by Mark Hahn
“Sometimes you climb out of bed in the morning and you think, I’m not going to make it, but you laugh inside — remembering all the times you’ve felt that way.”
― Charles Bukowski
While driving to work this morning, I stopped at a crosswalk and watched a struggling aged alcoholic drunk woman attempt cross the street while staying in the crosswalk lines. She only stumbled outside the lines once or twice, but it was a real effort for her. I thought about how much simpler her life was than mine. She had broken it down into the simplest things: getting to the other side of the street, getting to the liquor store before it closed for the night, making it through the night until the liquor store opened up in the morning when she was dry and taking a shit. There was a time when I was looking for such a simple life, but I failed.
DTs, spinning beds, bloodshot eyes and a pounding head. Hands shaking so bad you can barely pick up a fork to eat your $0.99 breakfast special by the taxi depot. It’s one of the hardest jobs in the world. It was my goal – making it to the point where nothing actually mattered. A point where I didn’t matter. I looked at this woman and knew that she had made it. Sex, pride and love, it had all been thrown away. Her shirt was buttoned out of order and her stomach hung out. She wasn’t fat, but she was barely on the edge of being human – or perhaps, she was completely human. Human, but without a dream in her heart to confuse things. Maybe getting to the other side of the road is really all that matters. Maybe the rest of us have it all wrong.
At the next stoplight I stopped to buy myself a lunch to bring to work. For some reason I found myself walking down the beer and liquor aisle. I looked at the 40 ouncers as I pass. I thought, I could drink one of them and still make it to work. I looked at different brands. I tried to remember which one I would enjoy the most. Then I realized I wouldn’t enjoy any of them, at least not just one.
The magic never happens until you have your 5th. Then there is a brief moment when you feel the promise of feeling good. I’d have the illusion that somehow everything would change. Then I just ended up getting drunk — being a drunk is a lot of work. You have to be the life of the party. You have to prove that you’re having more fun than everyone else. You have to convince yourself that you’re drunk because you’re happier that way. You have to piece the drunken you back together with the undrunken you. It wasn’t about being drunk or being sober, it was about getting drunk – trying to enjoy that brief moment of transition before it was gone. This woman had given up on all of this.
I didn’t buy a beer this morning. I’m still hanging onto my dreams. Life might hurt at times, but the alternative no longer looks better. When I looked at this woman this morning I felt nothing but empathy. Life can take one turn or the other — and then there you are.