18. Some Context Part Two

 

As this long night continues, I give up on trying to figure out why the bar is busy. In my increasingly inebriated state, I have to focus on getting the regulars gone. Or else I’ll never get out of here. It’s a delicate persuasion. Because kicking out repeat customers is bad for business. Which only means you have to make it their idea. The less than usual patrons are easy to boot.

Ingrid never stays that long. And I’ve got Harold in my pocket by now. He’ll be agreeable at this late hour, just to stay on my good side. Cameron still needs a ride. As if I want to spend more time in his company. On top of that I’ve never seen him so drunk. This could be a problem.

Then there is Lucy. This is where it starts getting difficult. She knows I’ll be forced into conversation. The quickest route to get Lucy out the door is jumping right into a disgusting banter with her. Somehow this is satiating, justifying her behavior. I’ll put that off as long as possible. Arnie keeps putting his finger up. I’ve told him already that last call has passed. This causes him to use a different finger. I settle on one more. I put the drink down in front of him, then pull it away, reiterating “Last one.”

This also means anyone else left gets the privilege of purchasing one more over-priced drink. Some nights you have to do this several times before everyone gets the message. It also means one more for me while I tidy things up, and get the bar ready to close. I’ve been to bars that like to turn the lights on or up when it’s time to go. That’s fucking stupid. I do the opposite. No one wants to hang around drinking in the dark.

Next I gather the extra cash that’s accumulated in the drawer, and walk from behind the bar to drop it in a safe near the back. I won’t return back behind the bar until it’s time to leave. This makes it impossible for there to be anymore orders. I begin putting the stools up, and Lucy spins around in her seat.

 “How’s about I crack open that roll of quarters you’re trying to smuggle outta here?”

 “You’re always so complimentary Lucy.”

 “C’mon, I need some change in my drawer,” she says. Then leans closer, and puts a hand up next to her mouth in what will be a failed attempt whisper “I’m actually talking about my who-ha.”

 “You don’t say?” I respond enough to keep it going. And moving towards the door. Cameron doesn’t giggle along this time. His head is down on the bar. I jab him in the ribs and say “Let’s go.” Grabbing my stuff from behind the bar, I’m ready for the final push. The place clears easily enough tonight.

With everyone finally out, I lock the door behind me. In the short, half-block walk to my car, Cameron stumbles and falls several times. I try to help him up the third or fourth time, and he takes a swing at me. Which only returns him to the pavement. Guess I can’t give him my keys. Shit, I’ve misjudged our consumption tonight.

Cameron barely manages to get himself into the passenger seat. I reluctantly get behind the wheel. Taking a few deep breathes, I try to bolster my concentration before turning the ignition. I’m telling myself I’ll go slow, it’s late, probably not much traffic. Take the side streets. Get as close to the speed limit as possible. So as not to draw suspicions. The stop lights will provide brief respites. Allowing for my continued attempts to increase focus. Going through greens are equally disappointing and frightening.

At one such intersection ahead, oncoming brights blind me just long enough that I don’t see a jaywalker until the last second. The delay in my reaction causes me to swerve without forethought. The super slow motion that occurs still isn’t enough to allow for counter-measures. Trying not to hit what is likely a fellow drunk, I slam into a parked car. The last thing I see before headbutting the air bag is Cameron exploding through the windshield. Didn’t think to wear his seatbelt with the state he was in. And I didn’t check.

When everything finally returns to normal speed, I smell the antifreeze spilling out onto the street. Combined with the horror that now lies on the hood of my car, I have little choice but to vomit into the deflating airbag.

Sirens blare towards us. The accompanying flashing lights aren’t far off. I manage to get out of the crumpled machine. I peer at Cameron from different angles. To say it doesn’t look good is putting it mildly. He’s almost completely red with blood from the many lacerations provided by the windshield. I can’t determine if the initial impact caved part of his skull in, or if a pool of blood in his hair creates that illusion. Regardless, I vomit again, then turn and begin walking away from the wreckage.

I can see the lights easily now. They’re less than a mile away. I turn down an alley, and my legs begin to fail me. Slumping into a little alcove between some dumpsters, I slide to the ground. For awhile I stay there, alternating between crying and vomiting. The thoughts swirling faster and faster in my head dizzy me. I try to grasp what I’m certain will be the end of my life.

Some hours later I’ll awake in police custody. It’s almost a relief. An officer promptly processes me for driving under the influence. It’s several hours of the contempt I deserve before he decides to mention that Cameron is still alive. Albeit in serious condition.

 “Your friend is going to make it, by the way,” he says.

 “He’s not my friend,” I reply without thinking.

 “Maybe we should charge you with attempted murder then?” he considers. “Drunks always go limp. They say that’s what saves them most times. Almost doesn’t seem fair does it?” I have no ability to muster a response to that. Everything is getting increasingly difficult to comprehend.

In the days, weeks, and months that followed, I drank even more. As my level of inebriation grew, so did my tolerance. Up, up, and up. I no longer had any desire to be sober again. I would lose my job of course. The court revoked my license, and ordered that I enter a program. I’ve decided to fake my way through that. You know, I’m still not sure if I drink so much in an effort to forget these events. Or to remember them. Remember what I did, the mistakes I made. To remember that I’m not a good person.

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