The Cruelest of Ironies

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Other  |  House: Booksie Classic
A short, sad, and sobering story about the effects of alcohol on a relationship.

Submitted: November 26, 2007

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Submitted: November 26, 2007

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The Cruelest of Ironies

 

 

 

A short, sad, and sobering story.






Draft Five

 

 

 

It would seem appropriate, then, that the funeral would be held in the pouring rain – a healthy sort of rain, at least, but still a rain. Standing there in my crumpled suit (it had ceased to be fresh and pressed several days ago), I couldn’t help but think back on the cruel irony that life had played on the young lady in the casket. Life, the eternal bum, snatched her from us in a way that even Hitchcock couldn’t have imagined – and life laughed as she did it.

 

Oh, and the young lady now in the casket was wonderful: with grey-blue eyes, and brownish hair with hints of blonde streaks, just lightly-enough tanned skin, and an eternally kissable mouth. That was, I think, the most wonderful thing about her, the small and pink mouth that dripped with sensuousness, just asking to be kissed. Her laugh was musical, her voice a husky southern, and her smile, if you were lucky enough to get it, was one of the most wonderful sensations to receive.

 

She and I attended the same small university – that’s how we met. I developed the habit of walking from my last class ‘till lunch across campus to the coffee bar where I would munch on cinnamon rolls and drink a Neapolitan. I would pass her and a group of her friends headed the opposite direction – and every time she would look back at me; not smiling, no, but looking with that attractive desire. She was the one, not I, who stopped one day as I passed her group of friends, turned around, and introduced herself to me.

 

Over time, we became quite fond of each other, attending each other’s parties (I threw rather alcoholic ones), watching the sunset over the ocean, eating cinnamon rolls together and laughing at the coffee bar. She developed quite a fondness for Neapolitans, too. We began to spend more and more time together – at the expense of her friends. But she told me she didn’t care. As for me, I had no friends besides her – and I didn’t need any after I met her. I felt like we would be together always; how romantic we would become was unknown to me. She was, at the very least, a good friend I could always count on, one I felt like I loved, just a little bit.

 

And I tried to make this patiently obvious fact apparent to her one clear afternoon as the sun began it’s downwards ascent towards the water. We were talking about nothing in particular – just chatting, and I found myself deeply attracted to her, of a sudden. Without knowing what I was doing, I leaned over and attempted to kiss her, failing, because she saw me coming; she quickly pulled her head back. She had a good laugh at my expense – and I was utterly crushed. Not today, she told me, not today.

 

So I continued to admire her from afar, while remaining very close to her. I felt profound as I thought of that cruel irony. I am a very stupid person.

 

You might wonder, if she had looked that wonderful, wouldn’t many guys hang around near her, hoping against hope that they would attract her attention? They did, but she was smarter than that. She would always keep me around during those times, and hammer home the concept that she was interested in no one but me – and that not in a romantic way, it would seem.

 

Such memories would come to me again and again – they were all I had left of her.

 

The memories faded and whisked away, and I looked up. The healthy rain was still falling, and JR was looking down at the casket in a defiant way, challenging it, in a sense daring it to affirm the horrible truth that she was gone. The little priest was still giving his eulogy, so I slipped back into the depths of memory…

 

JR. He was one of her “friends”, though I suspected he really just wanted some. Approaching five foot seven, JR had a perpetual expression on his face that screamed “I dare ya!”. Why she tolerated him is beyond me – perhaps she felt some pity for him.

 

He had, I believe, the “little man syndrome”. I intensely disliked him, because he was always saying stupid things like “if I wanted her, I could have her”. Thus, I fell into the habit of always showing some sort of affection towards her, while he was in our presence. I could tell it killed him, but he was never man enough to speak of it to my face – perhaps because I always “hid” behind the presence of the young lady who is now in the casket. I am no hero.

 

I noticed that JR was standing in the rain, inappropriately dressed in a sloppy looking blue collared shirt (un-tucked, as it were), and baggy blue jeans. I wanted to slap him, because of his sloppiness. I felt it was an insult to her.

 

The little priest finished his eulogy, did the required things with the dust and the ashes, crossed himself, and abruptly walked away. I suddenly noticed that there was quite a crowd gathered ‘round the casket, saying their final goodbyes.

 

The rain began to let up, after depositing several alarmingly deep puddles here and there. I noticed JR picking his way around the puddles, carrying a ridiculously large umbrella. He stopped when he saw me; after folding his umbrella, he put out his hand.

 

I was such a yellow-belly that I pumped his hand with great fervor, grinning like a clown.

 

We exchanged our sympathy for the deceased’s family, and all the other pleasantries. Why is it that people are at their most pleasant at funerals?

 

“Do you – I mean, let’s go to the coffee bar that she, uh,” he then said, somewhat mournfully.

 

Idiot. It was I who showed her the coffee bar, and he knew it. But I only replied with:

 

“Yeah, I know. Don’t know if I can go – might have an appointment or something.”

 

“I know you don’t like me, but you could have the common courtesy to tell me to my face, or you could go with me.”

 

How I hated him.

 

He looked up at me defiantly, and said: “We’ll go in my car – my new car.”

 

I went with him, perhaps for her sake.

 

We drove; rather, he drove in silence to the coffee bar. It was closed, and I wasn’t particularly disappointed. However, JR wanted to talk, so I sat in the passenger seat of his nice used car and listened to him rant about this and that, and finally, her.

 

“I guess all I wanted to say that maybe she wouldn’t have died if you hadn’t been so drunk that night,” he said.

 

“What the heck, man. What do a couple of cocktails have to do with her death?”

 

“It wasn’t just a couple of cocktails. It was more like three or four.”

 

“You were counting?” I asked rather harshly.

 

He ignored this. “You would have gone with her if you hadn’t been wasted, she wanted you to. I’m not denying she liked you. Perhaps she even loved you. But you were drunk, maybe stoned. You were the only one who could have stopped her that night, and you failed, you bum!”

 

He was right, I had to admit.

 

She and I went to a post-graduation party together, and I was soon completely wasted. I shouldn’t have taken so many cocktails, but I was relieved to be out of college, finally, and on to the next phase of life. My suit, incidentally, was pressed and fresh at that time, but I would soon get it crumpled that night. I could sense the shame and disappointment that she had in me, but I couldn’t care – I was too drunk.

 

At 2:30, she told me she was leaving, and did I want to come with them? I slurred a no, because I was receiving attention from another young lady. I wanted to stay and drink more – JR was there, too, but he hadn’t taken a drop. He asked, as usual, if he could ride along with her to ostensibly protect her, but she (as usual) refused his request, leaving sadly without me.

 

I remember getting into an argument with a bartender about how much I had taken, and swinging wildly at him – but I missed, and something crashed on my head, and I woke up a few hours later sick at my stomach.

 

“I got you out of there, man. I drove you back to your dorm, and gave you the seltzer and coffee, and then I went looking for her – you were still too disoriented to know where you were.”  JR’s diatribe brought me back to the real world. Odd, I thought, that JR’s train of thought would follow mine so closely.

 

“God, she – “

 

JR nodded. “Because of you. You were so drunk you couldn’t even think about the one thing that mattered to you, and now she’s dead.”

 

He suddenly asked me if I wanted a smoke.

 

“I don’t smoke. You know that.”

 

He changed the subject abruptly.

 

“Did you ever kiss her?” he said.

 

“Is that any of your business?” I shot back.

 

“I guess not. I’m sorry. I’m a little overwhelmed by her death. It was so - sudden.”

 

“It took us all by surprise.”

 

I felt justifiably selfish, for I wanted her back, and justifiably angry at JR. I could sense he was blaming me in a way for her death, and I resented it. It occurred to me that a small memorial party for the deceased was taking place right as I spoke, right as I was wasting time talking to JR. But there was no way to get there on time without asking JR to go.

 

“JR, do you want to go to the memorial?”

 

“I wasn’t invited – can I still come?”

 

“I don’t think that anyone would mind. You were one of her biggest admirers, you know. Anyone could understand me and you showing up. And I think she would want us to go.”

 

“You can keep your  philosophy to yourself. Where do we go?”

 

“It’s at Aiesha’s place. You know where that is?”

 

“Yeah, I think.”

 

As we drove; rather, he drove, I studied his profile. He had, of course, squinty hateful eyes, brown hair that trickled down the sides of his head, and a nose that was slightly too long. Looking at him reminded me of a conversation the young lady and I had in the summer before our senior year – as usual, I had a beer in my hand. Feeling slightly jubilant, I decided to attempt kissing her once more, but she pushed me away again, giggling.

 

“You know I love you. Please kiss me,” I murmured.

 

She was sitting on top of a picnic table, dressed in a conservative t-shirt that said nothing about her physique, and a mini-skirt that revealed enough of her just tan enough skin without making her a whore. How I loved her.

 

She giggled again. “You know, JR said those very words to me yesterday. He tried to kiss me too!”

 

“What? Where was I in all this?”

 

“I think you were – drinking,” she said with a sigh.

 

“Did you – “

 

Hard swallow.

 

“Did you kiss him back?”

 

“No, silly! I didn’t kiss him. He’s too girly for me.”

 

Raised eyebrow.

 

“Girly?”

 

“Well, yes, he’s always singing to himself and playing his guitar and he takes too long to do his hair – and his hair is too greasy…”

 

At that moment, JR went walking by not 100 yards from where we sat. Thanks to great providence, he did not see us, but continued singing in an off-key manner one of the more popular songs of that summer.

 

“There he goes, with his off-key singing.” I remarked, somewhat snobbishly.

 

I then proceeded to making some insulting remark about his lack of manliness; perhaps it was that very condition that made him sing off-key.

 

She giggled yet again, and put her hands to her mouth. I loved her even more.

 

“That’s terrible!” she finally managed to spit out; not terrible enough, I observed, to keep her from giggling uncontrollably – which brought more giggles. I never failed to get a warm glow that only came when I could make her laugh.

 

“Why are you smiling?” JR asked, bringing me back to the car and to the present.

 

“It’s more than a long story.” I replied.

 

The healthy rain began again in earnest as we pulled up at Aiesha’s house. Not really a house, I thought, more like a party shack. That’s all she did there – party and get drunk. Like what I had been doing these past four years, well, eight if you count high school. But I had to call it quits. Too many people had been hurt by my ceaseless drinking, and now someone was dead and gone because I was wasted. It was a hard lesson to learn.

 

JR and I sat in his increasingly not-so-nice used car for maybe twenty minutes, watching the rain fall on the windshield, watching people splash through the soaked front yard (treeless, as it were), watching cars go by on the many-patched road that we were parked on. I thought about several things and nothing in particular, and I had a burst of inspiration not to speak to JR or to anyone. He remained silent as well. It finally occurred to me that we had been sitting in his car for nearly twenty minutes, and at the same time, JR broke the silence with:

 

“I hope they aren’t playing any inappropriate music.”

 

Ironically, it was the exact same thing I was thinking.

 

We got out of the car and splashed just like everyone else to the front porch, where two guys were sitting in beat up lawn chairs and smoking Marlboro Lights. JR took this scene for an excuse to light up, and I decided to try to salvage what was left of my crumpled suit and my dignity.

 

“JR, wait for a sec while I straighten my tie.”

 

He looked at me with a cynical glare, blew smoke into the air and towards me, and began to open the scratched and beat-up front door.

 

I stopped him again.

 

“Wait, JR. I have something to ask you.”

 

He didn’t reply, but paused and waited for me to speak.

 

“I think you should really tuck in your shirttail. I think she would like it.”

 

One of the guys sitting on the porch threw his cigarette into a puddle in the lawn and began to laugh at me, stopping abruptly when he saw that I was serious.

 

“She was always talking about how sloppy you looked – and this is her memorial, after all. Just do it; at least do it for her.”

 

He put his cigarette in his mouth and tucked in his shirt, still glaring at me.

 

“Does that make you happy now?” he asked.

 

He opened the door without waiting for an answer and went in. I followed suit.

 

There was inappropriate music playing inside. Ironically, the songs were all about having a good time or getting high or drunk – the very things she railed against in our classes in college. This wasn’t her crowd that was flowing and bunching around her too-large picture, no, this was a crowd who would take the death of the dean as an excuse to get drunk. They flowed from the nasty front hall out to the cracked dining room, to the bedrooms where debauchery unknown was occurring, out to the nasty back porch where some of them were soaking wet, due to the holes in the tin roof. Apparently, they were unaware of even this calamity, because of their inebriation.

 

I saw several of my drinking buddies, drinking. No surprise there, I laughed. The music continued to play songs about not going to rehab, and I sought vainly for the radio that was playing the crap – so that I might pull the plug and silence the indecent music.

 

JR had vanished – I didn’t miss him either. Several of my old drinking buddies came up to me and attempted to engage me in an alcoholic conversation, but I didn’t have the stomach to put up with them and their drunkenness. I pushed past them and their beer, and continued to look for the radio, or computer, or whatever it was that was spitting out the inappropriate music.

 

Before I could find it, however, I ran into Jessica, one the last people that I wished to run into. She was one of the chicks that I had made out with at that party. She was carrying two cocktails in her hand, looked up, saw me, and gave a cocktail to me. I looked at it stupidly.

 

It seemed to me that Jessica’s hair was too blonde, her eyes too green, and her body too welcoming. She was, in a sense, a plastic blonde. Of course she was beautiful. But it wasn’t a wholesome beauty, like the young lady whom I had loved. Why I liked Jessica I will probably never know.

 

“How’ve ya been, stud?” she asked me vaguely drunkenly.

 

I noticed that the bad music pounded into our conversation, making her barely hearable.

 

They tried to make me go to rehab but I said 'no, no, no'

 

“Not so well, Jessica. I’m stunned by the death of this wonderful girl. What have you been doing with yourself lately?”

 

Yes I've been black but when I come back you'll know, know, know

 

“Partying! Eeee! I miss her so much, we used to go to the best parties together, ya know?” She took another sip of her cocktail.

 

I ain't got the time and if my daddy thinks I'm fine

 

“You hardly hung out with her,” I said icily. She hardly noticed – she was too far gone.

 

He's tried to make me go to rehab but I won't go, go, go

 

“Well, we went to the best parties together! Hey, do you not want your cocktail? You were pretty wasted that night, weren’t you? We sure did have a lot of fun, babe…”

 

The music increased in volume and changed to an even more inappropriate song, and I began to lose track of the conversation… it seemed to go on and on meaninglessly for an interminable time.

It was out of a great void when I said to her:

 

“I’ve stopped drinking, Jessica. It’s too dangerous to my health and yours, and it killed our friend.”

 

She seemed not to notice or to care, instead continuing to talk about nothing in particular

 

“Here, have my cocktail,” I said, giving it to her. Alas, it slipped out of her unsteady hand and fell to the floor, where the glass broke and soaked what was left of the cocktail on my nice shoes and her sandals. She did have cute toes, I thought.

 

 Leaving her standing there giggling drunkenly, I pushed through the crowd, looking feverishly for the radio. No, not there on the table, that was just more liquor bottles. No, not there on the floor, that was vomit.

 

It couldn’t be found, I concluded, after looking for it for what seemed like fifteen minutes. Someone later told me I was stumbling around for over an hour. They thought I was drunk.

 

During the course of the party or memorial (whichever it was), I started and quickly finished several meaningless conversations with meaningless drunken fools, noting that  the conversations invariably had nothing to do with the deceased.  I soon realized that I had stayed too long, and all I could do was try to escape those people and their circular, redundant, inebriated lifestyle.

 

I found the front door after a while, and the front porch not long after. The rain had stopped sometime before, and I noticed that it was now quite dark. It turns out I had been at the party for quite a long time. JR was sitting in one of the lawn chairs, talking to someone who I didn’t quite place yet. I leaned up against the side of the house, against the firm yet old bricks that made up this sick place, trying almost vainly to breathe.

 

It finally occurred to me that JR was talking to Tomas D’Iberville. Tomas was a kindly sort, if not bookish. He was dressed, appropriately, in a nice suit that wasn’t crumpled and wasn’t stained. His hair was parted over to one side and his little glasses gave him an air of superiority, but I didn’t mind. He was smoking some sort of cigar – I later discovered it was a Graycliff. Tomas always smoked expensive cigars – perhaps that’s why I liked him.

 

I walked over to him and put my hand out to be shaken. He did so, rather politely, but I could tell he thought I had been drinking.

 

“I haven’t, Tom.” I said.

 

“Haven’t what?” he asked me, in an oh-so-polite way.

 

“Haven’t been drinking. Haven’t done it in two weeks. I know that’s what you were thinking, wasn’t it?”

 

He did not reply to that, instead saying: “I just got in from Atlantic City. I keep a girl there, you know. What the heck happened? I came looking for” - and he said her name -  “and instead I hear that she’s dead, and that it was partially your fault.”

 

That pained me, but it was true, I reflected.

 

“She left a post-graduation party at Mark’s, drove two miles south towards her dorm, was minding her own business crossing an intersection on a green light, and some drunk ran the red light and – “

 

He cut me off.

 

“Good God!”

 

“And I wasn’t with her, because I was stone drunk.” I said. “You’re right, it was my fault. If I hadn’t been drinking all night we would have left earlier and she might be alive right now…”

 

We looked at the porch floor sadly.

 

“It’s a cruel irony, Tom,” I finally said. “She railed against drinking and drunk driving, and tried to get me to stop drinking – and I wouldn’t; now she’s dead of a drunk driver.”

 

We continued to talk for a while, recounting all the good times we had spent with her.

Perhaps the only comfort, I thought, was that the drunk was getting life in prison for manslaughter one. But that didn’t bring her back. I suddenly wished that it was me that was lying in that grave now, instead of her. But it wasn’t. And there was nothing I could do about it.

 

JR puffed one last time on his cigarette, and then stood up.

 

“Come on, dude. Let’s go. You surprised me tonight.”

 

“How so?” I asked.

 

“You didn’t drink at all. I honestly think that her dying scared the heck out of you.”

 

“You’ve no idea, JR, you’ve no idea.”

 

“The cruelest of ironies…” Tomas repeated. He stood up, threw his cigar on the floor, stamped it out, and walked inside.

 

 


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