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No Easy Way
“So, uh, when do you want to meet again?”
I sighed and looked around the room. It was plastered with posters of half naked women, all of them striking a pose as though they were pining to slip between the sheets with anyone looking their way. A broken lamp sat dejectedly in the corner without a table to its name, and the wood paneling looked as though it was trying to push itself from the wall. I eyed the man lying beside me. His crooked smile threatened to trigger my gag reflex.
“I don’t know.”
Crawling out from under the covers, I got to my feet, and in a sense of rootless panic, reached frantically for my clothes. A headache was working overtime trying to split my head open.
“Are you saying you don’t want to meet again, or what?”
He was trying to make it sound as though he didn’t care either way, but I knew that he did. He was always the one guilting me into going to parties and pressuring me to do things that I knew I shouldn’t. He was the one that made me start drinking. The reason that I smoked. The cause of almost all my problems.
I shook my head, pulling on my Misfits t-shirt. “I don’t know.”
He snorted. “You don’t know much of anything, do you?”
I didn’t say anything. I knew that anything that came out of my mouth at this point would be wrong – once he was irritated, everything was wrong. As I slipped on my jeans and grabbed for my boots, he was completely silent.
I cleared my throat. “So… what are you doing tomorrow?”
He glared at me. “Not you.”
I looked down at my feet, and then at the door.
“I’ll see you later, then.”
As I walked out of his apartment, I kept waiting for him to stop me – he usually did. But this time, he let me leave without a word. It was too bad that it wouldn’t stay that way. Later, when I was in the middle of doing something with a friend, or even eating lunch, I would feel my phone vibrate in my pocket. He could never let me go.
The humidity was suffocating me as I walked down the sidewalk, the sunlight reflecting off of the concrete and amplifying my headache. I could hardly remember the night before, but I knew enough to remember telling myself that I shouldn’t be drinking so much. Now I wished I’d listened.
It took me a while before I even thought to ask myself where I was walking. A gas station stood off to the side of the road a few yards ahead of me, and I figured that was a good place to start. Maybe I could get something to take the edge off before heading home. Strangers filling up their gas tanks looked at me as I passed, drinking me in with their eyes, and I couldn’t help but wonder what was going through their mind. I knew I looked a mess – I could feel my ratted brown hair against my neck, and I was more than aware of the fact that I’d sweated off all my makeup.
A “No Loitering” sign hung in the glass window of the convenience store. I looked around at the oil-stained parking lot and couldn’t imagine why anyone would want to stand around in the first place, especially in this heat. It wasn’t the best neighborhood, but even the druggies had better places to go.
A rush of cool air enveloped me as I opened the door and stepped inside; somehow, the fluorescent lighting wasn’t half as bad as the sun. I squinted as I made my way to the coolers in the back, ignoring anyone looking my way. I wasn’t in the mood for small talk or intimidating glances. Unfortunately, the drink selection wasn’t as large as I’d hoped – the soda section made me nauseated just looking at it, and the juices were limited. After a few moments of deliberation I grabbed a pink lemonade and headed to the counter.
The cashier looked like a prepubescent, acne-prone teenager in desperate need of a shower and shave.
“Is that it?”
What, you want me to buy all your f***ing Bubbalicious?
He rang it up, and I thought about asking for the Tylenol behind the counter, but decided against it. I didn’t know if I had enough money for the drink.
I dug around in my pockets until I found a dollar and seventy-five cents. I put it on the counter and shrugged. He sighed.
I nodded, trying to muster up a smile. “Thanks.”
He didn’t smile back.
When I went back outside, the bell above the door only drew more unnecessary attention. I ground my teeth together. In spite of everyone staring at me, I walked right down the middle of the lot, hoping to scare the s**t out of any tourist looking my way. I knew from experience that I could look intimidating when I put my mind to it.
Once I was back on the sidewalk and heading in the direction of the nearest subdivision, I opened the lemonade and took a sip – I could hardly keep from gagging. Maybe the whole ‘take the edge off with a drink’ thing would have worked better if I hadn’t picked something so bitter.
I let my thoughts fade away as I kept walking, both the heat and my headache taking a toll on my ability to focus. Soon I was holding the bottle to my forehead to try and cool off, the condensation running down into my eyes.
When I finally made it to the first house, I exhaled in relief. Though my house was only a few more down, it felt like I was never going to get there. Behind the short chain link fence in front of the second house, a chocolate lab barked threateningly from the safety of its doghouse. I groaned, and with a little more force than originally intended, I threw the lemonade over the fence and barely nicked its side. Yelping, it ran under the porch – I snorted. Some guard dog. You hurt its pride and it runs for cover.
I was disheartened to find my father’s beat-up dodge in the driveway, but even the fact that he was still home couldn’t lessen the relief I felt when I walked through the screen door. Immediately, my headache weakened. All of the lights in the house were out and my father was still snoring in his armchair – either my mom had forgotten to pay the electric bill or he was suffering from the same thing I was. Maybe both.
As quietly as possible, I snuck into my bedroom and tore off my boots, then flopped down onto the bed and covered my face with a pillow. It smelled of Lysol and spearmint, but at least it kept the light away. I knew that I had to stop living like this – I was on the path to following in my father’s footsteps, and that was the last thing that I wanted. The irony was that he was the reason I started letting myself party in the first place. He drank to escape his demons, and I drank to escape mine.
I thought about Devin back at his apartment. Had he fallen asleep again after I’d left, or had he gone on to work? I couldn’t even remember if he had work today, but he was notorious for being able to binge drink and still escape a hangover. I envied him for it. He always laughed when I had to make a desperate run for the bathroom.
“What’s the matter Sam, can’t hold your liquor?”
No. I guess I couldn’t. I never could. The knowledge that I would regret it the next morning always entered my mind when I was about to take a shot, and I always warded it away with some lame excuse.
Well, I’ve already started, why stop now?
It would be such a waste to just let it sit there.
If I don’t drink it, they will.
And if they don’t drink it, no one will.
And someone has to drink it.
But every time I came crawling back to hide underneath my pillow, or spent the entire day lying underneath Devin’s bedspread, I told myself that I had to stop. That, if nothing else, I had to cut back. But I never did. I wanted to, and every time I told myself to stop and ended up hiding from the light the next morning, I swore to myself that it would be the last time. But there was no easy way out of it – and I was becoming increasingly convinced that no matter what I did, I would never quit. Devin would call, ask me if I wanted to go with him to a friend’s house, and I couldn’t say no. Even if I was still nauseated, I couldn’t say no. Sometimes I thought that it wasn’t the alcohol that had a spell over me – it was him.
I sighed. None of it mattered, really. All I wanted to do was sleep – when I woke up, maybe everything would make more sense. It usually did. I took a deep breath and let myself relax, allowed my mind to slowly wind down…
In my pocket, my phone vibrated.