I called the phone again & again & again but nobody answered. Then someone did.
“Jeremy, you gotta stop calling here.”
“Can I speak to Cindy?”
“She’s not here.”
“Where is she?”
“She’s gone,” the voice said. “She left this afternoon. I think she went back to Albany. Her and Nicole.”
I hung up. Before I could think of my next move, my fist plowed through the wall. And then again. And again.
I was so furious.
I called Ben. Only one thing could relax me. Only one thing had the power to change the world, to change everything, to make things better. This was my fault she had left. She had told me, she had really told me, that she loved me too much for her own good. And then what did I do, I drove her away. This was my fault. I bet she was booting up right now. Because of me. Because I drove her away. She’s probably holed up in some hotel room right now, shoving a needle into her arm.
Again, I slammed my fist through the wall, just as Ben picked up.
“Hey, man. Can you get me some crack? I need it bad.”
He said: “I can’t. But my mom can. She’ll be home soon. Why don’t you come over.”
I put on my shoes, grabbed my wallet and left. I went to the ATM machine downtown and took out 40 dollars. I headed up the hill.
When I got there, his mom was home, with some guy I didn’t know.
“I want a 40 bag,” I told them.
“Sure,” she said.
“Come with us,” he told me.
We left the house and headed downtown, first past the library, then the Price Chopper and the Walmart and a series of bars and then the train tracks and we just kept going.
She said to me: “Gimme the cash and wait here. I’ll be right back.”
The guy was leering over his shoulder as they vanished behind a house. It was so dark out. I was nearly panting. I was so angry and distraught. That backstabbing bitch! Shit, what happened to love, anyway? Does anyone truly love anyone anymore?
Nah, probably not.
They came back and they handed me a bag.
“Hey, man,” she said. “You gonna let us have some of that.”
I shook my head.
“C’mon, man,” he said. “It’s the right thing to do.”
I started walking and then I was running.
Back over the tracks. Back past Price Chopper and then Walmart. All the bars were closed now. The world was shut down. The night was dark and lonely and scary and I was almost home.
Inside my dingy apartment I lit a cigarette and disposed of the ashes into my small, metal one-hitter.
Soon, I would feel good. In fact, I would feel great. In fact……….
I woke up when there was a knock at my door. I was wearing only my boxer shorts. I let Rusty in and he sat on my repurposed car seat.
“Dude, you woke me up.”
“It’s 4 in the afternoon,” he told me.
“Shit. Guess I slept all day.”
He found my pipe on the coffee table. My coffee table that looked like a dick.
“What the hell is this?”
I rubbed my head.
“Crack,” I told him. “I smoked crack last night.”
He lit his lighter and held it over the pipe. Tried to take a hit. There must have been some resin left because he managed to pull a small amount of smoke into his lungs.
“You ever smoked it before?”
He held it in for a bit. Released.
“Yeah, once. Dude, we gotta get some more.”
“The people I got it from last night, they won’t sell to me today. Because I didn’t share any with them.”
“I know someone we can call,” he said.
“But I’m broke,” I told him.
“Shit, me too. Do you have anything we can trade?”
I looked around my small apartment. “I guess my XBOX 360, I barely use it anymore.”
He made a phone call and offered to trade my 360 for some rock. The guy said he’d trade us eight ounces.
Rusty told me: “He said he’d give us eight ounces.”
My jaw dropped, Rusty looked hungry.
“That’s a lot of crack,” I said.
Rusty nodded. He said: “Do you know anyone with a car?”
“Yeah, my ex-girlfriend Kaylin has one. She might give us a ride.”
I called Kaylin. At first she said no, but when I told her I’d give her some weed she said yes.
But what we didn’t know until we got there was, it was a misunderstanding. The guy thought we were buying weed for 360 dollars. Kaylin was pissed that we talked her into taking us to buy crack. I was pissed that we didn’t get crack. Rusty was thrilled that we at least got some weed and then we went back to my apartment and smoked it.
I hadn’t had a drink in about eight years, give or take. Next Saturday, that was to change. I was to have a drink. I took a medication called Antabuse which causes the drunk who takes the pills to get violently ill after inducing the smallest amount of alcohol. I couldn’t even put alcohol on my skin, or else I’d get a bad rash. They say alcoholism is an allergy—well, Antabuse makes it true. I was currently, literally—but not figuratively—allergic to alcohol in all its forms. Until I stopped taking the pill. But I would have to stop taking it for three days before I could drink again. That’s how it works. If you want to drink, you’ve gotta wait three days for the medication to leave your system, ideally giving the alcoholic time to have second thoughts about drinking again.
I gave it five days, just to be on the safe side.
Monday afternoon I told my therapist, my psychiatrist, my AA sponsor, even my life-skill’s coach, about my plan, and they all advised me against it. But I was determined.
I went to the AA meeting that night, and I told everyone that I was going to drink again. I wasn’t going to keep this a secret—there was no point; they’d all know, anyway. Besides, you’re only as sick your secrets. So I put it out in the open.
After the meeting, as I was still determined, as none of their shares really deterred me from what I wanted to do--what I was going to do—next Saturday, I went home and I stared at the Antabuse for what felt like the longest time ever, because in eight years I had not missed a day, and then swallowed my resolve and dumped the pills down the toilet and flushed.
My heart pounded; my nerves vibrated. I was so excited, but nervous, but mostly excited, but slightly afraid, and I might have even forgotten what it felt like to be drunk………….
Come Saturday afternoon, I texted Adrian and said: “I’m gonna drink tonight, meet me at the Bean.”
He didn’t respond.
I went to the Radio Bean, walked inside, and order a drink. A beer. Something cheap. Something to start the night smoothly. I was nervous. I thought they wouldn’t even sell to me. Everyone who works here, who hangs out here, knows me, and they’ve never served me anything other than coffee or tea. They must know I was in recovery. I used to live above this joint and everyone knew I was in recovery, and they probably wouldn’t even serve me but, Gawd, I hope they do.
The waitress was short, with blond hair, big boobs, big blue eyes. She was one of those hipster coffee house chicks who tried to dress Punk but didn’t quite pull it off, in her tattered fishnet tights, and ratty denim miniskirt.
She brought me the beer and I paid.
Then I went outside and sat on the patio. Set the drink on the table and lit a cigarette. Stared at it. Took a drag. Watched the foam bubbling over. Took a drag.
This was too much. I gripped the beer and let my hand really absorb the coolness coming from the glass, and tipped it to my lips and sipped. It was bittersweet, the foam and my lips becoming one as the liquid eased into my mouth and flopped and splashed around my tongue and descended my throat and a familiar warmness settled inside my stomach, festering like a heated blanket on a cold winter day. I was set. I took another sip and my limbs loosened. Another sip. My mind expanded.
I saw a guy I knew from AA.
I set the beer on the table, wiped the foam from my upper lip, and hurried over.
I hadn’t drunk in a while and the ground was starting to seesaw and my body was rocking as I said: “Hey, man.” I chuckled.
“Where you off to?” I queried.
“Going to an AA meeting, you should come.”
“Can’t,” I said, as I noticed some friends scramble onto the patio. “I’m drinking.”
He looked disappointed.
“What’s going on?”
“Naw, I just needed to try something different.”
“Haven’t you tried this before? And before?”
“But this time is different,” I said.
He glared at me, smiled, and said: “Okay, but if you need to talk, you know where to find me.” He left me and I hurried over to the patio and sat down and continued to drink my beer. Gemma was there and a few others.
Gemma said: “Hey, I thought you didn’t drink.”
“I didn’t,” I told her, taking another sip. It tasted and felt good.
When I finished the whole beer, I got up and hurried inside. This time I ordered a shot of whiskey with my beer.
I downed the shot and went back outside, with the beer in my hand.
Gemma said: “You going to Waking Windows?”
“Sure, when is it?”
“Tonight,” she said. “All of us,” gesturing to the four guys she was with, “are going.”
“I’ll go,” I said.
I drank more and then saw Adrian stumble in.
He said: “I heard you were drinking tonight.”
“Didn’t want to miss this for a minute. Let me buy you a drink.”
When the sun went down, we called an Uber Plus and took it to Winooski, and since no one had any money other than what we spent on the booze we were carrying on our persons, we all sat on the grass outside the gates. We were on a hill and from this vantage point we could hear the music and just barely make out the nearest band.
Gemma passed me a bottle.
“What’s this?” I asked her.
“Tequila, have some.”
It tasted sweet as it sweltered in the darkest part of my stomach.
I saw the guy from AA, who I saw earlier, stroll past us. He came over. He knew most of us in this group. He was laughing with us, but he wasn’t drinking. I was a little nervous about drinking hard liquor in front of a fellow AA-goer, but who gives a shit? Tonight we were partying. I downed some more of the tequila.
A car picked us up and drove us down to the river and we sat there and drank beers, chucking our empty bottles at fish. A guy sat on the picnic table strumming his guitar. I wrote a poem. I felt good.
Adrian started acting weird. He was pretty fuckin shitfaced.
I said: “Maybe we should start walking back to Burlington.”
He nodded, and stumbled, and I grabbed him, and we went.
The streets were dark and cold and cars buzzed past us. It was only a 30-minute walk from here.
I turned around and Adrian was gone.
Fuck it. I kept going.
A car pulled up to me and it was Scott. He said: “Do you want a ride?”
I got in the car and sat beside Tom. There was some girl I didn’t know riding shotgun. I told them I was drunk. They all could tell. They all laughed.
They drove me back to the Radio Bean and I got out and started walking home.
I passed Nectar’s and decided to have one final drink, when I saw Wyatt and someone else eating at some table there and I walked in and joined them. I ordered myself some chicken tenders and a beer.
Wyatt said: “Wait, what?”
I said: “It’s okay, I’m already drunk.”
He was grinning. Then he looked away and continued talking to his friend like I wasn’t there.
After I finished my chicken tenders, I went home. I resolved that tomorrow night I would do the right thing; I would get drunk again.
To be continued….