rag-and-bone breathing

There’s a lot you can tell about a person when you watch them live.

You watch him pour his first drink at 9 in the AM and smile at you innocently. It’s a harmless drink, just to help him feel a little awake. You take the bait and pour one for yourself. It helps you deal with the harsh sunlight of the near-noon barging in from between the curtains. You can tell he’s dreading to live through this day.

The both of you do drinks for lunch, too. You dress up to draw his attention but he only has eyes for the alcohol menu. The bar is dimly lit but the music is good and you don’t mind because he’s keeping you company. He’s promised to do so for a long time. There’s the usual ‘I wish I was dead’ interspersed in the conversation by both of you. He’s probably on his 8th drink of the day by the time you decide you should settle the bill. You can tell he’s avoiding anything and everything that reality has to offer. All he’s talked about is how drunk he is, the match screening on the TV, and how he loves being around you. You’re not complaining because you don’t have reason to. You’ve had a couple of cocktails yourself, so everything is peachy.

You’re back home and it’s dark outside and inside and there are songs playing on the computer that you can’t put names to. You remember him stopping the cab so he can get down and buy a couple of quarters of rum to take home. You dress down because you need some shut-eye – a break from the blaring of the sounds around you and the throbbing forehead and the stomach ache – and he’s nursing Glass Number 11. You’re not sure if that ranking is accurate, but you can’t recall to save your life. You can tell he doesn’t want to think at all.

He spares you a few glances while he smokes his cigarette, just enough to make you feel assured he knows you’re there, but otherwise he’s not on the same floor you’re sitting on anymore. He’s dancing, he’s spinning, he’s laughing at himself. You can tell he wants to live only right now.

He coerces you to join him, he tries to make you groove some. You make your awkward and feeble attempt before retreating to your audience position. All the bottles of rum sit punished in the corner of the room for having emptied so soon. Dinner is mostly untouched. You can tell he doesn’t care about his health anymore.

You try to talk about how things don’t look good, feel good, or seem good. You struggle to bring up the bane of your dreams, but he waves it off. You can tell that he fears the obstacles he’ll have to overcome to finally be happy, so you keep your silence.

He sees you retreating in your mind as well, and sits beside you and feeds you morsels of hope and ambition, even when he knows you gave up those many years ago. You can tell he’s trying, and you’re trying, and you’re watching all of this stack up against each other like a house of cards. You both know it’s doomed to cave, you both know you can’t believe in fate.

He falls onto the bed beside you and mumbles sweet nothings before he passes out. Your sobriety is a sharp contrast to his inebriation, yet your sorrows are perfectly aligned. You can tell that he’d rather spend his time trying to exist through every minute instead of really live it.

And as you begin to drift into unconsciousness, you realize that you can tell a lot about a person when you watch them trying to die.

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