Untitled – T.J. Larkey

You’re drinking at the bar you always drink at and you’re worried about her.
You’re checking your phone every few minutes, sipping from a tall beer that isn’t helping at all.
You decide you need something stronger, so you look around at the other regulars.
You like this bar because the people that come here have given up, just like you.
Drinking equivalent to opening their skulls and dumping the booze in, drowning their brains.
They wear crippling loneliness and expensive drug habits very well.
You like them.
You are one of them.
You shuffle over to a wiry man whose name you can never remember.
He calls you “kid,” and hands over what you want without you asking him.
You think you hear him say, “one of us,” but more likely, you just need sleep.

On the way to the bathroom you check your phone again.
It’s almost last call, and still no word from her.
You can’t stop thinking of the worst things possible.
You feel like saying something hateful, just to make her feel as bad as you do.
But you don’t, you never will.
You have brief moments of towering anger but it always dissolves back into sadness.
Everything dissolves.

Once hidden in the men’s bathroom stalls, you breathe it in deeply.
You picture the white powder turning your head into a snow globe.
You continue to do that until everything seems fine.
You are fine, you are one of them, and always will be, you are fine.

Then you hear what you have been longing to hear all night.
But once you look at your phone, the words you see instantly sober you up.
You look at the bright screen and you look at her name and you can almost hear her voice reading the words out loud.
And as you run home, you keep hearing those words looping over and over in your head: “I’m at your place. I need help. I need you.”

You get to your door and try to catch your breath.
You feel like vomiting, like purging yourself is the answer.
But you block it out, you are needed, she needs your help.

You walk into your bathroom and you feel afraid, terrified of seeing her.
You can’t stop thinking of the worst things possible.
You are sweating, you are weak, you are one of them.
Then you see her naked and helpless and huddled up in the shower.
And you feel embarrassed for being scared.
You reassure yourself, “you are needed.”

“Can you come in with me?” she says.
You take off your clothes and sit behind her, the hot shower water hitting your legs.
Tears are streaming down her face but she’s speaking normally.
“Was kinda hoping,” she tries to laugh. “You’d do that cheesy movie thing where you get in and hold me in the shower with your clothes still on.”
You say, “I’ve disappointed you.”
“Yes,” she says. “Always.”
She turns to kiss you, raising her hand up to your face, but quickly stops herself.
She is hiding something.
Whenever she comes over to your place you have a habit of checking her arms.
You are painfully aware of her problem and you do your best to not think about it.
Never think about the other men in her life that help her with the problem.
Never think about the problem becoming too much for her.
And never ask about the problem.
But oh of course, you can’t stop thinking of the worst things possible.
“What happened?” you say.
She can feel how important it is that you know.
“My veins,” she says.
She seems so distant now.
“We couldn’t find them. Over and over that fucking thing went in and I bit my lip and tried not to scream. Over and over until I was finally well.”
You want to shake her and tell her you’ll help.
Not like the others help, real help.
“You said you needed me,” you say. “You said you needed my help. Let me help.”
She is silent, she pretends you didn’t say anything.
You feel stupid for saying things.
You know you shouldn’t say things, that words never come out the right way.
So you just hold her close, and you can feel her going completely limp in your arms.
She leans into you, and for a moment you think of the best things possible.
You think of her problem going away, you think of never worrying about her again.
You think of picking her up and taking her to bed and having the kind of sex that lasts forever, the kind of sex that makes you all better, brings the life back into both you and her.
You think to yourself, “forever sex.”
“Hey,” she says. “You’re poking me.”
But you haven’t had sex in weeks.
You look down and it looks so red and veiny, like it’s going to pop.
You feel like a boy, you feel absurd.
“What are you thinking?” she says.
Without hesitation you say, “Life-giving sex.”
And she laughs, yes yes yes.
You try and remember the last time you made her laugh.
“I made you laugh,” you say.
“Yes,” she says. “And I’m sorry we haven’t had sex in a while.”
You say, “Don’t.”
And you wish she wouldn’t.
You know why you haven’t in a while and you never want to think about it.
You feel so sick when you think about it, about what she’s done to fix her problem.
About what they’ve done to her when she was at her worst.
“Well I am,” she says. “I’m sorry I’m never well, that I never feel like it. That I’ve made myself this way.”
You want to say something perfect.
You want to form a sentence that ends all sentences.
But you can’t, you know you shouldn’t say things.
“You can,” she says sadly. “With other girls. Normal girls. I won’t be mad.”
And a little piece of you falls off and goes down the shower drain.
And another little piece of you thinks, “Yes, a normal girl.”
And you feel absurd, like a little boy in those old movies, wearing men’s clothes that don’t fit.
“Okay,” you say, “But let’s not talk about anything anymore. I’d like it if we didn’t talk anymore.”
She nods and holds your arm up to her mouth and kisses it.
“I’d like that too,” she says.
You turn off the shower and help her up and throw a towel around her.
You dry her off and make goofy faces at her, trying to make her laugh again.
She takes your hand and leads you to your bed.
She takes the towel off and you lie down with her, her head resting on your stomach.
You look at her freshly washed face and remember that she is still so young.
You think about the story she told you about living on the streets when she was only fifteen.
And the story about being engaged and pregnant at sixteen in some far off land they call Montana in some other life that seems impossible to imagine now.
And you are sure you would never be able to survive what she has.
You say to yourself, “Soft.”
And you watch her fall asleep.
You let yourself relax, and soon you are asleep too.


You wake up alone.
It’s late in the afternoon.
You are used to this.
You get up and try so hard to not think about things.
You repeat to yourself, “not today,” over and over again.
You try to think of good things, things from your past.
You think about the days when you played baseball.
You picture yourself as a healthy professional athlete and people in a large stadium, watching you play and clapping in between chanting, “NOT To-DAY-AY!”
And you get dressed and make it to the bar like that.
Fantasizing about a life you had no chance of ever having and repeating to yourself, “not today.”

You walk in the bar and sit down.
There are others in the bar, some of the same faces as last night.
You order a beer and a shot.
A man slides over to sit next to you and says some alcoholic platitude like, “hair of the dog, eh?” or maybe he just says, “you need help,” or “you are not needed,” or “you are one of us,” but you don’t know.
You drink your booze quickly but it doesn’t work.
And oh fuck yes of course you think of the worst things possible.
You are one of them.