|Photo by H.K.|
“You are a mess, my dear,” she said in her Russian accent.
“Your organs are not happy.”
I had nothing to say to that. The tests had come back.
“You’ve been drinking today,” she said.
I nodded, embarrassed.
“Do you know how I know that?”
I shrugged my shoulders.
“Because I can smell the alcohol.”
She sighed and said, “If you keep this up, you will be dead in one to three years.”
I nodded. “Okay.”
She shook her head. For the first time since I’d been going to her, she looked sad. Usually, she was all business; firm, implacable. My doctor.
“It’s too bad,” she said.
When I left her office, I thanked her.
On my way out, I grabbed a lollipop from the front desk. Grape.
I walked straight to the liquor store. I bought a twelve-pack and then raced back to my building.
In the hall, I passed the woman who lived across from me.
Boy, I wanted to fuck her. What was her name again? Erin? Sara? I was pretty sure it was one of the two.
Hi was the only thing we’d ever said to each other.
I went into my apartment – beer cans on the floor, rotting food on the stove.
I threw off my jacket, carried the twelve-pack to the couch and turned on the TV. It was one o’clock and Gunsmoke was on. I cracked a beer and the show started. It was a good one. An outlaw comes back to Dodge and visits the wife who’d thought he was dead. She’d been a grieving widow for years and now he was back.
By the second commercial-break, I’d opened another beer.
I thought about eating. It had been a while.
But I didn’t feel like moving. The pain in my side bothered me too much.
When Gunsmoke was over (the ending was satisfactory), I went into the kitchen. The kitchen floor was gross: crumbs, stains, muddy boot prints, cigarette butts, what looked like blood...
I opened the refrigerator but everything inside had gone bad, either crawling with mold or way past the expiration date. The milk looked like cottage cheese. I checked the freezer but everything looked awful to me. When did I buy frozen tacos? Jesus.
I returned to the couch, my beer. Bonanza was on. The remote control felt like a theoretical object in my hand but I changed the channel anyway.
On one of my many PBS stations, I landed on a documentary on dromedaries that was soothing enough and boring enough to allow me to think and drink.
I dozed off after half an hour. When I woke up I changed the channel again. The Big Valley was on and I thought about writing. I’d started several stories but didn’t have the energy or enthusiasm for any of them: a story about a woman who seduces strange men with her headless, parasitic twin. A story about a snuff filmmaker who feeds children to starving pit-bulls and films the results. A man and the woman he loves drink ice tea together one summer afternoon, and when she leaves his apartment she is hit by a car and dies. When he returns from the hospital, distraught and in shock, he finds that the ice in her glass hasn’t melted yet and he saves the ice in his freezer and becomes obsessed with preserving it.
But I didn’t feel like writing. I drank another beer. And another.