This Side of Nowhere 3 of 3


Parked under a buzzing, stroked out streetlamp, I looked down the street.  People moved slowly in the night, shadows slinking among shadows.  The occasional cars’ headlights made them scuttle like roaches.  Home.  My limbs were heavy, the darkness inside me begging to take over. Leaning back in my seat, I pushed the prescription bottle deep into my panties until I felt its hard round shape between my pussy lips.  Years ago I’d have been careful, wedging it inside me, but I knew now cops didn’t care about addicts.  They went after the dealers.Nobody cared about the fucking addicts.  I grabbed the cash I’d gotten when I emptied my account at the ATM, then pushed open the driver’s side door and stood, tiny rocks jabbing my feet.  Stepped carefully to the trunk, yanked out my gym bag, and shut it immediately.  Froze and listened.  Shadows moved.  A breeze shook the leaves in a bush near the fence of the parking lot.  Sirens whined in the distance.  Tossing the bag on the dented trunk, I unzipped it and pulled out grey sweatpants.  Stuffed my money roll in the pocket and tugged them up under my skirt, then pushed the skirt off over top of them.  Threw it in the bag.  Yanked on one of Corey’s huge black T-shirts and slipped on flip flops, then tossed the bag in the back seat.  Made sure the door was unlocked before I shut it so would-be thieves wouldn’t break the windows.Took a deep breath.Exhaust clogged my lungs.  Coughing intermittently, I took a few breaths to get used to it again.  Then listened to the soft hum of traffic on the highway beyond the fence.  Drivers oblivious to what was papering on the streets beside them, or maybe they just didn’t want to care.I started walking, senses open to everything around me.  My flip flops slapped my feet, echoing against the old buildings, closed or abandoned.  A burst of flame in an alleyway, quickly extinguished into a glowing cigarette.  Metallic flicks of a lighter.  Murmurs.  Then quiet.I kept moving.  Beyond the outdoor store, the fast food place, the medical supply company.  Took a left between the Walgreens and the liquor store’s corner of the strip mall.  A blinking light covered a corner in the back lot, darkness in the corner nearest me.A shadow huddled there.When I was a few feet from it, I stopped.  “Griff?”The figure moved, but stayed where it was.“It’s me.  Adrienne.  I need a favor.”  I took a tentative step closer.“Don’t know no Adrienne,” the man muttered.I stopped, relief pouring through me at the sound of his voice.  He’s home.  Not the streets.    Griff Corrigan.  Former biologist, a thousand times smarter than I’d ever be, addict or not.  But he happened to share my addiction, to my dismay when I was on the street next to him. Be cool. “This was my area.”  My voice was level.  “I let you have it.”“Girl who let me have it’s dead.”“Funny.  I feel so… vibrant.”  A light suddenly focused on my face, blinding me.  A moment passed.  “Ah.  It is you.  Well.”  The light switched off, blinding me again, in a pitch of darkness.  “It’s my place now, oh sober one.  You snooze you lose.”I smiled.  “Missed you, asshole.”  Huffed laughter chortled in the dark.  “What’s a pretty, pristine ex-addict doing in the dark, looking for her old friend?  Want to send me to church?  Save me?  You praying for my soul?”“Always, in a way.”  I moved forward, sat beside him with a foot between us.  The putrid smell of his body felt like it melted the lining in my nostrils.  Focus.  It’s Griff.  “Not that a shitface like you would listen though, so I didn’t pray hard.”“Bitch.”  He laughed, lit a cigarette.Easy.  Everything had always been so easy with him.  So self-deprecating and perfect.“Don’t got any Oxy, if you’re looking.  Even if I did, I wouldn’t, Sefaköy escort you feel me?” The lip of the curb pressed my pill bottle against my twat.  “I’m not.” “Good, good.”  A moment passed.  He chuckled again in the dark.  “Then what are you doing here, princess?  Shaking up corpses?  Looking for science experiments?”“I need a favor.”  “Fresh out of favors.”  “Okay then, I’m calling your fucking debt.”He took a long pull on his cigarette, the burning end lighting up his features.  Skin more weathered than I remembered.  Hair longer, wilder.  Beard scraggly.  He stared at the dumpster across the lot.  “Get me a motel room.”He laughed.  Looked at me, his eyes glassier at the angle of the low moonlight.Smiling, I punched his shoulder.  Tried not to cringe at how bony it felt under my fist.  “Asshole.  Obviously I’ll pay for it.  Just don’t need to show my face for the transaction.”“Girl, you’re not supposed to be in trouble.  You beat it.  You got out of this shit.  You sleep in a fucking bed now.  I’m not helping you get back to this life.  Fuck.  Off.”  Voice firm, he took a long drag, then flicked his cigarette.  Sent it bouncing across the pavement, embers skittering, then laid down.  His dirty slippers nudged my elbow.  “Get off my lawn.”I stood.  Gritted my teeth and crossed my arms.  “I’m clean.  I’m trying to get away from bad people who’ve set me up to take their fall.”He didn’t move.“Also, dick,” I cleared my throat, “There’s Oxy in it for you.”His jaw flexed.  Adam’s apple bobbed.“If you can’t do it for our friendship, do it for your drug.”“How do I know you have it?”Staring at him until he looked at me, I reached into my pants, down my underwear, and pulled out the pills.  “The old pussy trick.”I shrugged.  “It’s a classic for a reason.”“Who says I won’t just fuck you up and take your shit?”“You’re an asshole.  But you’re not that kind of asshole.”  The exact phrase he used when he homed in on my territory and I pulled a knife on him.I stared in the direction of his face, unable to see his eyes.  “Yeah, well.”  He pushed himself to a sitting position.  Rested his arms on his knees and looked at me, the moonlight catching his face again.  Shaking his head, he raised an eyebrow.  “Life might be easier if we both were.”Fucking accurate.  The thought twisted my despair to a low boiling anger.Griff held up his hand.  “Give it to me.”   ****   How many lives can one person fail at until nothing fits together again?Stale cigarette smoke burned my eyes as Griff slid the door chain locked.  His rich, dark brown hair snarled around a low bun.  When he turned around and I looked into his green eyes, I remembered everything I left behind.  Shame, arrogance, hope.  Tenderness.I swallowed.He cleared his throat, a deep and beautiful sound.  “You promised me something.”“Yeah.”  Feeling my shoulders sag, I defiantly kept his eye.  Dipped my fingers past my waistband and retrieved the bottle from my pussy lips.  Held it up, noting his train of eyesight never left mine.  I shook it, letting the pill rattle inside.  “All yours.”Griff reached for it.  I tightened my grip.  “Stay here.  Shower.  Sleep in an actual bed.”“What’s your game?”  Plucking the bottle from my hand, his eyes searched mine.“I don’t have one.”  Suddenly my heart felt like it was swelling, bleeding.  I forced a smile.  “But you stink.”His face lit up, his laugh booming through the room.  “Just when I thought you’d changed.”  “It’s all about the aesthetic after all, isn’t it?” A man coughed in the room next to us, the shower turning on.  We smiled at each other.Griff palmed the white top of the bottle, opening it, and poured the pill onto his palm.  Popped it into his mouth and shook his head Escort Yenibosna back before an anxious, “Ah!”I watched him.  Processed the contours of his deviated septum, oily hair and skin, high cheekbones, and clumped beard.  The stained red T-shirt hanging on his previously thick frame.  Remembered how many times we whored for addiction, then held each other through the night.  Jesus, it barely felt real.  But being sober and seeing him, really seeing him…   Tears pricked my eyes.  “God damn, I want to save you from yourself.”“Ah.  That’s what we’re doing right now then, yeah?  Saving me.”  Grimacing, he walked past me to the sink.  The faucet squeaked as he turned on the water.  He ducked his head underneath to drink from it for a long moment, then wiped his mouth.  Straightened and looked at me.  “What are you waiting for?  Tell me how smart I am and how much potential I have.”I stared into his face.  The person who’d seen the worst things I’d ever done, and somehow loved me through them.  No words needed.“And feed that overinflated ego?  Please.”He laughed and propped his palm against the partition wall.  “Touché, love.  So while I’m half sober, tell me what you’re running from.”Shaking my head, I took a breath to tell him he’d never believe me.  Cut it short and looked at him.  Smiled.  He’s the only one who would.  “Long story short, my aunt Cici … died.”“Oh shit.”  Dropping his arm, he stood straight.  Eyebrows pitched together, furrowing his weathered forehead.  “She was like a mother to you.”“Yeah.”  I swallowed against the rock scraping my throat.  Cleared it.  “Turns out, her and my bitch cousin were into some kind of illegal shit.  She had cancer, and they originally said she killed herself.  But the cops picked me up today because Bitch Cousin suggested I killed her.”His eyes widened.  He stepped forward, sat on the blue bed.  “What….”“Mmmhmm.  Then she told me she was going to destroy me.  Earlier today, she or my boyfriend she’s apparently fucking, put that Oxy in my bag.”  Sighing, I sat down on the bed next to him.  The bedspread crinkled under me.  “How did you not take it?”“I have no fucking idea.  I still fucking want it.”“What’s your next move?”“Sleep?  Run away somewhere without extradition?  Which reminds me.  Give me your library card.”He laughed, lines gathering at the edges of his temples.  Rubbed his thick eyebrow as he looked at me.  “I’m a bum.  Why would I have a library card?”“The nerd in you will never die.”  More of his own words, so endearing and oddly enrapturing, I could never forget.Something in his eyes changed, like gas on a flame.  A simmering magnetic pull.  When he blinked and looked down, I found I’d been leaning forward.  I sat back.  Cleared my throat.  “Yeah.  So.  Library card.  I need to get on a computer without it tracing back to me.”Leaning to the side, he reached into his back pocket.  Pulled out a few cards, rubber banded together, and pinched the white one out.  Slid it between his first and second fingers and held it up.  “Password is covalent.”“Covalent?”  I took it.He met my eyes again.  “They’re the stronger bonds.  Harder to break, so they’re more exciting to work with.”“Nerd.”“Nerd used to get beat up too much in school and learned a few things.  Do you know any pressure points?  Any defensive skills?”  “Not… really.”I thought about the little silver folding knife I carried on the streets.  Only had to pull it on someone once.  Twice, if I counted Griff the night we met.  Where did I put it?  Griff stood.  “Get up.  Let me show you.”“You’re not touching me until you shower.” **** Sunlight lifted sleep from me like a slip on my subconscious.  The sheets were hard, starched almost.  I laced Halkalı escort bayan my fingers through the hand lying on my belly and pulled him closer.  Our hands rested between my breasts, his elbow at my hip.  His chest against my back.  The way we’d always wound together before.Griffin.  Smiling, I let the warmth saturate me.  Let the feeling of safety and happiness fill my body.Then opened my eyes.  Light glared in from the crack between the navy blue drapes and the holes scattered in them.  The window AC unit buzzed on.  Brown spots dotted each other in the ceilings sagging corner, one darker than the other, and I wondered if it was a euphemism for life.  If our darkness was saturated with more darkness.  When would it burst?“Library’s probably open now.”  I rolled my eyes.  Griff’s voice, clear and relaxed, made me smile again.  “When the sympathetic nervous system is activated, it invokes a fight or flight response.  Higher blood pressure and heart rate, dilated pupils, anxiety, tremors, etcetera, etcetera.  But in social situations, you can usually tell who typically is a fighter and who is a runner.”Extracting my fingers from his, I pushed his arm away.  Pulled the sheets over my chest.  “Griffin, shut up.”“You’re not a runner, Ade.”  He didn’t move, his body heat like a gentle sauna against my back.  I shook my head.  Anger flickered through me.  “I was a junkie.  And a thief, a whore, a liar.  It’s all anyone will ever believe.”No reply.  I stared at the drapes, wavering over the window air-conditioning.  After a moment, I turned over.  Griff’s red stained eyes drilled into mine.“You’re a fighter.”“So are you.”  He smiled.  His teeth were barely on the yellowed side of white.  For the first time, I saw the full color of his thick brown beard and sunburnt skin.  Traces of grey misted his side burns.  “If I was a fighter, I’d be sober.”I imagined him happy and healthy.  Beard and hair well groomed, his angrily sunburnt skin back to olive.  Laughing with me, loving me the way I needed.  Carrying on deep conversations, giving back to people who were still in the worst parts of their lives.  Safe together, a perfect life.  Feeling the backs of my eyes swell with tears, I rolled over away from him and got up.  Snatched up my sweats and Corey’s T-shirt from the stained, fraying blue carpet and yanked them on.“I love you, you know,” he murmured, making me freeze.  “If I could, I’d get sober for you.  But you can only fake something for so long before you become what you always were.  You know that.  I’m destined to fail you.”“You’re a scientist.  You don’t believe in destiny.  Life is chosen, every day.  We decide our future.”  My voice broke.  Glancing over my shoulder, I saw Griff lying naked in the light, the bedspread covering his waist and legs.  Somehow looking more jagged and aged than ever.  “And sometimes our past does.”  He pulled his hand down his face, pinched his beard as he met my eyes again.  “There’s a reason you never came back for me.”  Felt my lips curl back over my teeth as I fought back a wounded gasp.  “Fuck you.”“No regrets.”  His face was open, eyes soft.  “You have always been too good for all this.  I don’t have that gene.  It doesn’t change the fact that we love each other.  But we’re not stupid.  I’m not a fighter.  You are.”“Bullshit.  Get.  Sober.  Call your parents.  Find me when you are.”“I’m a lost cause, Ade.  Your last sentence said it all.  You don’t even want to stick around because you know… you know.”Frustration boiling through my body, I balled up my fists.  “I hate you.”“Tell me about it.”“It fucking hurts.”  Throwing up my hands, I began to pace the tiny room of unmatching blues.  Bit my lip and looked at him again.  “You know how pathetic it is when the only person you trust in the world is a fucking addict?”Griff stood, rewrapping his towel from last night’s shower around his waist.  His brows raised and he put his hands on my shoulders.  Brushed my cheek with his thumb and offered me a wry smile.  “Damn, girl.  That’s pretty bad.”

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