Alcohol- fictive thoughts
By the time he’d woken up, he was already fifteen minutes late. He’d had the gift itself for weeks, but hadn’t got round to wrapping the damn thing. Alex could have sworn there was some leftover paper stashed beneath his desk from Christmas, or perhaps a couple of sheets of crinkled snowmen to be found under his bed, but there were none. His head rattled and stung like a jar of hornets. He showered, which helped, and slowly began to dress himself. He felt dreadfully sick, and when he’d finally managed to persuade his skinny jean to wriggle beyond his knees he stood hovering for a moment, held by the kind of queasiness brought on only by the cheapest of wines. Cheap wine, cheap wine, cheap wine. He knew that there was no money to be saved in drinking two bottles of cheap wine over half a bottle of good quality, and he resolved (as he had done the previous week) to be mindful of this moving forward. Better to enjoy two drinks than crawl through eight.
He dragged his brain and bones to the corner shop. The weather was pleasant, which annoyed him. The flute of morning birds merged with violin screeches of braking cars. Alex took a moment, as he walked, to congratulate himself on coming up with such an image; he pictured a confused orchestra set up on the road to which he walked parallel, and as he knocked them down like pins in cheap arcade he married the scene to the sounds around him. He’d write about this later, he promised. There’s a poem in there somewhere, he thought. The sun warmed his prickling forearms, causing an uncomfortable stickiness as the alcohol lingered on his pores like static. He felt disgusting. Why do we do this to ourselves, he thought. Every night across the country, millions of people, white, black, fat, thin, young, old- they spend both time and money to poison themselves. Obviously they go about this in their own way- the old slouched in fusty pubs, the young buzzing between thudding clubs, and those in between found across bars or parties or park benches- but the essence of the thing is unchanged. It functions as a bicycle pump might to punctured wheel. A quick bump to the heart to write the wrongs of the week, but one which that ultimately remedies little. Drinking, he decided, as he clung to the contents of his stomach, doesn’t generate joy, but simply facilitates its borrowing.
Alex arrived at the corner shop. The sight of the bottles behind the counter made him inwardly wretch. Put them away. Have them covered, hidden, burnt, tossed in a ravine. He couldn’t stand to see them, and found a mocking smirk within each of the label-faces. His attention was drawn now to the price tags that dangled from their necks. It was pretty backward, he thought, that they ought to be so expensive. It’s strange that the primary function of alcohol- a means of forgetting ones present situation- is only available to the rich, who generally needn’t do so. He thought of those parties at college, where rich kids hinged glasses of Daquiri on wrists that wore watches that some could live off for a month, comfortably. And then he thought of the men in Victoria park the day before, the homeless drunks who had no money for a bed but apparently enough for cider. Alcohol, he thought, brings with it a numbness. Your change might not stretch to the rent of a room, but will cover an anesthetic to make the floor feel as though it were softer. It will smooth, to a degree, the ridge of the pavement. You won’t find the quiet that comes with walls and a roof, but can at least blot the noise of the street as you sleep, sedated, like something tranquilized.
He asked the shopkeeper where the wrapping paper was to be found. The shopkeeper told him. Alex paid the man, took the paper, and left the shop.
He wrapped it as he walked back to his building. With a final flourish, he tacked a sticky-backed red bow (which came free with the paper) to the face of the package. There. That’ll do. Wrapping a gift whilst walking, he’d discovered, is not all too easy, and the bumps in his step had his presentation to suffer. The thing was not a mess, but it would be a stretch to call it neat. One of the corners was slightly torn, but not so much as to reveal the contents, he assured himself. The tear was minimal, the gift was anonymous, his clothes were clean, and Julia would be fine.
He arrived at the door of her flat, knocked at the door, and proceeded to be violently sick. Oh no. Oh dear.