“I’d like another,” Dean said, pointing at his empty glass. “A double.”
“You sure about that?” the burly man asked.
“Jordan, just pour the goddamn drink,” Dean growled.
Jordan retrieved the bottle of Lagavulin from the shelf behind him and poured a generous amount into the glass. “I didn’t deserve that.”
Dean picked up the tumbler and drained its contents, then fixed his gaze on Jordan’s questioning leaf-green eyes “Another.”
“No way, man. Not on my watch.” Jordan pointed at the exit. “Go home and sober up.”
“Home,” Dean mumbled, pulling out his wallet, “where the hell is that?” He slammed two twenty-dollar bills on the bar, slid off his stool and headed for the exit.
Outside, the late-afternoon sun beamed into his eyes, making him squint. Pain throbbed at his temples and a metallic taste lingered in his mouth. Staggering down the sidewalk, he couldn’t remember the last time he was sober. Drunk, he didn’t have to think about the awful thing he’d done. Drunk, he could be a ‘good’ man. Drunk was safe.
Dammit, his life was a mess. And everyone knew it. He lived the same nightmare every day, and that had the ‘regulars’ on his route home throwing comments at him that he couldn’t ignore.
It started with the young man with a pink mohawk smoking a joint outside Lovers, the local sex shop. “Hey, loser!”
“There he is again,” the middle-aged man called to his wife, who was working the cash of their Quik Mart. He pointed with his cigar. “Drunk and pathetic.”
“I prayed for you last night, you know,” said the woman standing on the corner and holding up a sign that read, ‘Jesus Saves!’
What the hell do they know? he thought, each time flipping them the bird as he zigzagged along. They don’t know what it’s like … what I’ve done.
Fifteen minutes after leaving Miller’s Pub, Dean arrived at his Sunnyvale Avenue home and jammed the key in the lock. He entered the quiet space and, almost on cue, his throat constricted. Hold on! He sprinted towards the bathroom at the end of the hall, but just like the day before — and the day before that — he didn’t make it. He found himself involuntarily spraying the tile floor and the front of the toilet with a chunky, sour-smelling mixture of scotch and fries.
He wiped his mouth with his shirt sleeve as he shifted onto his bum and sat with his back against the wall. He did not — could not — move. He stared blankly at the sickness sprawled across the floor until his vision began to blur and his whole life flashed before him. Maybe not his whole life. Just the moment that changed everything.
“Thanks for coming,” Kevin had said, offering that coy smile that everyone loved.
“I don’t really know what I can do,” Dean said, following his brother-in-law through the kitchen and down into the basement. “I’m not much of a handyman.”
“I just need you to help me lift the drywall and hold it up while I nail it in place,” Kevin said.
Dean didn’t argue, but something about his brother-in-law nagged at him. Kevin owned a construction company and had built most of the homes in the neighbourhood. Why hadn’t he called one of his constructor buddies to help? But this was family, and as much as Dean wanted to, he couldn’t refuse the call for help. Family was supposed to be everything.
Two hours later, drywall was up on two walls of the new rec room. Sweat drenched their T-shirts and Kevin peeled his off. Dean couldn’t help but admire Kevin’s glistening toned, smooth chest and felt the heat burn in his cheeks at the unexpected excitement bulging in his pants. That had him playing out in his mind the fantasy where they were stripped naked and Kevin eagerly submitted to his will. That wasn’t good. And it was wrong for so many reasons.
The next thing Dean felt was Kevin’s hand squeezing his crotch and the hot breath in his ear. I’m dreaming, right? Then Kevin’s mouth covered his, and with their lips locked he couldn’t catch a breath. His fantasy had come alive.
“Kevin, stop,” Dean finally got out, but Kevin yanking down his zipper immediately silenced his protest.
“Don’t fight it,” Kevin whispered, falling to his knees.
Dean groaned, closed his eyes and ran his fingers through Kevin’s sandy curls. God, every time his back arched he wanted to pull away, but he couldn’t. Kevin’s rough, builder’s hands were glued to his butt, forcing him to enjoy the pleasure.
Until the scream and his eyes opened wide. That was the moment he knew that nothing would ever be the same.
The stench of the vomit filled Dean’s nostrils and made him sit up straight. How could I have been so stupid? He slowly lifted himself up off the bathroom floor and, once he felt steady on his feet, cleaned up the mess. Afterwards, he took off his soiled clothes and jumped in the shower. As the warm water bounced off his caramel skin, he knew he had to do something. He couldn’t change the past, couldn’t change what had happened, couldn’t change the lives his actions had torn apart.
But he couldn’t go on like this … drunk and living in a daze.
The only question was this: did he have to courage to do what was right?