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Should Have Stayed Home

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Will’s cellphone was ringing.

That was new.

No one ever called his cellphone. No one ever texted his cellphone. He hadn’t even been aware his cellphone was on or had any power in it at all until it had started to buzz. It was buried somewhere underneath miles of crumpled beer cans and crushed pizza boxes – but it was there, and buzzing, and someone was calling him.

He nudged away the debris covering his floor until he uncovered his phone and stared at the screen. It was an unknown number. It could’ve been Heather – or maybe she’d blocked him, after the fifteenth drunken apology text he’d sent that was less of a “sorry I’m a dick” and more of a “dear God, please take me back, I can’t stand being alone”. Maybe it was her new hot boyfriend who bought her everything she’d ever wanted and had the emotional and physical energy to change the baby’s diaper and would threaten him with murder if he picked up. He hoped so. That would be the perfect opportunity to be put out of his misery.

Not bothering to turn the volume on the TV down – he wasn’t listening anyway, nor was he really watching either; he was just letting the moving images sear his eyes – he lurched forward and picked up his phone. The movement was accompanied by the sloshing of his stomach and a dizziness that filled his head and spilled downwards into the rest of his body. He could wait to vomit, he thought, until after the call was over. He tapped the button to answer the call, tapped the button to put it on speaker, and let his arm sink back into his stomach. There was a pause and then the phone spoke.

“I need cash.”

Three words was all it took for Will to know exactly who was on the other end. It was a high, raspy voice – familiar and would’ve been comforting had Will had the ability to feel anything at all. It was Jesus, of course. The same Jesus who’d fled Jingletown like he’d been hounded by bad memories chasing after him, the same Jesus who’d spat gospel behind the 7-Eleven riling Will and Tunny up, telling them they needed to get out. There was nothing for them in Jingletown, Johnny had said. We’ll fucking rot here.

That was a lie. There was plenty for Will in Jingletown. Alcoholism, depression, watching every person in his life slowly trickle away. That had started with Johnny and Tunny – and he hadn’t heard from either of them in months. He knew that for certain. He didn’t know what month it was, but he knew it had been months since the last postcard from Johnny – a hastily scribbled note, something about a girl. And then there’d been silence. Until now.

He needed cash.

“What?” Will grunted, the sound of his own voice startling him.

There was a shaky inhale and then the same rough voice. “I need cash. I need – I haven’t talked to you in, fuck, I don’t know, half a year or some shit. I know. But I need the cash, Cox, I need the fucking cash. My girl’s gone and – my mom won’t send me any more money. I think Brad told her that I was runnin’ her dry, and I probably am, but he doesn’t fuckin’ get it. I need a loan, a’ight? You got any money? You and Heather and the baby – you gotta have some money somewhere. Fuck, fifty bucks will do, Will, please please please, I’d do fuckin’ anything–”

“She left me,” Will interrupted. It was all he could think to say. His brain could hardly process Johnny’s rant; all he was hearing was that Johnny was too much of a selfish dick to actually talk to him, to ask him how he’d been, to ask him if he was alright. He was stuck in Jingletown, on his couch, slowly sinking further and further into it as if it was sucking him in. He was stuck, drunk just to avoid the pain of being alone with his mind, stoned to avoid the panic attacks – neither substance really doing their job. He was stuck while Johnny and Tunny were off in the city having the time of their lives. He’d accepted that fact months ago, after the bargaining, the depression, the denial – but now that anger was bubbling back up again, the sick feeling of knowing he’d been left behind, abandoned and discarded and unwanted.

“Oh,” Johnny said. Will didn’t respond. There was a pause as Will waited for Johnny to figure out what to say next. “But… you got money, right? Did she leave you with any cash? Will – fuck – I need an answer, say yes or something, or no if you don’t, but give me an answer. I-I’m gonna – Saint’s standing right behind me and if I don’t get the fuckin’ money right fuckin’ now he says he’s gonna gut me like a fish and make me watch.”

Will didn’t care. “You left me,” he said. It wasn’t a yes or a something or a no. He didn’t know who Saint was, he didn’t know why Johnny was talking about money, he didn’t know why Johnny would call him. It was so typical Johnny Will could fucking laugh. Of course Johnny would go silent for months on end, completely deserting Will without so much as a goodbye. Of course he’d call now, asking for a favor – no, not just a favor, but for money. Of course he wouldn’t even fucking bother to ask Will how he was doing before ranting and swearing and spitting and begging. Will didn’t care about Johnny, Saint, the call. All he knew was that Johnny left him alone in Jingletown, and Johnny didn’t care, and Will was rotting in his grave. “You left me!”

There was a silence again. Will’s face was hot with anger as he stared down at the phone on the cushion beside him, daring it to speak. He wanted an apology. He wanted a drink. He wanted Johnny to laugh and tell him that it was all one big joke and that he was coming home with Tunny and a pizza and a case of beer.

“I’ll take that as a no,” Johnny said. The call ended.

Will stared at his phone for an eternity before he lifted his head, fixed his gaze back on the television, and waited for his eyeballs to melt out of their sockets.