4 comments

Contemporary Fiction Inspirational

This story contains themes or mentions of substance abuse.

I can do this, I thought to myself as I sat on the edge of the bed, my head throbbing from the night before.


January 1st. The first day of the New Year. A fresh start, a clean slate, a new chapter.

Whatever you wanted to call it, something about ringing in a New Year, pulling down your old calendar, and slapping up a new one made it feel like you could just begin again. Whatever you had done last year, or hell, even all the years before, was old news done by old you. 


New you was limitless, full of potential, pure and undefiled, and overflowing with promise.

New you could make new choices, better choices, healthier choices that old you just simply could not commit to. 


Lucky for me, today was January 1st, and Old Me had gone to sleep in this same bed, but New Me had woken up in her place.


I lifted my head from my hands looking in the direction of the bathroom, willing myself to just get up already and get in the shower.


If you get in the shower you can wash last night away. 

If you get in the shower you’ll feel so much better.


My internal dialogue was running wild, thoughts swirling around in my head as I tried to stay focused. Old Me would not get up and take a shower, therefore New Me, present me, had to get up and take a shower. 


I peeled myself from the bed and dragged my body into the bathroom, the cold hard tile tingling the bottoms of my feet, sending a shock wave up my spine.


What if you just had a little bit? Nothing crazy. Just a little sip.


“NEW you would not do that. NEW you would definitely just get in the shower!” I yelled at myself. Why couldn’t the thoughts take the day off like the rest of the world? 

Leave me alone, dammit.


I slipped out of my pajamas, shedding them like snake skin, and stepped into the shower, more cold and hard tile greeting me. Turning the knob all the way to the left and begging the water to heat up faster as I shivered there naked, I closed my eyes. I grabbed the bar of soap, a lavender-scented brick, and began lathering it all over my skin, willing the suds to clean me from the outside in.


Cleanse me, please. Make me new.


The lavender aroma filled the shower and my nose, lending me a moment of tranquility as the hot water rained down on me.


I turned off the water and stepped back out of the shower onto the bamboo bath matte, snatched the towel off the hook nearby, and quickly dried myself off.


Even though getting into the shower was an endless struggle for me, I always got out wondering why I had fought so hard against it, the shower having reset me somehow, making me feel fresh and alive again.


I got dressed quickly even though there was nowhere to go. I had the day off due to the holiday.


You could just run to the store on the corner. Wouldn’t take too long.


“No no no no no,” I said out loud. 

I was New Me today. I was no longer Old Me. 

Old Me would go to the corner store.

I was not going to the corner store.


Maybe a walk would help clear my head, I thought.


Slipping into my shoes and jacket by the door and grabbing my keys out of the dish on the entryway table, I made my way down the two flights of stairs to the lobby and out onto the street.


It was a brisk day, a grey blanket of sky above, no sun to be seen. I shoved my hands in my coat pocket and started walking, no destination in mind. I just knew where I didn’t want to go so I made sure to walk as far from there as I could. It was still early despite me waking up later than usual, breakfast spots still slinging hotcakes and pouring coffee.


Coffee.

That was a great idea.

I would grab some coffee somewhere. 


Why not just get some at the corner store? 

And then you could just grab a bottle. 

Not a big one, of course, just a little one.

That’s not a big deal.


“Coffee. Coffee. Where are you coffee?” I whispered under my breath. New Me was going to be cool. New Me was not going to be a crazy person people saw talking to themself. I was not going to ruin New Me on day one.


I kept walking, keeping a steady pace as I put one foot in front of the other, my eyes scanning all the shops I passed searching for signs of coffee anywhere. I could see what looked like a small diner just a block up and started to do a slow jog in its direction.


When I approached its door my heart was racing, my breathing was short and fast. I pulled the handle and walked into the space, immediately met with the wonderful scent of freshly brewed coffee and grease, possibly bacon or sausage links cooking on the griddle in the kitchen. A sense of comfort washed over me like everything was going to be alright if I just stayed here in this little diner forever.


A waitress clothed in a light blue dress with white buttons down the front and a short apron tied around her waist waved me towards a booth nearby, which I slid into as she made her way over to me.


She pulled a yellow notepad out of the left pocket of her apron. “What can I get for ya to drink, sweetheart?”


“A coffee would be great, thanks.” 


“Coming right up, honey. There’s cream and sugar to your right there and a menu you can take a look at while I get that coffee for ya.” She turned and headed behind the counter, immediately pouring the steaming liquid into a white mug and making her way back to my table. She set the mug down in front of me as I reached for the cream and sugar.


“Did you have a chance to look at the menu?” she asked me as I ripped open a tiny cup of half-and-half.


“No, but do you have French toast?” I asked. I didn’t need a menu anywhere I went. I usually had my favorite foods on rotation and, depending on the type of restaurant would order them every time. Chicken alfredo at pasta restaurants, a slice of Hawaiian at pizza places, spicy tuna at sushi bars, and french toast at breakfast spots.


“Sure do. Do you want strawberries and whipped cream on that, sugar?” she asked as she scribbled my order down, still making eye contact with me as she wrote.


“Yes, please.” I was now ripping open a packet of sugar and pouring it into my coffee, the white granules dissolving into the now light brown liquid below. I spun my spoon around in circles, mixing everything, and then took a sip. It was heavenly. Something about a cup of diner coffee just could not be beat.


It could be even better with a little whiskey.


I shook my head and took another gulp of coffee, letting it burn the back of my throat as it went down. I had to stop these thoughts. I was New Me. I shouldn’t be thinking like this.

French toast with strawberries and whipped cream, I reminded myself.

It was going to be delicious and the coffee would help perk me up.

I was going to be fine. I could do this. New Me could do this.


My breakfast arrived fifteen minutes later.

It was gone within 15 more minutes, digesting in my stomach.

I paid my bill and gave a small wave to the waitress as I left.


What else could I do to preoccupy myself?

I had to keep busy so I didn’t get distracted.

I could go to the grocery store. Not to get groceries, but to just look around.


Perfect. You can grab a bottle of vodka.


“Never mind that,” I said to myself as I kept walking, trying to find something to do or somewhere to go.


There was a small bookshop just across the street that I hadn’t noticed on my way to the diner. I jogged over, stopping once to let a car pass by, then stepped inside. The smell of books hung in the air. I took a deep breath. The person at the counter, a young man, welcomed me in. I nodded and headed toward the back of the store where a sign that read “Mystery” hung.


There were rows and rows of books, the shelves they were nestled into reaching to the ceiling several feet above my head. I ran my fingers along the spines, recognizing a few names. Agatha Christie. Stephen King.


If I was being honest with myself I did not need a mystery book, I needed a self-help book. I wondered if they had that section in this little store. I turned around and made my way back towards the front, peering around the corner into a small room and deciding to try upstairs.


“Anything I can help you find?” came the voice of the young man behind the counter.


He looked to be in his mid-twenties, close to my age if not a bit older. The sweater vest and round-rimmed glasses he wore made him look exactly like someone who would work at a bookstore. 


“Um, sure,” I replied, very unsure. “Do you have a self-help section?”


“Up the stairs and to the right. It’s a very small section, but it’s there right by the cookbooks,” he pointed in the direction he was guiding me, his elbow resting on the counter as he spoke.


“Thanks,” I muttered then hurried up the stairs.


I found the section quickly, but it was indeed very small, it shared one lone shelf with cookbooks, only half of the row self-help. The entire rest of the rows were also cookbooks.


Maybe it’s a sign I should take up cooking, I thought.


Inspired, I browsed the books, finally landing on one all about summer salads. It was the middle of winter and I barely ate salad, but I decided that New Me did. I tucked the book under my arm and headed back down the stairs to the register. Setting the cookbook on the counter I reached into my pocket to grab my wallet.


“No luck in the self-help section, huh?” he asked. He was pressing buttons on the register, an ancient-looking thing that was making quite a bit of noise.


‘No, sadly,” I replied. 


“Fan of salad?” he asked, clearly trying to make small talk with me.


“No, not really,” I said back, holding my card, ready to swipe, but wondering if I was going to need cash.


“Ah, is this a gift?” he asked.


“Nope. It’s for me,” I gave a weak smile as he grabbed a paper bag nearby.


“Trying new things. I like that,” he continued his attempt to hold the conversation as I remained holding my debit card.


“You could say that. Do you take card?” I asked, holding my Visa up for him to see.


“We certainly do. I’ll just swipe it over here. Your total is $29.95.”


That could have bought three cheap bottles of liquor.


“No,” I said out loud and then quickly remembered that I was not by myself.


“What was that?” the store clerk asked as he swiped my card.


“Woah. I said, woah. Didn’t know books about salad were so expensive these days.”


He nodded his head, “Yeah, prices are a bit hard to find here. Tried to get the boss to put them on the back with like a sticker, but he thinks that ruins the book. Anyway, here you go.” He handed me the bag with the salad book in it. I took it and started to make my way back out onto the street.


“Oh, hey, before you go. There’s this little coffee shop just a few blocks up. They have a bulletin in the back where people can just put posters and stuff. Everytime I go there someone has put up some therapy help or a cool club for something. I know it’s not the self-help book you were looking for, but I just remembered and thought it might be useful. Latte Da.”


He was so nice, and why?

I made a mental note that New Me was going to be more like him.


“Thank you,” I offered, and gave him a nod goodbye as I left the store.


It couldn’t hurt to look, I thought.

I typed Latte Da into my phone’s GPS and found it, two blocks east of where I was. I turned and started walking, watching the little dot that represented me moving on the map, getting closer and closer to my destination.


It was impossible to miss with its bright teal brick exterior. I opened the door and spotted the bulletin board straightaway, right where the bookstore boy had said it would be. There were all sorts of things pinned to it. Band posters for concerts in dive bars, dog walking ads, and advertisements for the local high school play. Just towards the bottom was a paper that must have been pinned there just for me. Like they knew I was coming. They knew I would need this. I ripped one of the ‘take one’ strips from the bottom and headed to the address listed.


It was about a mile walk, but I was glad for the distraction.

When I arrived at the building I went inside and looked around for where it might be and spotted it, already happening.


It’s too late. Better just go home.


I shook the thought as I gathered up the courage to join the group.

I quietly opened the door and slipped inside, a few heads turning to look at me.


“Welcome,” a friendly-looking man said from his chair in the circle.


I gave a small wave to the group as I hurried to one of the empty chairs closest to me. I sat down and tried to blend in as an older woman continued speaking. When she finished talking the room was quiet, the man who had welcomed me looked back in my direction.


“We have a new person here with us today. Would you like to introduce yourself? Just your first name is fine and why you’re here.”


My hands were clenched into fists with nervousness.

I could do this. New Me could do this.


If you say it out loud in front of all these people then it’s real.

Don’t do it.


New Me can do this.

I can do this.


I rubbed the palms of my sweaty hands down the front of my jeans and looked up at the group of people around me.


“Hi. My name is Tory and I am an alcoholic.”


I had said it.

I had gotten it off my chest.


“Hi Tory,” the circle responded in unison.


I, Tory, was an alcoholic.

But this year, starting today, I was determined not to be.

January 18, 2024 01:45

You must sign up or log in to submit a comment.

4 comments

Annie Hewitt
02:39 Apr 09, 2024

Very well done. Good description of an internal struggle. I enjoyed reading it

Reply

Lauren Rice
08:18 Apr 16, 2024

Thank you!

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
James Moore
09:15 Jan 25, 2024

I really enjoyed the juxtaposition between Tory and 'new me' as though the person she thought she should be was another character all together. It really draws on the relatable feelings we all have when trying to make a positive change in life and the sense of resentment we feel about what 'new me' thinks I should be doing. Really enjoyable to read.

Reply

Lauren Rice
02:34 Jan 26, 2024

Thanks, James! I appreciate you taking the time to read it!

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
RBE | Illustrated Short Stories | 2024-06

Bring your short stories to life

Fuse character, story, and conflict with tools in the Reedsy Book Editor. 100% free.