Bryan sat in the uncomfortable wooden chair, he was early, but he didn’t know what else to do or where else to go. He was alone; no one else was there, nothing to take his mind off things. He paced the narrow corridor looking at the old leaflets pinned to the wall. The familiar damp, musty smell took him back to the first time he came here. He sat back down, checked the time on his watch and closed his eyes. Unfortunately, with nothing to distract him, he started to replay the day again.
This morning he had opened his eyes with a start, he remembered turning the alarm clock off and resting his eyes for a minute, how long ago was that? He must have fallen back to sleep. The bedroom looked lighter than it normally did at 6.30am. He felt a rising panic; he quickly fumbled around for his phone to check the time. His outstretched arm made contact with something solid followed by the sound of breaking glass. He had knocked over his night time glass of water. “Damn it.” he shouted sitting up rapidly. He retrieved his phone quickly from the growing pool of water that had formed on his bedside table. It was 7.20am and he needed to be at the bus at 7.30am to be on time for work. That thought propelled him out of bed and into the shower.
By 7.26am Bryan was showered, dressed and scrabbling to get his things together. He felt his stomach rumbling, no time for breakfast; he frantically opened his cupboards searching for an instant snack and managed to grab a handful of dry biscuits to eat on the way.
It was raining hard and too late for him to go back and collect his umbrella, he arrived at the bus stop with seconds to spare. The bus was standing room only and particularly hot and bumpy this morning, the driver was bad tempered and irritated using his horn and the F word in alarming frequency. This made for a very uncomfortable journey as he swerved from side to side muttering expletives. Bryan`s hand was white from gripping the overhead strap so tightly. The horrible smell of wet clothes combined with the jolting journey was making him feel very nauseous. This is not going to be a good day Bryan thought. A memory flashed into his mind and caught him off guard, as it always did. His breathing felt laboured and his heart rate started accelerating. His eyes darted around the packed bus, he felt like everyone knew, like they were all looking at him, judging him. Suddenly he couldn’t breathe, the air felt thin, he had to get off this bus, he hit the stop button and the driver instantly slammed on his breaks causing most of the people on the bus to violently jolt forwards.
The cool air revived him slightly and he took a few deep breaths trying to go through the techniques he had been taught. When he finally began to calm down he realised he was three stops from work and would be late if he didn’t speed up. The rain was still heavy and the wind was blowing it straight into his face, he tilted his head to try to shield his eyes and increased his pace to a jog. An icy rush of water suddenly took his breath away. He gasped involuntary as a torrential wave of dirty water from a huge puddle absolutely drenched him. He lifted up his arms in the universally recognised “What are you doing?” gesture as the driver in the red Volvo rapidly sped away.
“Shall I go back home?” The thought entered his mind, he could go home, shower and get back into bed, the easy way out or he could keep fighting, get into work soaking and get on with the day. Things in work were not good at the moment; there were whisperings of redundancies and branch closures. Bryan had only been there nine months; he would be one of the first out. The memory of where he was before he worked there suddenly hit him with the impact of hitting a brick wall and he felt the panic start to rise again. He swallowed quickly to quell the feeling of sickness washing over him. He needed to go to work, he quickened his pace.
Bryan arrived at his office only a couple of minutes late and made his way to his desk, there was an odd atmosphere, things were very quiet, almost eerie, the normal chatter and buzz were absent. “Morning Bryan, Mr Richardson needs to see you in his office”. Sandra his secretary informed him. “Was it just his imagination or was that pity he saw in her eyes?”
The meeting with Mr Richardson was a blur, he couldn’t remember what he had said, all he could think about was the sinking feeling that made him feel light headed and like he was not really present, sort of watching himself. He managed to collect his things together and shake the hands of a few colleagues and walk with dignity out of the building. He had just been made redundant; twenty five of them were going, last in first out.
The rain had stopped and Bryan found himself walking towards the park, he had nowhere else to go, and it might clear his head, help him to think about what to do next. Bryan walked without any focus, he saw a bench ahead of him with a man who looked homeless holding a bag tightly to his chest, his grey hair and beard was long and unkempt and he had a long ill-fitting navy mac on. Bryan sank down next to him “Hello.” Bryan mustered a friendly smile. “Hello” he smiled back, Bryan noticed that most of his teeth were missing. “You want some?” he offered Bryan the cheap whiskey he was holding. Bryan's eyes fixed straight on the familiar, mesmerising, brown liquid, he thought about the warming feeling in his throat as it slid smoothly down, he relived the comforting burn as it soothes its way down into the stomach and he remembered the feeling of letting go, not caring about anything, perfect abandonment. All his problems silenced drowning in the blessed alcohol. He really wanted that drink.
The chatter of people brought Bryan back to the here and now; he followed the small group of people who had just arrived into the small, cold room. He sat down with the others and took a long, deep breath “Hi I am Bryan and I am an alcoholic”.