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I woke up pondering the relevance of my existence. I was so hung over I couldn't function enough to get up out of bed and make even my usual pale appearance at class. I'm not really the type of person who gives a shit if anybody knows I like to go out on a regular basis and have a few drinks. I'm also not the kind of person who has never experienced a grade reduction, or two, for repetitive absenteeism. I just don't care. Especially at quarter to eight on a Wednesday morning after a Tuesday night that should never have happened. My body feels numb and in the back of my mind there's something I can't quite remember yet I can't quite forget. Most of the time when I feel this way it means I did something stupid that I'll either find, or, find out about later.

I don't know why I insist on continuously destroying myself. The amount I drink scares me almost as much as the amount I smoke while I'm drinking. There has to be a reason why Camel Straights' are lung busters until after you've loosened up with a couple of  Scotch's. At that point a Hump is the best thing in the world. The tobacco and smoke blend with my scotch laden saliva and make the tip of my tongue tingle as I inhale the dry smoke deep into my lungs. It's the other shoe that matches the thump of the Scotch.

Remembering how good the smokes were last night I look next to my bed, which is just a mattress on the floor, and there is an ashtray with one lonely stubbed out butt of a Camel. Its head is smashed down into the glass and its ass end is erect and sticking straight up. The paper, up to the small Camel emblem, is yellow from smoke passing through the saliva-dampened end.

What the hell I figure as I put the dead smoke in my lips, and grab a book of matches. The match lights with a puff of sulfur and I can here it singe my mustache as I inhale deeply to light the burned end of the butt. The now five-hour-old stub burns hot and I feel my throat close painfully as the smoke scorches its way down into my lungs. The sober me is reminded that I have lost the temporary, but not elusive, super powers of being drunk, and I quickly smash the cigarette out.

I'm alone in bed. No woman who has ever tried to fuck a drunken man will ever put herself through that kind of endless monotony again. She will never forget him reeking of intestinally acidic alcohol, stale smoke, and maybe even bile, lamely trying to mount her as his half hard/half asleep pecker pokes at the spot just above her asshole and just below where she wants him to be. If he doesn't pass out before he succeeds in penetrating her, she can look forward to endless and unfocused thrusts lasting until he has either ungraciously cum or given up on his completely self-involved attempt at satisfaction. In the end she will be dry, sore, and angry because she has learned that when men drink we don't listen and we don't seem to care for what she wants. Experienced woman know this and that's why, for the majority of us, when we're drunk we don't get laid. If we do it's to our female equivalent, which can expose us to just a little bit too much self-awareness on our first waking moments in the morning.

Staring up at the white tiled ceiling, my exhaled smoke and the stale smell of the burning butt swirl in a cloud around my throbbing head making it difficult to think. I  can't get rid of the nagging thought that I did something stupid last night, but experience tells me it's best to just continue on with my morning routine. More than likely whatever I did will find me.

My morning erection can no longer act as a plug for my bladder, which feels like it will burst if I don't get up and empty it. Each movement I make to ease my discomfort increases the pounding ache behind my eyes. The throbbing headache will go away when I get my hands on some food, aspirin, and a gallon jug of water. But the dulling fog in my brain, and queasy feeling in my stomach probably won't leave me for the rest of the day. Rolling over I put my hand down on the floor to help myself up and feel something cold and moist. Like meat. My first fear is that it's puke, but its not. It's a sandwich, which surprises me because I don't remember making or eating it. Half of it is gone and the other half is splayed out on a towel that I had put by my bed. I remember trying to jerk off last night because as I was falling asleep (or passing out) I was thinking it's just as well that I didn't bring anyone home. Even I couldn't get things to work. But the sandwich is a complete mystery to me.                  

On my way to the bathroom I stop at the refrigerator to see if there is anything to eat, but there is nothing. There is no food and no money because I spent it all drinking last night.  If I had eaten I probably wouldn't feel so bad and I wouldn't have blacked out. I hate blacking out. Lately its been happening fairly often and it's embarrassing to  remember the bits and pieces of the fucked up things you did the night before as your friends try to remind you of what happened. It gets scary when they tell you that you drove them around and you have to lie about remembering it.

Above my toilet is a poster of Bob Marley that I'm staring at while pulling myself out of my pajama bottoms. My bloodshot eyes are absorbed by his bloodshot eyes until my attention is distracted by the sound of my urine hitting the side of the toilet and the sensation of it splashing onto my foot. I look down adjusting my aim and see that there's dried blood on the side of my left foot. It's obvious to me that I cut myself last night, but how the hell I did that I don't know. When the last drains out of me I put myself back in my pajama bottoms, wink at Bob, and take a look around the apartment. On the old wooden floor I find spots of dried blood forming a trail that leads from the front door, through the small living room/kitchen area, to my bedroom.

Suddenly a hot flash boils its way up my spine to the top of my head. There's a window near the front door that faces out toward the street. My apartment is on the second floor above a deli. When I look outside there are two police cars parked in front, and standing on the sidewalk are two cops talking to the owner of the deli who is pointing up at my apartment.

Panicked I pull open the door to my apartment which leads out to the only set of stairs descending to the street level entrance. My small three room apartment is the only one in the building and the landlord is also the owner of the deli. It's rumored through town that he has Mafia connections.

The steps that lead down to the front door are white painted wood with a non-slip strip running down the middle. Looking down them there are streaks of blood on the right hand side which is where my left foot would have been coming up the stairs.

I go inside my apartment and look back out the window. It appears as if another cop is stepping out of the deli where the front window should have been. He joins the others and now all four of them, the three cops and the deli owner, are looking up to my apartment.

Leaning my head back out the door I see that the streaks of blood go the whole way down the stairs. My face burns red as my memory starts to come back, and I panic thinking I couldn't have possibly done what I think I may have done. In my bare feet I walk down the stairs looking in disbelief at the dried blood on each step until I reach the front door. Panicked, and looking down at the traces of blood on the floor I open the door.

My head is throbbing and all I can taste in my mouth is stale cigarette smoke and cheap scotch. As the door opens I hear it sliding over broken glass and there is blood on the sidewalk around where the shards are scattered. Sticking my head out and around the door frame I feel the pressure behind my eyes increase as I see that the front window of the deli has been smashed.

The three cops and the owner of the deli look at me, and hiding my half naked body with the door, I look at them.

(c) James Buchanan 2003

Why I quit drinking
James Buchanan

James Buchanan is a freelance writer living on the Seacoast of New Hampshire who has won numerous awards for his work as a journalist and some recognition for his fiction writing. He is currently working on three books, one of which is an examination of the intersection of public policy and the Internet that will be published by MIT Press. He is also working on a collection of short stories that he describes as quirky, but interesting examinations of what it means to be young and on the fringes of American society. James can be reached at