Nothing could be done. It was too late. Once you give something up it’s gone forever. ‘Least you think it’s gone forever. One day an old habit shows up again. Smoking, drinking, women; could be anything. We think we’re in the clear, but, that thing, that one thing, is always haunting us.

She came back in autumn. Days were warm. Indian summer. Said she’d been out East. Driving back and forth, up and down on 95. Stopping in cities along the way, small towns, slept on the beach naked in Maine. Felt the night air against her thick body. Bathing in the Atlantic Ocean. Stopping in Philadelphia where she thought she’d found true love. Turned out to be another man stealing her heart. She moved on. Went down to D.C. and hung out in jazz clubs. Barely able to afford a cocktail. The girl was always calling home asking for money. Friends and family would wire her just enough to get by. They’d ask when she was coming home. She said she was home.

The young woman called. Asking him for money. Got to a point he didn’t answer the phone. Just let it ring. She left messages on the answering machine. Long drawn out stories of how she wasn’t eating. Barely had enough for gas. Said she’d work a job then quit, or, get fired. He’d cry when he heard her voice. But, he never folded. Never gave-in. Didn’t think she’d ever come back. Thought she would die out there in America. Prayed for her soul.

And, she knocked on his door one day. They just looked at each other. Old feelings rushed through him. You can never truly give anything up. They embraced. He invited her in. Those emerald eyes looked right through him.

Do you want me here? she asked. I can leave, he shook his head. Whispered, No. Please stay, he couldn’t believe those words came from his mouth. She smiled.

Have you been waiting on me? she paused. Have you been with other women? Wouldn’t blame you if you did, she said. Look, she stared at him. I need money. Got nothing. I know I left you, but…maybe for old time sake?

He looked in his wallet which was empty. Showed her there was nothing there.

You got money in the bank? he nodded yes. Think we could go get some from that magic money machine? again he nodded.

They drove through town in silence. Not a word. He pulled up to the ATM and took a hundred in twenties. He handed it to her. Placed the cash in her hand. She kissed him on the cheek. Said, See you around.

He never saw her again. She called a coupple of times after that. Said she was out in Wyoming. Or, Colorado. One of the two. He erased her voice. Like that, she was gone.

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