Look at him. Watch as he heckles the walkers. See him lie on the curb, abed with his sweetheart. Watch him beg for the unwary dime, to keep him the way he is – to buy the poison which pumps his lungs, and burns them also. The drunkard sits, and waits. He sits atop the brow-beaten curb. His form, dark and obscure, drains piteous gestures from the passers-by. Yet when he talks, he reveals himself, and it belies this ‘truth’.
He was married once, they say. He was once a man of means? Hardly, but he made do. He once had a child, and a wife. Though, he has no more. He says they are dead to him, as he spits upon a crevasse in the asphalt.
I went searching for the truth of this drunkard. I wanted to find what he hides behind the golden liquor – the veil of steel he hooks upon the rungs around his heart. He sits, and watches me cautiously as I approach him. And I, with my hooded cloak, hide my eyes, for he too may penetrate my veil.
“Maria!” He cried one night I was with him. Maria. That was the name of his bride. He was to marry her in the summer of 1982, and yet, I find nothing in the state marital records. It seems he did not marry this woman. My escapades through the obituaries reveal that it was on the month before his planned marriage, that she died.
It was a curious case – a door locked from the inside, and a room without other entry. Yet she was inside. Dead. They never found him – the murderer that is. I look at the door now, its hinges screech as it begs for its euthanasia. The room is empty, but for the dust that fills it. And there is a dark, brown stain upon the wall. That must be where she died. Nostalgic echoes rush into me. I rush forward to meet the floor, as my legs give way.
Did she cower, I wonder, as I sit hugging myself, shivering. Did she fear death, or did she embrace it? I realise that I shall never know, but there is no reason not to wonder. I throw a clay pot on the floor at the thought. Its form shatters into a myriad of pieces as it hits the ground, and one flies to my cheek. The ruby syrup drips down to my chin, and splatters upon the ground. How lucky she is.
Months later, he married another. A woman his brother found – Donna Favaldo. Her, I found, for she is not dead. She lives in a house, southwest of my own. I walked there one day, and saw a strange man stroll from the building, a dirty smile upon his face. The thought signalled the march of my food to my mouth – I threw up in her yard, and ran away.
I could hear her shout behind me: “What the bloody hell!” she screamed, half naked, hurling a large rock at me from behind. It turns out she is a prostitute.
His son I found as well, a bar tender in a local restaurant. At my questions, he flinched, and told me he knew nothing about the drunkard. I knew he did. He lied to me. I walked out, coolly, and sprayed the walls of the place with profanity that night. The bright pink spray paint sits there, to this day, disgustingly brilliant.
He has been forgotten – betrayed, and forgotten. He was a nice man. A quiet, dutiful man and he has been betrayed, and forgotten. He doesn’t deserve it.
His wife cheated on him. I asked the local gossip-mongerer Heroni of his story and that is what happened. His wife cheated on him.
And he knew. I look at him now, as he sits like a dog on the pavement, turning his head this way and that, following the people around him asking them for a dime. He disgusts me. He knew.
He knew that his wife was cheating on him, and yet, he accepted it. He agreed to it. He stayed quiet, and life was ‘business as usual’. He was weak; a coward. Once more the food rushes to my mouth – though this time I could stop it. I wish I hadn’t.
She drove him bankrupt, took his house, and threw him out. He is alone.
That is not the story of the drunkard who lives opposite my house. He has been a drunkard all his life. He did not love Maria, or Donna Favaldo. He has no son. He had no wife. He has nothing.
I approach him, and hear the expected ‘Have you a meagre dime for a poor man?’ Out of my pocket, I throw him a roll of 100 dollar bills. I see his eyes light up, and I pull down my hood.
I ask him for the bottle he holds in his hand, which he kindly donates. I walk back to my house, closing the door. I smile as I wipe the bottle clean. I drink whatever is left inside, the bitter liquid hurling me into inebriation, and I smash the bottle against my wall, half of it still left intact.
The world becomes abstruse. I feel myself fading away, as my blood pervades the carpet. I relax in my chair, and sit back.
Staring upwards, I see the fan turn. Cool air hits my face. I think of the moments. I drown in my memories – eyes lighting up seeing Maria, Favaldo, the bastard son I leave behind…
… and finally, the drunkard.