Routine (4)

We reached my apartment just in time to open another bottle. I hate tequila so we resorted to opening one of my cheap whiskey bottles. She sat on the couch with her glass and smiled.

‘You were amazing. Really, I have never seen anything like it’

‘Glad to be of help. But what was you ex doing in the cemetery anyway?’

‘Well, he was very drunk, obviously, and he’s into some occult bullshit I don’t understand or care about. But the hit…I’m just saying, you were great. Nobody has ever done something like this for me’

I looked at her. She still had that arrogant smile but she also had a blue dress. And she was beautiful, her eyes shining, maybe from too much booze. Maybe that fight I couldn’t quite remember got her wet. God knows I was never able to understand women.

‘I’m thinking of making a living out of this. Like a private eye agency. You have somebody who deserves getting hit with a shovel, you call me. I could make a fortune’

‘It’s a good business idea’

I sat next to her. Her skin smelled like cigarette smoke. Her mouth smelled like whiskey. And I realized I could do this. I could lay off the booze for a while, maybe try to actually begin a relationship with her. She was funny and definitely not boring. And apparently she knew how to drink properly.

I kissed her. Sucked one drop of whiskey from one of her teeth. Her blue dress smelled like a memory.

Do we ever wake up? And when we do, why is the world so blurry, the breath so bad and the eyes so red? That’s what we do, we get up, pour another drink to sober up, kill the headache.

So what are we supposed to do?

When you wake up with your clothes dirty and they have stains all over them. Earth and grass. You wake up next to a loved one. But her face is a bit rotten. Her blue dress, the one they buried her with, smells like cigarette smoke. Her dead mouth has whiskey dripping out of it.

Did you?

Did her ghost drink with you last night?

Because you definitely dug her grave up and brought her home where she belongs. She might be dead but you realize that you missed her too much. And maybe this is a better routine than your previous one. One day you will have to give her up, when she will be too rotten. One day you will have to bring back the shovel to that nice, balding bartender. But not today. Today you will have some coffee and maybe some morning sex. And tomorrow morning you might probably do the same.

Routine (3)

And so we left the pub. I was holding her arm. The sound of her high heels against the pavement sounded like a military march and I was an armed soldier, parading with a shovel on my shoulder, ready to die for King and Country but settling for some anonymous pussy. The rhythm of her steps was perfect.

At that time of night the streets were deserted and nobody could admire us. What a fine couple we were! She was leading me and I let her. The night air was cool and I could feel the smell of her skin, the perfume she was using. I recognized it. It’s not like I am an expert on this sort of matters but this was Ming Shoo. It was her perfume. My lost love, my car crash victim, my blue dress wearing goddess reduced to a fistful of flesh. But somehow I was walking with another blue dress, one with a fur coat covering it, marching sound of high heels and a vicious smile. And I was her shovel-wielding avenger, all bottled anger, all empty bottle of whiskey, all fucked up and liking it.

I had given up a routine but was ready to embrace another. I would have forever walked the streets of this misbegotten city with a shovel on my shoulder, ready to hit, always preparing, never prepared, a one soldier army.

She smiled softly when we reached the gate. It was a local cemetery, a small one. I think it belonged to Unitarian Universalists so you could find members of almost any religion buried there. She opened the gate for me.

At that point…honestly, the whisky and the cold air got to me because that’s the part I still can’t remember. Not that it matters, but honestly, looking back, it kind of was a night to remember.

Routine (2)

There was only this small pub still opened nearby. I went in, ordered a scotch, looked around. The drink was good, 18 year old Chivas kept in the freezer for half an hour, no ice. It’s something I can’t understand, the whole scotch on the rocks thing, it chills the drink but it also melts and messes up with the taste, cuts away some of that pleasant, unique burn down the throat.

There were few people around, a young couple, probably junkies, sipping mineral water and smiling at the bubbles. At the other side of the bar, an old man, more drunk than me. The bartender was a short fellow, probably the same age as me, with sleepy eyes and a hair issue, his wig was poor solution to it. He didn’t seem to be in the mood for a conversation. The old guy would probably bore me with stories from a past world war, the junkies didn’t seem capable of speaking at the time. But at least there were people around me and I could look at their faces instead of staring at a TV screen. Words, expressions, smiles, eyes, all way better than television. Better than the news. The news had been bad recently.

I emptied the glass, ordered another. It’s a strange thing about alcohol, how it messes up with your perception. Yes, there’s the blurred vision, the slurred speech, that amazing sensation that you are the king of the world, you can fuck all the girls and beat up all the guys, or vice versa, depending on your personal tastes, but there is actually one very short moment of perfect clarity. It usually comes between drink number two and drink number three, this special moment when you notice things you normally wouldn’t.

I enjoyed it.

All art, all literature speaks of fateful meetings, of star crossed lovers, of soul mates, of meetings that have to occur for the universe to continue functioning properly. Maybe this is real, not just the trademark of romanticism, but something that happens in real life. I was about to get back to my old life. My routine of sleepless drunken nights and bad breath, bloodshot eyes, headaches and late arrivals at work. Yet here I was in this pub when she came in.

She stood next to me, a thin silhouette wrapped and chocked in a blue dress, an elegant fur coat covering her shoulders. Amber eyes, thin lips curved in an arrogant smile. She ordered her tequila and her voice was like a low whisper. There was nothing pleasant about her. The kind of arrogant bitch who acts high class while getting shit faced in a cheap pub. I knew her type. I dated them.

‘Come here often?’

I turned to her. It was unexpected. I’m not handsome. I’m not sociable.

‘First time. I needed a hit’

‘I know the feeling’

These are probably the most pleasant moments, the beginning, the seconds of awkward silence when you try to find some new question, casual yet sufficient for a conversation to start.

‘So what are you here to heal?’

‘I lost somebody’

‘I guess that makes two of us. I’ve just found out that a…friend died in a car accident two days ago’

‘And I’m guessing you weren’t such close friends if you found out just now’

Yep, that was something her type would say. But you have to appreciate the honesty.

‘And you? Close friend?’

‘More like a former lover’

‘Got dumped?’

‘A long story but the answer would be yes. You want to hear it? Buy me a round!’

That was the point, right? To meet people. So I bought her a tequila. And it was as if I was listening to a recount of my own failed relationship. Yes, the bastard drank too much and couldn’t stop. Yes, he cheated on her with some ugly bitch he met at a party. And he did it while being drunk, then confessed, thinking alcohol was a good excuse. While she talked about it I emptied more and more glasses. It was painful. Like hearing your thoughts turned into a story. Like your mind was being stripped in front of a laughing crowd. A confessional with hidden microphones, loud speakers and a cheerful audience, hungry to hear more. Your own sins turned into reality television. I hated television. I hated her. I hated him and myself because we might as well have been the same person.

‘You want to get him? I can beat him up for you. Kick the shit out of him?’

‘I don’t know where he is right now’

‘Don’t matter! Hey, buddy!’

The bartender turned around, staring at us. He was doing some real efforts not to fall asleep.

‘You got a baseball bat or something back there with you?’

‘Buddy, you’re drunk and I don’t want any problems’

‘Let’s stick to my problem, then we solve yours. Got anything? I need to kick some ass. Whatever you have, I take it’

He looked me in the eyes and there was a hint of a smile on his face.

‘You know what? I really don’t care. All I want is for the two of you to get the hell out of my joint and let me go home. I don’t have a baseball bat but I have a shovel. You take it and then get the fuck out of here but I swear to God, if you break anything inside my pub, I will kill you. And if the cops get you, I don’t know who you are? Get it?’

Routine (1)

At some point you get to try anything.

When she left, she took everything and I didn’t mind. There was nothing I wanted besides her and she wouldn’t hear about it. The house, the car, the goddamn records, Beatles, The Stones, the records we used to listen in the kitchen. I remember it perfectly, it was warm outside and she was wearing this short blue summer dress and the sun was shining on her shins, the silk was dancing on her thighs and she was beautiful. The Beatles were playing in the background while she was cooking something possibly weird but certainly delicious and I was probably having another drink, the one too many. Sun shining, poison flowing.

At least she took the records with her. After she left, I couldn’t listen to that music anymore. Too many memories. I hated it.

So what should you do? You stop going out, you stop seeing friends and soon they no longer care to bother you. Only three remain: the empty couch where you fall asleep right before dawn, the bottle of whiskey and the TV, with its humming tranquility. That hum becomes the soundtrack of your nights and the booze becomes your everyday means of numbness. Then you wake up from the alcohol induced sleep with bad breath and bloodshot eyes and look in the mirror, still dazed and confused. You pop up a couple of pills and try to get to work, some menial job you need to pay the rent, the bills and the numbness. And life is good, every day is the same as the previous and this routine makes you calm, makes you feel immortal. At some point you become immune to hangovers, or rather so bored that you no longer notice them.

So what do you do then? When you are too bored to have another drink, knowing you will end up staring at the TV and not actually noticing it, when you need at least three glasses in the morning to stop hands from twitching? You try to stop, obviously. Change the routine, try something new. You realize she will never come back. You should have realized this some time ago but you were either drunk and not caring or sober and in denial. With booze, the world can be very blurry but also more clear, with lesser shades of gray, well defined black and white replacing them.

So you try something new. Like taking it easy with the booze. Trying to establish old connections or make new friends. At some points Friday hooker night is no longer enough. You want a real relationship, not just sex. And at this point you realize you are no longer in college or high school and most of the pick up lines you would use died along with the Flower Power movement. At the turn of the century, hell, at the turn of the millennium, you are a middle-aged loner with hemorrhoids, a drinking problem and a bad case of antisocial behavior. But it’s not the end of the world. There are worst cases out there. So you give it a shot, enjoying all these quirks technology provides: dating sites, blind dates, online chatting, Facebook friends, speed dating events, everything you could ever think of.

You meet women.

Some are ugly, some are beautiful, some are completely mediocre.

They’re high class lawyers, CEOs, sales clerks, cleaning ladies.

Some are born again Christians. Some have more issues than you.

None of them are her.

They’re more or less substitutes. Methadone for a heroin addiction, cheap beer when you would rather have a finely aged scotch. Whatever comparison comes to mind, it doesn’t matter, it’s obvious. It’s just another form of numbness but you need at least some degree of human contact before you lose it completely and put a bullet between your eyes, only because aiming for the right temple is such a cliché…

Now this whole thing with the online dating and the forums and profiles, it takes a lot of your time. You start to like this Internet thing. It also saves you the trouble of waiting for news on the TV so you afford yourself another wild one man drunken binge and you throw the damn machine out the window, an homage to Keith Moon, a good enough reason for police to arrive.

But at least you are happy. Until one day when you access your bookmarked news sites and you read about a car accident. Now you have the certainty that she will never return to you. No you are no longer in denial because they have recovered her body from the car wreckage and she is dead and she will never come back to you.

Her memory is haunting you.

You turn off the computer.

You want a bottle of whiskey.

But then you remember about your new hobbies. You remember that you have somehow began to enjoy public places. That people are bastards but some of them are likable bastards. So you put on your coat and you go out to get trashed in a bar. Because you will probably meet someone.