Glen Pourciau

In light of my recent diagnosis I want to get certain things squared away before the dwindling phase begins to overtake me. I plan to do my business discreetly. I have no family and haven’t told any of my acquaintances what’s happening to me. I don’t want to be identified by my illness or to make people feel obligated to react with sympathy. I’d rather remain more or less invisible than be seen as a diseased person on my way to grinding completely down.

I sent a check for 3K to my former friend Wilson, together with a brief note apologizing for waiting over thirty years to repay his loan. I haven’t seen Wilson or spoken to him for many years and I gave no explanation for why I’d finally paid up. I included my phone number and email, but he only wrote me a short note and returned the check.

His reply disturbed me. According to Wilson, I never borrowed the money. He had no memory of the loan or what it would have been for, and he therefore couldn’t ‘‘in good conscience’’ accept the payment. I considered suggesting we talk it out, but I feared being reproached for walking away from our friendship and being asked to explain myself. I couldn’t justify my aversion to revealing myself to others, and I dreaded getting into my diagnosis. What did I have a right to expect of him if I did, and what would I say if he asked that question?

Despite my reticence I wanted to close the book on this part of my past, so I wrote to Wilson
again, saying my intent was not to put him in conflict with his sense of right and wrong. He’d given me the loan at a time when I was in mounting debt. I insisted he accept my check and wished him well.

His second note came quickly, along with the shredded check. It said he couldn’t imagine forgetting a loan of this amount and he wouldn’t assist me in clearing my conscience for rejecting him as a person and a friend. He found it insulting that I thought he could be bought off, and if I knew him at all I’d know he didn’t need the money.

I had nothing against Wilson until I got this accusing note, but I don’t have enough strength to sustain anger. My thoughts wander, running me into places I prefer not to be. Is it possible he didn’t loan me the money? I’m annoyed he has me doubting my memory, though I can’t make myself believe I imagined my debt.

My sleep is troubled, stirred by internal muttering. I can’t seem to elude my decision. I’ll send Wilson a new check with a letter asking him to accept an added 2K in interest. I’ll ask that he please be patient and listen to me. I promise not to bother him again, I’ll say, but I have something I want to tell him.

Glen Pourciau’s first collection of stories, Invite, won the 2008 Iowa Short Fiction Award. His second story collection is forthcoming from Four Way Books in early 2017. His stories have been published by AGNI Online, Antioch Review, Epoch, Little Star, New England Review, Paris Review, and others.