THE DRUNKARD'S FRIEND

by Alex Greenberg

 

I had spent most of the night at the bar. After closing time, I decided to wander down to the Wilted Rose. I had blown fifty bucks at the bar and I only had a few dollars left. I probably couldn't get much from the Rose. On my way over, I got lost. I had had too much to drink and eventually all the streets looked the same. The streets were no longer there and I found myself in the middle of the woods. I had no idea where to go.

I knew of a hermit in the area. I began to look for a house, but found nothing. I was wandering forever, but realized this would get me nowhere. I was tired, but it was too cold to spend the night outside. I sat down and began to shout for help. I shouted for a half hour. The alcohol combined with the energy of shouting made me tired. The woods got hazy as I began to fall asleep. I was half asleep, when I heard a rustle. Someone stood over me and threw me over his shoulder. Then I could no longer stay awake. My body was too tired to keep my eyes open. I fell asleep completely.

I found myself in a small cabin the next morning. A small man was in the corner. He was wearing an "I love cheese" shirt and he had shorts that looked like potato sacks. "Hey," he said, "I'm Eziquel. I live in the woods here." He walked over and poured a cup of tea. He brought the tea over and handed it to me. "I guess you was drunk last night. Stuff'll kill, tain't no good fer ya."

"I'll do what I want with my life. Ain't no stranger gonna tell me different." I replied, somewhat annoyed.

He sensed my aggravation, but he continued, "You need to quit that stuff. There's plenty worth living for."

Now I was plain mad. "Don't you tell me nuthin'. My life is my life. I'm grateful for you saving, but now Ah'm gettin' out."

"Why don't you stay fer breakfast," he said.

I didn't want to stay, but I had no money and I was mighty hungry. He served up breakfast and it was good. He had bacon, eggs, sausage, biscuitts and gravy, orange juice, and coffee. It was hot and tasty; fresh too. I ate the most I've eaten in a while. It was ambrosia; the best food I'd ever eaten. Maybe if I had eaten more than a few bites in the past five days, it would be different, but it was great. He didn't touch any of the food. He just dove into a bag of Cheetos. He was strange, but friendly. We talked for hours 'cause neither of us had anywhere to go. We talked about life. He explained to me that he was pretty much a bastard. His dad had been cheating on his mom, so he left the house. When I tried to continue on the subject, he changed it quick. He wouldn't say anymore. He was a very nice man, one of the most genuine people I had ever met, even though he was a bit crazy. I was actually intimidated by him. Being around him made me nervous because I knew he was a better person than me. He had no judgements at all; he just liked me. It seemed like we talked forever, and he told me his life story, and I told him mine. He did avoid a few subjects, like his dad for instance. The only thing that I didn't like was the cat. It kept trying to sit on my lap. I can't stand cats, and this one just wouldn't leave me be.

He was a goofy looking man, but he had the impression that he was suave. I think he'd never even been with a woman. He was starting to get to my head, though. He talked about how alcohol was a poison. He had once been a drunk, but recovered. He had went through an immense change and moved out here. He wasn't perfect, but he was the closest thing to it in my life, so I started to get nervous; he was really driving at me about booze, and I didn't know if I could even try and quit alcohol. At about two, I decided to head home. He showed me the way out of the woods and asked me to come back the next day. I said I would.

I got home and I saw Hank. He asked me where I went and I lied and told him that I had spent the night at my son's house. Hank is very controlling with his friends. He doesn't like it when I have another friend. If I had told him the truth, he probably would have become mad. I went in and napped the rest of the afternoon. I grabbed some money and headed to the bar. I only had one beer this time, then I headed to the Rose. They kicked me out pretty quick 'cause I didn't have much money. I headed to my son's place and convinced him to let me spend the night there. While I lay on my son's couch I thought about my new friend. I thought about how he might impact my life. Him with his ragged clothes and gray beard; he could change me into a better person. I know my son would appreciate it. My son's been taking care of me since his mother died. He keeps telling me to stay away from the drink, but he doesn't know how it feels. I had a slight problem before her death. I would have one or two beers a day, but it got serious the day she discovered she had cancer. That was when my son was fifteen. He's been helping me ever since. I've had a few jobs, but I can never keep them for long. I just keep screwing up but, thank God my son is so forgiving. He's the best boy a father could have, and I don't deserve him.

The next day, I got out at noon and decided to head over to the woods. I headed for Eziquel's house. I wanted to see him again. I was feeling good for the first time since her death. I might overcome alcohol with his friendship. I walked by the cabin. I stood there, looking at it for a half hour. He saw me, but he wanted to let me choose. I just kept on walking without seeing him. I couldn't face my life, and if I was friends with this man, I would start to do just that. I guess I was just scared.

I've never been back. I guess I just can't deal with being sober and having a true friend. Hank is just as messed up as me, so I can get along fine with him. Eziquel is too good, too perfect, I just can't deal with it.