He looks around the room at the empty spaces on the walls. Spaces where photo frames used to hang. The wallpaper is still in its original, unfaded glory in perfect rectangles peppering walls filled with nail holes while the rest of the paper is in a sad state of worn dinginess. It’s a reminder of everything he’s lost in the last few years. His entire life decorated these walls from the early days with his wife before they were even married to their last anniversary and included every milestone of their kids’ lives.
He should have paid to have the wallpaper replaced instead of bitching about the expense and telling Claire it was a waste of money. It wasn’t until he saw it this way that he could tell how bad it really is. She was here day in and day out, though, seeing it fade, losing its luster, slowly dying the way their relationship must have done. Just like with the wallpaper, he never noticed how bad it had gotten himself—not until it was unsalvageable and wiped clean of every good memory it ever held.
Instead, he is sitting here in a tattered recliner, still in sweats. He’s smoking again. He can’t remember the last time he was sober…or the last time he had a shower. All he can do is stare drunkenly at the walls, at the bright spaces where the best moments of his life should happily be displayed. It has been months since Claire moved out and left the note pinned to the fridgerator with a Shop Local magnet. His wife left him via a Dear John letter like some horrible cliché. That’s what his life has become. A cliché. And, he’s the sad old bastard that hangs himself in the basement on Christmas. That’s the way it goes, right?
He pours himself another snifter full of whiskey and snubs his smoke into the too-full ashtray on the table beside his chair blowing his last puff back into the stale, nicotine-riddled air before leaning back and putting his feet up. The whiskey cup is resting in his hand on his shrinking belly--he hasn’t been eating much. He picks it up, swirls the amber liquid in the glass, and lifts it up in a toast to the wall. To life, it’s so fucking lovely.
The crash of the glass against the wall makes him jump. It isn’t until he hears it breaking that he even realizes he has thrown it. The whiskey drips down the wall pooling and spreading over the shards of glass that have scattered on the wooden floor. He’s barefoot. No way is he going to be able to walk to the kitchen for a new glass without cutting his feet. There’s no one here to see him drinking straight from the bottle anyway, so who fucking cares about the glass, he thinks. WHO. FUCKING. CARES. That should be his new life motto. It’s obvious no one does. He hasn’t even heard from the kids, for fuck’s sake. His own children… Not a word.
He sits up letting the recliner back into the upright position and takes a long swig from the bottle of whiskey and sets it back on the table with a tender love that only a budding alcoholic can muster for the drink that could take his life from sad to tragic in a just a few more weeks. He runs his hands through his thinning hair letting them come down and cover most of his face as he leans over on his knees. The tears are welling up threatening to spill despite how certain he had been that he had absolutely none left in his body anymore.
Surely, there’s a limit to the number of tears a man can shed when his whole diet consists of alcohol and tobacco.
He sighs in the empty, smoky room. His depression hangs like a cloud above him giving the smoky air a weightiness that feels like it could crush him underneath it at any time, and that sigh just adds to it tightening the pressure on his metaphorical heart just a little more, another pebble on the rock pile that’s threatening to squeeze every last ounce of his soul from his body. Every movement feels like he’s underwater. Every breath feels impossible. Yet, here he is lighting another smoke hoping he’ll pass out this time. Maybe the flame will catch the recliner when he drops it in his sleep. Maybe that’s his only way out of this…an inadvertent suicide.
He takes a drag holding in the smoke for a moment before blowing it out forcefully into the air around him. The blank spaces are distorted in the hazy air just like they are in his own brain. Images of his life captured in photographs that he can barely remember, days and images he took for granted. Moments he would give anything to recapture, to hang on the wall with a bit more pride.
He finishes his smoke still staring at the way the wallpaper discolored around those bright spots, those things he should be proud of but were just distant recollections, and puts it out in the ashtray. As his face turns to look again at the wall, the glistening from the still-wet patch of whiskey catches his attention. That’s when he sees it, a small damp rip in the paper there where he threw the glass.
His eyes keep drifting to that spot over and over through another swig from he bottle and another cigarette until finally he pushes himself out of the chair, wobbling and swaying. He doesn’t notice when the shards of glass stab into the soft fleshy parts of his feet and cut into his toes and heels. He leaves bloody prints on the hardwood in no time, but that doesn’t stop him from making his way to the wall. The only thing slowing him down is the way the room spins uncontrollably now that he’s out of the chair. He makes it, though, all the way across the room to the dried whiskey on the wall and picks at the rip peeling away an entire strip of the faded paper.
Maybe it’s because he’s this lit, but it feels exceptional. He pulls at the edges of the missing strip on the wall over and over again. Pick, pull, rip, strip… the paper comes off again and again. He works feverishly almost in a trance until he can’t reach anymore of the paper without a stepladder. He’s sobering now. His feet ache. The tips of his fingers are blistered and bloody. But, he feels good. Every strip pulled off the wall seems to have lessened his burden. Either that or he’s finally lost it.
He hobbles back to his chair feeling every sting from the glass still in his feet. He sits down carefully, exhausted and weak, and surveys his work.
The wall is almost fully cleared. There are no longer blank spaces where his life should be, only a blank slate for a new beginning maybe. He crumples the pack of cigarettes and tosses them out of reach, leans the recliner back, and closes his eyes. Just before sleep comes he decides to go downtown and grab some paint when he wakes up.
I'm so fucking happy that Sunday Confession is going again after a break at the start of the year. Today's prompt was Space, so I threw down a little fiction otherwise all I'd talk about is how I'm an introverted hermit who needs her space as much as a dog needs to lick its own balls. Anyway, check out the rest of the confessions on More Than Cheese and Beer. Thanks for reading.