New York in Winter

New York in Winter

Monday, December 2, 2013


I've been working on this story for several weeks, forsaking all others. The premise grabbed and wouldn't let go, and it is:

Do you or don’t you go back to drinking when your days are well numbered?

The progress of the story surprised me. The "transformative" moment was when I wrote "gaunt women in bad wigs" - and the phrase appears again, just paragraphs later, when Linda appears.

I feel I'm publishing this piece way too early. Yet every story can be worked on ad infinitum. Eventually, completely ready or not, you've got to shove it out of the nest.

I hope you like it.

Reposted on February 17, different title and a number of edits. New title: "Sex in Boats."


by Terence Hughes

This time he was summoned not to an examining room but to Dr. Muhammed’s office. He sat in a comfortable armchair, inspecting the framed credentials when the doctor came in and closed the door with attention to its truly having closed. This convinced John Dervan of the worst. So did the expression on Dr. Muhammed’s face as he stepped carefully to his desk, holding a large envelope, looking down at the carpet.
He sat down and looked pensively at the envelope. He began to speak of the recent snowstorm and his opposition to Obamacare. John, lost in his dread, understood none of it.  “John, I –“ Dr. Muhammed looked ashamed. “It’s Stage Four. John, I’m sorry.”
“How long?”
Dr. Muhammed’s eyes swiveled about the room.
“Have you been feeling much pain since I examined you?”
“Yes. No. A little.”
The doctor nodded. “I’d say, based on the progress of the disease – and this is a best guess – four to eight months. I know it’s a wide window but…for the sake of planning, getting your affairs in order, six. I think you’ll feel well enough to do most of what you want for four or five months. The last couple can be very hard. We recommend hospice and, of course, opiates to alleviate that pain and ease your way into…”
The doctor cleared his throat and tried to assume a lighter tone. “I know you’re not married – divorced a long time, as I heard when I took care of your father – but is there anyone who will be a sort of a, a caregiver?”
John was struck by the concern on the man’s face. “I will have to use my charm to get someone. So, no.” It was meant to be wryly humorous but sounded bitter.
There was no one. The ex-wife had died years before of cancer. No kids. Relatives dead or scattered all over the country. No one who lived near by. No friends, no friendly neighbors. He didn’t have the energy for any of it. No talent for it. Never had. He had poured himself into his work, which kept him busy and was somewhat uninvolving.
“You exist in a state of complete freedom,” the doctor said with the lightest of irony. “With that freedom you should find someone to help care for you. You can avoid hospice. You would be at home…” He added, lamely John thought, “In the time you have left, you can do a lot.”
John thought a minute before replying. His private vision was that every day he resided in a different country. If Switzerland was the country of perfect health and Haiti the land of utter wretchedness, he was probably in Mexico now. Passable, with much worse to come – but close enough to where he had been to still remember Switzerland clearly. He said, “I don’t have the money to live my fondest wishes. I don’t want to spend my time on planes and trains. I want to stay home and go round the world on a glass. I want to have something to look forward to every day when I wake up.”
The doctor spread his hands in inquiry.
“On a glass.”
Dr. Muhammed went, Oh. “John, your questionnaire indicated that you don’t drink alcohol.”
“I don’t.”

But of course he had drunk. He had unleashed the usual bores: Aggression, cruelty, a lust for destruction. There went family relations, friendships, a marriage, a few well-paying jobs. There were many instances of drunken excess, but the one that had him quit drinking was after he learned his wife was having an affair with an old friend. At a country club affair he drank Manhattan after Manhattan.  Splendid in his tux he then wove around the big table and pissed in the former friend’s face, denouncing his adultery with John’s wife, the conniving whore who got splattered and cried into the tablecloth. It was the last time he saw the friend. The last time he saw the wife except in lawyer’s chambers. The very last time he saw the inside of that country club. They refunded the balance of his dues for the year. He thought it sporting of them; it was thrilling to get money back for quitting the drink.

He drove home from his appointment with Dr. Muhammed, toying with the idea of stopping at a liquor store and beginning his renewed career as a drinker. Instead he stopped at Acme and bought his usual prepared meals and junk foods. He did slip a bottle of cheap Australian Shiraz in at the last minute. When he got home he stuck the bottle in a cabinet with the Worcestershire sauce and stale party crackers.
It was after his next appointment with Dr. Muhammed that he bought “necessary provisions” at a liquor store. Vodka, rum, gin, Scotch. At the Acme he bought lemons, limes, seltzer, tonic.
When he sat down to watch Jeopardy, he opened a can of Coke.
John is starting not to feel fairly decent every day. The pain and the fear put him on edge. He tells Dr. Muhammed, and the doctor prescribes something for anxiety. “It’s a rather habit-forming medication. But, of course…” He looks ashamed for reminding John of this. John laughs. “Oh maybe I will start drinking again now.” The doctor looks grave. “Here is a pain medication. Not too strong but. Do not combine with alcohol.”
It was at least the third time he’d bought the limes and lemons. The ones before had shriveled up in the fridge, unused along with the mixers. John stood with the refrigerator door open, counting limes (six), counting lemons (three) and bottles of seltzer (three) and tonic water (five). It was one o’clock on a dank, misty afternoon in March – the full bleakness of the end of winter, sticks and branches scattered over the lawns and low mounds of dirty snow not melting. John was in his robe and sweat pants. Haggard and dirty. Unable to sleep for nights, uninterested in shaving or washing. There was a smell about him, a sour/rotting stench that he believed was both bad hygiene and the disease. A day in Outer Mongolia.
He took out a bottle of tonic and a lime. He found the gin. Prepared the drink. Took it into his den, facing the back yard. Raised the glass and smelled the gin, the lime. It smelled like summers down the Shore and sex in boats when he was young and pretending to be happy.
He decided to wait for better weather. When he drank, he wanted the sun to shine and the world to feel alive with promise, however illusory. He poured the drink down the drain.
But, really, no. That wasn’t why he hadn’t taken the alcoholic plunge. What, really, was the reason he held back? John lay in bed a few mornings later, feeling better and thinking clearly. It occurred to him that he had been bullshitting himself these six weeks – what use was self-denial and nobility of means now? Why not toast his end times with a glass of something? Given the low stakes and short time remaining, what conceivable difference could it make? A drink? A parade of drinks lasting as long as he did? It reminded him of when his father was dying in hospice, denied pain meds because the doctors feared addiction.
John sat up and gave himself a moment to recover from the dizziness. He got up and went to the bathroom and looked at himself in the mirror. Inspected himself. He had lost more weight, all over. He slumped after he’d taken a good look. A coat upon a stick.
He showered and didn’t shave but trimmed the five-day scruff that had grown on his face. He figured a close-cropped beard would mask some of the depletion of his face. John put on his robe and went downstairs, sipping his coffee in front of the arrayed bottles. Alcohol, preferred pain-killer of ancient poets and American novelists. He wanted it to kill his pain, beat away fear, to warm this chilly day. He looked outside and saw that a few daffodils had pushed their way up through the dead leaves. A robin was pulling up worms. A rabbit was grazing on the new shoots of grass. The local fox swept into the scene and grabbed the rabbit by the scruff, snapping its neck instantly, and trotted away with its lunch, smiling.
He took a sip of coffee. He left the limes to rot.

He once had a heart bypass operation, which had given him a glimpse into the country of the sick, where he was now a lifetime inhabitant. This country set apart the sick from the healthy as surely as the grave separated the living and the dead. John guessed that now he was in Bolivia. He dreaded a renewed sojourn in Haiti, but dreaded a sojourn to nowhere even more.
That’s how John framed it to himself in his clearer moments, which he feared losing entirely. He began to use the pain pills; combined with the anti-anxiety medications, they had him feeling looser than he ever recalled feeling in his life. He’d sit at the open French doors of his den with a glass of some firewater or other at his side, comforted by its presence. But soon enough the pills’ effects wore off, and the pain and anxiety returned, and his little window of contentment and clarity slammed shut. The firewater seemed like a cheerful alternative, but no. Not yet.
He got up and went into the kitchen. He poured out his prop G&T.
Dr. Muhammed looks at him and writes him a prescription for medical marijuana.” I’ve never smoked,” John says. “I hate it – it’s too harsh.”
“It’s surprisingly effective for pain management, John. It will help with your appetite. You need to eat more. Give it a try, please.”
He tries it a few times. His throat feels scorched. He coughs uncontrollably. After a week, he gives the rest of the weed to the yard crew, once they’ve finished his property. There are terribly appreciative.
The pain had spread from the left side of his torso to his back and neck. John thought of it as an entity separate from the cancer. It had a shape like a coiled serpent and a color (purple, red where it hurt the most). Someone in Dr. Muhammed’s office had told him to visualize the pain, this serpent, and with his mind starve it of energy. He wasn’t sure what that meant, although he tried it once, and it put him to sleep.
Now John wished he had some of that medicinal weed. Scorched lungs didn’t seem a bad price to pay. He felt no affinity for the nobility of pain; he had never been Catholic enough for that.
He was walking around the yard, pretending to usefulness by pulling a dandelion or two. Wearing a too-big shawl sweater and heavy green corduroys on a bright, hot afternoon at the end of April. The air smelled of the earth and hyacinths. It was hard to resist thoughts like this is the last year you’ll smell that, see that, feel that. The knowledge gave him no emotional effects. All right then, that’s that.
John sat down on the front step, accepting that he had no energy, that his strength was going. He was glad he was taking it stoically; if he were married, there’d be tears and engineered confrontations with his “feelings” every goddamn day. The friends and relatives would be starting their procession with useless gifts and inept words, and he’d succumb to death before it came. He thought America had become a big stewpot of childish emotionalism, and it embarrassed him. Solitude had its benefits.
It took an effort to stand up while still holding the weeds and small debris he’d collected. He noticed a boaty new black Mercedes one level above the model prevalent in his neighborhood. It was driving very slowly on the wrong side of the road, stopped briefly twice, and finally it stopped at his yard.
John gazed curiously at the figure that emerged from the car. It shocked him to see Dr. Muhammed, who avoided the soggy lawn, walking up the driveway carrying a package. John met him where the paving stones and the concrete met. The doctor laughed at John’s discomposure and held out the package. “Happy birthday, John. I’d like to share this with you, but I promise that I won’t stay too long.”
Oh Christ, he thought. End times are here. “It’s my birthday?” He guessed it was one to celebrate.
After a debate with himself, John invited the doctor inside. Having a guest dismayed him, and he took an Ativan as Dr. Muhammed stood by. John opened the birthday present on the kitchen counter. Inside the gift wrapping was a fifth of an expensive single malt Scotch whiskey. “I guess you’re not making a profit on my treatment.”
“Oh, yes, I think that I am.” They both laughed. John began to ask, “Why have – “
“No, no, pour us a glass. Let’s go a little bit around the world.” John looked surprised to hear his catchphrase repeated. He gave each of them half an inch in the glass. He pointed the way to the den. Toasted each other. “Happy birthday.”
“A cruel wish given the situation,” John said. He was touched but didn’t want to be accused of sentimentality. “But thank you.” He led the doctor into the den.
“Not at all. One must celebrate whilst there’s time. So, John, cheers.” The doctor took a good swig. “Ah, this is so good. It recalls many happy days.”
John sat, huffing from the effort and pain. He pretended to sip. The peaty, smoky aroma of the whiskey pleased him, but its flavor had always repelled him. Long pause. “How so?”
“My college days and medical school years – I loved them.”
 “Toronto.” Dr. Muhammed answered the unasked question: “We were from Bombay originally. We went to London when I was a small boy, then Edinburgh, and finally Toronto. My heart is definitely in Toronto.”
John wondered what a presumed Muslim was doing knocking back single malts, but he hated to be provincial and ask. After a moment, the doctor asked, “And you, John? Are you from north Jersey?”
John shrugged. “I was born in the city. We moved out here when I was six or seven.”
“Have you lived anywhere else?”
“I went to college in Boston for two years, then came back to Jersey. Finished at Rutgers with a PhD.”
Another silence. John fought the impulse to get another anxiety pill.
Then the doctor asked if he had family, had ever been married, and did he have children? Childhood friends? College friends? Work friends?
John ran his finger round the rim of his glass. “Excuse me, Dr. Muhammed, I’ll be r – “ John was staggering toward the kitchen when he heard, “Please, Muhammed. Simply Muhammed.”
John set the Scotch on the counter. He was shaking all over. He kept telling himself, What do I say? I don’t know what to say.
He took off the sweater. He was soaked. The day was a harbinger of the summer he wouldn’t be alive to see end. He poured plain tonic and stepped carefully into the den. He sat in the warm sunlight and explained that Scotch wasn’t his summer drink. The ice clinked to reinforce the impression. He asked Dr. Muhammed’s – Muhammed’s pardon. “The Ativan hasn’t – “
“John, “ the doctor said, “do as you please. I want you to do something for your health and peace of mind.” John cocked his head like a dog. “Please raise your glass to your lips. And this time, I want you to drink some of it. Please, do as I say. I am a doctor! From the University of Toronto!”
Obediently, John raised the glass and sniffed at the lime and the bitter quinine. Then he took a sip, miming alcoholic satisfaction. He set the glass down.
The doctor was watching him intently. “Down the hatch, eh? How does it taste, John? You must be feeling the glow already after so long!”
John shook his head. “It’s funny – I don’t even want this. I can’t stand the smell, let alone the taste. Reminds me of Suite 102.” The chemotherapy section of the hospital. Full mostly of gaunt women in bad wigs. He set the drink down with shakes so bad the tonic spilled out.
John could feel anxiety well up; it rose so high it clouded his vision. He tried to pick up the drink to throw it away but knocked it on the floor. Muhammed scrambled to sop it up and clear away the broken glass, sniffing the glass for gin. He asked if John needed his more anxiety medication. John nodded and struggled to his feet and felt his way to the leather couch that he had made up as a second bed. He half-sat, half-lay there shaking all over. The meds were lined up on the counter by the refrigerator, and Muhammed found the Ativan quickly.
He stood over John, all but forcing him to take the pills, one Ativan among them. The doctor gave him a glass of water and said, “We see the way this is going, John. You need a caregiver.”

She was a gaunt woman in a bad wig, petite, her prettiness stolen early in a cancer smash-and-grab. She explained that Dr. Muhammed had suggested that she drop by. “I hear you need help,” she said, giving him a once-over, “and it looks to me like you really do. Can I get off the front stoop?”
John stood aside. “What’s your name?”
“Nobody’s named Linda anymore.”
“Or John, for that matter.” Once inside Linda marched around like a five-foot sergeant, inspecting furniture, kitchen contents, the local bathroom, and the den with the French doors, where John lived all the time now. “I hope you can get up and down the stairs by yourself. You’re pretty skinny but you’d still be a heavy bundle for me to handle. Sorry to be blunt, but I’m not doing so hot myself.” She inspected him. “Better off than you, though.”
John was exhausted just listening to her and said, “Help me to my couch, all right? I’m feeling weak today. Last week’s chemo…”
She tucked herself under his arm and guided him slowly. “I feel like I want to just give up the chemo,” she said,“ don’t you? What good does it do?”
“Keeps you alive longer.”
“Big deal,” she said. “A month or two? And how do you feel? You know what the doctors say about quality of life.”
There was a long pause as John tried to make himself somewhat comfortable position on the leather couch. “No. What do they say?” he asked.
“Nothing. They got nothing to say.” Linda placed the pillows correctly and John fell into a medicinal sleep.
They agreed on terms that afternoon; John thought he was overpaying her, she said he was getting a great deal. It was a good-natured sort of wrangling, and he almost enjoyed it. Still, it took him a week of Linda’s intrusions to get used to her. She invaded his space and upended his habits. She got him up by eight. She made him eat a real breakfast -- poached eggs on toast were a frequent item on the menu, even though the things had always made him queasy, never mind soon after chemotherapy. She encouraged him to hike upstairs and “get some damn exercise” while she cleaned “the birdcage,” as she called it. She nagged him to shower daily and to put on clean clothes as if it were a habit. She bought him a new bathrobe, and she forced him to switch robes every other day. “You’ll wash the life out of it,” he protested.
“You stink, old boy. Think of these poor robes as prisoners at Gitmo.”
“I’m not an old boy,” he objected, half under his breath.
“You’re at least twenty years older than me, and you’re aging fast. So don’t give me none of that.”
“You drive me wild, “ he said nastily. “Must be that head of polyester hair you have.”
Linda pulled back, startled, laughing. “What the hell are you like when you get drunk?”
John didn’t speak for the rest of the day.
Dr. Muhammed changes the subject. “So how is our Linda doing?”
“She’s a major pain in the ass. Why did you ever unleash that nut on me?”
The doctor smiles. “You’re looking much better. That nut is at least getting you to change your clothes and to shave. And to eat something!”
John nods and goes, “I’m not feeling so hot. When…?”
“Let’s shoot for Labor Day.”
Linda was incensed. “’Shoot for Labor Day.’ I can’t believe he said that. Sure, and why not shoot for Christmas while we’re at it? Insensitive S.O.B.” It was the first time John had seen her express more than annoyance and sarcasm. “I’m going inside with you when you have the next appointment. No more sitting in the car waiting for you to come outside and tell me everything’s ducky.”
Unusually, John was angry too. He felt he’d been stoic, while Linda thought he’d been given a lobotomy. “I was pretty pissed off,” he railed.  “I mean, hey, it’s all volitional, right? ‘I got this cancer for the hell of it, let’s hold it at bay, shall we, old bean?’ Let’s shoot for 20 years from now while we’re at it.”
Linda was ironing linen napkins; Mr. Dervan did not believe in paper. “The only ones worse than our families are our doctors. Nobody can face reality,” she said bitterly.
John looked at Linda, then away. Outside the day was blossoming. “How much time for you?”
“I don’t know. I’m okay. For a while at least.” She folded his underwear. “I just went into remission a month ago. So…”
She frowned. “I guess. It just adds more things you can’t control. Another level of worry. You know, about when it comes back. It will. Female cancers always do.” Eager to change the subject, she said, “I got rid of all those limes and things – they were all brown and dried out. Want me to buy some when I go to the Acme?”
John nodded. She kept looking at him. “What?”
“I’m 57. My ex died twelve years ago. I had bypass surgery 10 years ago. I had to recover alone. I’d like not to die alone.” He looked out at the yard as Linda busied herself.
“I’ll finish these things. To the store and back before you know it. Are you sick of chicken parts? I can get you a nice porterhouse if you want. They’re running a sale.”
He turned away. His hands shook as he took some pain medication. “Just come back.”
“I’ll think about it.”
As they relaxed into one another, they told their histories in bits and pieces. John found out that Linda was married, not satisfactorily, to a UPS driver. They had a grown daughter, also married to a driver. They lived in Dover, at the end of the commuter rail line and home to thousands of Hispanic immigrants; the son-in-law was from Peru. She herself was 40 years old, born in Clifton, a lapsed Methodist. She liked the drive to his house – it took her mind off things, and she listened to Classic Rock, singing along to all the old songs. “It’s a pressure valve,” she told him angrily. “Sometimes I feel like I’ll explode. My life – my life – Jesus, who thought I’d end up like this.”
“I know. Who ever does?”
“You musta had a pretty good deal in life. I mean, look at this house. You didn’t expect to die like – “
“Like a dog someone ought to shoot? No.”
Linda got him to reveal more than he wanted. His wife had cheated with a good friend, and she ended the pregnancy of their child to make way for the friend’s. Maybe that was why he was reclusive, or maybe it was that he came from an undemonstrative family; they had originally settled in Maine after all. He’d made good money – stupidly easy money – as a management consultant to ad agencies, which all seemed to be run by spendthrift cokeheads. He recognized addiction, and he got to them just before the money ran out.
“So you exploited their weakness.” Her tone was accusing.
“I guess I did.” He smiled but she didn’t.
More ignominiously, when asked, he couldn’t remember the last time he got laid. “Sometime in the Clinton years, I guess.”
Linda grimaced, “And it’s gonna stay back there too. That ship has sailed, John.”
“Oh, that’s another thing I’m supposed to regret and kiss goodbye?” was directed as much at her as at himself.
“Listen, you have female-type cancer and you never want to have a thing to do with a man. ‘Keep that damn thing away from me’.” She brooded a little and laughed, “I gave that man his excuse to fool around all over north Jersey. They can have the big jerk.”
“I felt the same way when my supposedly dear friend Mark stole whatsername. Good riddance.” He went on, “The marriage wasn’t going well anyway.”
“Whose fault was that?” Linda asked with a shrewd look.
“Hey. Haven’t you got another ruin to haunt?”
She laughed. When quiet returned they looked blue. John was feeling exhausted. The pain was poking through the painkillers. He was going end up in Iraq before the afternoon was out. He went to the leather couch and gazed out the open French doors. “The merry, merry month of May.”
Linda, straightening up nearby, grunted. Then she stood up straight and looked at him. “How long before you go to hospice?”
John stared. “Three months? Four?”
“You’re funny. Those drinks I’m making, maybe you should actually start drinking them. Like today. Gather ye rosebuds, or whatever it was my grandfather used to say.”
He shook his head. He was gathering nothing. “I think it’s less time, too. A lot less. These pain pills aren’t…” John looked outside. A May shower, rain shot through with sunlight, skittered by like play.
Linda rested her Swiffer against a chair and sat. She reached out and took his hand before he could snatch it away. “What do you need, John? What do you really need right now?”
“Another anxiety pill. Pain pill.”
She got up. “That all?” She mimed drinking booze.
He smiled and shook his head.
Linda is with him at the appointment. The doctor exchanges a look with her. “John, my friend, describe to me your symptoms today.” Dr. Muhammed watches him closely as he sets aside his stethoscope.
John describes them as best he can. He feels somehow contorted and crippled by pain. He is aware that Muhammed is pressing a small container of pills in his hand. He hears him speaking but makes out only part of it – “Linda will help you all she can. When and where is completely up to you. Linda, please take this. Linda, please call me in – “
The next morning John was feeling better and thinking more clearly; maybe he was back in Bolivia. The first thing that struck him odd, it was a Saturday and Linda was at work like it was a weekday. The usual weekend helper was a phlegmatic Polish girl named Stasia.
Linda got him to eat part of an egg and two teaspoons of blueberry yogurt. “You’re doing good, hon,” she crooned. She was being too nice. Even the pain meds couldn’t hide that from him.
The French doors gave onto a sunny floral vista framed by sugar maples. My slice of Paradise, was how he’d always expressed it. He lay on the couch, facing outside.
“Linda. What were you and the doctor discussing yesterday? I was pretty out of it.”
“Yeah, you really were.” Linda peered at something she’d just dusted. “We talked about how nutrition is important to fight the disease. He was thrilled to see more weight on your bones.”
John said sharply, “Stop bullshitting me. Didn’t it also involve ‘special pills’?”
She sighed and sat by him. “Yes, John. So you don’t have to go to hospice if you don’t want. I wouldn’t mind going to hospice, but you got a nice place here. I can see where you’d want to stay in it. The last thing you see.” And she looked around at the comfortable room like a hungry househunter from the projects.
The pain was stealing his breath and he was able speak only in stolen breaths, where he stored up the air in his lungs and expelled it with force. After fifteen minutes he felt the calming effects of the meds. He was breathing normally.
Linda kept working around the room, keeping an eye on him, ready to leap if he spoke or flinched. “You’re feeling better now, hon, right?”
John nodded. He hardly trusted himself to speak. The pain still had him is its vise. “I’ll be okay. Sometimes it…”
Linda approached him and laid her hand on his shoulder. “I know. You know I know. It’s tough.”
John smiled and took her hand. He kissed it. “I know. Go home, Linda. Go home. It’s not gonna be today. I wanna get through today.”
She protested, “John, you’re not thinking straight.” She took his arms in her hands as if to shake him.
“I have never thought straight. That’s my problem. Some joke.” She wouldn’t let go his hand. “Go on. I’m telling you it won’t be today.”
Linda tightened her grip to make him listen to her. It felt crushing to him. “I’m leaving a few meals for the next two days. I don’t think that Polish chick knows what she’s doing. She just gives you them damn pierogis. I made real meals for you. Real mashed potatoes, not flakes. Roast chicken. Meatloaf. Real mac and cheese. Just stick it in the microwave, okay?” He nodded, to get her to quit talking.
Linda turned away with dread in her face. After finishing some tasks in the kitchen, dawdling it seemed to John, she left.
After dozing an hour or so, John woke up and had the idea that pierogis were waiting for him in the microwave. He stood with some difficulty and with a cane went slowly to the kitchen. There wasn’t anything in the microwave, though he could see that Linda had recently cleaned it. He decided he wasn’t hungry enough to look for food in the refrigerator. On the far counter, past the refrigerator and in front of his meds, he saw a sliced lime, a new bottle of tonic, a bottle of good gin and a note by a few pills in a small plastic jar that read “Sample – Not for Resale”: Please take with alcohol. M.
In his surprise he went, “Oh!” and shook his head. As he leaned on the counter he thought, Well, shall I have a glass now? Will I be like Socrates? He hoped not. If he was going to take the pills, he wanted the end of awareness to descend quickly, like when the soprano falls off the balcony.
John made a G&T and took it to his favorite chair in front of the French doors. He set the special pills on the arm of the chair. He toasted the Saturday in June that was bursting with its sunshine and green life, and he drank of the gin and the tonic. It tasted like summer at the Shore and kissing in an arbor and sex in boats. John smiled at the glass, beaded with condensation and green with limey promise. He drank again, deeply.
Today would be a good day to get drunk.