There are so many empty bottles around me that there’s hardly room to stand, much less walk. Bud, Coors, and Michelob clink together indiscriminately when I shift my foot, like someone just made a celebratory toast at an important gathering.
Which I guess this is, in a way. Empties, loaded thoughts, one life-altering decision, and me – perhaps not the most impressive guest list ever created, but an important gathering it is.
I roll the last unopened bottle of Bud back and forth between my hands, back and forth. The stained sink reeks of spilled beer, with a hint of the dark rum that was the first liquid to go down the drain. I almost take a deep whiff before stopping myself, wondering if that would be cheating.
I thought this would be the easy part, a way to ease into flushing the two plastic baggies of weed in the back pocket of my jeans. If this is like pulling teeth with rusty pliers, I don’t want to think about how the dope is going to go.
“This is all your fault TJ,” I tell the empty room; it’s coming up to noon so Phakov is long gone. Have I really been at this for five hours? What is that, like four bottles an hour? This is pathetic, I’m stronger than this, I don’t need this poison.
I rip off the twist cap and the familiar sound sets my mouth watering. One last sip, a final toast, then down the pipes with it.
No, I’m done with this crutch. This break will be clean, I won’t do it halfway. I tip the bottle sideways and as the first drop splashes down my hand begins to shake. How embarrassing; I’m glad there’s no one around to see.
By the time the bottle is empty I’m shaking so bad I can barely hold on to it so I throw it on the floor to join his dearly departed brothers. I grip the edge of the sink with both hands as I fight the sudden urge to vomit. Do I know how to throw a party or what?
Once the waves of nausea subside to more manageable swells I try to gather myself for the next stage. As if this wasn’t going to be enough of a challenge on its own, the toilet here stopped working in the 70’s so I’ll have to go to the gas station two blocks away to finish the job. Two blocks to freedom… so close yet so very, very far.
I push away from the drunken sink and make my way slowly through the graveyard of the life I hope to leave behind. No, that I am leaving behind. The first steps have been taken, I’m on the road and there will be no turning back. I wouldn’t survive the return trip.
Down the barely there stairs, out into the shaded courtyard, the momentum is building. I head west for the gas station at a brisk walk, swinging my arms like wrecking balls, smashing down the wall standing between me and a better tomorrow.
Half a block from the station the weed in my back pocket turns to cement and tries to drag me down to hell. My pace slows but I refuse to stop. I’m going to walk into that stall, throw the junk in, flush it down, and walk out. No thinking, no delay, just a quick, clean cut, and I’ll be done.
I enter the store at the front of the station and grab the washroom key from beside the cash register. The clerk thinks about saying something but decides to keep quiet. I can’t blame him, I probably look like I’m on a serious bender.
I go back outside and stride to the side of the building. My hand shakes as I try to slide the key into the slot. God damn it. After scrapping a few paint chips off the door I finally get it in. I rush to the toilet and throw the weed in, bags and all. As my right hand reaches for the lever, my left hand reaches in and grabs the dope.
“Oh come on!” I yell. It’s hard to have faith in yourself when you’re standing in a dingy gas station washroom with two bags of weed dripping with toilet water in your hand. I guess you really do learn something new every day. “Just throw it back in.”
Still as a statue I stand, although no one would be foolish enough to commemorate this scene with an actual statue. Well, never say never with art these days; maybe “Bum on the brink” would be a big hit.
“I don’t need this garbage,” I say as I stare at the past sitting in my hand and try to see the future in my head. Then I finally get it, it finally sinks in at last: “I don’t want this.”
I drop one bag into the bowl, then the other. The slap of the plastic meeting the water seems amplified, like this scene is playing out on the big screen in the movie theatre downtown. I resist the urge to look for a camera and focus instead on the cracked lever sticking out of the right side of the toilet.
I reach out and my hand is steady. I press down and my demons are sucked noisily away… for now. I know this is not the end. But it is a start.