That night I stopped on the corner to listen to Parable tell his stories. Stupid how the old drunk went on about the end of the world. Stupid how that homeless fuck went on about the bastardization of scientific principles. Every paranoid street Jesus has their opinion on chaos nowadays, it seems.

Something lingers about his preaching though.

I can't get it out of my head how he saw tears in my faces and stabs in the way I smiled. Seventeen nightmares after the fact and twelve months after you died, it seems the old man had some truth to his words.

When he asked me if I understood 99 cent love, I said no. I told him it wasn't so easy to understand him. I told him that I thought he was a crazy lunatic who threw rocks at the imaginary bullies in his life. He asked for a dollar to buy coffee soon afterward. I told Parable I'd share the bagel I was eating if he'd talk more about the 99 cent love theory.

And so he did.

"This... THIS is how we eat," he'd mutter, throwing back the half onion bagel without really chewing it. "I can't ever feel my teeth. It stings to swallow without mushing it, but I can't do it the other way," he said.

I asked him to talk about the 99 cent love some more.

"Boy, this is a secret sleeping on the ears of the world. You can't feel it there, but trust me that it lies near your ears too. I loved more than you, fucked more than you, drank more than you, and found an end to my means where my soul will sleep in lily beds when I die, so fucking listen up. We can always figger so much cause we're so fucking smart and this is so fucking easy and..."

I was losing patience, becoming mentally erratic. Hospital hours were ending soon and I had wanted to visit you. I had a chocolate donut wrapped in napkins hidden in my pocket. Some girlfriends wanted diamonds on their anniversary, you wanted me to sneak you in a fucking donut. I know you hadn't eaten normal food in weeks. Parable was also becoming sloppy, losing coherence. I caught him in mid thought:

"...fucking kid, are you listening to me?"

"Yeah Parable. Tell me about the 99 cent love," I asked again, for the final time.

" This world and you and that guy and those people over there think with half truths and sideways love. I think with dollar bill thoughts and complete goddamn emotions. Give yourself to this moment right now. Lose it all and die completely. When you come back 'round the table, ante up a dollar bill thought. A dollar bill emotion. Fuck this 99 cent shit the world revolves around! There's no sincerity with your safety net half-fucking-heartedness."

I turned around, and started walking down the block to County Medical. Parable made no sense. 99 cent love made no sense. That night I never got to see you. I missed hospital hours by fifteen minutes.

You passed away that night, around 2 or 3 am. Doctor said you died peaceful. I think he was lying, though. You're mom was real old, you know? Telling the truth isn't always called for, right hon? I kind of understood what Parable meant while going through old pictures of us. And for the first time, I noticed things. Images of us next to each other, yet distant. Hands being held awkwardly. Showy affections for our parents to smile at. Cold bodies not embraced while we slept in the same bed. The affection was there, but not completely.

Maybe Parable meant to love you harder. For whatever it counts for now, I'm sorry. I never knew how to work our relationship so it wouldn't suck so bad. When I die and meet you in heaven, I'll show you how I've changed. I don't ever forget to tell our kids that I love them. Every day I tell them hon. And I miss work without a second thought to go to their soccer games and math league matches. I visit your mom every weekend and help her vacuum your room and box up your belongings.

It isn't the same, loving things I fucked up with you through other people. Through the kids. But I'm trying at that dollar bill life, hon. And I hope you understand.

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