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Today's Story by Rasmenia Massoud

Sophie, do you and Luke use rubbers?

Our Sickness

The first thing that comes to my mind when I find Sam on the porch is that he’s been doing blow again. The way coke looks on Sam, it’s like finding a wounded bird twitching on the ground because it’s fallen out of a tree. It breaks your heart, but it’s not you who can fix it.

“Hey Sophie,” he says. “Is your mom around?” “Sorry,” I open the screen door. “I haven’t seen her for a couple of days. But you should come in for a minute, anyway. You look like shit.”
Sam sits on the couch, kneading his hands as though the flesh covering them was a pair of uncomfortable gloves. “Why does she do this to me?”

I sit down in the chair across from him and offer him a cigarette. “I dunno, man. I’m sorry. I know she’s my mom, but maybe you should think about breaking it off with her, you know?”

He grabs my wrist. I drop the cigarette on the coffee table. “Sophie, do you and Luke use rubbers?”

I jerk my arm loose. In Sam’s condition, it’s not difficult. “Seriously, man. You need to calm down. What we do isn’t your business.”

“It’s important. You never know what you can catch from some people. Or where they’ve been.”

“Yeah,” I say, “I’m aware of that. I’m seventeen. Look, I’m sorry things aren’t working out with you and my mom, but….”

“Where’s Luke right now?” He picks up the cigarette and lights it.

“I don’t know. He’ll probably call me later.”

Sam runs a hand through his hair. “He’ll call when he’s done putting it to your mom.”

“What? C’mon, man. You’re fucked up. Knock this crazy shit off.”

“Sophie, I like you.” He lifts his head and looks at me. His eyes, red and bulging, begin to well with tears. “I’m sorry. I’m not making this up. They’ve been fucking around behind our backs for a while, now. A few months, maybe and… you don’t know where she’s been.”

I light a cigarette and try to make sense of what Sam was saying. My mom. My boyfriend. He could be telling the truth. Sometimes a cokehead will do that. He wipes a tear from his cheek. The way misery looks on Sam, it looks as horrible as it does on anyone.

“Okay,” I say. “So, what do we do?”

“No. You’re not listening. You don’t get it. You don’t know where she’s been.”

“Sure I do. She’s been with you. Well, mostly.”

“Well, yeah. But, Sophie, I’m sick. And your mom, maybe she’s sick too.” He looks down at the floor, takes a drag of his cigarette, then crushes it out in the ashtray. “Maybe we’re all sick now.”

For a few moments, I don’t say anything. I’m searching for words, for some reaction hiding somewhere in myself that I can extract and use to solve all of this, but I don’t know how to go from trying to comfort someone to feeling helpless and sorry for myself all in the course of a few minutes.

Something cold starts to writhe around in my stomach and slithers up to my throat. “I think I don’t feel so good.” I stand up. I manage to take a few steps before the thing in my stomach erupts and I drop to my knees.

I’m puking on the living room rug, not thinking about how all of this might change everything. I’m thinking that maybe now my mother will get rid of this hideous, outdated shag carpet.

Sam stumbles over to me. “Sophie? Oh, Jesus.” He crouches down beside me. “Girl, I’m so fucking sorry.”

I hear the screen door open behind me, then my mother’s voice, shrill and piercing. “What the hell’s the matter with you two?”

“Debbie,” Sam says. “We all need to sit down and talk.”

“Talk?” She struts into the kitchen. I hear the fridge open and close, then a rattle and clang as she tosses the bottle cap into the bin. “We’re not the kind of family that sits around having talks.”

Sam helps me get to my feet. “Debbie.” His voice is pleading, placating.

My mother, she plops down into a chair at the cluttered kitchen table. She takes a swig of her beer. She gives us a funny look. “What the hell’s the matter with you two?” She turns her gaze to the carpet. “Jesus. Clean that shit up,” she says. “If you’re gonna be sick, you don’t have to make everyone else look at it.”


Rasmenia Massoud is an American writer living somewhere in France. She is the author of the short story collection, “Human Detritus” and some of her other work has appeared in places like Metazen, Girls With Insurance, Full of Crow and Underground Voices. You can visit her at: http://www.rasmenia.com/


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