It was a quiet night. It seemed like they were all like that. Nights began to blend together into a grand depressing blur. I liked it that way. I felt a sense of security when it was dark and raining. I never listened to uplifting music. I don’t even know what it would be if I did. It was always Dylan, Waits or someone equally as mellow. Happiness never really felt right and that, I believe, is why she left me.
I stepped out of the café with my usual black coffee, my breath rising into the air. San Francisco was a somber city. We complimented each other well. The bay looked frigid, still and heartless. I had missed her. I always found some sort of inspiration to write while sitting silently on her shores. I know I’m a pathetic soul. I have a bay as my muse. Some writers have gorgeous, sensual women; I only have a body of water. I don’t want to sound like I’m complaining. I’m grateful I have a muse at all.
The streets were empty at this late hour. The city and I were alone once again. It was freeing to walk the streets in solitude. I guess you could say it was the happiest moment I could hope for in a day. Does that sound a little sad? Maybe it does. But it was realistic.
I pulled my scarf tight and began the walk back to my place. I lived in the Sunset. It was a humble little place off Parnassus, just down the hill from UCSF. It was a good, quiet neighborhood.
My head was finally clear. It had been so long; I couldn’t remember the last time I could think straight. This was the first time in years my body was free of the strain of alcohol. After so much chaos, it felt comforting to have such a simple life. I felt drained of all the drama, yet I felt whole. It was as if the poison had run its course and left my body.
I walked slowly on these nights. I didn’t want these moments to end. I was drawn to the darkness of the city. San Francisco had a soul with many shadows. Those shadows protected me and comforted me. I thrived within the darkness.
I’m not actually the loner I sound like. I only wish I was. I have friends who refuse to leave me alone. Every so often they won’t even call; they just come over to my apartment. James and Scott were the worst. Those two always want to take me out to the clubs. They never listen to mean drug me out all the time. I don’t know when they expected me to write. This night was doomed to be the same as all the others once I heard the knock.
“What do you want?” I shouted back through the door.
“Open the door, Q”
That’s me. I’m Q. It’s a long story. Maybe I’ll tell you another time.
“James, I’m not going out tonight. I need to stay here and write.” I should never have come back to the apartment. I was safe at the coffee shop.
“Open the door, Q. We just want to have a drink with you.”
I knew this night would not be that simple. Complications always occurred with these two. Why the hell did I open the door? I’ll never know the answers to these questions.
“Hey man, good to see you.” Scott is so full of shit. I can see right through his innocence. He’s smooth, always trying to make you feel good before he presents his genius plan he just concocted. It’s painful, really. What is even more painful is that I’m weak and I always fall for it?
“Whatever.” I was still not going to trust them until they were gone. At least they offered me a beer when they came in. I mean, it’s the least they could do.
I was sure they were planning on ruining my night anyway.
“No thanks. I’m still not drinking.”
“Right.” Scott said in a slightly sarcastic tone.
“Man, its just one drink. How many times do we get to sit around and have a beer anymore?”
So we sat around and finished off the twelve-pack. There was small talk wrapped around the tension hanging in the room. I was waiting for their grand idea to spring forth like a jack-in-the-box. I knew them to be sly and cunning. If I was going to be prepared to counter their antics, why was I drinking?
The next thing I knew we were at the bar. I convinced myself it wasn’t a big deal. It was only a bar downstairs from the apartment. They had The Eagles playing on the juke box in the corner. It was actually rather nice. We had switched to some livelier music at this point in the night. James and Scott had found a way to get me to relax.
You might be thinking this is a good thing. You don’t know these guys. Nothing is ever this simple. They harass me until I give in or they get me drunk and I don’t know any better. The latter is far easier and more effective. The tension had long ago ceased to exist. The scotch was flowing freely and the laughter even more so.
“So we’re catching a plane tonight.”
The laughter abruptly ended. I could hear the needle scratching a record in my head. The silence was truly amazing. I don’t think I have heard such profound silence, before or since.
James had a huge grin spreading out on his face. Scott looked away as soon as James spoke. I kept looking back and forth at both their faces. I should have stayed at the coffee shop. It was quiet. I was alone. I should have tried to write there.
“Now, who do you think is taking a flight?” I asked, already knowing the answer. I hung my head waiting for their response.
“We are.” Scott said, still looking away, trying to both answer and avoid the question.
These two monkeys had killed all the joy we had established during the evening. The silence which had once lingered had returned in a hurry.
Scott turned back to fully face me. Somehow he had gathered himself and regained his composure.
“Q, you’re coming with us.”
“The hell I am.”
“You have nothing to do here. This place makes you miserable. When was the last time you took a vacation? All you do is sit in those damn cafes and read. If it’s a good night, you’ll write a few pages in one of your depressing stories. You’re coming with us.”
“Q, c’mon, you need to get away from here,” Scott said, trying to soften the impact. “Come have some fun with us.”
“Where are we going?” My wall was beginning to crumble and they knew it. They came around me, putting their hands on my shoulders. I really hate it when Scott and James get those goofy grins on their faces. The aggravation levels rise to monumental heights. They were aware of this as well. They knew getting touchy-feely with me would annoy the hell out of me.
“We’re going to take a trip to Arizona.” Scott said it slow and deliberately. I put my hand to my head, covering my eyes.
“Arizona? What the hell do I want to go out there for?”
“Seriously dude, please listen to us. You need to take some time and get out of this rut you’ve got yourself in.”
“We’re only trying to help you.”
I tried to sleep on the plane, but it was useless. My mood had not lifted. I was still very annoyed I had been duped so easily. I was mostly upset with myself. I knew I should never have had that drink with them. My sobriety had been coming along so well. About a month before I had taken a trip to the ER after vomiting up blood. The doctors firmly suggested I stop drinking.
That was the first time I had slipped up. At first, it was hard not to drink. Drinking had become such a central part of all my activities. I viewed myself as a social drinker. I simply had a lot of friends.
I sat staring out the tiny airplane window into the nothingness of the night. At that point, I didn’t realize how helpful this flight would be to my life. That getting out of California would change my life forever.