It’s the drinking, Patrick said. It does me in every time and yet I can’t seem to stop it. There’s a glamour to it, or there was. There was. No longer.
To our left sits a young couple, the man timid, withdrawn, his shoulders bent inward as though they would touch if his collarbones vanished. The woman was stunningly beautiful and effusive in voice and gesture, talking happily about her day while her partner slouched. They were eating ramen, great bowls of it steaming in front of them, and by their chopsticks, beer. There was nobody else in the little side restaurant except for the smiling fat cook, who came from behind the curtain door to the kitchen, passing out ladles of ramen soup and chortling to himself. As was the case every time I have been here, money never seemed to change hands, people ate and ate, and the beer was always cold.
Patrick wasn’t eating, though there was a bowl in front of him. His lips, cracked, opened to take in the neck of the seventh or eighth bottle of beer for the evening. His nose was red and already webbing from the effects of alcohol, and his forehead was pale, dotted with eczema, his hair lank and greasy.
I start each day the same: today will matter. At first I am aspirational, vowing to wake early to seize every minute. 4, 4:30, 5 – really early, with hours to spare before work, or my wife, or anything. It’s time for me. But then I can’t get out of bed, my mind is fuzzy from wine or beer, and so I bargain with myself, reason that perhaps night-time will be better. I think of Proust, or Pamuk, or any of the thousand writers who stayed up late. And so the day passes. And then it is evening, I am thirsty, the day was long, the first glass is poured, and – bargaining again. Tomorrow will be different, tomorrow I can wake early, tomorrow is a new day. And then I fall asleep, and then the cycle starts anew.
Patrick looks at the couple, her so beautiful, him seemingly downtrodden and badgered, though there has been zero indication that such behaviour might come from her. She catches our eye, stops talking and tells us with great venom to mind our own business. I swear I hear her say ‘drunks’ as she returns to talking about her day. The man glances briefly at us before lowering his eyes again.
It’s killing me, Patrick said. And I can’t seem to stop.
* * *
The above piece of writing comprises part of my fragments project, some of which are available on this website. I intend to add new fragments piecemeal, not in any particular order, and as the occasion take me.