What Are Friends For?—Elaine Bonow

What Are Friends For?

I hurried over to his apartment before his meds knocked him out for the night.

I wonder what’s taking her so long to get here. She said she was taking the 358 leaving at 7:09. That should take about 38 minutes plus time to walk here. I hope she didn’t miss the bus.

I pressed 1909 on the keypad in the brightly lit foyer of the pre-war low-income building. “Joey,” I shouted into the intercom. “It’s me Barb. Come on, I know you’re not asleep yet. Ring me in.”

“Damnit where did I put that phone. Oh shit here it is.”

I could hear him fumbling to find 9 on the old school cordless he insisted on using.

“Barb, is that you? Hold on, I found it.”


I yanked open the door and rode the sticky elevator up to the nineteenth floor.

“I’d better open that door before she gets up here.” He mumbled to himself. “ I don’t want her to see me all decrepit and shit.”

I pushed the door open. “Joey, Joey, I have some great news buddy. Remember that awesome money making deal I was telling you about.”

Man-o –man, every time I go into the place I feel like I’m on an episode of Hoarders, with the dark bedroom lit by one of those battery operated candles, red, left over from last Christmas that his sister had sent him from Texas. My eyes finally adjust to the gloom and I find him bunched under the covers blending into all of the other piles of clothes in the tiny room. I couldn’t tell where he began and the heaps of clothes ended.

“Hey, did you get any smokes? I only have these snipes.”

I hope to hell she doesn’t tell me to get up and start that shit again about how I live and shit.

He sat up in the bed reached over half empty cups of moldy tea, pills of various sorts, mostly Tylenols and aspirins, the overflowing ashtray and expired lotto tickets for one of the five or so lighters on the heaped up bedside table. “Now what’s this about a deal. You know I need my sleep. What do you want now?”

Dear God. If he gets any more sleep he’ll be dead.

“Oh don’t be a drag, man. You know I got your back. Who else comes up here bringing you tobacco and wine and stuff?”

“Yeah right Barb. You’re always around…like a bad hangover. You must want something from me… like always.

I sat down next to him on the bed and switched on the table lamp stuck to that fearful bedside table. “Ah, Joey man, don’t be such a drag. You know it’s not often you get to hang out with a cool chick like me.”

She was right. She was almost the only person who would not only come up here but come into this mess and bring me stuff too. I know I am totally fucked up. There’s no hope for me.

I wonder how he got so bad. He’s not even that old maybe sixty-seven, sixty-eight. He used to be not so bad looking before. I remember seeing him on the street a few years back. He had a wife at one point and a couple of kids.

“Thanks for the smokes. I’d go out and get some myself but…you know… I just… I will I…I…shit.”

Sitting here smoking a fresh Newport is the best. I remember when I smoked my first cigarette. It was a Salem and I would get such a buzz. I can taste it now. I wonder if that first drag was what put me on the road to this misery?

Joey put the half smoked cigarette carefully out on the rim of the ash heap. “ Ok, I feel better now. What is the plan Sam?”

“Well, I’ve been thinking. You know, you can get a medical marijuana card right?”

“Yeah, but I have to pay about two hundred bucks to get it and I ain’t got that kind of spare money just to get some pot. I don’t even like the shit any more I just get paranoid.”

“But you still get your SSI check, right? And that is about six hundred a month, right?”

God, I hate it when she starts talking about my money. I mean hell, where is her money? Why does she keep doing this to me? Every month it’s the same old thing. This scheme that scheme always something and it’s always some thing she wants to do with my money.

“Now Joey, don’t get all weird and shit. Listen to me, this time I have a perfect angle.”

I’m losing him. He’s already starting to freak.

“Listen Joey, We’ll go and get the card and then you can put me down as your go to person. I mean look at you. You’re all fucked up. You never leave the apartment except on the first to cash your check and buy shit with your food stamps. You’re turning into a hermit or worse. Do you want to die here all-alone? Do you want me to come up here one day and just find your dead body all eaten by maggots, Do you Huh? We’ll go and get the card and spend the rest on some weed. Then I can sell it for double or even more on the street. We could make a nice stack of cash. I know people who are doing this. We could get you out of this hellhole. Listen, I talked to this good friend of ours, remember Gordon Brown? Well, he had his mother for Christ’s sake, go and get a card. They go to the dispensary every week and get a freaking shit load of weed and take it back to the neighborhood and re-sell it. I tell you we could do it too.”

“I don’t know. How do you know this could work? What if everybody does it? What if I get busted? What if you just ran off with my money and the weed?”

I grabbed him by his skinny shoulders and shook the hell out of him. “If you really believed me you would give me the money.”

Eventually I would give into her. I might regret it later but hell, I just might be able to live like a normal human again. She’ll have to pay the consequences though. I’ll ask her after the first deal if she’ll marry me. I know she’ll say yes.


About bbcstudiowrites

This blog is me archiving the BBC Studio Writers Workshop.

Posted on November 8, 2012, in Fiction. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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