At the dining room table, my brother apologized. He told me, “I’m sorry, man.”
“It’s fine,” I said. “It’s just good to see you.”
“I know. I feel like I haven’t been around in years.” He looked beyond me. At the Christmas tree. “I’ve missed like three Christmases.” Our eyes met, again.
“Four,” I corrected.
My brother’s eyes fell to his lap. Once more, “I’m sorry, man.”
I waved my hand, dismissively. “That’s the past.”
“I wouldn’t have missed any,” he choked out. “I wouldn’t have. But, the Vicodin Man called.”
“Who?” I asked. My eyebrows crooked.
My brother stared and stared at his lap. “The Vicodin Man.” He reached into his pocket, pulled out his cell phone. “He always called me.” His breathing came in rapid waves. “That’s all he ever called himself. The Vicodin Man.”
I watched him. Fragile and falling into himself. His hand trembled. I asked, “What did he want?”
My brother wiped the sweat from his forehead. Still not looking at me. “Oh, god,” came his muttered response.
I pushed back the chair and stood. My hand fell upon my brother’s shoulder. “Let me get you a cold drink,” I offered.
I left the dining room.
Walking down the hall, I soon found myself in the bathroom. I locked the door. My cell phone now in my palm, I gazed at the unlocked screen. I felt like crying out. Smashing the phone onto the sink.
My fingers dialed the number. I held the phone to my ear. Listened to the static ring.
“Hello?” answered my brother’s voice. Warbling through the phone and down the hallway.
I cried, then. But, my words were clear.
“Hey, there,” I said. “This is the Vicodin Man.”