money jar

M's story

By Diomedes | Robert O'Reilly | 21 Apr 2023



‘M’ met a sadder fate while I was in Europe. When I first met him he was single, happy but poor, ‘C’s only friend, glad to meet me and eager to help in every way when we went into business, talkative and overflowing in enthusiasm when some money started rolling in. I only saw him one-tenth the time I spent with ‘C’. But he’d drop by socially some evenings and the three of us would drink beers and watch T.V., three chums. His heroin use was on a par with ‘C’’s, unnoticeable at first and only slowly increasing, like ‘C’s, over the year of our partnership.

Then I recall a very strange night. It was near Christmas. ‘C’ and I were watching T.V. as usual, while I stepped out a few minutes every hour attending to work in the next room. There was a loud banging on the front door. ‘C’ answered and ‘M’ burst in, high and overjoyed with news. He pulled a woman into the living room, at least as old as himself, (that is, late thirties), declaring they were in love. She wasn’t pretty, his height but a little overweight, with a wrinkled face, straight brown hair, rumpled clothes and obviously as high on heroin as he was.

He introduced her to us as his best friends and she reached out to shake my hand but pulled it back in an instant and rushed to the bathroom, slammed the door and we heard her puking violently for a minute. Then, sink still running, out she came smiling, ready to shake our hands again but us now not so ready. All the while ‘M’ was standing by apologizing for her, saying she had a weak stomach. But we proceeded to the bedroom and chairs to congratulate him on his girlfriend and talked merrily for an hour before they left. I suspected it then but learned later from personal experience, (on St. Croix in 1991, after trying some with my new friend Vance) that the first effect from a strong snort is a quick, violent puke.

I only saw her a few more times over the next seven months before I went to Europe. But when we did meet ‘M’ he was always full of talk on how happy he was with his new ‘girl’. They’d moved in together, (he’d been divorced and living alone for several before that) and now shared a doomed conjugal life, twisted around a growing heroin addiction, hand in hand, shared needles, encouraging each other down that path faster than ‘C’, though he too spent ever more time at their place.

By the next summer they were broke and desperately strung out. ‘M’ one day contacted me in Fairfax and begged me to meet them somewhere in town (I wasn’t about to give up my location). I agreed and when they showed up at a local venue, (looking terrible), I gave them eight hundred dollars and told them to get immediate help and never come again. They took the money, greatly relieved, full of ‘thanks’ and promises. This was a week before our departure for Europe. I never did see them again, more than ever convinced that we had to get away, far away, which we did.

They didn’t go to the Methadone program as they promised. Maybe they tried to ease off the doses with that money, but some time later, I don’t know when, (as I only heard about it through the grapevine), when broke again and in the throws of withdrawal, they had some violent argument, and the woman took of one of ‘M’s guns and shot him in the side of his head, blowing a few of his brains out.

But he didn’t die. She took him to the hospital in time and with some functional loss and in a wheelchair, she became his caretaker, living on public assistance. That’s the strange and sad story I heard. I must have heard it through Steve, through his sister, as ‘C’ would know the whole story.

‘M’ was a decent fellow, trustworthy, simple and honest. I remember thinking from the day I met his girlfriend that she had ‘bad news‘ written all over her and I wondered what he saw in her. His first wife, from ‘C’s descriptions, was lovely and perfectly social and middle class. But that was when his father’s business was still profitable. He worked there full-time as a driver and they lived in a modest house. But that fell through when he couldn’t support her in that lifestyle. So she left him. A sad story all round.

On a lighter note, I’ll mention a story he told me himself one day of his first wife. She was gorgeous, had her social set and their marriage, in the rented, middle-class home, was picture perfect. She left all financial matters in his hands. Her interests were luncheons with her Jewish girlfriends, nice clothes, make-up, manicures, hairdos, shopping and social get-togethers, with women just like her, idle and gabby. The idea of employment never entered their pretty heads. Sometimes she’d cook him a dinner, especially when she was about to ask him for a little extra cash, once or twice a week. But the best thing by far, he said, was the sex that followed after. He had his regular paychecks which went straight into a mutual bank account. It paid the bills but was always near empty.

He made a great deal more money in these youthful years selling drugs and chemicals on the side. His father had the licenses to buy regulated substances and, being old and semi-retired, let ‘M’ manage the books and inventories. So his truck routes became a perfect cover for large, daily, cash deliveries. The profits he kept in a large jar in his garage, on a high shelf, slightly hidden. It usually contained thousands of dollars. This money allowed him to do a little playing around with ‘C’ and heroin.

She never had a clue into this alter life, thinking ‘C’ was just his one, good friend, someone to hang out with in a bar on a Friday night. So she was very friendly to ‘C’ and glad he had this friend to balance her own social circle. The thing that amazed ‘M’ as he told me, was that in the five years of their happy marriage, whenever she wanted to buy new, expensive clothes or some piece of jewelry or a new hat, he would go into the garage and grab a fat wad of bills and hand them to her, happy to please, as she pleased him in return. He was glad to be seen with her in public, she was so presentable, and he likewise well dressed, shaven, handsome and polite with her on his arm. This was a far cry from the shaggy, bearded ‘M’ I first met, in a rumpled army jacket and jeans. But that was years later. How time ruins all.

But she never, even once, questioned the provenance of this money or gave it the slightest thought, just thanking him and putting the roll of bills into her purse. And she never went into such a dirty place as the garage, where he kept his sports car and oil pans and tools. That’s why he kept it there, almost in plain view. He knew she’d never find it. But what amazed him most was that when they had perhaps fifty or a hundred-dollar balance in the bank book, she never batted her dainty eyelash when he’d hand her three hundred more each week, over a thousand within a month. She had no concept of revenue, only how to spend it. He told me these were the happiest years of his life, treating her like a princess and madly in love with her. It shattered him when his father retired, shut down the shop and the money dried up.

This precipitated their divorce and his fall into a self-destructive substance abuse. The only factor that moderated this descent was that he, with his ever-closer friend ‘C’, were almost always broke. How is it that money, whatever its source, ties and maintains relationships, happy ones, and with its decline relationships go sour. Far better for couples to live on simpler, more human terms on ties that become stronger with time.

On a parallel note I’ll mention that Sanita, who also never worked, after eight years of me supporting her and financing her every whim, informed me that she wanted a divorce, two months after my money ran out, strange coincidence.

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B.A. in Latin and Greek from U.C. Berkley. Writer, Blogger and retired Electrician.

Robert O'Reilly
Robert O'Reilly

I am educated in the Western Classical Tradition, B.A. from U.C. Berkeley in Latin and Greek, English major, one year at U. of Toronto, studied under Alain Renoir and Northrop Frye, read most classics full time for many years after university in French, English, Latin and Greek to the modern day. I am interested in the near future of technology, what changes it imposes upon our heritage and character as humans. Short stories and Essays are my medium.

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