(Inspired by our weekly writing prompt: The American Dream)
It’s late, the stars create cookie-cutter light impressions in a tattered pitch sky as the neighbor’s Golden Retriever howls off-key to the seductive pull of the blossoming full moon outside.
She’s here, as usual, her hair a bit more tangled and greasy, her amber waves slowly ebbing away to dirty bleach blonde like sand being stolen over the years by an ever-hungry sea. Her hands are thin and nervous, tangled together like a fish in a net, dancing like spiders in their silken webs as she shuffles from foot to foot, rubbing her arms in a vain attempt to keep warm down here in her condition.
The air is cold, stifling, a touch too sterile, in a worrisome contrast to her unpleasantly hopeful expression.
“I can’t keep doing this,” I say, and her puppyish look, almost pathetic in that blatant begging, sours like curdled milk left to ferment in the boiling desert sun.
“C’mon, honey, I just need one more, just one more.” Her painted nails, chipped and worn, reach out like talons, digging into my arms with a sort of subdued desperation. I watch as blood comes up in stinging welts from the minuscule cuts and wonder at the ragged look of the cuticles that caused them. Callouses run up and down spray-tanned fingers, uneven and worn from times of both poverty and wealth. The Great Depression’s yellow tint of hunger pains still lingered in the shaking of those old-beauty fingers, shaking now from a different kind of craving. You used to keep yourself so well. What happened to the state of your hands? Gloves used to cry to offer those hands a palmer’s kiss, and now look at them, worn out and ragged as a newspaper left out in the rain.
“You’ve known me for years. I don’t lie to ya. I just need a little…”
My eyes face away, trying to look anywhere but at her. Is this what we have been reduced to? I don’t want to see you like this. I don’t want to see you strung out and begging for the next fix. It’s too costly. It’s too much. And it’s never enough for you, is it?
I watch the shadows flickering on the walls, throwing the old furniture down here into crazed impressions of tall, gaunt, hungry monsters, warped twists of their true selves, and even that is an illusion in the end. She paws at my arms again, tilting her head as if offering an invitation to trade something. The circlet wrapped around her head is askew, rather odd in its very presence as it thrusts old spikes into empty air, as an absentminded declaration of dead defiance of God knows what. Guess she got it back, I thought. I didn’t think the pawnshops did refunds.
I ignore it and just give her what she asks for.
A/N: The UN Office on Drugs and Crime statistics show that America’s pain pill and heroin addiction exceeds that of all other countries in the world.