The Sick Lover

The Sick Lover

by Kyle Hemmings

The color of his soul is yellow. He is thoroughly jaundiced. It goes deeper than bones, she thought.

He tried to move from the bed in the small apartment where she was hiding him. Jin-Jin feared the daylight, the men with reflected sun off their dark glasses, would kill him.

She helped him dress, a faded pair of jeans that once belonged to her brother, a tee-shirt that stilled smelled of hampers, filled to the top. And the pain. She asked him about the pain. His stilted movements looked painful. He held one hand to his belly and shook his head to mean no. He couldn’t do it, but he said he had to leave the apartment to reach a different supplier, a kind man he could trust. His painkillers were pure.

No, she said, gently motioning him back to the bed. You’ll never make it. The shape you’re in. And they would recognize you. A snitch. They would cut your thumbs off. Bury you alive.

She lowered her head, as if listening to her own demons. The sick lover reminded her in some ways of her younger brother. He was shot near their house in the old neighborhood. He died in her arms. Some bloodstains on her clothes did not come out in the wash. The sick lover was younger than Jin-Jin by two or three years, and his smile, when she first met him, was deceptive and simple. She felt him to be pure. And maybe some part of him was, would always remain.

She ordered him to stay in bed. She would go out. Maybe get some vitamins. They’re good for jaundice and shot-through souls–no? She would come back, she promised. She feared he would not be there when she returned. But how far could he go? He could only walk by clutching things.

She left, changed subways. She recalled how the other night, when he was feeling better, more lucid, she had shown him her manga sketches for an animation project at the community college. A boy and girl had both telepathic and telekinetic powers. They could find missing people. They could make buildings shake by just the force of their concentration. At night, they cried at the shape of the world: fat, lazy, corrupt. They knew it was a losing battle.

Jin-Jin returned. She took several bottles of red and bluish liquid, a syringe and needle.

“I went across town,” she said.

She confessed that she had to barter, sell something of hers to get something of theirs.

“They could have traced you,” he said, coughing weakly, “followed you home.” His eyes were tiny and wet.

“It doesn’t matter,” she said, “now you will feel nothing.”

She tied an old kerchief around his arm, tapped the inside of his forearm, felt for a vein. She shot him up.

His eyes closed and he fell into his own vacuum. She kissed his forehead and ran a finger tracing the contour of his cheeks. He had good facial bones, she thought, he would stay young for a long time. If he lived.

She heard a car door slam. She sidled to the window, crouched down. There were four men, early to mid-twenties. They had long shaggy hair, two with leather jackets, one had denims ripped at the knees. He was the one who looked both ways at the traffic, the windows to the factory, the retail outlet across the street. The men looked up at her window. They seemed to have known.

She rushed to the side of the window, back against the wall. She held her breath, searched the room for the gun the sick lover carried with him. It was lodged in an interior jacket pocket. She knew she could never shoot straight.

The sick lover moaned a few times, then nothing. Not even a rustle. No sign of R.E.M.

There was a knock at the door.

She climbed into bed, threw her body over him. There was a chill.

The knocking became louder.

She couldn’t feel his breaths nor his heart. But she willed that he would not die so close to her.

The door smashed open.

She held the gun between the breaths that were not his.

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Kyle Hemmings
Kyle Hemmings lives and works in New Jersey. His latest collections of poetry/prose are Scream from and Split Brain on Amazon Kindle. He loves 50s Sci-Fi movies, manga comics, and pre-punk garage bands of the 60s. He blogs at http://upatberggasse19.

7 thoughts on “The Sick Lover

  1. Lots of tension. The yellow soul reference at the outset evoked a negative view of the lover that clashes with the rest of the tale. The line ” She took several bottles of red and bluish liquid, a syringe and needle.” seems off. “She had obtained”? The sick lover wasn’t carrying the gun “with” him–it was in his jacket. The open ending, with its tragic component is great. Don’t mean to nitpick, but gems are worth polishing. AGB

  2. Powerful with a terrific ending! The actual issue with the lover dying was written with a lot of depth. It feels like it needs to be tethered, however, to some locale. I couldn’t tell whether I was picturing this in a slum in NYC, in Cambodia, Chinatown…? It would help remove the generic nature of the piece if some clues were given to anchor it. Well done!

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