“I’m coming! I just have to sweep up the storage unit.”
I walked back to the storage space, 9-2. I paid for it for 21 months. That number is ingrained on my brain. The lantern I had bought just for the purpose of navigating the space was pushed to the doorway and inexplicably off. I turned it on.
The space, front to back and side to side, was bottles. A knee-high collection of bottles. Patron and Cuervo. Jack Daniels and Jim Beam. Brandy and wine. The liquor bottles had been opened but were full. The wine bottles were uncorked and corks, stained red, lay all around. Wine cascaded from the necks. In the middle of this sea of alcohol, He sat on a stool in the middle. In front of Him was an enormous, thick pot plant with big fluffy buds.
“Purple Kush,” He said. “I’ve never tried this particular strain before, but I think I know someone who wants to.” He drank from the trusty flask He had pulled from His ragged black cloak. The flask with my initials on it. And the date. Today’s date. He swallowed big and grinned. “I, of course, enjoy only the really hard stuff. Nothing like a snort of Everclear to wash everything away. All the sadness, all the anger, all the resentments. All of it.” He drank again.
I looked in the corner. There was the handle of the broom, sticking out of all the bottles. The lantern flickered off for a moment. I picked it up and banged it on again. The space was now empty and He was standing in front of me an arm’s length away. Droplets of clear liquor dribbled out of His mouth. He ran His left hand across His nose where blood was trickling onto His lips. His gesture smeared blood on His right cheek. I was used to His evil grin, the hallmark of His deathly, deadly persona.
“I gotta admit, I didn’t think you had it in you. 21 months in the sober-living house and not a drop. Not a toke.”
I stood there in my scrubs, the last and best vestige of my attempt at veterinary technician school. That and the Muck boots I now wore when I volunteered at the Humane Society. Of course, I wasn’t wearing them Friday when I met with Wendy, the volunteer coordinator. When she told me she was going to personally recommend me for a job in the Behavior Department.
“But you did it homeboy! How about a celebration snort,” He said and produced another pint of liquor from His pocket. He shoved the bottle at me. I caught it and held it. I stared at it.
“I can’t. My roommate will know something is up.” I was half bluffing. The part about taking a drink. Tomorrow and the next day and the next week and the next year, I will always have that option. To take the drink.
“You’re roommate will never know,” He said, brushing off my comment.
“Oh yes he will.”
“Please. How is your roommate gonna know if you take a drink now? Or when you’re flying first class and the drinks are free and no one you know is on the plane. Or when you are in San Diego or Philadelphia or at the Westminster dog show. You can lie. You may not be good at it, but you can still do it.”
“He’ll know because I know, Even if I pull off any of the 19 pantomimes Christopher Walken talks about in True Romance. He’ll still know.”
“And how, pray tell?”
“Because as of yesterday, he was my sponsor in the Program. And I’ve known him for 20 years. He was the first guy I ever got drunk with,” I said and threw bottle to floor against the wall where it shattered. “I figured if I was going to do this Program it would help if I did it with someone who knows me better than anyone.”
His face was stone.
“And because I cannot tell a lie, they will know what I did when I turn in my key at the Humane Society, even if I say nothing. Because I will have betrayed their trust. The same trust I’ve finally earned back of my family, my friends, the people in the Open Group For Bedlam Farm, the good friends I’ve made in the Program. All of them. Every last one of them. Above all, I will be betraying myself. I will be pissing away the 21 months I’ve had to prove to myself that when I got off that operating table 9 years ago, I wasn’t the idiot simpleton that alcohol convinced me I was. That you convinced me I am. And all the anger, all the sadness and all the resentments only get worse and worse because I knew the way to wash my hands of all it and I somehow, somehow, I chose to return to loving you and hating myself. No, friend, I won’t be taking a drink. Not today.”
“But you will one day. Mark my words. You will drink again,” He said, folding His arms on His chest like a 6 year-old who refuses to go to bed.
“I can’t say I won’t,” I said as I turned and walked to the door. “But I won’t take a drink today. One day at a time, homeboy,” I said, fishing my keys from my pocket and lining up the padlock in the latch. “You can let yourself out,” I said, closed the door to the unit and locked it.