I held Veronica’s phone in the palm of my hand. The delicate pink of it seemed to almost glow as the light of the dying sun struck it through my bedroom window. I knew I should turn it over to the police; it was the just thing to do, but right thing? What’s moral and just and what’s right are two different things sometimes. What I could see here could confirm my faith in my friend, or break it. Elanor was right; I was covering for him, but not in the sense that I really believed, or knew he might have had a thing with Veronica. I wanted to keep her from meddling in things. The more I thought about it, the more I was becoming convinced this was all something she designed. If she arranged Sam to be arrested, then likely I’d be collected as an accomplice, which means I had a limited window in which to act. My decision was made. Tomorrow, I’d take the phone to the police station and let them deal with it.
I just needed to clear my head for now. Too many things were happening at once and for a shut-in like me, it was getting to be overwhelming. I needed to just tune everything out so I could clear my head. I probably should have taken the phone right to the police station but I just didn’t have the energy. I felt lethargic and emotionally sapped from being brought to happiness then slammed back down into the dark shadow of familiar misery. As I perused my liquor cabinet and selected a bottle of Absolut to drown my sorrows within, I could almost feel Mara’s hand on my shoulder, trying to comfort me. It was real enough that I turned to look, hoping that these last five years were some nightmare I was having and I’d wake up to her smiling face. But nothing. Only long shadows made by the fleeting orange light that was coming through the windows.
Getting drunk when you were a consummate professional at it is harder than it sounds. I don’t consider myself an alcoholic because I drink to cope, not drink because I feel physically driven to do so. However, as a coping mechanism, I’m probably as bad as an alcoholic. I wander over to my couch and turn on my stereo. I don’t really pay attention to what’s playing because all I want is the sound. Something to fill the void I keep falling into.
I began guzzling the vodka like I was some kind of rockstar; the ‘not giving a damn’ feeling was exactly what I thought I needed right now. I swayed to whatever was playing — I think it was the Doors — and I pretended that everything was better than it was. I knew tomorrow the darkness of my life would return, but now I wanted to be free of my desolate existence. I wanted Veronica (or another girl just like her) to come into my life, I wanted Sam to not be in jail and I wanted Elanor to die. I decided in my quickly approaching drunken stupor that I hated that bitch and death by suffocation would be a perfect end for her.
“Never forgive you…”
I nearly stumbled over my couch with the voice I heard. Maybe it was just one of the lyrics being sung with the music I was listening to. Usually getting drunk didn’t involve hearing things or hallucinations, but it sounded so real. It sounded like Mara. I decided that even parts of my own mind were against me and continued drinking, but I stopped swaying to the music. Last thing I needed was to fall over something and knock myself out cold.
I opted to stare at the glowing stereo panel instead. The old style dials and knobs on the solid state unit glowed a pale yellow; mingled with the sharp red lights on the much newer CD changer unit I added six years ago, the whole thing looked like a hunched over, red-eyed and rabid yellow-mouthed metal monster sent to destroy me for my sins. I welcomed it with another long swig of vodka. I wanted to be destroyed. I wanted the end of my misery.
“Don’t forgive me then, Mara. I don’t give a damn anymore. You chose to die.”
Silence. Why I expected an answer could only be attributed to the bottle in my hand. I was ready to be rid of the albatross of Mara’s suicide and Elanor’s venom. Whether it be exorcism by liquor or freedom through death, I didn’t care. I was ready for the end. My bottle was half empty which only encouraged me to guzzle more. If I didn’t die from alcohol poisoning tonight, I would start moving forward. I deserved that. I paid my due in emotional desolation to the living and the dead…at least I thought so.
I could hear the soft mechanical clicking of the CD changer as another disc was loaded. In the brief downtime between discs, I wandered to my window and looked outside to the stars and the moon before me. I smiled. I was free. Maybe it was the courage imbued by the vodka but I felt free. For the first time in a long time, despite the kind of day today had been, I had hope. I could move on and I could be who I used to be before everything fell apart.
That’s when I heard it. Yesterday started playing and it instantly evoked the rage of a man who has been chained in the dungeon of his own guilt for far too long. The howl I unleashed was so incoherent, it barely sounded like myself. I was listening to a more primitive version of myself that was tired of being caged in my depression and it refused to go back. I liked it. I liked the power of it and I displayed that power by throwing the half-consumed bottle of Absolut at the stereo for daring to play that song! The glass shattered and while the song kept playing, I felt exonerated for throwing the bottle.
“You will never be free…”
I wheeled around to scream at the voice I thought was Mara, but there wasn’t anybody there. Too damned drunk. That had to be it. I screamed anyway. I screamed away all my anguish, all my frustration and all my anger. I screamed because I wanted to be free. I screamed because I my soul could no longer take the chains of Mara’s memory. I clumsily turned to face the window again, with the belated realization that I sounded like an idiot. At least if the neighbors called the cops, it would save me the trip to deliver the cell phone.
I saw her in the glass. I saw her pretty blonde hair cut in that pixie style she enjoyed and her big blue eyes. Her full lips were the purple granted by suffocation and her skin had the blue tinge one might expect from such a fate. She had been here the whole time, I realized. She had been here waiting for me to try to escape the prison of my misery because she never wanted me to escape it. She was wearing the same pale pink blouse, jeans and boots she had the night she died. She never moved on to the afterlife and she was going to make sure I didn’t move on with my life. Despite this revelation, I was surprisingly calm.
There was a thousand different things I wanted to say. I wanted to explain to her that my fling with the girl I couldn’t even remember the name of wasn’t the torrid, long-lasting love affair Elanor painted it as. I wanted to apologize and I wanted her for finally find rest. As drunk as I was, none of it would be even remotely comprehensible but at least I would have my chance. I turned to speak but she wasn’t there. Just a room that smelled like vodka and a stereo that seemed to almost be smiling as it mocked me with music. Superstition by Stevie Wonder wasn’t exactly what I wanted to hear right now.
The Devil was on his way indeed. The suffocating tightness at my throat made that clear.