Real Life

Fiction by Chris Milam

Jennifer fills the spoon as I grab the syringe and lighter. This is how we make love now. We don’t fuck, we get fucked up. Been like this for two years. We’ve been together for two years and a month. We met at an NA meeting. Conversation over cheap coffee. Degenerates spilling their guts while we flirted with quick glances. A few dates later she moved into my motel room. She didn’t care that I had nothing to my name. She didn’t either. Two lost souls swimming in a fish bowl and all that jazz.

“We’re busted,” she says after taking the last hit. “What about tomorrow?”

“I can’t donate plasma because of the needle marks. They’ll defer me permanently. We can go scrapping. I’ll figure it out, babe.”

The abandoned house we’re staying in is burning up in the Ohio summer. We’re both sweating and slapping away flies as we kill time.

She lights a half cigarette we picked out of the library ashtray. “You know, we could go to a meeting tonight.” Her smoke rings hit me in the face.

I can’t help but laugh. “Hi. I’m Josh, a drug addict. Can you make me whole again? Fuck that noise. I’m not a quitter.”

Jenner smiles in a way that says I’m hopeless. “We are doomed,” she says. “Mom won’t talk to me anymore, we get high and scrounge for dope money. This isn’t the life I envisioned when I was an honor roll student.”

“Well, my parents won’t talk to me either after I stole their laptop and my mom’s purse. I wasn’t a good student, though, not smart like you. I’ve always been a misfit, never fit in, never had direction. This life is the only life I know. I am what I am.”

She puts her arms around me and whispers, “you’re my beautiful misfit.”

I want to cry. She’s all I have, all I ever wanted. I hug her too hard, I don’t want to let go.

Later, we eat cold pinto beans from a can for dinner. We finish it off with the malt liquor bottle I lifted from the gas station earlier. We are bent and tired. The sun falls like a dead body. We sleep until noon.

We leave the house, each of us pushing a wobbly shopping cart. We find aluminum cans everywhere. We head to a steel plant and dive into the large dumpsters. We fill our carts with metal and get the hell out of there before someone calls the cops.

“Pretty good haul,” she says.

I nod. “We’ll know how good soon.”

The scrapyard is only a block away. We empty our carts and weigh our junk. We make $54.00.

Jennifer pats me on the ass. “Enough to score tonight. Let’s find Jake and get our escape on.”

We find him on the corner of Liberty and Seventh Street. He’s wearing a tank top and too-tight jeans. His beard is a mess. “Well, well, well, my two favorite fiends,” he says. “The usual?”

I don’t respond, I just hand him the money. He gives me the bags. “See you when I do,” Jake says.

We walk back to the house. We begin our usual ritual of preparation. Then I inject her and then myself. Bliss arrives like a bullet. Gone in seconds. This is happiness.

Jennifer passes out an hour later. I check her pulse just to make sure. Still breathing.

I stumble to the cracked window. The sun is killing everything in sight. Prostitutes hustling. Neglected kids throwing rocks at dilapidated buildings. Everything is grey and decaying. The air is filled with the smell of garbage and dying dreams. This isn’t like the books my parents read to me as a kid when every story had a happy ending. That’s fiction and this is real life. And in real life, you exist if only to survive for another day. Nobody is coming to save us. Get lit or die, that’s real life.

I go back to Jennifer and gently rub her arm. She doesn’t move. I don’t move. We are stuck in this moment. Two broken people with no way home. I stoke her blonde hair. I kiss her forehead. The sun slips away like a thief in the night. I take a swig of malt liquor and snuggle up next to her. I tell her I love her. She doesn’t answer. She doesn’t need to. I let the quiet wrap around me. I think about better days. I think about how we’re going to get high tomorrow. And then I decide I don’t want to think anymore. Sometimes it hurts too much.

<strong>Chris Milam</strong>
Chris Milam

Chris Milam lives in Middletown, Ohio. His stories have appeared in Jellyfish Review, JMWW, The Lumiere Review, Lost Balloon, X-R-A-Y, Molotov Cocktail, and elsewhere. He’s been nominated for Best of the Net, Best Small Fictions, and The Pushcart Prize. You can find him on Twitter @Blukris.

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