of exchange program “interned” at the church. 

          SFX: [Crash] 

NARRATOR: I asked her what sort of responsibilities a church “intern” had, and she either didn’t understand the question or chose to ignore it, and I didn’t press the issue. 

          SFX: [Crash] 

NARRATOR: The hard part was the furniture. Brian and I tackled the heavy stuff, the drawers and dressers and cabinets. The dumpster was overflowing, so we had to break down the furniture before lifting it up and tipping it in. Towards the end of the day, Brian and I moved two redwood bookshelves onto the lawn. We’d thrown out the books beforehand. He brought hammers. 

TEXT-TO-SPEECH: Instructions for smashing a redwood bookshelf on a dead woman’s lawn. 

One. Stand back. Hold the hammer at your hip. 

Two. Move forward at a moderate speed, somewhere between walking and running. 

TEXT-TO-SPEECH + NARRATOR: Three. Make a sweeping motion with your arm, lifting the hammer directly above your head. 


NARRATOR: Impact. 

          SFX: [Cicadas] 

TEXT-TO-SPEECH + NARRATOR: Repeat steps one through four until complete. Ignore the church intern looking at you. 

          SFX: [Cicadas fade out] 

NARRATOR: At the end of the summer I lost my best friend. “Lost” isn’t the right word to use, as it implies passivity on my part. “Broke up” is closer, except that seems to only apply to romantic relationships. “Pushed away” my best friend, “rejected” her. Something like that. 

I spent the summer biking to her apartment downtown. I told her about the chain smoker and the dead woman, and the weird scent of loneliness in their houses. We cooked dinner, played board games, watched movies. We did the things we always did except now I didn’t want to do them. 

I told her that I didn’t like spending time with her, that I didn’t like her, that I didn’t want to be her friend, that it wasn’t her fault but mine, that I didn’t understand it either, that I continued doing the things I did ‘cause I didn’t know what else to do, and that therefore I should stop, and therefore we should stop being friends. 

It struck me even then as a pretty shitty explanation. Most of this came out in a conversation we had walking back to the house I was living at, my bike going tck-tck-

tck-tck-tck-tck as I felt a twist in my chest, like I was hiding a terrible secret, except when I revealed it my heart twisted tighter. 

A few days later, she sent me 988-word Facebook message, an excerpt of which read: 

FRIEND: If things are bad, can you just ask for a break instead of saying, “I don’t want to be friends anymore”? And if you actually don’t want to try anymore, and you’re absolutely certain you want to let this go, then you can decide to break up. But it’s literally the most hurtful thing you can do when you do that, so only do it when you’ve really, truly decided that you want to let me go. And I will let go, which doesn’t mean that I’ll stop loving you, or caring about you, or praying for you, but in the end I’ll grow to be okay with not having you be a part of my life. You are more important than this relationship. 

NARRATOR: I sent her a two word response. 

“Okay. Sure.” 

Before the school year started, I saw her one more time. She told me that I didn’t mean what I was doing, that self-loathing was warping my thinking, that pushing her away seemed like the right thing to do now but wouldn’t solve anything. In retrospect, it was my last chance. 

          SFX: [Stopwatch starts] 

NARRATOR: She folded a piece of paper into a five-pointed star. She’d been on a church retreat the previous weekend and told me an illustration she heard about queer youths who come out in the church. 

When they start out they have their family, friends, classmates, acquaintances, and the church. She pointed to a star’s point for each category. When they come out in a conservative Christian setting, they usually lose their family first, she said, ripping off a piece of the star. She went through every category, tearing the star apart piece by piece, until all that was left was a jagged pentagon. 

          SFX: [Stopwatch stops] 

NARRATOR: I don’t remember if I said anything. I left and didn’t see her for a year. 

          SFX: [Record needle] 

NARRATOR: Let me tell you the point.

          MUSIC: [“Voilà” by Françoise Hardy] 

NARRATOR: These days the brakes on my bike don’t work, so I scrape my foot against the ground to stop. While I lie in bed, I think of near-misses I’ve had, cruising down a long hill and almost hurtling into traffic, pressing back with both feet in a desperate attempt to stop. This keeps me up at night, among other things. 

The sole of my shoe is worn down, the rubber layer scraped away, and there’s a smooth gray surface beneath the hard black sole. One of these days I’ll get the brakes fixed, but for now I use my foot. Eventually, I stop. 

          MUSIC CUTS

This story is meant to be listened to, not read. For a transcript to use as a reference, click here.

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Boen Wang is a writer, audio producer, and graduate of the University of Pittsburgh’s M.F.A. program in nonfiction, where he specialized in audio storytelling. His written work has appeared in The Sunday Long Read, The Fourth River, Inheritance, PopMatters, and elsewhere. His audio work has appeared in WNYC’s Radiolab, KCRW’s Bodies, WESA’s The Confluence, and was selected as one of The Bello Collective’s “100 Outstanding Podcasts of 2020.” He is the winner of the “Best New Artist” award at the 2020 Third Coast International Audio Festival, a finalist for the 2021 HearSay Audio Festival Prize, and a 2022 AIR Media New Voices fellow. Visit his website at