by Margie Shaheed
"Ah wish Ah had a nickel
The clicking sound of the cigarette lighter startled him but he refused to move. His naked body formed a narrow mound in the bed as he played possum lying there beside her. She had fallen asleep after they'd made love but he figured the shadow-like thoughts inhabiting her mind must've cascaded down into her dreams and as always she pushed them back with another hit of crack. He felt her sweltering body slide back down into the bed as she covered her head with the wooly blanket.
He looked at the clock sitting on the night side stand. Its red eyes mocked him. In about an hour he would have to leave to go back to the bar before it closed to pick up his wife who was working there. Earlier that night he made a cameo appearance before slipping out of the side door to go around the corner to be with his lover. Now we all know an apple a day keeps the doctor away but a stiff drink a day keeps the demons at bay. As he sat up in the bed he grabbed his bottle of Jack Daniels off of the floor and took a long hard swig. He needed to think.
Although his stature is small for a man's he's never had a problem getting a woman. In fact, he knows he's what some would call a pretty boy—dark wavy hair, burnt peanut butter brown skin, jet black piercing eyes, and a childish-like grin. Surely, he's not scared of pussy but it goes against everything he knows in this world to be true to let one whip him. This affair of his (if you can call it that) has been going on for three years. That's a long time but he's clear—they have a symbiotic relationship. Or do they? He's a small time drug dealer who lives by cardinal rule #1—you never use your own product. In this equation, he needs sex because his wife, the mother of his two children, stopped giving it to him a long time ago. He just can't seem to remember when the flame between them went out. But it did. Although he and she still share the same bed they sleep together as brother and sister. His lover who lies in the bed next to him now is a crack head who needs the cocaine he trades with her for sex.
He's afraid though his wife might find out about his affair since the two women do know each other and share many of the same friends. He's not concerned about the men in the bar saying anything to his wife about it because although they know exactly what's going on they have a silent pact, and quiet as it's kept each and every one of the men secretly long for the power he wields over his attractive lover. On occasion, each of them has approached her for sex when he wasn't around. They dangled the carrot of crack before her eyes but she flat out refused their offers. It seems as if she is exclusive to him. This strikes a nerve deep down in the center of his bones as he ponders what keeps him coming back.
It's rumored, and he believes it to be true, that his wife is sexually involved with the roofer. He's convinced by the knowing way the roofer looks at his wife whenever she serves him a drink at the bar that something more is going on between them. The man tries to throw him off of his trail by looking him straight in the eye when they meet, shaking his hand, a show of respect, and just by being overly friendly towards him—but he's not fooled. He just lacks tangible proof. Of course, his wife adamantly denies it whenever he brings up the subject to her. Quite often they have big arguments over it because he really wants to know—if she's not giving it to him then who is she giving it to?
He finds himself standing at a crossroad with signs pointing in all directions. On the one hand he can't deny his marriage is a pile of ashes being swept away by the wind. But it's predictable. It's neat. It's honorable. On the other hand, he is sexually involved with a woman who everybody knows is a crack head. The thought embarrasses him and he doesn't trust her motives. Besides, they have an arrangement. Fair exchange ain't no robbery. Right? He also knows that it's more complicated than this because even though his lover gives him as much sex as he desires, and he forks over the cocaine that she craves so badly he still feels unfulfilled. It's seems as if there's something stronger holding them together. Otherwise, why would she not have sex with the other men in the bar when they too offered her crack? And, why on earth can't he find sex somewhere else? Why must it be with her?
He's in the pure presence of thought now and the demons start to creep up on him again so he takes another swig from his bottle. Fact of the matter is whatever he's feeling for her it wasn't supposed to happen. It's a terrible mistake but he has developed a liking for her that reaches far beyond the arms of sex and crack. He's slow to admit it but this thing he's feeling for her more resembles love. Although it's an abstract memory fading below the surface of his mind he knows what love looks like because its recognizable face is the one thing that makes him feel less primitive. He's an ogre without it. Could she possibly love him too?
He looks at the clock again. Time is up. He must return to the bar to do his duty. In the narrowing space of silence he dog-ears the revelation blinking on and off in his head so that when he reopens the book he can easily find this page. He throws the blanket off of his body and hits the light switch on the wall. He turns to look at his lover to see if she has awakened. She has not so for comfort he quietly counts her metered breaths. Then, he stops counting. As he gets up to put his pants back on a soft voice whispers in his ear—Silas, there are no easy answers. He finishes getting dressed and gently wakes up his lover so that she can come and lock the door behind him.