2. Clear Encouragement

 

Another day, another delivery, and another hangover to battle. To make matters worse, my sponsor has been calling me every other hour. I quickly tire of rejecting the calls, and consider what the consequences would be of blocking the number altogether. Sure, I could pick it up, and just tell the truth. But that would make it all the more difficult to bullshit my way through the next meeting. My ringtone sings its robotic tune yet again, and again I hit reject.

I’m standing at the bus stop, and I’ve been waiting for what seems more and more like an outrageous amount of time. I look down the street, and it’s still nowhere to be seen. The tracker app says twenty minutes still. The bench looks clean enough, so I plop down. Soon I’m laying down, using the package I’m meant to deliver as a pillow.

When the bus finally screeches it’s approach, my skeleton attempts to escape my skin in surprise. Nearly on my feet already, I roll off the bench, and stride to the door. The bus driver gives me the side eye as I produce my bus pass. Some nerve, I’m not the one who’s way behind schedule. But if he doesn’t step on it, soon I will fall into that category. All of the passengers, mostly elderly this time of day, avoid eye contact as I find a seat. Nothing like sleeping on a park bench to make you a social outcast. I think about talking crazy to myself out loud to further form their opinions.

However, I don’t have much time to debate this, as the bus makes it only a block and a half before hitting a small dump truck. Only it’s mirror got clipped, but now the driver pulls over, and exits. Leaving us all on the bus, this guy stands up against a wall scrolling through his phone. I assume he’s trying to find someone who can investigate. Authorities for public transit or otherwise. Protocols and what not. It doesn’t seem to bother him all that much, and I start to think he may have done it on purpose. Tired of driving around in circles all day, and having already used a lunch break, the only other option is to sideswipe something without causing major damage. These bus drivers are probably allowed a few of those. It probably doesn’t even go on their record. With the crowded city streets they’re navigating, and the contempt from all other motorists, it’s expected. To a certain extent. There’s room for it in the budget.

So I waited all that time only to make it less than two blocks. I could have been halfway to my destination by now. I return the side eye as I step off the bus, for not getting my fare’s worth. Someone else spits at him, and I realize I’m not as irritated as I thought. Nor am I the crazy one, like they all assumed, this driver included.

I track the next bus on my phone. Sometimes these things run back to back. They catch up to each other. Then do nothing to rectify the inconvenience to commuters. So if you miss one bus, you could actually be missing two or three buses. The second and third ones driving along, mostly empty. Can’t imagine how they operate at a loss. But with no such luck this time, I keep walking.

It doesn’t take long before I’m struggling to continue. I’m experiencing some nausea, a headache is developing, and my legs feel heavier with each step. My only option, as I see it, is to stop at the liquor store on the next block for some encouragement. I didn’t say it was the best option, it’s just the one I came up with.

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A dull chime sounds twice as I step through the door, reminding me again of all the phone calls. The man behind the counter speaks no English, or any other language for that matter. He just stares blankly at me under the watchful eye of an old Eastern European woman nearby. It’s a safe bet she’s the owner, and likely a relative of the clerk. Her apparent distrust of him somehow contaminates my opinion, and as I move along I realize this is one of those liquor store/bar combinations. About half a dozen drunks sit drinking in the dark, just past the counter. So at least I’m not the only one who needed additional motivation today, well before lunch.

Walking through the aisles, sunlight sparkles off the rows and rows of bottles. I admire their labels until I realize they’re too difficult to conceal. So I return to the counter where they keep the smaller ones. Same labels. The cashier’s gaze hasn’t changed, or even blinked. I decided to choose a vodka. Rumor has it that it’s not easily detected, you can’t smell it on a person’s breath. This is obviously a drunk’s logic, but halfway through the pint, and I’m reinvigorated. And I could care less at this point that’s it’s still an hour from midday. Until my sponsor calls again. This time I answer. I didn’t mean too, it was just a reflex. I wasn’t paying attention.

 “Hello?” I say, hoping it was a buttdial.

 “I was starting to worry about you,” he responds. “How are things?”

 “Ah, okay. Yeah, I’m at work. Do you think we could talk later?”

 “Sure, let me know what would be a good time? I just wanted to remind you that it works if you work it. Also I’m here for you, and if you ever…”

 “Yeah dude, anytime after 6,” I say, and then hang up. Knowing that I’ll probably shut my phone off at 5:30. Just to avoid him again, but it’s nothing personal. While he was yammering on, I decided I’d hit up my favorite happy hour tonight. They’ve got video poker, and dollar tacos to go along with the usual drink specials.

The call itself wasn’t so bad, except for the mistake I made of answering it. But not the interrogation I was expecting. What can I do about it? This shit is mandated by the court. The last thing I want is to end up back in front of a judge. Not to mention getting ripped off by my cheapo lawyer any further. Staggering down the street I try to convince myself of the likelihood this could happen. Swaying back and forth across the sidewalk, block after block. I’m nearly there when I realize I’ve been having a pretend legal consultation by myself.

Walking through the doors I drop the package. Then, going to pick it up, I kick it across the lobby. It slides until it’s stopped by the front desk. The clerk grants me my second dose of side eye for the day. Now I worry they’ll know I’m drunk. I should have gotten some gum at the liquor store.

 “You all right son?” the clerk asks as I bend over to pick up the box.

 “Muthafucker I ain’t never been all right,” is what I want to say. But “Yessir,” is what I decide on instead. No need to prolong this conversation. I’ll get the slip signed just the same. Then I’m on my way. I push through the revolving doors, and there’s that damn ringtone again, he called back early. Immediately it rings again, and I remove the battery from my phone.

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