You can understand, can’t you, my protective streak? He’s the first man to ask me for that kind of help, the help to stay sober and therefore to stay alive. And maybe I take myself too seriously. Maybe I think I can do things that I can’t; that I can somehow keep someone alive through just my words. And maybe no matter what I say he will not survive, or he will just disappear quiet and slow. But I want to try; I want to hold him in the palm of my hand, and curl my fingers around him and protect him. And because you’re my friend I know you understand that.
I raise my leg as though I’d mark him like a dog does a tree. And you laugh, short and weak, because you don’t think it’s all that funny. But I make my point, don’t I?
You stand two feet from him, face-to-face. My friend you cast your glow across him, and from where I watch I can see what you are doing. My friend you are light and flame. Men are drawn to you as moths, their mindless flight drawn through your burn. Each week it seems you leave them quivering at your feet, wrapped in cooling wax, wings torn and scattered. My friend from where I stand I can see the trouble you breed, the men you leave behind. And you tell me you’re alone, while heaped around you are corpses of the men that have tried, one at a time, to kiss the flames rolling from your skin.
“Your sponsee and I are going to have coffee and go to a meeting,” you say.
“Great,” I reply, “as long as you don’t mack on him.”
You gasp as if wounded. “I wouldn’t mack on him,” you say. And then you pause while I wait for the lie to stop. “Besides, wouldn’t you want him to be with me, of anyone you know?”
My friend there are few things that I know for certain, and one of them is that you would be the last I’d want him to fuck.
“He doesn’t need to get with anyone right now,” I say.
“I’d take care of him,” you say, smiling.
Yeah, I think, you’d take care of him the way you took care of yourself 63 days ago, when you left a meeting and stuck a needle in your arm and saw, as you said, the face of the devil. You’d take care of him like you take care of all the other stupid moths.
“A lot of guys want to take care of him,” I say.
I don’t know sometimes what a friend should be. I don’t know how much to tell you; that I think you tear open the hearts of men, that I see more needles in your arm, that I don’t recognize you anymore because of the corpses piled around you. That if you touch him you’ll have one less friend.