Chapter 2Track 2 – Bjork – Unravel
You have to be always drunk. That’s all there is to it—it’s the only way. So as not to feel the horrible burden of time that breaks your back and bends you to the earth, you have to be continually drunk.
But on what? Wine, poetry or virtue, as you wish. But be drunk.
And if sometimes, on the steps of a palace or the green grass of a ditch, in the mournful solitude of your room, you wake again, drunkenness already diminishing or gone, ask the wind, the wave, the star, the bird, the clock, everything that is flying, everything that is groaning, everything that is rolling, everything that is singing, everything that is speaking. . .ask what time it is and wind, wave, star, bird, clock will answer you: “It is time to be drunk! So as not to be the martyred slaves of time, be drunk, be continually drunk!
On wine, on poetry or on virtue as you wish.
-Get Drunk, Charles Baudelaire Chris and I had been together going on two years. Our relationship was textbook good, he loved me and I loved him. It’s easy to sit and analyse my actions, saying that there is no way I could’ve loved him, between drinking and the abhorrent infidelity it’s hard to believe it myself, but I did. There was something inside of me that couldn’t let him go, I couldn’t tell him everything either. As far as I knew my drinking wasn’t affecting our relationship too negatively, unless you count the fact that I found it hard to remember most of our conversations. The next morning my eyes slowly pried themselves open, the stale copper taste lingering in my mouth as I sighed deeply. The back of his head slowly came into focus; his mousy brown hair seemed to lift me in the morning. When your life is overrun by addiction, it’s amazing what your eyes or your nose or mouth can find solace in. The smell of bacon cooking in the morning, the cheeky smile Chris gave when he told a joke that wasn’t really funny, the fish swimming in the tank between the kitchen and the dining room; they all made me feel like I was comfortable. Without realising I had created a strong network of comfort. The back of his head in the morning was one of them.
The answer is always yes. To every question you ask yourself every morning, the answer is always yes. Whether or not you realise it at the time, even it feels like a no, you will always reply, yes. Do I want to live this lifestyle? No. Will I drink today? No. Will I still hold that grudge against that one person? No. Am I going to be completely shut off and pessimistic today? No. These are things I said to myself every morning but the answer was always yes. The word held so much potential to be turned around and used positively and to aid me when I needed it most. It was this word that kept me clinging on and hoping for something else or some kind of reward. Am I going to stay positive today? Yes. Will I stay sober today? Yes. Can I let small things go and not worry? Yes. Will I stay comfortable and continue living this way? Yes. So you see, it wasn’t that the answer was always yes, it needed to be.
Once again coffee proved its necessity to me, meagrely climbing over Chris to reach the bedroom door. He moved slightly. I stopped, looking back to see if I had disturbed him. I hadn’t. I moved towards the bathroom across the hall, letting myself in and instinctively locking the door behind me. As I stared at myself in the mirror I noticed that my eyes were burning red and my skin had become paler. I resembled a blood splattered sheet and felt the same. My eyes looked like a match that had just been extinguished with ashy circles surrounding a red ember. Right there staring back at me was everything I wasn’t sure of. What exactly did I see? A boy, about five feet and nine inches tall, pale skin and dark hair that’s kept purposefully longer on top than at the sides; his name is James.
I turned my head towards the toilet and the previous night slowly seeped through. I fell to my knees and extended my arm around the porcelain base where a gap no wider than four inches lived. My fingers felt for the cold glass of the bottle I had left there and pulled it towards my face. The plastic cap was half on and there was still some gin left in the bottom. I must’ve stopped myself when I got out of the bath to join Chris the previous night. As if it were an automatic response, I limply twisted the cap off and finished the bottle. An enormous amount of pressure swelled in my head as the stale copper taste was encompassed by the bittersweet flavour of gin. My body slumped on the floor as I placed the bottle between my knees. I kept my eyes closed for a moment, silent, listening. Today the answer would be yes, I lied to myself. Every other thought that stumbled through my head momentarily subsided and allowed me to feel the cold tile of my bathroom floor with more compassion than before. It was comfortable; it made the world stop spinning, just for a second.
My silent reverie subsided in an instant as I unsteadily rose to my feet. I carried the bottle loosely in my palm, carefully pressing my head against the bathroom door. I was listening for any sign of movement, nothing. I turned back on my heels, my bare feet slapping the tile and flushed the empty toilet grinning slightly. The door lock was stiff and loudly clicked as I opened the door and left the bathroom, bottle in hand, immediately heading for the stairs all the while looking in the direction of the bedroom. My eyes stayed fixed on the closed door as I continued down the stairs.
The second my feet lifted from the final step, my head began to fill with cloudy euphoria and I moved toward the kitchen, floating almost. The kitchens comfortable warmth greeted me as my eyes adjusted to a light orange glow that trickled through the window. I wrapped the bottle in kitchen roll and pushed it to the bottom of the bin. Simultaneously I switched the kettle on and let it boil. Above the kettle there sat a generic wood veneer set of cabinets and inside those there was a ceramic flour pot that I sometime hid money in, for emergencies. The cabinets didn’t reach the ceiling, leaving a considerably sized ledge on top. As the kettle bubbled wildly and the steam flowed from the spout I stretched my arm above my head so that my fingers could just curl above the top. I felt the ledge length ways until my fingers felt a small, rectangular packet. I grasped it in my palms and brought it down to the counter top as the kettle clicked. I opened the packet I silently counted the number of cigarettes left inside, five. Chris didn’t know I knew about these ones, he called them emergencies. The two had now become synonymous. If ever he would go out in the night he would call them emergencies, he would ask if I had any or wanted any all the while substituting this word for what they were. He was supposed to be cutting down; with every new packet we would open he would declare them as his last. It didn’t bother me; I mean we both had secrets. I ushered myself through the living room, grabbing a stray lighter from an end table by the sofa as I passed and left through the sliding doors that sat adjacent to the stairs. As my bare feet met with the concrete floor the sound of birds broke the silence and I closed the door behind me. I was stood on our small balcony with a communal garden below, empty and lifeless. I could see the city in the distance with the gherkin on the horizon as the sound of police sirens eclipsed my ears.
I placed a cigarette between my teeth, held it there for a second and then lit it, inhaling deeply as I let the ashy taste fill my lungs. You’ve heard this all before, you’ve heard that “it’s a metaphor” right? Well this was not a metaphor, it was a fucking cigarette. I couldn’t stand the idea of being another one of these dissociative teenagers, the kind in the films that develop a terminal illness, fall in love and die. I wanted more than the straight, white protagonists who by definition are assholes. I didn’t want my life to be nothing more than a pretentious title that doesn’t mean anything yet somehow fools an entire generation into believing they’ve had a deep and spiritual connection with literature. But that’s what was happening. Then again ‘to kill a mocking bird’ would just be called ‘Black Man faces extreme prejudice from a racist society’ and let’s face it not much has changed in the past sixty years. I needed to allow myself to be more honest and realise that sometimes there wasn’t a deeper meaning behind things and that sometimes things just are exactly as they seem. I understand the irony in all of this, I do. I am a villain for over analysis and by no means am I saying that throwing metaphorical drivel at people is damaging but it’s difficult for me to keep up with. I would have felt so much more content if everyone could pop a Valium or two and let go of all the unnecessary angst. I was drinking because I felt like it and I was smoking because that’s what drinking made me feel like doing. I inhaled the last of the tobacco and through the cigarette filter over the edge.
An hour passed by as I lay on the sofa, nursing my coffee. By this point my legs had become numb from the alcohol induced elation that had fully set in. Chris still hadn’t surfaced so I was free to let the drink take control. All that really meant was that I could eat the entire contents of my fridge, snack unreasonable amounts for this time of morning and have no one question me on it. It also meant that I was able to re-watch episodes of Buffy the Vampire slayer and aggressively hum along to the theme tune and not have to explain to Chris what’s going on. If you’ve ever seen it you’d understand what a hard task that would be to someone jumping into the middle of season 6. “Why is she invisible now? Is that a power she has?” “I thought her job was killing monsters why is she at McDonalds?” and so on and so forth until I try to remove my ear drums with a pair of rusty tweezers. Silence is, in fact, golden… sometimes.
The combined haze of the previous night and this morning’s lapse made me feel drowsy yet I couldn’t sleep. I heard his feet on the on the bedroom floor above me and immediately jolted upright. His routine never faltered, he was a creature of habit and I could rely on that, as I expected he went into the bathroom. After a few minutes I heard the toilet flush. Then he moved into the bedroom (presumably to change) before jogging down the stairs. Every morning was the same. This worked in my favour.
He joined me in the living room and gently kissed me on the mouth. He held his face close to mine for a moment, his mousy blonde hair was dishevelled and his stubble was uncouth. His masculine ruggedness was complemented by his Nordic features and medium build. “Morning” he whispered, his voice croaky from having just woken up, “have you brushed your teeth yet? He winced playfully. I just flashed my empty coffee cup.
“It is the morning, I say that, it’s just past eleven but you know what I mean” the combination of cigarette smoke, coffee and stale alcohol was enough to pass as common morning breath. He smiled and moved into the kitchen and I heard the kettle click, another part of his routine; a cup of tea, milk and no sugar. He called into me and predictably asked if I wanted one. I refused.
“Are you not at work today then?” he asked
“I’ve got the day off, I did mention it yesterday… it think” I replied, trying to keep my words as steady as possible. Pausing the TV I listened for anything else that he might have to say as he shuffled though holding his mug close to his face before sitting opposite me. The menial conversation continued back and forth for a few minutes, he mentioned his work for the day and I said I had nothing planned. “My new office chair is being delivered today listen out for the door please” he said before moving from his seat.
“Will I have to sign for it?”
“Of course you will, have you never had anything delivered before?” he retorted. I didn’t reply. He finished his tea and continued his morning blissfully unaware of my state.
Mid-afternoon came around and Chris had started work, leaving me to occupy myself whatever way I saw fit. He worked from home, mostly web coding for various clients and running his own freelance business. I began to sober up and my hands started to shake again and that’s when I heard the sound of my phone vibrate. I hadn’t even looked at it since I left work the day before, mostly out of fear and the possibility of resurfacing guilt. I glanced at the screen and saw a name, John. I had forgotten about him and being reminded wasn’t an issue at this point. Chris continued working upstairs and I hadn’t moved from my spot since the morning, by this point I had sat through three more episodes. I thought about it for a second, hesitatingly unlocking my phone and reading the message. It read:
“Hi, how’re you? I’ve just come back from my trip to Spain and cleared out the duty free lol, fancy popping over?”
John was a fairly wealthy man, in his thirties, who had begun talking to me when I was at work about 6 months ago. He had a home on the coast of Spain and a flat not too far from mine to which he would invite me over countless times so we could drink, so that I could drink for free. I hadn’t heard from him in over a month but the last time I had seen him he offered me a job being his assistant and I politely refused on the grounds that I had other things planned, this was a lie but I was not ready to commit to the life of Lolita. When he suggested me visiting I knew exactly what it meant. He wanted to ply me with alcohol and allow me to act like Julia Roberts and do everything except kiss on the mouth. He was an average looking man but in all honesty his money took him from a possible seven to a solid nine, ten at a push. I ignored his message for a few minutes, my heart pounding as I debated whether or not I could live with more guilt and as I thought about what seeing him would mean my stomach began to tie itself in knots. My hands began to shake and my throat began to itch. Before I knew it I had typed out a reply:
“I can’t stay for long, I’ll just hop on the train and be over in five see you soon”
I hit send. I felt a lump in my throat, as if it weren’t me who had control over my hands or even my feet as I marched up the stairs and threw on a knitted jumper and some jeans. He had previously commented on this outfit before so it only seemed fair. The drink was taking over again; it was the Jekyll to my Hyde, the Hulk to my Bruce Banner, and The Gollum to my Sméagol. I told Chris I was going for a walk and would probably do some shopping on the way back; he accepted this without hesitation, kissing me before I finally left to catch the bus.
The problem I faced day to day was that I lacked the contrariety to care; I lacked the moral compass to point me south when I got lost in the haze. Everything was casual, nothing had a sense of urgency or importance and nothing became prevalent in my behaviour that made me stop and think: I am in trouble.