31. New Best Friend


I’ve been getting back in the swing of things. Making more deliveries, and believe it or not, controlling my drinking. Some withdrawal would wear on me at times. Just not in a usual or expected way. At first the body finds it a great relief. There’s a lot of fatigue, then the accompanying slumber. This helps to string together a few days, and sometimes it turns into a week.

I don’t want to give the impression it’s been 100%. That simply is not true. At times there has been no other choice but to satiate my thirst. As a last resort. More like taking medicine than whooping it up. But when the medicine works so well, you don’t dare be without it. This leads to an eventual backslide. Earlier and earlier in the day, I’m picking up bottles. First it’s the finish of a workday. Then 5 o’clock. Lunchtime. Then noon. When it gets into the morning hours, all discernment is tossed aside. It’s then I consider myself officially off the wagon. And in the ditch.

I’m working though. The best justification I can administer. Not even noon, and I’m already en route to make my third delivery. Then I’ll pick up some drink. Maybe I shouldn’t? Maybe I hold out until…well just longer. Am I starting down that same path? For the countless time. The path to bedridden, round-the-clock drinking. Nothing other than drinking. The possibility that this is already happening, already in motion, fills me with dreadful anxiety.

The box I’m holding shakes in my hands. It’s not that cold out. I haven’t been waiting for the bus long at all. But I wait impatiently. As though it’s only purpose is to pick me up and take me where I want to go. A car rolls by blaring classic rock through it’s open window. Further proof of the temperature. It’s the kind of song you’ve heard too many times. The melody annoyingly familiar. We all want everything set up just right for us. As if the world was in fact OUR oyster. Even when there’s so many of us. What an idiotic side to the human condition.

When the bus finally pulls up, the door doesn’t open right away. The woman driving is yelling into her mirror at someone in the back. I eventually knock. She opens it without looking at me. Nothing but the best customer service. Exactly what I’ve come to expect from the transit department. There are few open seats. I find myself drifting towards the back in my search. Getting closer to the other participant of this argument.

It’s a woman in an ill-fitting sweatsuit. That is hard to come by. There seems to be a hospital gown underneath. This produces bulky areas around the collar, stomach, and hips. The recently discharged will occasionally pull at it, shuffling the bulks around. She also stands to stomp her feet at the end of every sentence. This serves to emphasize every point she is attempting to make.

The driver is telling her to sit down and be quiet. The recently discharged isn’t allowed to behave this way on a city bus. The driver continues that she “…sometimes can’t believe these people.” This is spoken to no one in particular. Although loud enough for me to hear near the back.

The recently discharged is mostly incoherent. What I assume is that she was administered strong anesthetic or some daily meds. Then it was discovered her insurance was bogus, or it ran out. She couldn’t pay is what it boiled down to. This sufficed as cause to make her everyone else’s problem. Not to mention stop whatever treatment was surely needed.

The aforementioned system flaws make me feel compassion for her. If you’re poor, you’re fucked. One way or another. The system will destroy you. Because it feeds off the selfishness of the wealthy. And there is always a surplus of that. Back again to the human condition. You have to work so hard just to survive. Staying above the poverty line is the same feeling as trying to keep your head above water.

I feel something in my hip. My boisterous fellow passenger, sitting down for a brief interlude, has put her feet up on my armrest. She lightly kicks me at times. A sad excuse for much needed human contact. I don’t mind, and do nothing about it. In my fellow passenger’s current state, this might be her way of saying thanks.

And I think this poor helpless woman has the right to her anger. I turn to make eye contact. Just so she knows that I know. Truth be told the encounter motivates me. I’m reminded that I can’t let my drinking take me too far down that path again. We all have our weaknesses. And at some point the system will try to capitalize.

The hollering starts again. It’s actually the stomping of her feet that snaps me to attention. Usually this sort of thing is something to avoid. A person not familiar with city life would likely flee in terror. The rest of us just ignore it. Casually make our way away from it. Put some distance between ourselves and the derangement. However, now I’m feeling completely on poor helpless woman’s side. Fuck this driver and her lack of empathy. We’re all on this janky bus together.

I stand up and start yelling too. I’m filling the gaps of silence for the poor woman. She is suspicious at first, but quickly realizes I’m on her side by what I’m saying. And what I’m saying is that this bus driver “…should leave the poor woman alone. She’s obviously had a tough day! You don’t know what she’s been through! Maybe she doesn’t have a job! Doesn’t have insurance! Isn’t lucky like you!” I don’t know where it is coming from. But it feels good.

Body language in the back the bus has changed severely. I can tell my efforts are valued. Because she follows me after we get kicked off at the next stop. Shouting with double middle fingers in the air the whole way to the concrete. I think she has the wrong impression. Slaps on the back follow, and this appreciative fellow passenger is still relatively incoherent. However, from the volume and encouraging tone of her ramblings that she now delivers up close to my face, I can tell we’re still on the same side.

I’m almost to my delivery destination. A tug on my jacket prevents my entrance through the revolving doors. My new best friend is indicating we should visit the liquor store across the street instead. I nod and produce a “let’s go then” gesture. She lets go, leading the way. I reverse once more, and beat it through the revolving doors. Hearing incoherent shouts and some eventual banging on the glass leads to a guilty feeling as I approach the front desk to sign in.

I still have a delivery to make. I justify this by the effort I did make on the bus. A push against the weight of these systems. That is starting to become priority number one. I don’t pick up a bottle until much later at night. After making half a dozen more deliveries. One foot still firmly on the right path.