Trust your instinct … load of shit,” Albie muttered to himself. He swallowed self-consciously and tried not to taste the memory of bourbon that could haunt him. Day after day. Through every long night.

The mornings were hard. But who was he kidding? The afternoons, evenings and nights were hideous as well. And it was his fucking instinct that was doing it.

The compulsion to have a drink seemed to have become the only thing that could propel him to move, the only driver of his weary body. And yet he had to force himself to use some other energy – from somewhere else – to deny that urge. It was unnatural. What was in him was the need to drink. That was his instinct. So the naïve pontificators with their platitudes about ‘following your passion’ and ‘doing what you were born to do’ would have been mildly entertaining if there weren’t so many of them that it was far from laughable. Their banal bullshit almost made him angrier than his own thirst for booze. He didn’t need people whose idea of suffering was high heels or a meagre pay-rise on their comfortable salary telling him the principles by which he should live his life. Especially when they were clearly so very very wrong.

Or perhaps they weren’t. Perhaps his innate desire to drink himself into oblivion was just the kind of natural selection that the planet needed. A few days allowing his instinct to take over and he’d be gone. And perhaps the human race would be better off. But by that reckoning, those high heels would be fatal … and they only seemed to temporarily hobble – as well as maybe facilitating procreation in some circumstances.

So perhaps it was all evolution at work. Weeding out the misfits and perpetuating the population.

Albie sighed. It was exhausting. All the thinking that not drinking left him with. That had been one of the happy side-effects of his relationship with alcohol. Once he knew how to skip the ‘tipsy’ stage and head straight to flat-out drunk, his brain was incapable of any excruciating gymnastics – or at least rendered him unable to remember any if they managed to form amongst the mire. So his hangover had, for a long time, been more physical than mental. Until he had seen himself – a pathetic loser in a sea of vomit and ineptitude – and discovered self-recrimination.

It had been a shock. To see what others had been seeing for so long and to know the disgust and pity that must have been directed towards him when he had been oblivious. It had taken a long time to climb from that pit of shame and degradation. Particularly when Albie had chosen to dig deeper down before attempting any quest for the surface.

But after two years with only a couple of lapses – neither of which had led to a serious bender fuelled by the self-loathing of initial failure – it was the ignorance of others that left a bad taste in his mouth. The busybodies with their pop psychology and their upholstered lives and their brainless clichés. Why did they have to talk at all? Did they think that their ‘everything happens for a reason’s actually added anything to the world? If he ‘followed his heart’ as some of them suggested, they’d be following the vision of his fist towards their face. But that was just fantasy. Another urge that Albie knew not to act upon.

He was bad-tempered. But who wouldn’t be? His thirst had to be denied through every breathing minute and on top of that, he had advice from prissy ‘experts’ barely out of their teens who thought that ‘craving’ was chocolate with reality TV. Who thought ‘hung over’ was vomit and a headache after an evening of alco-pops and fizz. Who thought ‘drunk’ was stockinged feet and songs in the cab queue outside nightclubs.

Proper drunk never came with giggling. Or music. It was the emptiness outside and the darkness within that brought you to your knees. The silence. The grasping desperation to hold on to something – anything – that brought surrender. And then shame. And then greater loneliness than that which had prompted the descent. Nothing could cast a pathetic creature further out on the sea of true isolation than succumbing to his basest instincts. So ‘gut feeling’s and ‘intuition’ and any kind of trust in human need or desire could go fuck themselves. Even if that left him with nothing.

As it did.

Albie had surfed that ocean too many times to resort to plunging in again. He hated the shallows with their conscious thought and memories and clarity but he knew he couldn’t take the pounding anymore, the effort to fight back to standing when he’d let the tide take him deep again.

So he let the silence shriek into his ears. He let the siren call to him through all her many means – an icy glass of wine gathering sweet dew on his television screen, the cheery clink of a toast from a neighbours party, the void of a day with nothing but his own dour company. But he stayed dry.

And for what? More of the same? More days of stupid advice and pointless cheerfulness. More nights that had a timeless reach into his aching soul?

It was the difference between hell and purgatory. And Albie had been to hell. So he was trying limbo for a change.

Some said it got better.

Albie knew it could get worse. So he fought for his place of torture to avoid retracing steps he didn’t have to energy to drag himself across again.

And that was living.


Until it wasn’t anymore.

Until he couldn’t wait for better so he chose oblivion.

And he did it completely. Wholly. Because there would be no way back from that final display of human weakness.

He gave in and let his instinct drive him. His need to end the pain of sobriety but never feel the guilt of drunken failure ever again. Ironically, it felt like a kind of self-preservation. Innate. Natural (‘so it must be good for you’).

He had tried. He had done all that he could do.

But he was a just a man. Not even a bad man, he had finally realised. But simply a man. And one who would not be missed.

Because he had never really been noticed at all.


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