Just after Thanksgiving

Was it her again? At the door?

Yes.

What did she want?

What does she ever want?

I ask the questions. Don’t I?

What does she ever want? is an answer. Money. A ride. A prescription filled, or so she says. To feel good. To be well. To have her life done all over for her.

Did you answer?

Not today.

Why not?

Some days you feel like pouring time and money down a hole, some days you don’t.

So it’s just down to what you feel like?

I used to wonder how I could help. But nothing helps. A few years ago I drove her to church meetings about once a week. Thought it was AA or something. I could do that much. Then her uncle told me she was just going next door to get high after I let her off. Innocent little me.

You don’t try to help anymore?

Sometimes I do, depending on what you mean by help. She’s been digging her grave for twenty years. Pretty much the rest of the neighbors don’t give her a minute to even get started. I’m a softer touch. But I’m tired. Sometimes I give her a few bucks. I have no idea what she does with it. She’s a mess. If she gets high and feels better for the afternoon, that’s OK. That’s all she’s got. But it won’t be long now.

What do you mean?

You’ve seen her. She’s in and out of the hospital these days. She wheels around a couple of little oxygen tanks behind her. Her face is swollen all the time. She’s lost most of her teeth. I took her to the bus station a few weeks ago. Said she had to go to Atlanta to see a doctor. Needed money for a ticket. I gave her some. Then she said she needed money to get a sandwich for the trip. Said there was a snack shop in the bus station. There’s no snack shop in the bus station. Then she got mad when I wouldn’t give her any more money. And she probably just walked downtown as soon as I drove away.

You have a highly developed sense of guilt, don’t you?

One of my better traits. I’m being ironic. But when she knocks on the door and I don’t answer sometimes I think, well who the Hell am I? Would it hurt me to be nice? A week or two ago I was coming downstairs to make a drink. It was evening. I heard the knock. The dogs started barking. I waited for her to go away. She stood outside the door and called my name. Knocked again. Called my name. Knocked again. I just stood in the stairwell where she wouldn’t be able to see me if she looked in the door glass. I just waited for to leave, thinking, she could be dying on my porch and I would be making myself an Old Fashioned. It didn’t paint a good picture of me. So I didn’t make myself a drink. But I didn’t answer the door either.

So what happens next?

Play, repeat, play, repeat. Then one day she dies. I’ll go to her funeral. She’s turned all her family away. Wore them out. But they’ll be there. We’ll shake our heads. But I’m just a neighbor. Just somebody down the street. Somebody on the edge of this. Somebody trying to make sure my own people are OK.

How’s that going?

Pretty well, thanks. They are my gravity. I’m thankful.

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