One last Fling
‘Well that’s it then,’ he said as he dumped the bag, on the sad looking kitchen table.
‘Yep this is it, one last fling,’ she replied as she peered into the bag and began drawing out its contents. A bottle of rum, six ciders and half a dozen cans of beer. She looked at all the alcohol and smiled, then she looked at him. ‘One last fling,’ they said together as they each opened a small bottle, she of cider, he of beer.
There had been lots of last flings, hundreds probably, stretching back over more than a decade. They had not been together for six months when they first realized that perhaps their lives might be better off without alcohol. The stress of moving into a new flat, their first address together caused a drunken argument to spiral out of control. He’d shoved her against a wall and she’d hit her head on a protruding nail.
‘I think we need to stop drinking,’ she said to him as they looked at each other, with bleary eyes over the kitchen table the next morning.
‘Alright,’ he agreed, ‘can we have one last fling?’ He asked. Begrudgingly, she agreed.
Sometimes one last fling would be followed by a period of abstinence, a week, a few days or even just one. Other times it was simply an acknowledgement that they needed to curb their ways. Mostly they buried their heads in the sand and anticipated the gentle hiss as they twisted the top off another bottle.
Other than the general lack of money caused by the constant purchase of alcohol there was no reason to consider the way they led each other into drink, but every so often the mind altering effects of the grog would take a downward turn and there would be broken crockery, fights at 2am in the morning, threatened if not actual violence and visits from the police. Then in aftermath of these events there was a peace that settled over them quite quickly, which took the focus away from their drinking and had them thinking that it was not the alcohol that caused these bumps in the road, but the world itself and the way that everything was completely against them. All the same their boozing would cut back dramatically, if not completely disappear for a time, until those three words which would set the ball rolling towards the ten pins of disaster, were muttered again; one last fling.
As he sucked at the dregs of his third stubby, she was halfway through her second. They began to talk. It was often like this, drinking was solemn activity which called for quiet in its early stages and communication couldn’t begin until the first wisps of the alcohol induced fog had crept into the corners of their brains. Once it began the conversation would flow as freely as the drink itself, the social lubricant working its magic on these two people who had shared so much through so many years but were ultimately strangers. Sometimes the seeds of a fight would sewn in these early stages of drinking as one or the other would say something, a passing comment, sometimes pointed, sometimes not, and the offended party, usually him would continue to sit and drink and smile until several hour and several drinks later suddenly explode.
‘Are you going to do something about the mower?’ She asked suddenly. It had been broken for a month and the lawn was beginning to resemble a jungle. It was just the sort of thing to cause an imminent fight, but he smiled with satisfaction.
‘I spoke to Fred yesterday, he knows a bloke who can fix any problem for fifty bucks,’ he said confidently. She smiled too, a knowing smile. Fred was a mate of his who always promised a lot and delivered little. She was about to say that it was about time something was done, but she held it in.
By the time they’d finished their stubbies and were onto the rum, they were discussing individuals from their past, people who’d wronged them in some insignificant way, people neither of them had seen in years. Darren who had never returned a movie they’d lent him, big fat Eileen who used to come and stay then eat them out of house and home and Paul who’d moved to Queensland and had never called. They did it all to death, like they had so many times before, covering ground that was now a well worn path to nowhere. ‘I bet they’d be jealous if they could see us now,’ he commented. In a moment of clarity she looked around the shabby furnishings of their rented home and out at the car, fifteen year old and ready to break down with each drive.
‘Jealous of what!’ She exclaimed. For a moment his face flashed with anger, and then he shrugged.
‘Oh, I don’t know.’
They’d had a period, almost five year ago when they’d given up drinking for almost a year. With his drinking completely out of hand, he’d strangled her unconscious, and then fallen through a window in his haste to escape what he’d done. Their lounge room was a crime scene and he’d been dragged away by the police, bloodied and incoherent. They didn’t see each other for a month, but before he’d even appeared in court he came back into her life, armed with a promise not to drink again. She took him back and they moved house.
Almost a year went by, eleven months and three days. Things were calm in that time as he generally moved about like a dog with its tail between its legs. Money was if not plentiful then at least adequate, but there was something missing. Something they yearned for on mild summer evenings and cold winter nights, on days when the boredom overwhelmed them, something they only tasted in their dreams, until one Halloween. The bruises on her neck and to cuts to his arms and chest had long since healed and he had suggested, ‘how about one last fling.’ She agreed and the rest was past, present and future.
‘How much have you had of this?’ She asked holding up the half empty bottle of rum, it was long after sunset and the pointless conversation had waned.
‘Same as you,’ he slurred.
‘I doubt that, I’ve only had a few,’ she challenged.
‘Fine, I’ll go and get some more then,’ he retorted, reaching for his car keys
‘No,’ she shouted, snatching them from his hand. The car was a bomb, but they needed it and she was sober enough to see him crashing into a pole as he’d done in their commodore eight years earlier.
‘I can do it, give them here.’
‘Listen I’m fine, give the keys please,’ he said trying to sound nice, but there was fury in his eyes, the explosion was imminent.
‘No,’ she repeated. He stood up, holding the back of the couch for support and curled his hand into a fist.
‘Give them ere you bitch, they’re mine.’ For a moment she considered letting him have them, maybe he’d right himself off as well as the car and she’d be free of him, free to get her life back on track or at the very least no longer have to share the alcohol with him. They stared each other down, two pairs of eyes, filled with hatred.
‘Look, why don’t you just go to bed,’ she yelled. He opened his mouth to say something, but instead he grabbed the bottle of rum and escaped outside where he sat on the back veranda, swigging from the bottle and singing loudly and badly and threatening to wake the children.
She sighed and fished around in the back of the cupboard for a bottle of Champaign that he had no knowledge of. She popped the cork and sat down again, necking the bottle and listening to his tuneless singing because there was nothing else she could do. A tear ran down her cheek because this was her life and she saw no exit to another one. By the time she went to bed he was vomiting, great retches that sounded as if his very being was trying to escape his trembling body. She knew that great piles of vomit would be gathering below the decking where they would stay until he found the energy to wash them away the following afternoon. It was just past midnight when he was finally quiet and knowing that it was over for the night she gave herself up to the darkness and slept.
He was beside her when she woke the next morning, naked, flabby and smelling so bad that she got up even though her head felt like badly treated wood. She fixed some toast and put a movie on for the kids, then waited as she always did for him to stir.
He got up at lunchtime, angry, sore and tired. The horrid sight of him in his grotty underpants brought on a feeling of disgust only equaled by how she felt about herself. She made him a toasted cheese sandwich for no other reason than it was what she always did. He ate it with relish and returned to bed, while she went to the television.
At 5pm he hosed away his vomit, at six he drove down the street to pick up fish and chips for dinner, by eight they were watching a movie, sitting far apart, barely talking as had been the custom all day. By eleven they were in bed, waiting for the night to pass, for the fog to lift, for things to come back to a space where they could both pretend that things were okay.
The following morning he was full of apologies and she opened her legs for him because she knew he’d whine if she didn’t. He took the mower away to get fixed and by lunch that sat together over a round of sandwiches.
‘Who’s going to get the kids from school,’ she said at two thirty, proposing a debate which he was ready to accept. A series of gentle arguments were put forward by both parties but she won out and at a quarter past three he picked up the keys in defeat. He took a step towards the front door, then turned back with a glint in his eye.
‘One last fling,’ he suggested. All the possibilities ran through her mind, things that could go wrong, things that go very wrong, things that had happened, things that were yet to happen, in the end she was kind of thirsty and that’s what got her over the line.
‘Yeah, alright, one last fling.’