I stand in the little kitchen. A dull Mexican sun pastes a yellow film on everything. The transparent white curtains flap in the warm breeze. Jerry passes me the needle.
“This is Mexico. Don’t worry about it. It’s good,” Jerry says. He wipes his sweaty mustache with his greasy hand. “Look, I’ll do it after you. No problem.” His sunken, bloodshot eyes stare into mine, to the needle, back to my eyes.
I grab the tequila bottle from the cluttered counter. The sink is piled up with dishes. I take a swig. I return the bottle to the counter, knocking some glasses and old microwave food trays over. I concentrate on the needle in my hand. It blurs. I can’t tell if it’s my vision or if I’m shaking.
I wonder what Mom’s doing, back home. I wonder if she’s still drinking herself to sleep every night, chain-smoking, and offering blow jobs to men on the street, to practically anyone she meets, to the men in her own neighborhood. And just so she can get them in her bed, have someone to hold, make breakfast for, and pretend everything’s okay, everything’s the way it’s suppose to be. I wonder if she ever thinks of my father. I wonder if she ever regrets driving him away from us. If only she had tried harder to be a better wife, a better mother.
I remember -- goddamn, I remember how she used to take me to this little drug store in downtown Mayfield Heights, Ohio, sometimes after school when I was a kid, just after Dad left. We drank rootbeer floats at the counter. We walked home, a Hershey bar in one of my hands. I remember that endless, open blue sky . I remember my hand in hers.
Jerry grows impatient with me. He knows I haven’t tried this before. He’s afraid I’ll wimp out. He’s been trying to get me to do this with him since I met him. He fidgets. His eyes move everywhere, but he keeps his breathing paced, slow.
I’ve known him for years. I met him when I crossed the border into Mexicali on my way to some nameless town somewhere further into the heart of Mexico, just wanting to leave the broken bits of my life in a forgotten heap back in the States. Jerry was there amongst the dark strip clubs, sitting in the back, disinterested with the two dollar whores parading their sagging tits and Jell-O asses up and down the catwalk. His eyes perused the clientele. He gave those he saw as potential customers that knowing look, that look that says, “I’ve got it. Don’t worry.”
Jerry says he’s in Mexico because he killed somebody. He says it was an accident, it was self-defense. I don’t know if it’s true. I don’t care. What’s his is his and I don’t need to go into his shit. What he’s left back in the States, like me, is his business. We’re all just trying to crawl along on that thin edge of right and wrong. Sometimes you slip, and who am I to say that can’t be forgotten?
I’ve never liked Jerry. He’s a piece of shit prick. I only pretend to be friendly, so he’ll cut me some slack when I’m low on cash, so I can get the good deals. He gets me what I need – the pot, the absinthe, the cocaine -- so I can pass the time, watch it slip away with an empty mind. He gets me what I need so I can laugh at it all, and forget what I was laughing at. Now, he’s brought me something that promises to do the trick, and do it well, like an experienced whore.
“Look,” Jerry says. He removes himself from his calm lean against my old refrigerator -- the kind that have the freezer at the top and are rounded at the corners with chrome handles. His laugh is like a choking cough.
“It’ll make you fuck like a goddamn animal. I seen your girlfriend in there,” he says. He nods toward the living room with his head, his arms crossed.
“She’ll love you for it. Make her come four times, man,” he says, his hand held up showing four fingers.
Letting his arms fall slack, he walks like the Scarecrow to the kitchen’s entrance. He watches Gina lying on her stomach, watching TV and smoking a filterless Camel in the living room.
“Hey, she’s pretty cute. Got those nice Mexican curves. . . . Uh, you two close?” he asks in a tone of business mixed with that cool high school rebel flair.
Images of Laura invade my thoughts. I still miss her. But, she got rid of me. She got rid of me so she could fuck around. She left me, said, “I love you. I really do. But you’re a fuck up, and I deserve better.”
And all I can think about is touching her face, lying next to her, holding her hand and watching her sleep, watching her dream of me being a better man.
But, I see images of her in the arms of another man. I see her mouth curve in pleasure, in passion, in the expression I believed was only meant for me, on that beautiful face I thought was only for me.
I see her bruised face in my mind, and, God, I’m so sorry. So sorry. I never meant to hurt you. . .
“Shut the fuck up,” I say.
“Hey, man,” Jerry says as I tighten the belt around my arm. “You should take a seat before doing that.” He leans against the entranceway to the living room, watches me, watches Gina.
“Just shut up,” I say.
The needle pricks into my skin, pops into my vein. Blood runs up into the clear poison. I push it all back in.
I stumble backward against the filthy counter. A barrage of glass, along with the Tequila bottle, and old dried-up food crashes to the cracked and peeling linoleum. Then I’m on the floor, the reminiscent coolness of it against my cheek, rubbing my face in all the broken bits, thinking of Mom, baseball, and Hot Wheels.
I wake up in bed next to a chubby prostitute snoring and twitching in her sleep like a fucking dog. My small, square bedroom becomes familiar again. My sheets reek of stale sweat and old beer. Dirty yellow light comes through the uncovered window to my side. I wonder where Gina is, why the hell she left me with this heap of rolling flesh painted up like a comical clown.
My head aches, my body aches, and my stomach’s spinning, and I want to puke all over this disgusting thing next to me pretending to be a woman. Her thick stench of body odor coming from the folds of her sweaty flesh, her old and worn cunt, is almost enough to make me pass out again.
I can’t remember shit, and this suits me just fine. Now, I just count the seconds, watch them slip away, and wait for my next fix, whatever it may be. And I’m not even addicted to this shit. I’m addicted to nothing but my fucking memories. A habit I desperately need to kick.
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