Blood doesn’t come out of a puncture much more than a dot. You could run a sharpened dowel through somebody and yank it out and you’d barely see a drop or two. I don’t even know why they bother with the cotton swab after a shot. Just roll your sleeve down and move on. That’s how my brother does it. Sometimes there might be a smear of bleed-through, but it’s rare that you’ll see it. Dark colored shirts, an expert. He doesn’t bother rolling them down for me, though. He knows I know what he does. I don’t care anymore, honestly. So we hang out and drink at my place most of the time, just trying our best to close out our past lives on a happy note. He sneaks off to the bathroom, shoots up his heroin on the toilet and nods there for a while—couldn’t shit if he wanted to. Then he comes back and nods on the couch. I talk to myself and watch CNN. I finish off the rest of the beer and light a roach I’ve been eyeing in the ashtray, say, “Fuck, man. It’s been so nice catching up these last few months, hasn’t it? I’m so glad we put our differences behind us.” I don’t know who I’m talking to, the corpse on the couch or the roach in my hand. Either way, I’m happy to be present. I feel his pulse—faint. He’s good. I roll him on his side so he won’t choke on his puke or tongue or whatever. And he’s still breathing, so that’s good, too. But I have to shit and it might be a minute, so I set the alarm on my phone and put it right on top of his left ear, volume maxed—five minutes. And when I come out, it’s a slight miracle—he’s still there, still breathing, kind of opening his eyes and trying to talk directly into the wide mouth on the TV screen, the scream of the alarm drilling into his eardrum. I turn off the alarm, put him back into a sitting position and ask him, “You like this show?” I take his silence as a ‘yes’ and start looking for more booze, find a fifth I forgot I’d hidden from myself in an air vent near the kitchen. I drink about half of it down and think about how we got here as brothers. I was going over to his place for the first couple of weeks we started talking again. But that routine changed when I popped in one day and he was eating expired cottage cheese from the tub, the bottom of the spoon all burnt up with carbon. I started falling into my old ways of judging him and told him to come over and eat out of my fridge anytime he wanted. He pretty much lives here now. The couch is his and the bed is mine. He starts mumbling for a cigarette. I put one in his mouth and light it. He just lets it dangle, puffs once in a while, and stares into the TV screen, oblivious.
I wake up ten hours later and it smells like ammonia. A hand brushes my face and wipes at the carpet in front of me, does it again. My head feels filled with nails and my pants and shirt are wet. A whiff of puke and piss works its way through the cleaner. I sit up and my brother is throwing paper towels into the trashcan in the kitchen. I watch him as he leans over the counter and sniffs something up his nose. The entire apartment is clean. He’s moving about quickly, with purpose. “How you feeling, brother?” he says. I rub my eyes and say, “I could use a beer.” He cracks the fridge and throws me one, says, “Saw you were out so got some more.” He snorts more stuff up his nose and says, “You have to try this shit.” I say, “What is it?” He blinks, wipes the counter top down and says, “Meth. And I’m telling you, man, this is some high tier shit.” I say, “Fuck it, maybe I’ll give it a shot.” He looks a little concerned, says, “Seriously? All I’m saying is—good shit.” I chug down half of the beer. “Never done it,” I say. “Never done much more than weed and coke.” He rubs his chin, staring at me. “I’m telling you,” he says, “I think it might be the first time in my life I felt alive.”
Two hours later there’s a needle in my arm. When my brother pulls it out, I imagine rivers of blood filling the floor at my feet. Also, I wonder what the spoon will look like when I start feeling like I’m hungry enough to eat.