He grips the warm Budweiser, skunked by summer’s heat. He never found the basketball he planned on taking to the park. Instead, he calls his friends into the garage. “This Bud’s for you.”
Circling the stale ale, they swig and pass. It wasn’t the feeling for him; it was the action, the rebellion. He doesn’t know his neurons will fire a special way with that first sip. If he were in some time vortex, looking back, he would see what this will mean to people like him.
He told his friends he didn’t feel anything, but he most certainly did. It must have, for in the secrecy of his mind he thought—I have arrived.
“It’s a bat,” said his friend.
“It looks like a cigarette.”
“It’s a one-hitter. Two tops.”
“What do I do?”
“Just light the end. Keep the flame on it, and draw.”
He didn’t feel high right away. He was too busy imagining what feeling high would feel like.
Then he turned the corner at the Delicatessen. A floating sensation propelled him up the street. He didn’t look down, in fear that he would realize it was his feet that moved him, not wings.
He told his friends he didn’t feel it; it didn’t work. The lie left his lips naturally, like breathing out.
So this is it, he thought. I have arrived.
On his 21st birthday, they gathered around the table. Rolled up bills lay on the caked circular mirror. He snorted for the first time. By this point he learned better than to think his highs away, wondering what the high would be like.
Lying in the bed of his friend’s truck, he looked at the stars. A feeling came over him, whereby he felt capable of reaching out and touching them. His hand could go-go-gatchet up into the heavens. Given a pole vault, he felt quite sure he could clear the moon.
When asked what he thought of cocaine his mind told him to say, “It’s OK. Not something I want to do often.”
I can’t wait to do this shit again, he thought to himself. I have arrived.
The note sat on the kitchen counter. His roommate was gone all weekend. He was relieved because his hangover qualified the phrase getting hammered, and his roommate didn’t like him smoking weed on the balcony, especially in the morning. His hands were shaking. He was thirsty.
In appreciation of his solitude, he popped open a bottle of red wine and sat down to the script he was writing. One swig. Still thirsty. He gulped the rest of the bottle down. His hands steadied and his mind cleared. He sat down to his computer, but the words wouldn’t come.
One little bump. There was no one there to judge to him.
Alone, with all day to stay alone he thought I have arrived.
The paper shook in his hands. It took four clean and sober days to realize that he was in one of those facilities.
“I’ve asked Mark to read the prayer Slow Me Down Lord.”
The paper shook in his hand; the sound was amplified by the plastic lamination. The words drifted in and out of focus like a camera lens trying to find its subject. The words wouldn’t come; he had nothing left to say.
“My name is Mark and I’m an alcoholic.”
I untuck my shirt and loosen my tie before opening the door to the basement daycare.
It is a familiar sound: “Daddy!” My son runs to me and hugs me. I pick him up and we play the squeeze game, whereby we hug each other as hard as we can until one or the other cries uncle. And that’s when I hear the four-legged crawl and exhilarated pants of my daughter. I sink to my knees as she climbs off of hers. When her hands reach my chest for balance, I fall backward with her and roll her around on the carpet.
I have arrived.