by Steven Cuffari
Alex stumbles as fast as he can down the street. The drink is catching up to him. Ignoring the swirling feeling in his head, he stops, pulls a flask out from his jacket and takes a swig. He takes a deep breath and straightens himself out and walks forward with determination. Sirens fade out behind him.
Phil stands in front of the bar and watches Alex as he walks away. He turns away and watches the ambulance pass and disappear into a small street. He looks back, and Alex is gone. He rushes off to find him.
Alex arrives at a building only a few blocks away. He’s smoking a cigarette. He flicks it and checks his pockets for keys.
“Fuck,” he says. He looks up and sees a light on in the apartment. “What the fuck?”
He stumbles to the door and rings the bell. He can hear the bell upstairs from where he stands. He takes a swig from his flask.
He tries again. Nothing.
“Brian, I know you’re up there! If it’s not you, then it’s a burglar, and I’m calling the police.
He rings the bell over and over.
Brian voice bursts from the intercom. “Alright! Fuck! Come in. I was busy.”
The door buzzes open and Alex goes through the lobby and the second door. A woman is coming down the stairs as he goes up. At first he ignores her, but as she passes he recognizes her.
“Hey, excuse me. Don’t I know you?”
The woman cringes from him and keeps walking.
“I guess not,” he mumbles.
He waves goodbye to her back and turns around, catching himself on the banister. When he arrives at the apartment, the door is already open. He takes another swig and walks through.
Inside, Brian is getting dressed, looking like he just took a shower.
“What are you doing here?” asks Alex.
“What am I doing here? What are you doing here? You’re wasted.”
“You’re doing it again, aren’t you?”
“What are you talking about?”
“You know what I’m talking about. The girls, the women. I saw her downstairs.”
“I really don’t know what you’re talking about. You should get some rest. Why don’t you go to your room and sleep it off”
“I can’t believe you. You’re married.”
“Oh jesus. Give me a break, I’m not cheating anymore. I told you. I told Maria. Ask her yourself in the morning. She’ll tell you that she believes me.”
“I’m don’t need to sleep. I can’t. I feel like I’m spinning out of control here.” He takes a swig.
“You need help, Alex. I’ve told you this before. There’s only so much I can do alone.”
Brian is interrupted by the sound of the bathroom door opening. His face lights up with worry, and he mouths at the girl coming out to go back in. She shakes her head as tears roll down her face.
Alex looks up and stares at her. Then he stares at Brian. He’s in awe. Tears well up in his eyes.
Brian holds his face in his hands and shakes his head. “I told you to just stay in there for a few minutes.”
“I could hear everything in there. It’s not right.”
The girl runs to Brian’s bedroom, grabs her things and hurries out. Before she closes the door behind her, she looks back at him.
“You’re a scumbag,” she says.
He takes a deep breath, looks at Alex and laughs. “I’m sorry. It’s not funny. I mean, it is funny–how fucked up everything has become.”
“It’s become this way because of you.”
“Jesus. Here we go. That’s your opinion. You don’t know what it’s like for me.”
“How could you say that? We’re brothers. You can tell me anything. You know that.”
“That’s just it, Alex. I can’t tell you anything. Just look at you. You’re barely holding it together.”
“I’ve had a couple of drinks. I’m alright.”
“No. You’re not.”
“And what about Maria? You think this is right to her?”
“That’s none of your business.”
“None of my business? She’s all the family we have!”
“She’s not family anymore.”
“How could you say that? She’s your wife. Your best friend! She’s like a sister to me.”
“I should have known this was going to happen,” says Brian.
The bell rings.
“Who the fuck is that?”
“What now?” Brian goes to the window.
He sees Phil waiting downstairs.
Alex lights up a cigarette and Brian turns back to him.
“It’s time to talk.”
TO BE CONTINUED