On a cold winter night in the middle of a deserted street walked a wrinkly-faced man emitting an eye-watering odor. His muddy black boots warmed the pair of overworked feet. The outline of his well-defined thigh was visible through a circular hole below the right pocket of his ragged jeans. A coal-colored filth hid a pair of hands previously holding no less than a smooth touch. Atop his elongated neck was a slim face, a slender nose, greasy black hair and an uncommonly calm gaze. But, one look at those glistening blue eyes revealed that this man was truly a wanderer; a vagabond accepting of all what may come his way. Be it a means to unprecedented fortune or his ultimate demise, he displayed neither eagerness nor curiosity. It was either innate confidence or admirable carelessness; either way, this individual emitted an aura of self-trust more pronounced than his unbearable odor.
His raggedy coat covered an uncommonly straight back, so upright one may mistake his posture for pride. But, neither proud nor ashamed, he vagabonded onwards with an inexplicable, arguably unwarranted, willingness to continue moving forward. Presumably, this motivation was fueled by what lay in the inner pocket of his coat. Closest to his chest was his metal flask. As it were, the wanderer did not need much of a reason to reward himself with a gulp and so every few steps, he would slide his right hand into the coat, pull out the flask, lift it to his right ear, lightly shake and finally remove a cap to enjoy a whiff and taste before storing it back by his heart. And though the routine was simple enough to maintain, this night was slightly more eventful. It is important to note that the fullness of his flask was the one aim this wayfarer consistently pursued; the only desire he chased. Yet, this time, upon shaking his flask, he heard none of the comforting swirls that would normally hit his ears as soothingly as waves caressing a shoreline. Rather, the hollow sound of nothingness resembled more so that of an alarming whistle perpetually banging against his eardrums. His once wandering sea-colored eyes were now utterly determined as he scanned his surroundings for the scent or sight of any liquor. He continued onwards, patiently searching for the opportunity to pounce. It was only a few steps later that he found himself back in the midst of the lively human-packed streets. The traffic brought a misplaced warmth to the cold night. He examined the sidewalks of the busy road, observing any drinking passerby in the hope of them leaving their bracer unfinished. Time passed and continued to pass. His efforts were to no avail and at this point the wanderer had endured more time than he was accustomed to without the presence of his rewarding refreshment. The aimlessness he once enjoyed was slowly overpowered by a growing noise calling him, poking his previously floating brain. As he searched, an awareness slowly began to flood his body. The bruises nailed to his feet, the hammer banging at his knees, the stake piercing his overworked back. His uprightness slowly curved and his body aged years in a matter of minutes. His pace involuntarily decelerated as the emptiness of his chest-pocket weighed him down.
After stiffly looking around, he finally spotted through his watery eyes a smudged sign, which read: -UBLIC -RASH --NTAINER.” Of course, to him, and to many street wanderers, a compilation of sheltered people’s trash is equivalent to a treasure chest. The sign excited him just enough to speed up his step. He hurried towards the sign and followed the right-facing arrow into an alleyway. Once again, he found himself in a dark quiet path with a sporadically twitching light above the sizeable rectangular-shaped container. His eyelids spread like outwardly pulled curtains and he hurriedly undressed until in nothing but his undeniably unwashed underwear. Without hesitation, he climbed up the mountainous container and dove in. As he swam deeper into the pool of waste, a rush of blood made its way through his constricted veins to every needed muscle. He dug tirelessly, tossing piles of trash out onto the surrounding concrete. It wasn’t long until he finally heard the familiarly soothing swirl of liquid. Enthusiasm pulled at the edges of his lips and he dove once more as though his breath of fresh air lay at the bottom of the container. His right arm continued to fidget around, penetrating the pile deeper and deeper until his hand met a glass bottle, which he instantly gripped and tugged on until he finally beat the pressure of the encircling waste. It was to his much needed relief that he had fished out a half-full bottle of Bushmills single malt whiskey. He did not instantly quench his thirst. Instead, he placed all his weight onto his empty left hand to hop out of the container and put the bottle down in the midst of the mess he had created. While setting the bottle down, he spotted a used napkin sticking out of the side of the pile. He snatched the napkin and wiped himself off. Once finished, which surprisingly did not take very long, he then dropped the napkin, pulled his clothes out from underneath the rubbish and dressed. While the bottle waited, he took a deep breath. And as he exhaled, he slid his right hand into his coat and pulled out his flask. After briefly sharing a glance with his reflection in the metal edge of the trash container, he knelt down and grabbed the whisky bottle off the ground. He then gripped it between his right bicep and ribcage, uncapped the bottle and used his left hand to pedantically fill the flask to the brim. Though still containing another flask’s worth of whisky, he placed the bottle back on the floor. Once the flask was capped, he ritually shook it by his right ear and slid it back into his pocket. Without a sip, his posture instantly straightened. Without a sip, his gaze softened. Without a sip, he carelessly continued onwards until the next eventful night.
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Nicely written, Adam. I admire your ability to paint a scene, and as someone who has dealt with addiction issues in the past I can definitely relate to our wanderer, especially how you described him finding relief, or even salvation, by finding what he craves. Well done!
Thanks so much, Konstantin! Really appreciate the feedback and I'm happy you enjoyed the story. It was an experimental attempt at self-exploration, which forced me to look in the mirror and see some elements of my past self. Addiction comes in many forms and I believe once it does, it's unfortunately there to stay. It's up to us to keep it under control and to find that salvation elsewhere. Thanks again for the review! I really appreciate the honest feedback!
Excellent story Adam. I loved the ending. Sometimes, just the idea of something or the comfort of having it close, but not using or needing it, is enough. “His uprightness slowly curved and his body aged years in a matter of minutes. His pace involuntarily decelerated as the emptiness of his chest-pocket weighed him down.” This line was so descriptive and really drove home the fact the this man changed without his drink. Excellent writing.
I’m really glad you enjoyed it! The story was somewhat experimental and also the first I’ve ever posted anywhere so really appreciate the honest feedback!