I AM YOUR SLICE OF LIFE
Someone hands me a quarter and my hand shakes so bad that I drop it and it rolls down the sidewalk and into the gutter. Stops just before the grate which I'd normally consider a sign of good luck. If there wasn't a little kid standing there looking down at the quarter. I stop myself from yelling terrible things at the child because the guy is still right there. Standing right next to me. He might replace the quarter if I seem like someone other than a bitter alcoholic. It works. The guy watches me watch the kid take my quarter. The look on my face is sad, which I don't fake, then I force myself to smile a bit, like somebody who's happy to see happy kids find happy money happy happy. He keeps watching me and smiles also. All these fucking smiles are making me feel sick. Still, I hold the edges of the smile, hoping to not get any of it on me, and more importantly sell it.
Like I said. It worked.
He pulls out his wallet, hands me a fiver and says, “Go get a drink and something to eat, okay?” Fucking smiles again and leaves as I say thanks. I drop the smile and step on it as I walk away. I can get two pitchers of piss-water crap beer at the Bullet for five bucks and that stupid little shit can do whatever he wants with my quarter.
I pick up my pace to nearly a jog. I need a cigarette, too, but there's really no point trying to roll one before I've had a couple drinks.
At the bar I find my thoughts right where I left them. I also find my thoughts returning to that little kid. Re: me wishing ill on him. Hoping he'll buy a piece of candy or gum that turns out to be poisoned. Or getting hit by a car as he's running across the street or something. I'm surprised by the morbidity of my thoughts and immediately grow depressed. Well, more depressed. Why are my thoughts so fucked up? I am by no means an old guy, though I feel it. Am I jealous of the quarter? I shouldn't be. Hell, I made five bucks off it.
I'm sicker than I can ever realize. Is everyone?
Now I've had a couple beers and a poorly rolled smoke. The shakes are starting to go away, but like any unwanted guest, they'll return. At least I feel okay right now. That's what counts, right? The beer and mind are cold; pacified. The bartender even gave me a free shot of whiskey. She usually does. Nothing kills the shakes faster. Sure 151 and Everclear are stronger, but nothing says drinking like the flavor of whiskey. It's uphill from here.
I don't really wish ill on that kid do I? How have I become so fucked up? Like age, personality just creeps up on you. Jumps on you when you're unaware and forces you to look at yourself. And also like age, it usually isn't good news. You're old. You're an asshole. You're getting more unpleasant. You're a thirty year old alcoholic bastard wishing terrible things on children. You suck. You should be ashamed.
Sometimes I am.
But here I am, drinking away someone else's money and hating the world and not feeling much shame at all. Mostly just feeling alcohol and nicotine.
My cheeks are starting to go numb a bit. I'm on the path. It's a little different for everyone. When I drink, I usually feel it in my cheeks first. Well, after the initial burst of heat that courses my circulatory system. Still, the cheeks go first then the rest of the body plays catch-up.
I ask the bartender, Amanda, for some popcorn (free, of course) and find myself in the day's first real conversation.
“Popcorn? Sure. How you doing today?”
“Same as ever.” My rote reply.
“You feeling okay?”
“Kinda depressed. Weird day. Starting to think I might be one of the bad guys.”
“What? You? Here. Have another shot. Hush. It's on the house.”
“Thanks a lot, Amanda. I've always loved you.”
“And you always will. Now shut up and I'll be back with some 'corn.”
Not a lot, but that's about as big as my conversations get anymore. It used be a lot different. Before the incident.
I traded the outside world and “normal” life for a monkey and not much else, really. And still feel fine with the trade.
I'm homeless and a drunkard but am I any less valuable to the world than a financial advisor to a marketing firm specializing in gas stations? Who's more deluded? Beer tastes better than lies.
Yeah yeah. I hear you. I lied earlier with my smile. Marketed myself. It's all a stupid game. When I can't even pull that bit of bullshit game-playing off I will kill myself. Hopefully soon. Not too soon, however. I have half a pint of beer and a shot of whiskey in front of me and some popcorn. Ahh, life. Nope. No time for suicide at the moment.
The thought of getting a job arises, very briefly, and is easily suppressed. I usually make enough by spare-changing. I'm still alive right?
Don't get me wrong. I don't think the world owes me or anything. I just don't like the world.
I have terrible vision and can't see much more than 20 or 30 feet away yet I don't want glasses. That about says it.
I take another pull off my beer and then slowly pour the shot into my mouth. As I swallow it, I wish it wasn't well-whiskey but Maker's Mark or a single malt scotch. Even though it's free, I still complain. At least to myself. Then I slide the shot glass forward yelling FILL IT UP AGAIN in my head. Amanda walks over, picks up the glass and asks, “Ready for another pitcher?” I nod. She complies, taking the remaining money and not making any qualm or hint about the lack of a tip I always (don't) leave.
When she brings the beer she also brings some more popcorn. I look at the last bowl and see it's empty. I have no memory whatsoever of eating it; I must be really starving. Nodding my thanks I grab a handful and eat it. I wash it down with the last swig from my pint glass officially killing the first pitcher. I suddenly realize I haven't eaten anything other than popcorn for quite a few days now. It's a thought that can only hold my interest for as long as it takes to think. So what. I pour another beer and roll another smoke.
This time, my hands do not shake at all.