Friday, December 2, 2011

Fade Away

Sorry for the lack of stories these last two weeks; been playing too much Skyrim for my own good. Recently I saw a documentary about drug users in Russia, and it reminded me of a short piece I wrote back in college. I think everyone goes through some form of addiction one time or another in their life, not necessarily drugs, but destructive behavior you know is hurting you but you can't stop doing. This story is about being in that place.

Fade Away

“Your debt becomes payable in two weeks. If you aren’t able to pay me then, your interest rate is going up by twenty percent.”

Oleg stared at the loan officer with a blank look on his pallid face. ‘Loan officer’ was actually too nice a description, “loan shark” was more accurate. The fat, greasy-haired man worked out of his living room not some bank building. A lender of last resort that only people who really needed money would come to. People like Oleg. “Twenty percent? I, I can’t find that kind of money.”

The loan shark leaned over his scratchy oak desk, his massive belly pushing up against its faux-varnished surface so that he looked like an angry bullfrog when he spoke. “Well then, I suggest you start finding ways to get it. You’re not going to find my business associates as pleasant company as myself. They’re the kind of guys who like breaking thumbs. For sport. And this is going to be business.”

Oleg was quick to back down, “Of course, of course, I’ll get you the money. Two weeks you said? No problem.”

Settling back into his chair, his girth causing it to groan uncertainly, the loan shark grunted. “Good, now get going. I’ll send one of my associates around to your house tomorrow to see how you and your lovely wife are doing.” Oleg started to object, but was quickly cut off with a wave of a fleshy palm, “And no need to tell me that it’s not necessary, I insist. I think you know your way out.”

Oleg nodded, rubbing his sweaty palms on his ratty tweed pants as he got up. As he exited the crumbling building and stepped into the sweltering heat of the summer day, he wondered just how he’d gotten to this place to begin with. The rutted sidewalk in front of the loan shark’s house was littered with shards of glass. Broken wine bottles, shattered windows, cracked syringes, sometimes Oleg wondered if this entire place wasn’t built on a foundation of broken glass.

Walking down the crumbling sidewalks of the loan officer’s neighborhood, Oleg stuffed his hands in his pockets, walking with hunched shoulders and burying his face into the dirty collar of his unwashed striped shirt. He hoped no one would notice him. Not that it really mattered, it wasn’t like he lived in a neighborhood that was any better off than this. It was more of a neurotic fear that someone he had known in high school would see him. He had been better off back then living in a neighborhood where birds, not guns, sang out to mark the dawn. With parents who were mentally together enough to raise him up with at least a semblance of care. It was so weird, Oleg thought as walked briskly down the sidewalk, how teenagers thought they were so responsible; their folks did everything for them. Bought their food, drove them around, gave them shelter, paid their bills, hell they did everything but wipe their butts for them.

And things were so damned unfair that way, Oleg thought. Why couldn’t it just stay like that.

If there was one thing that his thirty-three years on Earth had taught Oleg it was that some things were like physics: you drop a ball and it’s going to hit the ground. You leave your parents house, crash at friends until they can’t stand you, do drugs because you’re thinking of your own happiness more than that of anyone else’s, and you’re going to live a crappy life. But why, Oleg thought with of a mental sigh of frustration, why did it have to be that way.

He walked past a Hispanic guy, sitting out on the concrete porch of a decaying flophouse, his bare-chest marked up with scars and a large tattoo of a red dragon that was inked into his abdomen. The guy had a dime bag brazenly held in his hand. Oleg felt that twinge in his arms, the twinge that was his body’s way of telling his mind that it wanted some more drugs. Oleg kept walking, not to get away from the dealer but because he already had a stash hidden at hom
e. Why, Ego thought as he walked, why wasn’t it that you could have it both ways. Why couldn’t you just feel good, and have a family that wasn’t hurt? It was just drugs, why did your kid have to hate your guts. Why couldn’t everything just be alright?

A red stoplight halted Oleg’s walk, the aging cars that were speeding by belched out an acrid smoke that made his eyes water. Keeping his eyes on the ground, Oleg looked into a puddle that had formed over a clogged sewage drain. In the muddy water he could barely see his face; hair that hadn’t been combed in weeks, puffy bags underneath his dark eyes, a pocked face with signs of wear that should have marred the skin of an older man. He knew that some things in life were like physics…he knew it but couldn’t help himself anyways. Just moan and groan and blame his weakness on other things, and then go back and do the same shit all over again. Just complain about how hard it was to change his life. Just complain and keep doing the same old shit.

Oleg made sure to step in the puddle as the light turned green, blotting out his image in a swirl of muddy water, but he still picked up his pace as he marched towards the stash waiting for him at home.

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