The diabetic alcoholic across the street had lost all limbs by now. He only came out anymore for Medi-Van transport to dialysis. It took two strong men to hoist him and his wheelchair down the splintered wooden front stairs. He lived alone with his aging mother, who never came out to wave goodbye. That mother? I’d guess she was about a hundred and fourteen by now.
She was on a reverse mortgage, hidden away.
The diabetic had gone to dialysis. It was a blasting hot spring day. I was staring out the window, enjoying the calm. A Cutlass pulled up in a rush of shaking bass blasting from rattling speakers. A girl ran out of the diabetic’s tiny, old house toward the street. She ran like an escapee, and moved like a track star, fast and smooth. The sun flashed against a long silver blade in her hand, making her gleam like a goddess. She clutched a butcher knife. She slammed against the Cutlass and yelled, “Get out of here or I will kill you.” Every word carried the force of her full conviction.
A flood of people poured out of the house behind her. So maybe the diabetic didn’t live alone with his mother? Except, who were all the rest of those people, and when had they ever gone in the house? I had never seen any of them arrive. I’d never seen them knock, or leave, or hang out on the porch. It was like they were born inside the house and never emerged until now, as far as I could tell. Some were barefoot. They were all in lounge wear, pajamas and slips. One kid, maybe ten years old, came out still holding a box of Fruit Loops, spilling as he trailed behind.
They yelled, “Don’t do it!” The voice of reason came as a chorus. They yelled, “You’re only wrecking your own life.”
A man pushed his way ahead of the pack and caught the raging girl by her elbows. He pulled her backward. She stabbed the knife in the air toward the car, but she let herself be dragged. In his arms, she walked backward down the sidewalk, over the yard, up the stairs, into the house. The car peeled out backward. Everything had gone into rewind.
When the street was quiet the Medi-Van brought the diabetic home, back to home sweet home, to recover.
Late that night, I was still up when the doorbell rang. It was a drunk who climbed onto our porch, who rang the bell just after midnight. Our front door was open to bring in the cool night air, the security door we call a screen door there to hold the world out.
He said, “I love you! I’ve always loved you. I will love you forever.” Those words traveled like the worst kind of threat, the wrong kind of love, a rusted razor of high hopes.
I offered back, “You have the wrong house.” Wrong person, wrong time, wrong season, wrong promise.
He said, “I love you! Only you!”
It was too late to close the door without moving close to this man, where his fingers were laced through the grating. From my dark corner, I said, “Good night.”
He said, “But I love you.” His voice cracked with his truth.
I didn’t call for help and he didn’t make any threats except eternal love, a non-threat that seemed able to sustain itself forever.
I said, “I don’t know you.”
He said, “Only you.” I was alone and he was alone and we had nothing in common short of being human at night. The moon loomed over his shoulder, white and bald.
“You have to go,” I said, Juliet to his Romeo.
Finally, he turned around. He wobbled down the stairs. He tipped to the right toward the roses, then he tipped to the left, and held the old metal railing to keep steady. “Goodbye,” I whispered, just loud enough that he might hear.
He turned back to me then. He said, “I never loved you. Not at all. I never did.” He took his cloud of sweat and love and left me only the moon, alone.
Monica Drake is the author of The Folly of Loving Life, Clown Girl, and The Stud Book. She holds an MFA from the University of Arizona and designed and launched the BFA in Writing at the Pacific Northwest College of Art where she currently is faculty. Her short stories and essays have appeared in the The New York Times, Paris Review Daily, The Sun, Oregon Humanities Magazine, Northwest Review, and other publications.