Let It Go
“This is the last time! The very last time! You promised not to gamble our money away and here we are again. I’m done. Get the hell out of here!” She was in a rage. No amount of “baby, baby please” could remedy our troubles. I just stood in our bedroom doorway, catching flies in my opened mouth, dumbstruck and out of excuses.
“What are you waiting for Rich? Get the hell out!”
She charged towards me and I flinched, half-expecting her to pull out her earrings and go for the jugular. Instead, she pushed me with closed fists into the hallway and slammed the door in my face. I stared at the notches in the old oak door, my heavy breath fogging up the old polyurethane. Birds chirped in the bright morning sun outside. The sound of bottles crashing in the back of a garbage truck shook my brain awake and I realized it was over between us.
The funny thing about it all is that I met her at a blackjack table. It was gambling that had brought us together and it was gambling that now tore us apart. I didn’t even think of this last incident as gambling, it seemed to be more of an opportunity, a sure thing. I had bet all we had saved since the last time I hit bad luck, but I had come up on the losing end again.
She would be alright. She would get back on her feet again. I was shit out of luck. I was lost in the world with only the clothes on my back and the twenty spot in my faded jeans.
Without a job to clock in at, I walked the streets thoughtless and hungry. It was 9AM and the closest thing to breakfast I had had was the smell of toast burning as I walked out of Vera’s apartment. I paced slowly towards the main drag until I saw my brother, Bob, walking into the neighborhood dive bar.
Bob was not what you would call a go-getter. That is unless you were talking about going to get another drink. He was seemingly incapable of holding down even the most menial sort of work. He spent his unemployment check and most of his time in bars.
“Yo, Bob! Hold up. Bob!” I shouted over the morning traffic as he opened the door to the bar. He walked inside as I jogged up to meet him. I opened the door underneath a rusted sign that read; “Joe’s… next time bring your wife”. The comic irony of the sign precluded the drunken tableau I witnessed upon walking into the bar.
The acrid smell of ancient nicotine and piss was almost visible; like green smoke wafting over cartoon garbage. My appetite instantly disappeared. I squinted as I searched for my brother in the cavernous darkness of the dive bar. My eyes, dilated from the lively morning sun, stretched open to find Bob sitting at the bar with a can of Busch already in front of him as if the beer had always been there waiting for him to arrive. I walked up behind my older brother and slapped him on the back.
“Getting at it already, huh?” I asked.
Bob turned around. His eyes were bloodshot and yellowed, cradled over black bags of sagging flesh. My eyes began to water. It was a sympathetic reaction like yawning only because the person next to you had just done the same.
“Jesus Christ, you look like shit, Bob” I said. This was not very polite, but it was involuntary like the tears spouting from my eyes.
“Well, shit man! What are you doing here bud? Good to see ya! Pull up a seat next to your big bro. Nick, get my lil bro a beer” Bob managed to sputter out before going into a coughing fit that made me believe death itself had grasped his throat.
“I was just getting started on my morning workout” he sadly joked as he alternated lifting his beer in one hand and his long, cheap cigarette in the other.
If I hadn’t been depressed before, the feeling was now complete. The bartender set a can of Busch in front of me as I sighed deeply. I took a gulp of the warm grog and choked it down, wiping spittle from my otherwise dry and hungry lips.
“The breakfast of champions” my brother remarked as he held his can up to mine. He seemed to be full of gut-busters, a real comedian indeed. However, he appeared to grow solemn when I didn’t acknowledge his wit.
“What’s wrong Rich?” He asked. “Vera get rid of ya for good this time?” He may not have been funny, but he was observant.
“That’s right” I pathetically replied. “Trash day. Put me out for good this time.”
A sudden wave of utter dread radiated outward from my stomach throughout my entire body. I looked at my brother and for a moment thought I saw myself reflected in his apathy. I began to tell him the whole story, starting with my withdrawal of Vera’s entire savings, through the argument with her and up to the point I spotted him walking into Joe’s.
Bob replied exactly as I would have expected. He leaned towards me and put his arm over my shoulder as his throat and the back of his teeth began wrestling indigestion.
“Women. Can’t live with ‘em, can't kill ‘em, I guess. Gotta let it go, bud.”
This was not reassuring. When we were children, I could count on Bob for sound advice from the sage I saw him to be. Now it was only drunken platitudes I could expect from my older brother.
“Listen, bud, I gotta get downtown an’ pick up my check. Give me a lift?”
Now I knew why he bought me a beer.
“I don’t have my car, Bob. They took it away. I couldn’t make the payments.” I sunk again into reality.
“Well, I better get to gettin’ then.” Bob said and stumbled out of his barstool into the bright morning shuffle.
I ordered another beer.
Three hours later, I sat hunched over whiskey, no ice. I had switched from beer after it began to make me piss every twenty minutes.
The whiskey made me dizzy. It also made me believe that Vera was somehow at fault for what had transpired that morning. It seemed a distant memory now and the whiskey was sympathetic to my plight.
I must have begun talking the situation out aloud because the few people around the bar began to cast lowbrows in my direction.
I became especially angry at the man sitting directly across from me. Every time I looked up from my glass he was snarling at me. The little light that there was in the bar, cast his whole body figure, excluding his eyes and mouth, in black shadow. I continued mumbling to myself, interrupting my monologue with glances up at the stranger, and every time; there he was, mocking me. Finally, I resolved to find the spinning floor with my feet and confront the shadowed rogue.
To my surprise, as I stood up, so did this stranger. I kept my eyes fixed on him as I started around to his side of the bar. He did the same. When I finally came to the turn at the bar, he was no more. I walked around to where he had been sitting only to realize there was no other side of the bar. Only a mirror running the length of the back bar. I returned to my seat and there he was again. Mirror image; only myself and I.
I threw some money on the bar and the wall kindly assisted me on my way to the door.
I ran into Bob on the way out of Joe’s. My left nostril rose and twitched as my vision kaliedoscoped. I fell into Bob’s arms.
When I awoke, it was dark outside and my head was pounding. With great pain, I looked around and realized I was in Bob’s trailer.
I’ve been here ever since. Vera came by once to throw my clothes on top of me as I slept a dead man’s slumber.
It is quiet here. Bob isn’t home much and there is a large mirror beside the couch. I have taken up a new residence.
© Copyright 2017 Kyle Stead. All rights reserved.
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