Whiskey & The Perpetual Stupor
This short story is based on some of my experiences while in Seattle a couple weeks ago. While the dialogue, details, and descriptions are accurate to as much as I can remember, names have been changed.
Edited by: David Lubell
Inspiration to make this into a short story: Amber Hill
Further editing/critiquing by: Carson McCain & Jason Points.
"Hey, so I've got a question."
"I got Vince and Brandon's bottles of whiskey earlier, but Ice Box Liquor only had two bottles. So now I'm at Cindy's Spirits and they have the 750 and the 1.75. Which one do you want?"
"Uhhh...is it a better value to get the larger one?"
I hear the beeping sound of a scanner and distant chatter of the attractive young woman ringing up a customer in his mid-40s or 50s. I think briefly about how much fun spending this next week in Seattle with my good friend Dan is going to be.
"Um, lemme do the math real quick," (indistinct calculation chatter) "yeah, I think you save a little when you buy the bigger bottle. But either way it's probably worth it to get it just so you won't run out as quickly. We both know how tasty this blend is."
"Yeah that sounds good. I'll see you in a couple days."
"Alright man, sounds good. Can hardly wait to see you guys again!"
I just barely made it before 9pm. Since they are closed tomorrow, and my flight is super early the next morning, it's a good thing Cindy's had the TX Blended Whiskey or Dan might have not gotten his bottle. If you haven't tried it, seriously, go get some. Super sweet and woody tasting.
"hUUUHHhuuhh hUUUHHhuuhh hUUUHHhuuhh hUUUHHhuuhh."
Out of breath. Sweaty. Standing on the sidewalk trying to cool down.
This has become such a routine and important part of my life. Many people seem heavily opposed to the crossfit way of fitness but, for me, it works... I love it.
I head back inside, wrap up conversation, grab my stuff, and begin the 10-block walk to Dan's office.
I text him:
Me_ Hey, I'm headed that way. Looks like it'll probably take me 15-20 minutes to get there.
Dan_ Ok, sounds good. I'll be out on the curb with the car and Jackson with me.
Me_ Sounds good, see you in a bit.
Heading to where I reparked the car at a relatively fast pace, I observe a group of three people as I pass by. I notice one of them, a man in the rear of the group—late 40s to early 50s probably, about 5’10", and I'd say maybe like 230lbs.—start slowing his steps. His head starts to drop, his knees start to give out, he is about to pass out. As he starts to fall, he awakens, catches himself, and begins walking at a normal pace again.
This happens twice within the span of a block.
"Sir, are you okay?"
"Oh yeah, I'm fine," he says in a somber and somewhat absent tone.
"Are you sure? Have you been drinking or anything today?"
"Oh no, not at all."
"Then what's going on?"
"What do you mean? I'm fine," still very mellow peaceful in his tone.
"I just watched you almost pass out twice in the last block. Are you on any medication or anything like that?
"Yeah, I'm on some medication for my anxiety."
I turn to the couple he seemed to be with previously and asked, "Is he with you guys?"
"No," replies the man.
"Oh okay. My bad. Have a nice day!"
I turn back.
"What's your name?"
"Hey James, I'm Casey. Where are you trying to get to?"
"Oh, I'm headed up to see one of my friends. Just walking to the bus r i g h t n o ......"
His voice trails off as his head starts to drop again, eyes closing from the weight pulling them shut, knees giving...he catches himself again.
"You want me to call you a taxi or get you a Lyft or something?"
"No I'll be alright. Thank you though."
"Dude, you almost passed out again just now."
I ask, "You have some tough stuff your dealing with right now or something?"
"Yeah, my daughter has cancer."
"Oh my goodness. I'm so sorry to hear that. How old is she?"
"Uhhh. She's either 33 or 34."
"James, you just did it again. What part of town are you headed to?"
"Why don't you just ride with me? I'm heading up to Ballard and Greenwood is basically on the way. I don't mind."
"Oh well I suppose that would be okay. Thank you."
We walk 2 blocks to get to the car. Meanwhile, James almost passes out probably three or four more times.
Me_ Hey man! I'm about to head that way. What's your address?
Brandon_ 1573 Starch Ln.
Brandon_ Apt. 407
Brandon_ Just search for my name in the call box when you get here and I'll buzz you in.
Brandon_ It's under Weathers, Brandon.
Me_ Okay cool. See you in a bit.
15 minutes later, I arrive. Brandon buzzes me in.
He lives in a little apartment in Belltown that used to be a hotel. The temperature is in the low-to-mid 80s and it’s just after noon. There’s no AC, being in Seattle. The windows open to let a little breeze in.
I walk in the door.
"Dude! It's so good to see you! I've got two hours until I have to move the car. How are you doing?"
"I'm doing alright. Still pretty sore."
"So what all happened to you?"
"Well, I was trying to make a turn across some streetcar tracks and my front tire got caught in one of them. It threw me off my bike and I landed on my shoulder on the concrete. So that's bruised, I've got road rash there on my left shoulder, and then down here on my left side."
"Dang man. Is the medication helping?"
"Ehh. Kinda. It helps with the pain but not quite enough. So I smoked a couple bowls and it's helped me forget about the pain so it doesn't bother me. I'm pretty much okay and only really feel pain if I move around at all. When I sit still, I'm fine."
"Sorry to hear that. I'm glad it's not worse though.Oh! Before I forget, here's that bottle of whiskey you wanted."
"Oh thanks! Too bad I'm gonna have to wait to have any until I'm off of this medication. How much do I owe you?"
"Okay. I'll Square Cash it to you right now."
We sit and chat for another hour or so and then decided we wanted to go outside for a few minutes to get some air and have a smoke.
I see Dan waiting by his car as I cross the street. As I approach him, he hands me a freshly rolled cigarette.
"Sorry it took so long. That walk was a little bit further than I expected."
"Oh no worries."
I had taken the bus to the gym from Dan's apartment a few hours back.
"How did it go?" asked Dan.
"Oh man. It was tough. Super good. But super tough. That's how it should be though. It's kind of a bittersweet feeling knowing that no matter how long I do this for and how much progress I make, it will always be rather difficult."
"Don't forget to get a hold of Brandon so you can take that bottle of whiskey to him."
"Yeah, I was texting him earlier on the walk over."
"Okay cool," Dan replied.
"I'm about to head back to the apartment to shower and eat real quick and then I'll be heading over to Brandon's place. Have you fed Jackson yet today?"
"No. Not yet."
"Ok cool. I'll do that and let him outside too before I leave."
"Alright thanks. I'll be done at 3:30. See you then."
I get in the car and drive off.
We approach the car parked on the side of a four-lane, one-way street, divided two lanes to a side by the concrete posts that support the tram tracks running above, parallel to the street. As a tram goes by, I get in the car, make sure James puts his seatbelt on, and pull out of the parallel parking space I had moved the car to earlier after my initial two hours expired.
I ask James where I am taking him to. He was having a really hard time trying to spit out the directions. His head bobbing as he began to pass out.
"James!" I snap my fingers. "Stay with me buddy."
"Huh??" He snaps awake.
"So tell me about yourself. What do you do?"
"I work on boats. Refurbishing them and retrofitting them with new stuff."
"That sounds like a lot of fun! How long have you done that for?"
No response as his head begins to drift again, seemingly being pulled down by the weight of his eyes as they shut.
"James! How long have you done that for?"
"How long have you been refurbishing boats?"
"Oh, uh, for a while. I'm actually kinda in between stuff right now."
At this point, I am just trying to get him to keep talking while he is perpetually drifting in and out of consciousness, in the hopes that he will stay awake, since I really don't have any idea what is happening to him. I contemplate taking him to the emergency room on the way there, but after a few minutes, decide not to.
Out on the sidewalk in front of Brandon's apartment, we share a smoke. It's a bit warm. Honestly, warmer than I prefer but I know that it wouldn't really ever get hotter than this so I'm ok with it. Brandon is talking to me about work and how his injury was going to affect work.
"...so I'm just gonna have Dan bring me my computer and stuff from the office after he gets off."
"Oh ok! I have his car right now and am picking him up later. You think you'll be able to work tomorrow?"
"We'll see. I may try but it really j u s t d e p e n ......"
His eyes fall closed as his voice gets soft. He stands there motionless momentarily. His knees give and he starts free falling forward. I am standing in front of him and slightly to the side. I step over and try to catch him. Only able to break most of his fall, he hits his head on the metal drain we were standing on. His head is bleeding a little bit from the impact and I lay him on his chest.
As he is laying limp on the sidewalk, I say, "Brandon! Wake up! Are you ok?!"
His eyes open.
"Yeah, I'm fine."
"Ok good. You just passed out. Here let me help you up."
I get him on his feet and step back. Within a couple seconds he is passing out again and falling backwards. I was anticipating it this time so I catch him and lay him down gently on his back. A bystander hands me a hoodie. I place it under Brandon's head like a pillow.
There are now a handful of people that have stopped to see what's happening. As Brandon is now laying on his back in the middle of the sidewalk, "Brandon! Wake up!"
His eyes open.
"Are you ok?"
"Yeah, I'm fine," in an easy going tone.
"How are you feeling? Are you lightheaded?"
"I feel fine. I'm a little lightheaded but not really."
All the while, he is laying limp on the ground.
A bystander asks, "Should I call an ambulance?!"
"Yes, go ahead. I'm not really sure what's going on. He's on pain medication for an injury he got from a bike wreck last night," I reply.
Back to Brandon.
"Here, let me help you up."
"Are you ok?"
"Yes I'm fine," he says in a calm and collected tone.
"Should I have an ambulance come?"
"No, I just need to go lay down I think."
I look over.
"Hey, we don't need the ambulance after all. I was hanging out with him and we just came out to get some fresh air. I'm going to help him back up to his apartment and make sure he's okay. Thank you for being willing to help.”
With James bobbing in and out every 30 seconds or so, I am beginning to really struggle to keep him with me. Not knowing what is happening, I am afraid to let him go to sleep.
"You know James. I've been under a lot of stress and uncertainty before. Believe me, I know the feeling. I've searched for all kinds of answers but the only one that has worked has been Jesus. It's taken me a long time, and I'm still learning more every day, of what it takes to give my cares to Him. But it's been so very beneficial to me."
"You know man, I used to help people out when I was younger like you are. I want to be able to do that again some day. It's really nice to see. I've been trying to go to church recently."
He is starting to pass out again. Awake again.
"James, I don't know what all you believe, but I believe that Jesus has the power to save us and help us through anything. Is it okay if I pray for you?"
"Yeah I supposed that's okay."
I pray for him. A couple of minutes after I get done, he looks at me with a very strange look. Almost as if he sobered up, doesn't know where he is, or who the hell I am.
I start talking to him again and the look goes away shortly after. He begins to converse with me again, all the while going in and out.
I wake him again.
"James, do you have a number for your friend? I want to call him to make sure I have the right address ‘cause you've told me a couple of different ones."
"Yeah but he won't answer if he doesn't recognize the number."
"Well, would you mind calling him on your phone so I can talk to him?"
"No it's okay man, this is it right up here. You can just drop me off and I'll walk the rest of the way. Thanks so much for your help.”
I help Brandon to his bed. His face is incredibly pale,eyes glossy. I give him a wet towel and some ice in a ziplock bag.
I ask, "Do you want anything to eat?"
"Yeah, but I can just order something later."
"I really don't mind going to get you something."
After some persistence, he gives in.
"Ok, I guess just a slice of cheese pizza from Rocco's."
"Ok cool. I'm gonna go move the car, since my 2 hours is almost up, and then I'll go grab your pizza and then come back here."
I drive the car down to the street a few blocks and hang a right at the light. I see an empty space waiting for me on the side of a four-lane, one-way street, divided two lanes to a side by the concrete posts that support the tram tracks running above, parallel to the street.
I pay for my parking while taking in the sounds of bike chains and tires as cyclists ride by, in cadence, with the screech and squeal of the tram brakes as the conductor pulls into the station above.
Rocco's Pizza. Only about 4 blocks away. Maybe I'll get a slice for myself too.
I begin walking.
Oh look! A grocery store. I'll stop in and get him a couple cans of chicken noodle soup too. I pay for the soup and head to Rocco's Pizza.
"Hello sir! Do I order here or down at the end of the counter?"
"Oh, you can just grab a seat wherever and the waiter will be with you."
"Oh ok, I'm just getting a couple slices to go and wasn't sure."
The cook, "Oh well then I can just get you here. Which slices did you want?"
"I'll do one cheese slice and one mushroom slice.”
Reluctantly I give in and just drop James off, curbside, in front of his friend's apartment. I really wanted to meet his friend to inform him of what had been going on. But I've tried everything I can and nothing has worked so I have to move on.
He stumbles up and out of the car, walks to the entrance of the building, still drifting in and out while catching himself before falling.
I roll the windows down, put the car in gear, and head to the coffee shop to get some work done.
I walk back to Brandon's apartment. My back drenched in sweat and my glasses moist from the heat of my brow.
Brandon and I enjoy our slices of pizza while conversing a little more.
"You sure you don't need anything else and that you're gonna be ok?"
"Yeah, I think I just got over heated. I had that hoodie on and it was kinda hot out there."
"Yeah, that's for sure. I'm sweating my ass off right now. Well I'm gonna head out then. Let me know if you need anything! It was good to see you!"
"You too! See ya later."
Heading to where I reparked the car at a relatively fast pace, I observe a group of three people as I pass by.
Me_ Hey man, I'm just a few minutes away. I'm at Westlake and Mercer.
Dan_ Ok cool.
Three minutes later I pull up. Dan and Vince get in the car.
"How was your day guys?"
"It was pretty good. Moderately busy day I guess," says Vince.
I start laughing a little bit, "Oh man. Have I got some crazy shit to tell you guys about.”