The Teacher watched the bubbles race each other to the surface of his drink. It was a bastard drink, 7-Up and Knob Creek Whiskey on ice. It was the yellow of an ale and had almost no bite. He could have sworn he put in several fingers of the whiskey, but the soda held all the bite at bay. It was good and sweet in the late afternoon. It made his mind at ease at first swig.
He was a stocky man. His athletic build had become softer, round of belly and face. A large beard and unkempt dark locks hid away his deep-set eyes and made him all the more aloof. Aloof looking at least. His left arm boasted an unfinished tattoo. His left arm was dominant and remained rather strong despite his soft look. The mystery of his look was the only appeal, and he did well to cultivate it.
He drank the bastard drink, condensation moistening his southpaw, and watched the bubbles still hurry to the top.
The Writer had been far calmer the past few weeks. The sun helped. It helped everyone relax for it brought longer days and more time for one to find purpose in a day. Today’s purpose had been simple. After work, he relieved himself of unnecessary weight and wandered out to the courtyard and plopped in a wicker chair and read. He was reading Hemingway. It was tragic writing, all of it. The Southpaw saw a lot of himself in Hemingway’s protagonists. These damaged men, burying the damage and then reflecting upon the damage and dirt used to cover it, and then dying. It seemed tragically appropriate to him. He saw other things in these leading men, other connections, but they were specific and eventually fell apart upon closer examination.
He found most books had a lot of himself in them. He spent too much time wanting to be in one. He wanted to see the whole story of him, all at once, and critique it like he did the other stories by the other writers.
But he had been calmer the past few weeks. The whiskey helped.
He had much around him all the time. Possessions meant to be identity. Much of it still brought joy to him, despite minimal use. That was enough for him. He knew possessions only indicated an unwillingness to develop the self. But he had always lived amongst more haves than have-nots, and that caste needed possessions to understand life. He held nothing against either and wished to belong to either or more than he currently did. Wealth or lack of as an identity was easy. Course, caring about identity was a fine start to building one.
The whiskey began warming him. The music helped. When he wanted conversation he listened to podcasts and chuckled to himself. This was because his whole job was conversation, and he valued the escape from it. He was a good conversationalist. He viewed each conversation as a duel of wits. Made him good at his job. Not many outside that setting cared to use words for battle, so he simply honed his craft. He pictured the lone warrior, waiting at a bridge for a worthy opponent to come along and kill him. This was a stupid image, he had met many smarter and quicker and better with words, but it was still his image.
He was waiting to hear from a girl about hanging out that evening. She would probably cancel. Or he would be full drunk by the time she texted him. They had hung out a bit recently. They had little in common. They had shared a friend group in high school and shared ennui now. He figured the boredom could lead to meaningless sex, which was optimistic but he needed something to look forward to. He had never felt so detached from a person he also saw as a highly-likely sexual partner. Every other time had been built upon the foundation of, “Perhaps she likes me.” This was more two humans circling around, nothing better to do. It was good like this, he thought.
Pretending not to care was his favorite attitude.
He ate a heavy salad for dinner. To counter the whiskey. It was Monday after all.
Over his second glass he swapped some memes back and forth with old friends. He stepped in a pile of shit the dog had left indoors. It was an old dog. Seventeen to be precise. Her breed wasn’t meant to live that long. Just like his families first dog, it was past expiration date. He had a hard time looking a the deaf, dumb, blind bitch and feeling sympathy or love. Not that he hadn’t loved the dog, cause he had. Whole-heartedly. He remembered the times the dog chased him and old friends around the house, before the remodel, licking them in total joy. He remembered the dog sitting next to his Grandpa dying and his Grandma dying. He remembered both of their passings. He remembered the dog, fearless. He remembered the dog chasing rattlesnakes out of the yard, the circle driveway that kicked up dust with each step, the trash barrels where you burned the garbage, the machines and cars and tractors that worked or didn’t work and the windmill that pumped fresh water to the cows and the dog barking and chasing rattlesnakes in the forever sun of Montana’s Badlands. He still didn’t love the dog now.
He was full drunk when she texted back. He looked at his social media and felt mean, but didn’t act on any of it. He kept the veil drawn on himself, further stewing his essence into something worth something. He mocked Dylan, the bassist in LA, for being just barely above a drummer. He cracked a beer, a good beer, and started up that Car Seat Headrest album.
He exchanged words with Dylan, the LA bassist. This came from it…
“I’m the drugs in your Alice in Wonderland.”
“YOU’RE THE REASON ALL MY RELATIONSHIPS FAIL”
“That’s on purpose”
“YOU PIECE OF SHIT”
“It’s funnier for me that way”
“Why don’t you want me to be happy?”
“Cause we are gonna be the same always.”
He figured he was an evil person. He watched the bubbles and drank the rest of his bastard drink, and got full drunk.