Updated on November 2, 2015
“Hey, Ali.” My voice cracked in my gravel encrusted throat.
“And how are you today, My Friend?”
“How do I look?”
“Like you need your usual.” His voice lilted up at the end of his sentence, which made it sound like he was asking a question, but he turned to the shelf behind him, grabbed a fifth of Popov vodka and set it on the counter. Damn that was loud. I wanted to reach for it, crack the seal, and chug it down, but I rubbed my hands up and down the sides of my dirty jeans, dancing a little, while he got me my 2 packs of Marlboro Reds. I reached into my pocket and pulled out some rumpled bills and change I’d scrounged from various table tops and sofa cushions at the cafe down the street last night.
“Have a nice day, My Friend. See you tomorrow.” Again, with the question statement. Ali was from Bangladesh or some fucking place like that. I don’t know why he’d choose to come to America to own a liquor store and deal with the likes of me day in and day out. We’ve had the exact same conversation for almost two years now. He calls me his friend, but he’s selling me the shit I’m poisoning myself with. How could he be my friend? Everybody’s his fucking friend. I bet he doesn’t even know my real name.
“Hey, Man, you remember my name.” I said it like a statement with the end going up.
He paused and searched through my scratched glasses. “Of course I do. It’s James McClurg, but you like it when people call you Jimmy.” He nodded his head.
“So why do you call me ‘My Friend?’”
“Because we are friends and neighbors.” He smiled a wide smile in his skinny cheeks.
“Ali, I need help.”