Stray: For the Rest of My Life
Image: Unsplash, downloaded (https://unsplash.com/photos/e665qEGD57s) 27.2.2022.
The Journey Home When sleep was overthrown by consciousness, the yoke of self-incarceration that feigned companionship was lifted, and I narrowed my mind. Alone in the silence, I am untethered once again: dented, dirty, secondhand, but whole. Nothing but an unknowable future.
I walked out of the rural facility and hitchhiked into the closest town. Found the ATM, buried some cash in my pocket, asked the local yokels for directions and got a vague arm wave towards where the train station and my one-way ticket reside. Gotta get me the fuck outta here.
Hours to kill so I go demon hunting. They lie waiting in every town, so it shouldn't be hard. I walk into the first pub I come across, throw cash on the bar, and order a coke. Sit outside on the veranda in the morning sun; chain-smoking, thinking. Waiting. Nope - not here.
I meander the back streets, watching my reflection glance back at me in cracked, dirty windows. Predictably, I have company, as the dealers don't hide in the shadows: they front you, begging cigarettes or lighters, needing neither. Just testing the price of your soul.
I see a secondhand bookshop and roll the dice of chance - I'm on a quest for The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test. But the studious lady with hardcore eyes and naked fingers standing behind the counter bears bad news. Spent my life looking vainly in hope, so it’s no surprise.
When I enter the second pub, I find what I'm looking for. My Addiction is already belly-up to the bar with the early starters, and he glances in my direction. He’s obviously happy to see me again, but was disconcerted by my disappearance. I didn’t tell him we were done.
I order a schooner of beer from the barman and open a book as he places it in front of me, the foam enjoying the outside of the cold glass on its way to a faded bar mat. My Addiction has a grin on his face, relaxed now on a stool beside me. He thinks we’re back together.
Three chapters and half an hour later I leave. The beer sits flat in its misery - untouched and untasted. I turn at the door, notice the barman regarding me curiously, bemused as he tips the lukewarm beer down the sink. He's not the only person questioning my sanity.
My Addiction got up with me, having recognised that I didn’t come to play, wondering if anything can be done to salvage our relationship. I know now that he'll go away and think about it, probably for the rest of my life. He'll be back every day. For the rest of my life.
Addictions are patient, possessive and faithful, indiscriminate and terminal. They take on anyone — regardless of station — and affect everyone within reach.
The addict is selfish beyond question - the addiction is all that matters.
Everything and everyone can wait.
I caught the train home and my dogs went berserk with happiness, making me human again. Home at sunset, had a long hot shower that wasn't temperature moderated, charred a steak on open flames, and ate with sharp utensils. And ate when I was hungry, not when I was told to eat.
I listened to my favourite music, written by talented junkies and creative drunks, and didn’t feel anything squirming inside. No mandatory meetings tonight, so I'm in bed early on crisp clean sheets that some junkie hasn't vomited on. Except perhaps me in that other life.
Woke at 4 a.m. to reset my body clock and engage these new choices. I wander through my mind and find it’s still me. For now, that’s enough. Sat in darkness on the back deck with a freshly ground coffee, thinking about nothing at all. Just listened to the beautiful silence.
Threw the dogs in the ute, grabbed a thermos, and headed for the beach. From surrounding cliffs, I watched the sun arrive and turn up the volume. Wandered down, took my boots off, buried my toes into frigid sand. I strolled. The dogs patrolled. Maybe we’re back on track.
I walked into the surf and drowned my past, which was petty but necessary. Call it a ritual cleansing, though I'm aware that my sins are unwashable scars. Nobody around, no time frame, and no community inspired therapeutical bullshit to digest and recite. So, where to next?
I can't allow such a humbling experience to pass without analysing the debasement of forsaking self-control to a god of choice. Did I take the path of least resistance, submitting just when the fight got interesting? Did the abyss of madness win? Can I now stop at one drink?
Right now, I don’t give a shit: mentally, I’m standing in a lush valley, surrounded by spirited mountains. Physically, I’m enthralled by the ocean's embrace. But I know I’m not alive ‘til I’m out of my depth, standing on a pinnacle. Which is why I fall so hard, so damn often.
The End. Of the Beginning.
Author about Himself:
I wasn’t very good at school and didn’t understand the point.
I listened to Pink Floyd’s Wall and understood. I washed dishes, became a chef, and slowly lost my mind. I sobered up, looked around, and marvelled at my fortune. I embraced my luck, observed my mind, and threw my imagination at a blank page. I wrote and published a novel – obtuse, verbose, and egocentric – and finally understood Plato: True knowledge exists in knowing that you know nothing. All of which brings us to the present, where I am no longer a stranger to the voice within. And rather than try to make sense of life, I simply look out the window of my eyes, write it all down, and reflect upon this unknowable journey.