Have you ever
thought of making a few changes around here? Alexa asked as she sat
cross-legged on my blue couch, almost buried inside one of the dents of the
I shrugged and had a swig out of the bottle of cheap red wineless than
fifteen bucks for six bottles is a damn good deal, even for drugstore
couch? Her eyes bulged. Its got dents, its dirty,
magnificent memories; and its really comfortable sleeping on, at
least for me, since its taken the shape of my body.
Im talking about! And that desk, its worn out, the paints
gone in more places than its stayed on. And
All my furniture
is of some age, yes, I concurred. That does not mean
Ill throw them away anytime soon. Theyre still functioning,
theyre still doing what I bought them for.
all that matters.
want new stuff? A change would do you good, you know.
More wine glided down
my throat, bypassed my esophagus, and settled in my whirling stomach. I leaned
back on the desk chair, it creaked, and I put my feet on the couch.
chair, she continued. Youve used almost an entire roll of
duct tape to patch it up.
You can hardly
Oh, you can
I can still sit
on it, cant I?
She pulled her hair
back and rubbed the corner of her lips; shed given up, but only
temporarily. The glisten in her eyes more than sufficed to alert me about what
was comingId seen that glisten before, after all, way more times
than Ill ever be willing to admit.
Like many before her,
and several after her, she wanted to change me; shed liked me when we
talked literature and life in the bar, over several rounds of green beer and
double shots of rotgut, but I could be so much more. God, if only that so
much more part had ever been true.
asked, proffering her the half-empty bottle.
Im good, she shook her head and placed her hands on her knees.
You know you drink too much, right?
I drink just
about enough, I corrected herto prove a point, I drained the bottle
in a single, magnificent swig. Without missing a beat, I unscrewed a fresh
Just enough is,
at most, a bottle of wine per day; not per hour.
Keeps me numb to
sustain the bullshit of life.
Like your need to
change me, yes.
Alcohol makes you
She leaped to her feet
and hurried to the bathroom, locking the door behind her. I cast a sidelong
glare at the shut door, almost landing on my back as the chair tipped backward,
and had a great sip out of the bottle. I rolled a cigarette and blew the first
plume of blue smoke toward the window before I staggered up and flung it wide
A cold gust stormed the
tiny room, creating tiny whirlwinds of dust, spilled dry tobacco, and
I stared at the bright
blue sky, at the sun showering the suburb of the small town with its refulgent
yellow light. On the parking lot across the street, some kids rode their bikes
around while guffawing and giggling and a few couples and groups of friends
strolled across the small street, heading downtown or maybe to someones
home for an evening of fun.
And there I was,
wanting nothing more than to get brilliantly inebriated and work on the doomed
novel, but I couldnt. I was stuck with someone; stuck with bad cards and
with no chance to bluff my way out of it. Doomed, doomed, doomed. Eternal
she said when she returned to the room, water dripping down her face, if
you dont want me here, you can just say so.
I almost did; if I had
had one more bottle of wine in my bloodstream, I would have. I was still
relatively sober. No, I muttered, I want you here. I just
dont want you talking about changing my apartment.
Why? I only said
that a few things here could use an upgrade.
These things have
soul. You cant upgrade that. You cant upgrade memories; and just
because somethings new, it doesnt mean itll be more
about money, I can understand your reluctance, but
just about money; sure, Id rather spend what little money I have on
booze, but its not only about that.
Most people like
changes; it gives them a boost of happiness, of
Most people think
things will make them happy; thats horseshit. I know people living
in dilapidated shacks that are happier than those living in great mansions,
changing their furniture and cars and whatnot every two months.
Buying new stuff
all the time is just an insipid way to feel like youve accomplished
something in your life. Its a boost to your confidence similar to a few
snorts of blow. Quite frankly, I prefer blow. If Im gonna manipulate my
brains chemistry, Id rather do it with substances I can put in my
body and control.
illegal to buy a new couch.
So what? I
shrugged. Wines not illegal, either, no matter how vehemently and
desperately some groups are trying to ban it.
People are just
more aware of the ill effects of alcohol and are trying to educate everyone
Some people drank
all their lives and died at a ripe old age, often reaching their seventies and
eighties. And, if you ask me, seventy years is too long a time to live.
Fortys too much.
Rolling her eyes and
letting out a rather emphatic and meaningful sigh, she got up again and grabbed
a grape soda out of my refrigeratorgrape sodas and other non-alcoholic
beverages had never been in my refrigerator before she entered my life.
I like my booze neat, only occasionally on the rocks, and never mixed with
sugary, bubbly shit.
Those things can
kill you too, you know, I said after a good gulp of wine. Too much
sugar in them; causes obesity, diabetes, heart failure
innocent than these toxic, chemical concoctions you swill.
drinking a few of them doesnt make me spurt offensive
I called that
woman a whale because she blocked the whole damn aisle and still thought I
could walk past her like she was a Victoria Secrets lingerie
You drank three
vodka oranges for breakfast, right before going to the
If Id been
hungover, Id have shoved her into the candy shelves the moment she
started wailing about her not blocking the way despite moons orbiting her
rubbed her temples and raised her eyes to meet mine with a fire that resembled
the glare shed thrown me earlier at the supermarket. Words hurt,
dont you know that?
enough rejection slips from agents and editors to know that,
Its not the
Why? I called her
fat as a whale, and editors tell me Im not good enough for their
journals. Same thing.
cant lose weight. You can write more marketable
force stories out. I have to live them, I have to drink them into reality
Booze, bars, and
drugs that you write about are not marketable anymore; most people dont
like reading about bums. They prefer uplifting stories, stories about
marginalized people that made it.
Yet, most people
never make it. Why shouldnt art reflect that?
too close to home for most. Art and entertainment should be about
sure. Not art. Art is beyond marketability. Art is about quality. Ulysses
is art; crime fiction is entertainment. And I dont write
Good entertainment, but, entertainment nonetheless.
She nipped on her grape
soda and I swigged more wine. It was still early in the afternoon and all I
wanted was to sit in front of the keyboard and punch more poems out; poems
about rejection slips, about failed love, about the unnecessary changes she
wished to impose upon me. Punching the words out, thats what has
You could buy a
new couch, you know, she returned to the hulking topic that dominated her
head. She did believe that making me change my furniture would be the stepping
stone toward turning me into whatever the fuck she thought I could
getting a new couch. Every stain, every dent, every inch of the worn-out fabric
whats bothering you! I snapped my fingers and guffawed. It was
meant to be a silent thought, but the wine pushed it out of my
she hung her head and twirled her long, ash-blonde hair around her
slithered to the couch next to her, the bottle still in my tight grip, we
both have a past. Were old enough that having a past is warranted. And
Im...its not because of the past I refuse to throw away my
I just like them,
and see no reason to waste money on buying new stuff when these are still
perfectly fucking fine.
You keep them
because the memories fuel your damn writing.
nodded. Without memories and booze, I wouldnt be able to write.
But, thats all there is to it.
care about the future. You only care for your damn stories; even I am
but a story. A goddamn story that hasnt been written yet; maybe, you wait
for our relationship to end, so you can drink and write about it. Then,
youll move on to the next story. And the next.
I drank long. She was
right. Ive been accused of it many a time before, and they all were
rightexcept for two, but theyre gone now, and they, too, became
stories, though they belong in every single story.
like that, I mumbled. I just
I like how things are, I
dont want unnecessary changes.
Not even if those
changes would make me happier?
So, you should be
happier and I should be more miserable? Is that how this
She sighed and hung her head. You dont understand
anything, do you?
not, I concurred. Wine failed to illumine what in the hell I didnt
Well, I better
leave, she clambered up to her feet, slithering out of my weak attempt to
hug her. Ill call you tomorrow, maybe. Think about what I told
I drank some more wine
and watched herher head low and with a single tear glistering as it
rolled down her cheekgo to the kitchen, put her shoes on, and walk out of
my apartment, muttering a half-hearted goodbye.
After draining the
second bottle of wine, I staggered to my feet, locked the front door, rolled
down all blinds, and sat in front of my computer with a new bottle of wine to
my left and a new pouch of Craven tobacco to my right.
I fired up some Hank
Williams and George Jones οn the computer, cranking the volume up
so that the heartache could properly be transferred through the headphones. I
couldnt write. The blank Word page stared back at me with great
anticipation and even greater vindictiveness.
I took a good swig of
wine and swirled on my creaking leather desk chair, letting my somewhat blurry
gaze gad about the small room Id called home for a good long while.
Almost all the furniture had been there since day oneback then, they were
almost brand new. Now, they were covered in drug stains, sex stains, and
Was she right? Would
trading them for new ones inaugurate a new epoch? Was Alexa the one to make me
start afresh? Wine said yes and no, and with that uncertainty twisting my heart
and head, I drank some more.
I killed the internet
connection and unplugged the headphones, letting Hank and George and Alan and
Waylon moan and bellow their pain through the speakers. I flung myself on the
couch, the bottle and a yellow legal pad on my lap.
It was time for another
conscious trip to blackout island, letting the scribbling of a forgotten night
reveal the truths of the soul.
The wine only created
lines about lost love, about the two women that werent just stories but
imbued into the furniture and the room and the very depths of my psyche. With
the third bottle just as empty as my soul, and my mind still sober enough to
worry about syntax and spelling, I employed the help of my most faithful of
I cracked a fresh
bottle of Four Roses and the first good gulp out of the bottle was enough to
flood my heart with the brilliant warmth that only the wine of the soul can
A few swigs, and some
badly rolled cigarettes, later, I reached my destination.
Morning found me on the
floor, my body almost nailed to the dirty wooden boards while some evil monkeys
banged their bongos in horrendous attempts to make music.
Lifting my head off the
floor by a mere inch sent thunderous jolts of pain across my body. I flinched
and rubbed my pulsating temples. My brain wanted out, it had decided it was
time to bail and was preparing for the grand explosion.
The wet sock of a gym
rat had replaced my tongue and several insects thought my mouth an appropriate
location for mass suicide. My stomach whirled and when I sat up I gagged,
swallowing down a smidgen of vomit that burned my throbbing throat as it glided
I leaned against the
door of my closet that bore too many holesresults of punches and kicks
thrown during explosions of rage against the whole wide worldcovered
under duct tape and pictures of great (drunkard) authors.
With the help of my
sturdy desk, I pushed myself up to my feetand a small chunk of thin wood
clanked when it landed on the floor. There was no time to contemplate that, as
I sprinted to the bathroom and buried my head in the toilet, my entire body
seizing as my intestines staged a coup and ordered a mass evacuation for all my
The world spun as I
staggered out of the bathroom, with water still dripping off my unkempt beard,
and I grabbed two ice-cold bottles of beer; I chugged the first just so I could
get some fluid back into my sere carcass, and the fuzziness removed the first
layer of the hangover.
I collapsed on the
couch with the second bottle and rolled a cigarette with meticulous moves,
biting my tongue that had stopped feeling like a woolen sock, as I tried to
make it as straight-up as my shaking fingers would allow.
The first drag almost
sent me flying back to the toilet; with some beer, I swallowed the remaining
pieces of my intestines back to the place eons of evolution have dictated for
them and gazed about the room that hadnt changed in years.
With the cigarette
dangling from my lips, and the rising thin sheaths of smoke burning my
nostrils, I lowered at the legal pad sitting on the couch; several pages were
filled with new scribbling. Deciphering my drunken handwriting made me feel
compassion for archaeologists studying hieroglyphics or the Disk of
My trip to blackout
island did not yield the results Id expected, or hoped for; for the most
part, I wrote about the lost true loves and my deep-rooted loathing toward
change. Nonetheless, slivers of emotion toward Alexa and of hope regarding a
potential future with her emerged out of the ireful lines.
I drained the beer and
crushed my cigarette in the overflowing ashtray. My phone sat neglected on the
coffee table, buried amidst some towers of books. I had no calls, nor texts;
just the way I like it. For a moment, I contemplated calling Alexa, in order
I had no idea what Id say, what I wanted to say. I put it back on
the table and clambered to my feet.
My head continued to
spin and my stomach to whirl; beer wouldnt do the job, so I employed the
best assassin for the job: a burning hammerhalf rum, half vodka, with a
splash of orange juice and a dash of bourbon. Its namesake wrestling move is
considered one of the (if not the) most dangerous of the
With my lethal
concoction in hand, I cranked up some good country music and leaned back on the
desk chair, staring out at the grey skydarker clouds moved in, and soon
it was pouring. Glad I had nowhere to be and nothing to do, I toasted the
rainstorm and cachinnated at the people galloping on the streets with their
jackets pulled over their heads.
I stole a final glimpse
of my apartment, while Hank moaned about his lonesomeness, and faced the
whispering ghosts occupying every inch of the tight confines of what sometimes
felt like home and other times like a coffin.
With an unlit cigarette
dangling from my lips, I returned to the war against the novel, against the
word, and against the world.
Time flew by, as I sank
two or three burning hammers before switching to tequila. Hank and George sang
the blues and the rain had not stopped hammering the flooded street, keeping
everyone locked inside.
A knock on the door had
me spinning on the chair and I clenched my fist into a tight ball. Ready to
land a brilliant jab on whoever braced the storm to pay me an unwelcome visit,
I strode to the front door.
May I come
in? Alexa stood all soaked at the doorstep, sporting that radiant smile
that had hooked me like a fish going for the worm when I first met her in my
I mumbled and stumbled aside. Her long, damp hair fell heavily over her
shoulders and I dragged from my cigarette, unable not to stare at her taking
off her coat and boots, her tight leggings perfectly hugging her firm bottom
and long, slim legs.
It smells like a
distillery in here.
Did have a couple
oclock, she remarked.
So? In Australia,
they must be rushing to get their last call orders in.
scoffed and went to the bathroom to dry up.
It was with immense
comfort and speed shed made herself at home in my apartment; on the one
hand, I dug it because it reminded me of others, and, on the other hand, I
loathed it because it signaled her intention to stick around.
So, did you do
anything other than drink today?
writing, I shrugged.
My heart leaped to my
throat when she headed toward the couch with one of her damn grape sodas; my
legal pad still lay there, and one of my drunken poems went like this:
and bad friends will/make you change, make you/get new shit to look like
you/ve made it, will insist you/improve; they fail/to understand
youre just/fine, theyre the ones/in need of change, theyre
the ones/fucking up your life and your/mojo. kick bad women and/bad friends to
the curb while/you still have a soul/to lose.
deduce she belonged to the bad women category; a fight would erupt
and with enough booze in my bloodstream not to have a filter in my mouth,
things could get beyond ugly.
Mind if I take a
look? She tapped the legal pad.
early drafts, dont bother, I shook my head and wrung the legal pad
out of her hands, shoving it in a drawer of my desk. Drafts are for no
ones eyes, I explained and had a swig of tequila.
Let me guess,
theyre about me.
Anything good, or
is it all bad?
I was drunk,
havent read what I wrote yet.
then, she sighed and ran her fingers through her still-moist hair that
had begun curling up on the edges. You know, I drove here
I arched an eyebrow and
drained my lowball, immediately refilling it to the brim.
she explained, tomorrow we can drive to some stores, look at new
she cleared her throat. You dont have to buy
anything, I just thought, itd be a good idea to, itd be a nice
outing at any rate, and, just that, have a look at what there is out there,
and, just spend a nice afternoon outside together, thats all, she
added in uncertain whispers, pausing after every few words.
For a few moments, I
remained silent, clenching and unclenching my fists as I tried to filter out
all the curse words that swam in my mouth, ready to be launched like nuclear
cannonballs. Her inquisitive stare remained glued on me and I knewI
fucking knewI had to agree with her. If I didnt, shed
leave for good. Or, at the very least, the dynamic of the relationship would
shift, naturally for the worse.
sighed, failing to hide my exasperation. We can go tomorrow, see
just to have a look, I added, knowing very damn well I
was lying both to her and, most importantly, to myself.
Of course. Of
course, if you like something
Why she said
you, instead of we, or even I, is beyond me. We both knew
she was gonna get her way. It was the carrot and whip principle, I
suppose; making me feel as if I had a choice, so I wouldnt complain too
much when she got her way.
I cracked a beer and
brewed some coffee for her; I had to slow down, pace myself into a comfortable
drinking rhythm that wouldnt allow for explosions of rage. After all,
what I needed the most was to be left the fuck aloneand its the one
thing that has always, and forever shall, eluded me.
The day, and night,
went by rather slow; we talked, watched a couple of movies, had sex, and fell
asleep. In a way, it felt goodnothing of importance occurred, nothing
worth mentioning or remembering. Most days are like this; every day ought to be
even a tad excited? She asked as she drove into the freeway, heading for
the big IKEA store some twenty minutes away from where I lived.
I groaned and rubbed my throbbing temples. She hadnt allowed me a drop of
booze in the morning and coffee just cant defeat the hangover.
shows, she scoffed.
youd let me have a drink, Id be a bit more
have one drink, youd want to have a second; before too long, youd
be pouring your tenth drink and wouldnt be in any condition to go to the
I rubbed my closed
eyelids, pushing my eyeballs back to their place as they seemingly wanted to
lunge at the windshield, and swallowed down all the baneful words that swirled
in the back of my throat. She was not the kind to shove me out of the car in
the middle of the freeway, but I do possess the talent to enrage the women in
my life, and peeving her while we did something I did not want to do would only
add to the pointlessness of the whole charade.
We parked, and she
skipped into the store, while I clambered behind her. I glanced at all the dull
faces around me, the dull families, the dull couples; everything and everyone
was dull. The world is dull; only proper dives are not dull, and thats
You can try and
smile, you know, she chirped.
she rolled her eyes and crossed her fingers around mine as we climbed the long
stairs to the upper floor where the furniture was exhibited for the
surrounded me, all decorated and arranged with care and deliberation, making
you want to buy everything as it was and change your life by changing your
surroundings. Was there a point?
there anything you liked? She protested in exasperation after wed
toured the floor without my showing enthusiasm even once.
plenty of neat stuff, I shrugged. I just dont need any of it.
You can be really
stubborn, you know that? Dont tell me that this couch isnt better
yes. And more comfortable, and more elegant, and more
I told you, if
its money youre worried about, Ill gladly chip in. After all,
I do spend an awful lot of time in your place.
once we move in together, well use the furniture.
Once we what? I
almost bawled; the lack of booze in my bloodstream made it easy to choke down
about down the road, dont worry, she continued. At any rate,
you know Ive got some money, I dont mind chipping
Its not a
question about money. even though I dont have any, I
didnt add. I just like my old stuff and see no reason to trade them
in for newer models that will have to be broken in before they become somewhat
How about this
desk? Isnt it gorgeous?
A simple glass desk; no
drawers, just a modern design, and a cold look. There were no sharp edges, no
areas where the cheap paint had been scraped away, no stains of melting junk or
spilled booze. It had no character, it was the kind youd see in a
magazineor in a house that hadnt seen life in it for
closet! She bellowed again.
again, elegant and lifeless. No holes on its doors, no reason to cover it in
black and white pictures of great heroes of the pastHem and Scott and Buk
and Fante would look out of place on that atrocious thing whose only purpose
was to store clothes.
My old closet had holes
that represented punches while drunkenly outraged at the world (or at some
woman), had holes that brought forth memories of heated fucking sessions while
high on ice and drunk on fortified wine. That thing looked sturdy enough to
break a hand if it got clocked. I didnt need a closet that could punch
Just the perfect kind of hard; great to sleep on! Itll do wonders for
Did I have back
problems that I wasnt aware of? I kept shrugging and rubbing my temples,
needing nothing but a waterglass of straight bourbon. And, most certainly, I
did not need new furniture.
After a long time, and
with her insistence ravaging my nervous system, I caved in. We bought the stuff
she liked and arranged for their delivery. The movers would also take away my
old stuff. Itd happen in two-three days.
Look a little
happier! She planted a wet kiss on my cheek as we walked out of the
storemy bank account was depleted, I couldnt even afford green beer
and rotgut. Thankfully, I had some hooch and tobacco left in the
apartmentif I hadnt, homicide might have appeared a little too
Just imagine how
much better itll look in a few days! She said in great
enthrallment, as she threw herself on my old couch, cupping a mug of steaming
coffee with both hands.
I groaned and sank the first glass of tequila. I gave
me a hefty refill and cracked a Corona beermentally traveling to Mexico,
to some lonesome white-sand beach in the middle of nowhere, without a single
soul for miles. Me, the open ocean, and perhaps some wildlife.
Cheer up! You
havent regretted it, have you?
no, I lied and drank up.
I remained seated on my
desk chair, knocking back tequila and beer, and my head began to spin. I peered
about at the apartment that was homethough I refused to call it
thusand which was about to change radically for reasons I couldnt
understand. All I had to do was put my foot down and tell her I did not want to
change my furniture.
I didnt; that
meant Id paid a shitload of money, which I could have used for booze, for
stuff I didnt need nor want. Miraculously enough, I did not get mean or
crazy drunk; we watched movies, we listened to music, we talked. And the booze
helped me pass out without tossing and boxing with the sheets plagued by
macabre thoughts and suicidal desires.
When the movers came,
she wasnt there; the two fellas did arch an eyebrow when I answered the
door with a waterglass of bourbon in my hand, but they didnt comment.
They just carried the old furniture away and brought in the new. In about an
hour, my apartment had been transformed.
I stood under the
doorframe connecting the room and the kitchen, staring, with my blood boiling,
at the altered apartment. It felt wrong, it appeared wrong, it was
wrong. This wasnt home, it wasnt the place in which Id
gotten drunk and high on too many substances (the mentioning of which might
render the story unpublishable in the current environment), and had sex with
too many women.
The memories of the two
women that did wrap me around their fingers remained there, but the
surroundings were too different, eviscerating the hazy from hooch and drugs
memories. A stranger in my own home, I sat in the new desk chair that
didnt creak and fired up a Word file, writing several bad poems, and a
couple of good ones, while fueling up on bourbon.
Wow, it looks
even better than Id thought! She said that same evening when she
visited after work.
slurred even that simple word, already having a fifth of bourbon in my
bloodstream. Its fucking amazing, isnt it?
You hate it,
dont you? She scoffed, and a film of disappointment covered her
fucking loathe it.
Why did you agree
to it, then?
How many times
did I say no?
we didnt have to buy anything. You said okay at the
pestered me about it for hours! You wouldnt take no for a fucking
said. Im always drunk. Its how I cope with lifes
Am I also
More often than
home, she announced and put her shoes and jacket back on just ten minutes
after shed taken them off. Ill come by tomorrow when
youve sobered up.
I slammed the door
behind her and locked it. I clocked the closet; I managed a faint crack on the
wood and a massive bruise on my knuckles. Bourbon subdued the pain.
I collapsed on the new
fucking couch that was all too hard and uncomfortable. I stomped it, punched
it, hollered expletives at it. It wouldnt budge, it remained hard and
uncomfortable, unsuitable for proper drinking.
With two fifths of
bourbon in me, I finally passed out without noticing I was sleeping on the new
Are you feeling
better? She stood rather timidly outside the door, scuffing her feet and
holding her hands crossed.
barked and beckoned her inside; my heart was in my throat and nuclear bombs
detonated all over my brain.
here? Her eyes bulged when she stepped into the room.
Tried to fix
them, I shrugged and cracked a beer. Not even chugging it helped with
mellowing the damn hangover down.
They brought them
yesterday, and youve already
She ran her fingers through her
hair and a glowing tear rolled down her cheek.
The closet had received
a few cracks; in reconciliation, it had bloodied my knuckles up. The couch
sported a couple of cigarette burns; the mattress had been stomped and a couple
of the new beds wooden plates had broken. Only the desk survived my
wrath; perhaps, even while drunk out of my mind and lost in high emotions, I
was sensible enough not to take it out on a glass fucking desk that would
shatter with one punch.
I dont know
what to say, she mumbled, standing dismayed in the middle of the
I told you I
didnt need new stuff, I said dryly, using rum to get my hangover
Is this how you
react to changes? What if we move in together? If I want new things, if I
changes, I stated. I made it perfectly clear to you from the start;
you simply refused to listen.
This is not my
I gotta go, Im sorry. I
I never saw her again.
That day, I swilled rum
till I passed out on the desk chair. The new stuff remainsthe old ones
had been sent to a recycling center, hence rescuing them was out of the
questionand every night, after several drinks, I try to break them in,
make them feel old.
No luck yet. I did buy
a baseball bat that might do the trick.