Peel held his arm out to me like a piece of meat, like it wasn’t his, like it was something he found. He looked to me for a reaction at what I saw: the spots along his veins, scarred over, purple. He was looking for answers, trying to understand through me what I saw, why he did it. I didn’t have any answers, I didn’t know.
He gave me a brass cracker for whip-its when I moved to Philadelphia. I didn’t need one, but kept it because it was from him. The strands of his hair fell loose from his pony-tail and the bags under his eyes took on more folds when he was high. He got slow and languid, distant, compliant.
His wrists were thin and his forearms were strong from playing pool, that stern poolroom look with his foul-mouthed girlfriend and ten-speed parked outside without a lock.
Peel wanted a friend I think, but didn’t know how. He wore the same sweat shirt every day, kept to the shadows, and knew his time on Earth was brief. He was an alley cat who disappeared with no pictures, just one letter that says ‘brother’ on the envelope, in the line above my address.