“Ahh, poor little guy. Shall I get you a tissue?”
I lifted my head from my hands and looked at him. He lay in the hospital bed. Above him, monitors blipped, then blipped again. And again. I dried my face with the bed sheets and continued to stare at him. The man laying before me slept in a drug-induced coma. He would wake from that coma a few days later agitated and confused. His parents would try to calm him. They would call for the nurses. Eventually he would fall back to sleep. And they would continue to wait. To see what he would become. I broke down crying again.
“I’ll say this. You gave it a good run, this sobriety thing,” He said, looking at the man in the bed over my shoulder. “And you may last a little longer. But you will come back. And the reason I know this is because you are not strong enough.” He bent over and whispered in my ear. “Do you hear me? You aren’t strong enough to live with the fact that the stuttering, simpleton idiot that is going to get off that bed is never going to be smart enough to handle a job that pays well. And you know and I know that money makes the world go round.” He began pacing behind me as a fresh wave of despair sent me sobbing again. He chuckled at this.
“You did give it a valiant effort with the veterinary technician thing. Of course, you failed miserably because your transmission only guns to maybe 3rd gear now. I mean yeah, you use to fire on all cylinders, but you squandered it. All this Buddhist “live in the moment” bullshit probably comes in handy now that you have no choice but to live with the fact that you have limited potential. And in this workaday culture you live in, limited potential means what?”
“Limited possibilities,” I said and snatched the handkerchief He offered me. I wiped the fresh tears from my face, then saw the embroidered image of a number. There was five digits, and the first one was a 3.
“What’s this?” I asked.
“That’s the biggest income you can ever hope to make if you stay with this animal care pipe dream,” He said. He sat in a chair on the other side of the bed and pulled a silver flask from His pocket. “And maybe you’ll string together 5 or 6 years sober. But then your parents will die or you will get laid off from that non-profit you work at, part-time I might add, or you will somehow find a woman that miraculously accepts you for who you are but is really tired of picking up all the tabs. I mean really, you can name the tragedy. And you will come back to it. Back to the bottle. Back to me.” He drank long and full from the flask and burped with satisfaction.
“Why don’t you just stop with the delusional bullshit and submit a resume for a job at your buddy’s insurance company. Hell, you could even apply for a job at Kong or Science Diet or Purina or something and try to fool yourself into thinking you really do love the dogs but you like to be able to pay all your bills too. I mean admit it, with your Dad retiring and telling you this is the last time he can help you with a “new” cars, that scared the shit out of you right? So just cow, you’ll be so much happier. You’ll move to Ohio or Kansas or something chasing a job and a paycheck and you’ll become a functioning alcoholic like the rest of the country. Seriously, just knock off all this healthy eating and healthy living nonsense and get with the program kid.” He stood up and looked out the window at the setting sun. “I mean shit, at least you’ll have stopped kidding yourself.”
“That’s not true,” I said, fighting back another round of tears and only half-believing what I was saying. “I’m not kidding myself. This is going to be hard, harder than almost everybody I know. But I can –“
He wheeled around and threw his flask. It hit me squarely in the forehead. Blood ran down my face and on to the bed. I was now wincing and crying tears of pain and depression. That didn’t stop Him. He walked around the foot of the bed. I sat hunched over on the edge of the chair. Just enough for Him to kick me in the crotch and send me to a full collapse on the floor. He brought His knee up into my nose. I fell back on the floor and covered up as He kicked me over and over. He then knelt down and put his face right in mine.
“Get this straight, asshole,” He said. “You will never be anything if you continue with this animal thing and besides, either way I will win. You either stick with it, have no money and drink because you’re a failure and you know it or you give it up and get a nice cushy job you hate and drink because you have no purpose other than working to live. Whatever happens, I come out of smiling. ‘Kay? So what’s it gonna be?”