January 18, 2011

Dregs

Dregs

He left the dregs slopping around, forgotten. He knew he wouldn’t find the answer in the bottom of his glass, but what was the harm in asking? That was his fourth whiskey tonight. Doubles. Ah well, takes the edge off, he thought. Drink, women, tobacco – they will turn a man to ashes. He felt the pull of the grave, more a release than anything. Two days stubble graced his cheeks, and sunk his eyes back into his face. Despite various other woes, baldness did not afflict him. His salt-and-pepper hair grew with reckless abandon, fighting to get out of his morose mind. Though the sparkle of his youth had long since expired, there remained a twinge or crackle of potent energy; experience can grind dreams into the dust, commitment can crush freedom in its hand, but if that spark still spits flame, then a man cannot be defeated.

He had retained his looks, and was still in shape for his age, but life had left its unyielding mark upon him. He had gambled and lost, had whored and drank until his heart was content; yet his heart was never contented. He felt old, the cold crack in his bones ached, the soft grey of his eyes flickered, and the dark tragic mist of nostalgia descended. He thought of the girls first, all the whores and dancers and showgirls and singers, girls who loved him, used him, smiled and cursed him. He remembered the one girl, one nice girl, with a smile that flashed like a thousand stars in the sky, and eyes that drank up his soul. He had loved her, truly loved her. But three dark streams of blood on each arm, three deep slashes from the devil inside her, and her life, his love, had drained away forever.

He had married once, in the folly of youth, and had been happy for a time. But this feeling masquerading as love soon revealed itself as mere contentment in each other’s company, and then became a biting frustration, a tiger in a cage. He had to escape, had to leave, without word or warning. For her pain he would always be sorry. But to live an untrue life, to deceive himself of his true desire, this he could never do.

He moved away, he travelled, but did not find home. There had been good times, people with easy charm and even easier beauty, and he had enjoyed days and nights of copious excess. He scaled mountains of food, swam in rivers of drink, danced through life without his feet grazing the ground.

He never touched drugs however, afraid of what the beast deep within him might do if unleashed. It is a strange thing to be afraid of oneself and nothing else, but the fear of this demon tormented him. Gradually, he found he could not taste, smell, see, hear. It consumed him without rest nor reason. Only when he succumbed, when he permitted this monster to escape, could he free himself. A homosexual tramp-whore satisfied his wrath; they found him three days later, first his hands, tied, then his feet, chopped, and finally his scalp, punctured a thousand times. He claimed insanity, but three years of rehab resurrected him. He did not look back, and felt no guilt.

He had lived his life without fear of the devil or faith in God. He smoked religiously, and drank to stop his head going under. He gambled compulsively, always working angles, playing the odds. Fate rolled the dice, but he played cards, and won back what he lost. Or lost what he had won, he never remembered which.

So he had loved and lost. He had lived and done murder. He had felt great joy, and wept in the depths of blackness. Now, friends came and went, but he was not lonely. He felt occasional regret, but it did not eat away at him. Every night, he slept like a baby newborn. A baby scarred by a million lashes that life has rained down, but a baby nonetheless.


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