She kicked the door open when no one answered, breaking the flimsy lock in the knob on the third try. “Jesus, help me,” she muttered irritably, crossing herself as she entered the dark house. It reeked of body odor, stale booze and sex as she stepped over passed out bodies, looking for a hulking figure. She found him one of the bedrooms, sitting up in a corner as he always did, eyes bleary and red in the light that shone on them from the open door.
“Hey,” he said. He pocketed the phone, missing the first try and started to push himself off the floor. She took one of his wrists in her little hand and pulled. Once on his feet, her head didn’t reach his shoulder and yet she supported his weight as she helped him out of the house. Whiskey, she thought, his breath hot on her face. He closed his eyes against the daylight and together they limped to her car, got in and drove away.
It wasn’t the first time she’d picked him up like this. It wasn’t the second or third or tenth. She had stopped keeping track. His head against the window, she thought he had fallen asleep, like he usually did. She usually drove to his apartment, he would mutter a thanks and he would leave. She wouldn’t see him again for weeks, sometimes a few months at a time. He broke the cycle.
“Why do you always come?” he asked. It was always a text at five in the morning, asking for help, not sure where he was. She knew all the usual places to look, the bars and the houses and hotels. She got word from around town where the drinks would be, and there she would find him when he needed her.
“I don’t know,” she said. She didn’t have to look at him to know there were tears streaking down his cheeks now and then; she could hear it in his voice. “Someone has to,” she said. He shook his head.
“You don’t have to.”
“Would anyone else?” He swallowed, cleared his throat.
“No.” She knew it was the alcohol he went for. She’d never found him with another woman, no matter how drunk he was. He knew no simple sex would replace her, would drive her from his memory. He didn’t think he was capable of it, even if he could convince himself to try. He drank because sometimes, sometimes he could forget her. He knew a hundred others like him, trying to drink away a woman. He was not special or deserving of sympathy and he never believed otherwise. But this had gone on too long now. He wasn’t the suicidal type. He just knew it was time to end this cycle.
“I just want to know why you still come.”
“Can we not talk?” she asked. He smiled.
“I just want to know this one last thing.” Last? What did he mean? Suicide didn’t enter her mind; she knew he was too stubborn for that. She shook her head. She pulled up alongside the curb in front of his apartment and put the car in park, not taking her hand off the wheel. He looked over at her from the window and a spark of light around her neck caught his attention. He reached for it.
“Stop it!” she snapped, slapping his hand away, not looking at him. She glared out the window, her chest heaving under the cardigan she wore, heart hammering with both fear and confusion. He looked away, ashamed.
“I wasn’t trying anything,” he said weakly, and he truly wasn’t. “I just never seen you wear a necklace before. Wondered what it was,” he said. He opened the door, and got quickly out of her car. “Thanks again,” he said and closed it, hurrying into the apartment, not looking back. Up the stairs two at a time, trying to hold himself together, he unlocked the door with fumbling fingers, opened the door and slammed it shut. He turned and engaged the deadbolt, collapsing against the smooth surface as he did, sliding down it until he was on his knees, head in hands, the tears flowing between his fingers, his powerful shoulders shaking as he cried, praying for her forgiveness, because even God didn’t forgive men like him.
She sat there in the street even as he cried, tears streaming down her own cheeks. Her fingers gripped what hung at the end of the chain she wore. Bent over the steering wheel, she pressed the wedding ring he had given her to her chest and prayed, though she didn’t know what to pray for.