Not Happy, but Tender

Unscrewing the bottle of brandy as she sits slumped against the wall, she sniffs and gags and sniffs again as the foul-smelling spirit worms its way into her brain. The smell reminds her of old man’s aftershave, and creepy uncles with wandering hands and the packets of Fisherman’s Friend her father would keep in the medicine cabinet when she was a little girl. She remembers him eating a packet a day to combat the cough he inherited from smoking—a cough that later turned into cancer that ultimately turned him into brown bread not long after she entered her teenage years. To lose him that early was terribly sad, and as the fumes cause her head to spin, she knows how easy it would be to down the whole bottle and disappear into her memories of him. Memories not precisely happy, but certainly tender. It’s the tenderness that gets to her, cutting her little heart into even littler pieces, and yet like the drunk she is, she’s got a thirst for it that can’t be quenched. One of the cans of paint-that’s-not-really-paint-but-piss is slightly ajar, and she can smell the contents even over the heavy aroma of brandy. Piled one on top of the other, the cans reach the paint-splattered ceiling as if arranged in some abstract, artistic statement, but there’s nothing artistic about her dirty habit. Nor is it abstract, it’s just plain filthy, and the thought of it is enough to make her grin something wicked. The tutors often mention in passing that it’s a health and safety concern for the cans to be stacked the way they are, although not as concerning as her overindulgence in drinking. Not that they’ve confronted her about either issue outright. They’re too wary of her, the same as the other students are. Somewhat dangerously, they know her struggle with the bottle is what drives her to produce the works of art they so eagerly anticipate each time she shows her face. They’d never admit to it, but secretly, the same as her, they wish for the hurt to never end so that she can continue to produce the images she puts to canvas as if her life depended on it.

X and I: A Novel and A Journal for Damned Lovers on Amazon UK

X and I: A Novel and A Journal for Damned Lovers on Amazon US

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