“I didn’t do nothing illegal, just need to go to detox.” the voice is a whimper. “Just gotta go to detox.” He pisses into the urinal. murmuring his mantra, intersected with more swirling howls of “oh” and “god”, each word landing like floundering paper planes even as they echo across the room.
“I didn’t do nothing bad… Just got to go to detox.”
I’m secretly beholding some water closet confession. I’m the priest on porcelain throne baring witness to unacknowledged sin and sorrow.
And just as suddenly as it appears the voice leaves, only the scrapping of his fleece pants betraying that he was anything but a ghost.
In my stall, pinned between the support bat and the toilet paper dispenser, an empty bottle of Five Star whiskey.
It occurs to me then that he wasn’t talking to me, himself, or god. He was talking to the bottle. And the bottle listened. It listened until it sat empty, liquid grain replaced with the burdens of a life half, or perhaps completely broken. The little that remains simmering at the bottom of the bottle tells me I’ve interrupted his ritual, allowed his idol to slip away from him, his prayers unfinished the cold haunt of sobriety terrifies him into buying another, another idol’s cap twisted off, one spirit pouring into him to replace the weakness of another. To be repeated again and again and again, until the help he’s looking for finds him, or life and liver force him to stop.