Fiction Friendship

It is difficult not to feel like you are not long for this world when you already feel so disconnected from it. So, with this haunting a person’s mind, what would they have to lose if they did whatever they wanted on impulse? I am not here to tell you whether there is or is not an afterlife. All I can say for a fact is that I have not seen the dead suffer any repercussions for their past transgressions. Instead, whether they lie beneath the dirt or turn to ash, they return to the earth.

Arlen is someone I used to go to school with that I considered a good friend well into our thirties. The ideas I mentioned prior is how he lived his life. Whatever came to mind for him to do in that moment, he would do it without a second thought. There were so many times we would hang out and he’d tell me of the hilarious hijinks his impulsiveness would get him into. I often felt quite boring compared to him to the point where I wished his stories were my own. I was always sort of jealous of him and his unbelievable stories until he told me about a night he took it too far.

Arlen went to a casino called the Lucky Strike. He loved the lights and the sounds of the slot machines. He loved the sounds of people screaming as they hit blackjack or when the ball hit heir lucky number at the roulette table. Most of all, he loved to flirt with girls. Especially the waitresses.

That night he was among those screaming at the blackjack table. To put it briefly, he won thirty-five hundred dollars by the end of the night. It was during that winning streak when he found his trouble.

“Can I get you another drink?”

Arlen looked over his shoulder and saw a woman with short black hair, eyelashes that accentuated the fire in her eyes, and a black and red leotard that was meant to be noticed by men just like him.

“Yea, darlin.” Arlen replied. “Get the rest of the table a drink too!”

“Ok, hun.”

As she turned around Arlen smacked her on the rear end. Everyone laughed except for the dealer and the waitress. The dealer had an expression of horror and uneasiness on his face. He was about to speak into his mic until the waitress grinned and put up her finger. Then, she put her hand on Arlen’s shoulder and slid it down his chest ever so slightly. She leaned in close enough where Arlen could feel her warm breath on the back of his ear, making the hair stand up on the back of his neck. She whispered, “I get off at two. Meet me in the back parking lot and I’ll show you what a real winner feels like.”

Keeping his eyes on the table, Arlen grinned in return and tilted his head back, “You got it darlin.”

Arlen cashed in his winnings and met the waitress behind the casino right at two o’clock. The waitress was smoking a cigarette, leaned against a four door F250 with darkly tinted windows. Arlen threw his hands in the air. “I like your taste in vehicles. And I thought you couldn’t get any hotter.”

As soon as he said that the waitress tapped on the truck and three men jumped out. The only words Arlen was able to get out was, “You bitch,” before they rushed him and beat him until he couldn’t get up. After they were done, they took every penny he had.

It was four in the morning before Arlen made it to my place. He staggered onto my front porch and we sat and talked. As he told me what had happened, he seemed angry, but then, he fought back tears as he told me why it happened. Slumped over, with his elbows on his knees, he stared at the ground avoiding eye contact at all costs. “I shouldn’t be here. When I as deployed… two of my friends died. I stood there and watched them, and twenty other people loaded on a plane in a box, then shipped back home. There are so many times I should have died, but I came back without a scratch.”

I looked at him with empathy, “I really don’t think that’s true Arlen.” Arlen took his eyes off the ground and looked at me with mild confusion. I answered, “Ever since you’ve gotten back from Afghanistan you’ve been so self-destructive. I love you like a brother, but you’ve got to stop this.”

“I know, and I want to, but every time I start to get ahead, I wonder why I even deserve it.”

“Look, I’ll never understand how you feel. I will never understand what seems like the literal hell you went through, but throwing your life away isn’t a sacrifice to anyone. It’s a waste.”

Arlen hung his head again. “They took the money I was supposed to use for rent. I’m two months behind. If I don’t pay it, I’m going to be out on the street.”

I knew Arlen was too proud to ask me for help straight-forward. This was the only way he knew to ask. I pondered the indirect question for a moment. I thought about how me lending him money again or letting him stay with me would affect me. Even mor so, I thought about how it would affect him. Now, I know I am going to sound cold, but you don’t know Arlen like I do. I knew, that if he didn’t feel the repercussions of his actions, he would never learn. So, I told him no.

After I told him this, Arlen couldn’t fight back his tears any longer. This grown man, who had been to literal war and seen things I could never imagine made himself vulnerable to me. I held my friend as his demons had their way. In a way this made me feel happy and hopeful. As I mentioned before, it is inevitable that we all return to the earth. I hope that, at that moment I helped him feel a little bit more connected to the world before returning to it.

May 29, 2021 01:55

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