The tinny clank of the cell door startles him to a drowsy realization. His crinkled Raider’s t-shirt wavers loosely about his body as the shakes set in. A pungent air found in dank back alleys hangs about the small room. His legs are wet.
“We’ve got another four hours until we get released.”
Ralph shuffles himself to a sitting position. His throbbing head, decorated with two, three, four-day-old stubble, slips through his red, puffy hands. His sagging forehead rests in his palms.
Ralph’s memories were drowned in a dusty bottle tucked under a coat or behind someone else’s day old garbage. The first swig helped him forget a father, too busy scrubbing grease from under his short nails to take him fishing on the pier. The warmth of the alcohol doesn’t let him feel his ten-year-old face lying on the cold, hard linoleum of the kitchen or the throbbing pain in his gut. The trickling, burning sensation in his throat dulls the smell of Jim Beam on his dad’s breath. The last drop makes him forget the empathetic look of the minister who clutched his hand and told him to stay strong and to trust in an unseen will.
Ralph took a deep breath and reached into his piss soaked pocket, nothing. The haze that two bottles of vodka on an empty stomach had worked so hard to conceal began to lift. He remembered the self-congratulating look of the rosy-cheeked do-gooder who wore a sweater with ugly patterns and how the crisp bill felt in his dirty hands. He shrank at the memory of promising himself to spend only half on vodka and the other half on bread. He remembered the sun’s warmth leaving him and the special kind of fear that a light-polluted sky brought him. He remembered some woman walking home asking someone on the other end of her phone to remember eggs. He remembered getting lost in his imagination right before Marty walked over. He had imagined himself on the other end of that phone conversation and that she would be so happy when he brought the groceries in. He remembered thinking that their warm lighted house had two fat kids waiting to see him–that he would hug them before sitting down to dinner in front of the evening news. He remembers seeing Marty’s drunken swagger and taking in the earthly stench of his unwashed flannel shirt. He didn’t want Marty to tell him to spend the money half on cigarettes and half on a liter of Popov, but Marty is the only one who gives him any advice. It’s time to go.
He remembers the foreign smell of baby formula. Ralph doesn’t like that memory.
“This is some good shit.” Marty says.
“Yeah.” Ralph licks his cracked lips as Marty asks him for another drink.
They laugh to themselves about all those suckers who have to get up at seven only to be stuck in rush hour traffic. They laugh about how responsibility never encroaches on their present happiness. He tells Marty that he’s cold and that it’s time to get a meal and bed. Marty always has good advice. He empties the bottle and chucks it at a passing car. He pisses himself laughing as Ralph pisses on the officer’s cruiser.