Okay so blue goes to Tuesday, red Wednesday, two green and yellows Thursday, wait no, s***, that’s not right. What about Monday?––“Vladd,” she trailed off from the other room.
“Yeah mom? What’s wrong?”
“I need my pills.”
“Yeah just one sec, I’m countin’ right now.”
“I need them right this second.”
“It’ll just take a sec. Hold on. I’m sorry.”
She sighed with finality, like her pills were keeping her in the real world and without them she would let go. Alright, get it together. Two purples for Monday, blue on Tuesday, red to Wednesday, green and yellow for Thursday, pink for Friday, dark green on Saturday, lime green to Sunday. I always get those greens mixed up. Alright, now repeat three more times, ‘cept for Monday. Monday has always been only two.
“Alright Ma here’s your medicine.”
“Thanks honey,” she rasped like she wasn’t there with me.
“You need to take the three pink jellybeans, one right now, one in about an hour at lunch, and one later today. I’m gonna be at work ‘cross the street tonight and this afternoon, so I’ll tell sis to help you with the last two.”
“Mhm, thanks honey.”
Her eyes were almost shut, and I knew when they closed she’d be down for the count, for sure. I shook her shoulder a little.
“Hey ma, can you open your eyes for me please? I’m gonna get you some water for those candies okay? Just stay awake for like five, I’ll be right back.”
“mokay Honey,” she mumbled.
I walked down the hall in the dark and knocked on Cathy’s door.
“Come on it’s like 11:30, you gotta wake up, I’m going to work, and mom will need you in a bit.”
“Mrmhmgmmghhhh,” from the other side.
“Alright I’m gonna get mom some water, and you better be up when I get back.”
I looked out her window before leaving, at the reflection of my pale skin, of her spread across the bed, arm outstretched and constricted by a rubber band, styrofoam pallet full of muddy brown liquid with a needle teetering on the side. Why’d sis’ do this to us? She caused all of it: the seizures, ma sick, livin’ in the basement of the projects, everything. All her dirty addiction that didn’t have no purpose like mine did. That’s too cruel, that’s something else talking. I need to love and be there for her and ma. I don’t know.
I turned on the sink and the water poured muddy as always; it turned clear real quick though. I filled a styrofoam big gulp then walked back through the dim hallway I hated more than Cathy or ma. No, don’t think like that. You don’t hate them.
“Hey Ma! I’m––.”
Her eyes were all the way shut, s***. Oh well. I can’t make her, she never sleeps this peaceful ‘cause the pain. She’ll wake up in a couple hours. She needs to wake up in a couple. The pink ones are important I think, something about blood thinners. Something.
Cathy’s door stands shut. I knock, louder this time. No response. I barge in, can’t be late again.
“What the hell?! I told you mom needs your help and you’re just sitting’ here with that needle in your arm drowning in a styrofoam pallet––.”
“Mwhatever man, go away.”
“NO. I’m opening this shade and––,” I realize I still have the big gulp still full up. I toss it.
“What the f*** man?!”
“Yeah, what the f***. You bet, what the f***. Your Ma, remember her? That’s what the f***!”
I jab the silver clock and twist the knob to full volume so she’d wake up even if she were dead. I shout the directions into her ear but receive only a muffled “okay.” Hopefully she could still figure out the days of the week, for Ma’s sake. Damn druggy. I shut the door.
Into the kitchen now to get my medicine. Five shots of Smirnoff before I leave and when I get off. Rinse repeat. Don’t need no pill box for that. Haha. I breathe out long and hard after my face scrunches up for the last time. I jog out of the door of the apartment in my purple and black costume. Across the alleyway to yank the steel doors open right as my prescription kicks in.
“Hey you’re late! Again! Get on the line, no customers today!”
“But Boss, my watch reads noon.”
“We go off our own clock. Remember the only time that matters is my time.”
Everything was white fluorescent a couple hours later, and then it all went black. I couldn’t feel anything. White and fluorescent again with a dark face in front of the light, like an eclipse or something. They help me stand from the pile of boxes and walk me down our short skinny hall. Everything seems slow, passing by like shifting frames. I see a boy, blonde in jeans and a button down. His appearance smells of fear and concern. Why? They are gonna take me to the hospital, but I don’t want to. I need to help Ma, Cathy isn’t going to. Everything is too slow though, nice and warm and slow. My tongue and eyes are so slow they take me anyway. In the back of the ambulance I can’t see where we are, can hear the traffic though, feel the movement in my stomach and head.
“Any drugs or other substances I need to know about today Ben?”
She was blonde, blue eyes, pretty like Cathy at 15, but she smelled of disinfectant applied over and over again, and not that sickly sweet of heroin.
“I won’t get you in trouble, it will help me take care of you.”
I knew what caused it, but what cause it also helped out too.
No, no I can’t stop.
I didn’t say anything.
The reflection behind me leaned forward like he was interested in my or somethin’. I felt like his eyes scanned everything and didn’t miss even the tiny stuff, like the old stains on my clothes. He looked like one of those kids that tried hard in high school. Tried hard because he could go to school instead of the three shifts at fast food joints to pay for Ma. Who does he think he is? Why does he get to watch me like I’m some kinda zoo animal?
“Alright we’re gonna go to the hospital, okay?”
“I need to find ride home. Ma and sis don’t have cars. Me neither. No friends, only me and them.” I tried to make the words clear like my thoughts but they were thick, slippery chunks.
“We’ll worry about that later, okay? We just gotta get you better right now.”
I’m not gonna get better. I don’t want to.
They asked me the same questions under the same bright light but in a square room that smelled like the lady in the ‘bulance, disinfectant. They wanted me to see a doctor about my seizures and maybe I wanted to too, but Smirnoff was cheaper for both the shakes and the high.
The docs turned off the light, and I didn’t get a ride home. The alarm rang at the right time but sis was already gone, trapped in liquid amber unbroken by the broken ticking. The pink pills sat with their friends, with the useless styrofoam, bubbles on the side. The boy stood in the door trying not to look, looking at me. He wasn’t examining this time. It was like he cared about me, my privacy. He knew I didn’t want him or anybody to see me like this, but I could tell he just wanted to study all the wires and machines and levels and hospital crap. What a wierdo, but he cared. I tried to hold onto his face; caring not with hugs or sappy stuff but with his not-looking looking eyes, with an energy of warmth. Empathy, is that what it’s called? I couldn’t hold on. Then it was empty and fading. Everything was black was everything gone away.
This is absolutely phenomenal writing. The very natural speech of the narrator makes it more personal and I can just hear the voice very clearly in my head. Great job. 🙂
Thanks so much Christian! Voice was something I was really trying to exercise here. I wanted you to feel Vlads pain. Cheers!