Cirrhosis has bloated her, as if a lifetime of beers has not gone anywhere. Her belly so swollen she looks pregnant, her skin yellow, like a polluted river. The whites of her eyes glisten with yellow veins. She’s just my age, in the middle of the middle of life. I can still see loveliness of cheekbones under the rough surface of her face. I can still see the young girl when she turns her head on the small pillow. The last year of the sickness, she tells me, she lived in the parking lot of the liquor store and begged quarters for pints. I don’t know how she lived to wash up here with a dead liver. When I tell her, “It’s good news. The HIV test was negative,” she smiles faintly, her yellow eyes fill, and she reaches an arm up and hugs me to her, her clean tears wet against my neck. That’s when I let myself feel how it could be me — how it is me — yellow and sick, on the bed there. And then I feel her thirst break over us both in an enormous wave of longing for the pure bite of alcohol, the one-two shot, the near-death stagger toward the ecstatic threshold — and then the cloudy fall with all the pain in the world waiting at the bottom. In such a time as now, when all the bodies we live in are poisoned, what do we cling to in the tide of our undoing?