Her message read “I think you should see someone” so instead, Malcolm drank. Her message read “You need someone to talk to about this”, so instead Malcolm got shit-faced, three sheets to the wind, under the table, forgot his own name DRUNK. His face is currently pressed against his cold kitchen floor.
Malcolm has been awake for a good quarter of the hour, he just hasn’t moved. Malcolm was not participating today. If the world wanted to be cruel, to be meaningless and absurd, let it, it just had to do so without him.
Not all of this drinking was mere self-pity, no, that was only about half of his reasons to get drunk. The other half was this: if Malcolm’s misery was caused by his constant existential dread, if all of his woes were caused by him thinking too much, he would simply drink himself stupid. “Ya can’t think if all ya do is-is drink!” Malcolm declared belligerently to the empty air around him as he slowly sat up. He had expected to wake up hung over, but fortune favored him, he woke up still drunk… but not drunk enough.
Malcolm’s kitchen was damp and sordid. The smell of warm beer hung over the room with a scent so foul it had integrity. Empty beer cans, now robbed of their contents, had found a new purpose as being homes to flies. There was no organization to this madness, but there was a method: never stop drinking.
“Breakfast of champions!” Malcolm decreed to nobody as he opened a warm beer and drank it with a sad urgency. He was still not drunk enough, he could feel the wheels in his head slowly start to turn as his punished liver filtered out the poison in him. But that was it. There was no more beer. The “party” was over.
Malcolm knew ahead of time that he could only escape to the hazy comfort of inebriation for only so long. At some point, Malcolm knew that he would have to face his tribulations. He knew that he would have to be sober, that he would need to send out his resumé and pray to the gods he did not believe in that he would get another job. He knew all of this ahead of time, he just wasn’t ready for that to happen now.
Malcolm sat at his kitchen table, clutching the can of beer near to him for comfort, and slowly took in the self-made horror around him. He had been living in filth for days, and he had been living in it in desperation. Alcohol, though a temporary solution, was the only one that worked to keep himself out of his own mind, assuming he was drunk enough. He is not drunk enough. Alcohol was not the first panacea he reached for after his “episode” at his now former job. The first thing Malcolm reached for was his phone.
He had no idea just how much of a crutch customer service was to him until they started hanging up. He had no idea just how cathartic talking to someone could be, then suddenly it was no longer an option. He had abused his internet provider’s customer service line so often that they cut him off. Her message read “I think you should see someone. You need someone to talk to about this” but Malcolm had no one to talk to. He had no friends that were close to him, and he had successfully alienated everyone he had built any rapport with after his “episode”. So, Malcolm Steadman paid for his rent ahead of time, spent an offensive amount of money on the cheapest beer and whiskey, and spent the next week on a bender that would make Henry Chinaski feel self-conscious.
Malcolm sat his beer down on the table and noticed that it felt sticky with drying beer. It also felt… bumpy, almost textured. He ignored it. He was not ready to snap back into reality yet. He was not ready to deal with his life.
Shame wafted to Malcolm’s mind, he could not decide if it was competing with the acrid smell of stale beer, or if it was complemented and enhanced by it. Reality and its weight was winning, Malcolm would need many more drinks to make it past being a depressed drunk and back into the safe sanctuary of utter delirium. Malcolm picked up his last beer and drank the rest of it slowly, trying his best to enjoy the nectar that kept himself from responsibility for the week, and did his best not to think about the week ahead of him.
He set his empty can back onto the sticky surface of his table and noticed then just why it felt so bumpy, so textured. Laid out on the whole of the table was a stained, but complete, jig-saw puzzle.
He had done it again. HE HAD DONE IT AGAIN! In his blacked-out state, Malcolm Steadman completed another puzzle without the consent of his higher functions.
Malcolm did not curl into a fetal position, he did not openly weep and lament as he had an existential panic attack. Though his previous fears about free will being an illusion seemed to be confirmed once more before him, Malcolm laughed. Malcolm laughed harder than he had in a very long time.
He also laughed, for a very long time.
When the mania had passed, Mr. Steadman let out a long sigh. My life, he thought to himself, is so damn funny.
So. Damn. Funny.
Malcolm Steadman will dial the suicide hotline in 20 days.