You come to my place asking for money. I ain’t got any, I say. You stand in the open doorway of my apartment. You are thin, pale. Your habit has consumed you. You have sores and you rub your arms. You wear a dirty t-shirt and jeans. Your blond hair looks like straw that sat too long in the field during a hot sun and your once beautiful green eyes are faded as if they were turned down by a dimmer.
I need some money, you say again. You rub your arms like you’re making a wish.
I don’t have anymore to give you, I reply. I’ve been giving you money for years, I say. Every time you come here, I give you something. I’ve been doing this for years, I say. We’ve had wrinkles grow in those years like tree rings that’s how long it’s been.
I need money, you say. I’m not sure you even know what you’re saying. You just say it. By rote. By need. The heart needs to beat and I am the blood.
You don’t talk to me any other time. You don’t come here to sleep. You don’t come here for sex. Or to eat. Or to watch tv and talk about how lame the commercials are or why that scene in the movie was funny as you once did. You don’t come here to drink all my liquor and to throw up in my sink. You don’t wear my old gray sweatshirts in the morning and drink cold coffee because you can’t wait to warm it up in my small microwave.
I have tried many times to help you. Rehab and AA. Doctors and shrinks. But you fuck other men, you fuck strangers, as if to get back at me for trying to help. You only talk to me when you need what you need, when you come to my door and knock and say, I need money.
I went to a shrink a couple times myself because I needed to talk to someone about this situation. The shrink cost me more money than I wanted to pay. He stated I was co-dependent. I said what the fuck does that mean? He said I was part of your problem. That I was keeping you in the state that you are. I told him that no one else cared about you. That if I didn’t help you, no one else would. Your family has cut you off for all the things that you have done. He said I was part of the problem. I took a swing at him before I left. He told me he didn’t think we should see each other again. I agreed.
I want to take you in my arms. I want to give you warmth and comfort. I want to shield you from the pain that you put me through and for some strange reason even though we have never been in a relationship or have had sex or have been friends since childhood but merely because we shared a place, a time, and I care about you even though I do not know why I do.
I need money, you say to me again and I do not know what to do at this point. I don’t know what to do anymore so I say that I’m sorry and I close the door. And I stand there and hear you eventually shuffle across the porch and down the steps, disappearing behind the bloom of the red jacarandas that light up this street and I hope that my decision will help you fix your way but deep down I know and I’m sorry, yes, I am so sorry that it won’t.
Ron Burch’s short stories have been published in Mississippi Review, The Saint Ann’s Review, Eleven Eleven, Pank and others. His first novel, Bliss Inc., was published by BlazeVOX Books; Aqueous Books is publishing his flash-fiction collection, Menagerie, in 2014. Please visit: www.ronburch.net.
–Art by Dia Takácsová