"I hate you. Do you know that? I fucking HATE YOU!" Roger screamed at me, clawing at my body, doing everything he could to get me away from the door, out of his path to freedom.
"You hate how you feel right now. Stop. Just stop, Roger. You hate how you feel." I said as his strength started to ebb, and with it his anger. Thank God. There's no way I would have been able to hold him back much longer. Even now, even weak like he is, he's a lot to handle. His single-minded determination to get to his dealer is scary.
Roger started to slip, shivering, to the floor, and I was able, finally, to put my arms around him and support him instead of brace myself in order to stave him off.
"I want to feel better. Mark, please help me feel better." He whispered as we neared the couch.
"I am, Roger. You just don't know it yet." He climbed onto the couch, his face pressed into the fabric of the back, shivering. I piled blankets on top of him, knowing that in a few minutes he'll feel like he's burning up and I'll just have to take them off again.
"Water." I heard him mumble against the couch cushion.
"Ok." I said, taking a few steps to the kitchen to fill a glass, one eye on him the whole time. I can't trust him anymore. Sometimes he makes me think he's calmed down only to spring for the door, or the fire escape, the second my back is turned. I won't let him. It's not gonna happen. I don't care how long it takes.
As I walked back towards him, I saw a new bruise forming on my forearm. Add it to the list. It's been a rough few weeks. And it doesn't look like it's going to let up any time soon.
A knock on the door made me jump.
"It's Collins, man. I'm coming in." I heard Collins call through the door.
"Go ahead." I called back, and heard Collins unlock the door. After way too many attempts by Roger to escape when one of us was coming or going, we settled on alerting each other that we were about to enter so that the other could make sure Roger was far away from the door.
"Hey. How is he?" Collins asked. He was carrying a bag of much-needed groceries.
"Just settling down." I told him. Roger had drifted off to sleep after I tipped some of the water into his mouth.
"Ok. Get out of here for a bit." Collins instructed me, pressing a twenty dollar bill into my hand. "Some of the gang's at the Life. Go be normal for a little bit."
"Fat chance." I retorted, and he laughed. I went, reluctantly, into the bathroom to wash up. I tried to blank my mind to what had happened there. 'Fat chance' echoed in my head. There would be no forgetting what April had done.
My face was sweaty and my hair a mess. And I definitely needed to change my shirt.
As I walked to my room to grab a fresh t-shirt, I heard Roger crying. "No. Collins, please don't let him go. What if he does something bad? It's easy to do something bad. Please make him stay." He was sobbing into the front of Collins' shirt, but must have seen me out of the corner of his eye, because he suddenly jumped up and ran to me, pinning me against the wall. "Please don't leave, Mark. Please don't go. I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I'm so sorry." He cried, pulling me down to sit on the floor as he wrapped himself around me.
"Roger, it's ok. It's just for a little bit. I'm just going to go for a walk. Ok? I'll be back in ten minutes." I said, feeling like I was talking to my five-year-old nephew, Danny.
"No. No. You can't. Please don't. I need you." He'd begun to shiver again, his body rocking back and forth before the tremors really started. The way he'd wrapped himself around me, there was no way I was moving, even if I'd wanted to.
"Ok. Ok, Roger. I'll stay. Ok?" I told him.
"Mark, you need a break." Collins said, looking like he disapproved that I'd given in.
"He doesn't get one." I replied. What I was going through was nothing compared to Roger's pain. His girlfriend committed suicide. He found out he has HIV. He's going through withdrawl.
"Because you don't fucking let me have one." Roger spat at me, his head coming up off of my shoulder. "One. One hit. That's all." He begged.
"No." Collins and I answered in unison. Roger quickly disentangled himself from me and stood up. I jumped to my feet as well, waiting to see what he would do next. One second he's angry, the next sad, the moment after that sincerely apologetic, but always, always wretchedly sick.
"Roger," I began, talking to him the same way I would an injured animal, "let's go sit down, ok? Are you hungry? Collins brought food." I said, slowly inching towards him. His expression was frantic and scared.
"Get the FUCK away from me!" Roger yelled, shoving Mark as hard as he could, sending him crashing into the coffee table. I heard glass shatter and Mark cry out in pain as I grabbed Roger from behind, pinning his arms to his sides.
"Are you ok?" I asked over Roger's shoulder. He struggled against me, his body shaking with every breath.
"Let go. Let go. Let go. Let go." he muttered over and over.
"No. The glass cut me." Mark said.
"Shit, how bad?" I asked. This is the last thing we need. Roger's body wrenched suddenly and we fell to our knees.
"Ow, Jesus, you're hurting me!" He yelled in my ear. I still wouldn't let go.
"Mark? How bad?" I repeated. I made Roger lay out flat on the ground, knowing he's too weak to resist. He lay there limply, unable to fight anymore.
"I don't know." Mark said, slowly sitting up, his left hand on his right upper arm.
"I'm gonna wash it out. I hope there's no glass in there."
"Yeah." I saw numerous bruises visible on Mark's exposed skin as he walked to the kitchen sink. The cut didn't look too bad. Hopefully no need for stitches or anything. Roger had suddenly started whispering to himself.
"I did that. Me. He is broken because of me. How did I get here?" I listened more intently to Roger's hushed voice as he spoke, "Mark, I'm sorry. You're paying for my mistakes. I'm taking out all the- all the- everything on you. And you don't get mad. Thank you, thank you, thank you." His gaze was trained on Mark, who had washed out the cut and was applying a bandage. Roger somehow managed to throw me off of him and bolted up before I could stop him. Mark heard the scuffle and turned, ready for the fight but not at all prepared for the hug. "I love you." Roger told Mark, hugging him tightly.
Thoughts? Not sure if this is a one-shot or a little series. Let me know what you think!