By Ben Drinen.
I was sitting there on the wall. I was fucked up on rum. 151 rum. It was rum that burned. Like whiskey. And that isn’t really how I had thought of rum before. My old friend Robert was throwing Corona bottles at me. They were breaking at my feet. I was sitting there on the low concrete wall with my feet dangling down. I could feel the glass shards hit my camo pants as each bottle exploded. I wasn’t in the Army at the time. Never been in it before or since. I just liked the pants.
I looked over at Robert. Another Corona bottle was in his hand. The case was at his feet. I could see the label clearly in the streetlight. His eyes were full of tears. He was shouting bad things at me. Trying to crack my shell. They used to call me Iguana Boy on nights like these. I’d sit there on the harbor wall thinking the words “stone drunk” over and over again. I used to think that mantras meant something. I was 21.
Robert was screaming those profanities at me, the way he always had. Over the years. When the shine of an adventure started to wear off. In places like Santa Barbara and New York City and Tucson. “St. Thomas is a fucking dump, you goddamn idiot! You think you and fucking Baruch are getting boat jobs to Africa? Huh? Say something you fuck!” He let the bottle fly. It hit me in the head, and I got mad. It hurt.
I ran after him, and he started laughing. He was faster than me, but I kept running after him. Chasing him down the Charlotte Amalie harbor. Block after block. My sandals slapping the street. The coke dealer who gave us the rum was behind me. He was a friendly guy from Trinidad. He always had a big smile. He always wore an Oakland Raiders hat. He liked watching these displays on the waterfront. It happened every night.
Robert turned a corner. I gave up. My lungs were burning. “I’ll kick your fucking ass,” I whispered to no one. The warm humid air was a comfort to my lungs. I sat down in the middle of the Caribbean night. I sat down against the yellow wall of the post office. I couldn’t run anymore. I watched the clouds hanging in the sky. They looked almost blue.
I walked back down the harbor looking at the clouds. I listened to the water slapping against the wall of the harbor on my left and I heard the music blaring from a bar on my right. I looked inside and saw the college kids from every damn place dancing, talking, drinking. A guy in khaki pants with a half-tucked polo shirt yelled “Fuck you!” and I turned and stared at him. He said it again and I stood there silent. “Fucking bitch!” he said. “Quiet ass bitch!”
I ran at the stranger and I grabbed him by his collar. I pushed him back against the wall and leaned in. He was grunting and trying to push me off, but I held on to his collar tight. He smelled like cologne and I whispered to him that I would kill him if he said one more thing to me. “Jesus Christ,” he whined. “Jesus fucking Christ.” I let go of his collar and walked away.
When I got back to the one room apartment that I shared with my friends Luke was sleeping on the bed and Baruch was sitting at the table with a bottle of whiskey. “Simeon, good to see you, have a drink,” he said.
I asked Baruch if he was drunk and he nodded and grinned. He poured me a glass of whiskey and I drank it slow. I told him what happened, and we laughed about it. “Where’s Robert?” Baruch asked. I told him that I wasn’t sure. We never saw him again. Years later in Las Vegas, I ran into his aunt in a casino. She was serving drinks behind the bar. I asked her if she had heard from him. “I thought he was with you,” she said and put my Scotch on the napkin.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Ben Drinen‘s fiction has appeared online in 13E Note Editions, The Big Stupid Review, Full of Crow and Zygote in My Coffee. He also has stories accepted for publication by Underground Voices and The Battered Suitcase. He has finished two novels that he is looking for a home for and is working on a third. Ben was a finalist in the 2007 and 2010 First Person Arts Storyteller of the Year Competitions in Philadelphia. A sample of his storytelling can be found here.
First published in 3:AM Magazine: Friday, October 8th, 2010.