My Old Friend Jack

They were basking in their own brilliance as they stood outside of the restaurant taking swigs from a large jar of whiskey. If they were to get drunk before dinner, the strangers reasoned, then they wouldn’t have to pay for the overpriced booze inside.

This is the smartest thing we have ever done. They didn’t say that specifically, but I could feel it in the air as I carefully navigated beyond them. Jack was the only person there that I was familiar with and I wasn’t allowed to go and say hello to him. We had a rough falling out years and years ago and haven’t talked since.

It’s probably better this way. I didn’t say that specifically, but I could feel it in the air.

Dinner ended unceremoniously and I walked back out to the parking lot to find it nearly deserted. Those strange and brilliant people had their fill and were probably enjoying a nice Hibachi steak dinner with a really good buzz going on. Now it was just Jack and I and I found myself much more comfortable with an old friend right there by my side like that.

I remembered those first romantic nights with old Jack, how we were crowded around that cluttered desk of mine with only the glow of a computer monitor to blot an otherwise infinite blackness. I remembered the realization that whiskey lips tasted a whole lot like black licorice. I remembered cradling toilet seats at random, pissing myself in bed, and waking up next to a revolving door of faceless people.

If one can’t fill the hole with anything tangible, anything worthwhile, then they might as well drown the bacteria that lives down there. Accomplish something. Do anything. Just don’t let the hole fester. Don’t become gangrenous in stagnancy.

The years passed. People died. Other people were born. Stories were written and some were wholly forgotten. The ones that can be called upon now are usually illuminated by those that you cannot, so nothing has ever really happened in vain. There was a sense of purpose there even in all of its grand purposelessness. All of those drunken nights that died without a whimper are just as paramount as the memories you couldn’t scrub away with all the soap in the world. After all, without the one, then how could you possibly value the other? There is a slow waltz that is always happening, a penny sliding in a circular path toward an event horizon. To spin fast enough to cradle toilets, to throw up your insides like they have betrayed you, and that great fall toward everybody’s spare change. Toward what you have forgotten and are, at the same time, destined to be become reacquainted with.

I looked at the bottle sitting there and it quite honestly looked like it was weeping. It talked to me.

Come kiss my lips and taste the black licorice on your own. Mix me with Coca-Cola or take me with a little bit of ice. For fastest results, take me as I am. Feel the warmth in your stomach. Listen for the sound of war as it wages inside you. Fill the hole with something if nothing else does the trick. Nothing else is doing the trick, is it? Can you hear the bacteria in your gut? Listen! They’re thirsty.

I don’t fall back in the spiral. I don’t do anything. I just recall. I don’t know what else to do. The scent lingered in the air and I took a deep breath of it to get that rush of old memory. To feel alive by proxy. To stay sober and stay dead and stay real quiet.

It was comfortable until a few people walked outside to ruin my sense of clarity forever. They were obviously drunk and well-fed, cheery and rose-faced; ready to catch the sun before it admitted defeat under the horizon. They were hugging each other and laughing and it was so loud and disgusting.

This is the worst feeling in the world. I didn’t say that specifically, but I could feel it in the air. I could see it in my old friend Jack.

We parted ways without so much as a kiss goodbye.