Cigarettes, Coins, and The Water of Life

I came to this place in the belly of a gray bird native to Europe.

It threw me up on a sidewalk. M met me there.

“Take these, you’ll need them.” He hands me a pack of cigarettes. We each smoke one and wait for the bus. As we smoke a small man walks up and makes an indecipherable chitter from under a scarf. I look at M.

M holds out a cigarette. The man snatches it quickly with a clawed paw, drops to all fours and scampers off.

“What was that?” I ask, startled.

“Fiends. If you give them a cigarette they never bother you.”

“What happens if you don’t give them a cigarette?”

“I never want to find out,” M says, seriously.

We stand and wait for the bus. “You’ll need these as well.” He drops some coins in my hand.

“For what?” I ask.

“The Babushka.”

The bus comes. Inside, a large cracked boulder in a yellow jumpsuit rolls up to us. An expectant face is painted in red ink. M drops some coins into her crumbling outstretched fingers. I do the same.

M and I didn’t know each other too well before deciding to live together. So, we spend the bus ride, train ride, donkey ride and walk to the apartment sniffing each other’s butts. This continues through a tour of the apartment, a meal down the street and a bottle of a strong drink Russians call vodka.

It ends when M, blurry-eyed admits he’s got a problem.

“I’ve got a problem,” he says. Before I can explain my history of caring for drug addicts he places a small blue vial down on the table between us.

“I die, every night.”

“What?” I slur back at him.

“I die.” He slashes a finger over his throat and lolls out his tongue dramatically.

“Uh huh, how’d that happen?”

“Well, I was in a motorcycle accident about a month back and I died. My mother made some sort of deal for this stuff,” he shakes the little blue bottle, “and so I came back. But I got to take it every day.”

“What is it?”

“She called it the water of life…or maybe death, or something.”

“Okay,” I say, wondering what I got myself into.

“Yeah, so you have to take a few drops of the stuff and put it in some coffee in the morning and, well, it brings me back. Then I got to drink it and be on with my day. It’s not so bad I mean you know how people have all those meds for diabetes? It’s like that but not as bad. Just one dose.”

He smiles, I smile.

I go to bed.

He dies.

 

 

 

 

 

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