She wasn’t crying when she called. I need a place to stay, Morgan said.
I went to get her. Met her at a bar near their apartment. What’re you drinking? I asked, and Morgan answered, bourbon, and held up her glass for everyone to see. Nobody but me looked.
Bartender came over and asked what I wanted. I looked at Morgan. Didn’t need to ask. She was having another drink, with or without me.
I ordered a beer. Wondered why she called if she was already so alone. I wouldn’t have called anyone. You call and say what? Come here and make it stop? Just stay in and wait. You don’t need someone to see you like this to make it real.
One for the road, she said.
I took off my sweater, wet from snow, and ordered shots.
The first night it was also like that. She wouldn’t leave.
Dimly lit. Numbers and nonsense all over the walls. Crumpled wet paper towels on the floor. I don’t want it to be like this, she said, and I assumed she meant in the bathroom but it wasn’t that.
Let’s have some more drinks then go to your place, she said.
I thought she was a drunk and I liked that because I wouldn’t have to pretend about who I was. But that was barely part of it. What I felt was huge. It was like I had imagined this woman alive.
We drank until she puked. Never made it to my place. She said I’m fine I’m fine I’m fine. Wouldn’t let me walk her in her building. Asked me to watch her go in from the cab.
Another night we were in a diner. I didn’t think I’d ever see you again, I told her.
What would’ya have done? she asked.
I’d probably go out even less. Maybe not at all.
Until you got over it?
Yeah, I lied. What kind of pie do you want?
I can’t decide.
She could never decide anything and never wanted to go home.
We’re roommates now, she explained. Until our lease is up, she cried. I passed her the bottle. We were sitting on a park bench. Cold gray morning. Snow on the ground, ice in the wind. Things are terrible but I take it, she said. I have to. It’s my fault. I never do anything right.
But that night she really needed a place to stay.
I can’t believe you live like this, Morgan said. You must have just moved in. And later she asked, haven’t you ever heard of pictures? Area rugs?” She opened every drawer and cabinet. Found bottles under the kitchen sink. Grabbed one.
I thought you’d have a bigger collection, she said.
I’m not into saving anything.
Where are your shot glasses?
Don’t have any.
She shrugged and unscrewed the cap.
Later, I set her up on the couch with a blanket and my pillow. In the bedroom, I got in my sleeping bag and rested my head on a folded sweater. Tried to sleep. Didn’t sleep much. Got up at seven like every morning.
How do you feel? I asked her.
She had an arm over her eyes, blocking the sun that wasn’t there.
You still haven’t told me anything real about you, she answered. I don’t know why I’m here.
Can I please have some aspirin?
I don’t have any.
I don’t take that stuff, I admitted.
I go out for coffee and breakfast.
You’re nuts, she said. I don’t know what you are, she complained. I drink way too much when I’m with you. I don’t know what I’m doing. I need to stop this.
Are you hungry?
I’m always hungry in the morning, she shared. Even when I’m hungover.
The next day Morgan went home.
The day after that she used my car to bring over her stuff.
Stay until you find a new place, I told her. Just stay.
But she said, you won’t want me around for long. Nobody does. And she said, I don’t want you to hate me too. I can’t take any more people hating me. I feel like everywhere I go I see someone who hates me.
I didn’t respond.
But that didn’t stop her. She kept giving reasons. There were so many more reasons and I listened and watched her dig them out but as soon as she started crying I stopped listening and just watched her dig and dig and dig for more because once she was crying, I knew the truth wasn’t coming.
Will Radke is from Oak Park, IL. His fiction has appeared in Typehouse Literary Magazine, Hypertext Magazine, Chicago Literati, and elsewhere.