Newly constructed condos towered over a homeless shelter; a safehouse crowded by
threadbare faces, black coffee in dixie cups. We swap war stories, drunkalogues, homicidal
thoughts, say the We version of the Serenity Prayer & I hold Michelle’s hard hands. Michelle,
who knows fences better than dogs & postmen. Michelle, who made Dean’s list &
doesn’t know what email is. Michelle, who brews us coffee at dawn. Let go, let God,
light cigarettes on the stoop. Outside, she showers in the building’s shadows.
3 years clean & relapse before I had my organs appraised. A rash down my wrist &
surrounding my waistline. Went where I’d been the worst half of my life. Emergency room.
The nurse skipped STD tests for the pills & a needle. She rolled rubbers down her wrists
then swabbed a circle of rubbing alcohol. I unfolded my arms like prison discharge papers.
I squeezed scarred fists like stress balls before she unsheathed the syringe. Showing
my new vascularity – my elbows with their atlases – my protruding blueprint of veins.
Behind the curtain a drunk man screams. Walking to the waiting room I recognized
the shadows. The shape of limp body. Drunks & junkies are alike in every way.
So I told the nurse everything:
He has no home,
no relatives who want him
we were friends &
I’ll be taking him