September 25, 2007

“Sickness of a seventeen-year-old...”


by Ben Epstein

As I watched my partially digested dinner splatter into some finely hedged shrubbery, I came to a savory revelation: I drank too much. This wasn’t an unusual occurrence, seeing as I possess the tolerance of a Canadian ballerina, however it still vexed me.

The wired pangs of a guitar could be heard drifting from the dance floor and across the abandoned courtyard in which I now lay, redecorating the greenery. Turning onto my back, feeling the stone tiles dig into my back through the Gucci shirt, I looked up at the stars.

“I love weddings.” I mumbled, reaching for my lowball whiskey glass.

The tips of my numbed fingers struck metal, dislodging the glass from its resting place and sending it cascading to the ground. Rolling over and away from the slowly spreading liquid, I sat up.

“Oh shit.”

Turning and vomiting more, I took off the shirt and wiped my mouth and face with it. That was when I realized how drunk I was—that shirt had been a gift for the wedding. Leaving it wrapped around a tree branch as sacrifice for the sprites to claim, I wandered through the empty tables. Still set with the remains of dessert, they stood like ghosts. Even though I could see the lit windows of the dance hall, it seemed oddly disconcerting. I was alone.

It was that same feeling that crept over me in the late hours before sleep. Finite life on this rock with limited meaning. Even as young as I was, I felt like time was moving too quickly toward a worthless destination. I needed to find something to change that—some way of slowing things down toward a direction and destination of my choosing.

“Feeling a little sick, mate?”

I turned to see an off duty waiter smoking a cigarette by the fountain. It looked like he had snagged a beer on his way out for a breather, which he now used as an ashtray.

“Just a little overwhelmed by it all.” I vaguely replied.

I would have lit up with the gentleman had I not given or smoked away all my cigars for the evening. However, with enough tobacco and alcohol in my veins to kill several Dutch children, it was a good thing.

“How old are ya?” he said with an accent I couldn’t place. Irish?


“Sickness of a seventeen-year-old,” he mused.

I nodded, not quite knowing what to say.

As I looked about for an excuse to leave, he spoke again, “Troublesome years. How do you know the happy couple?”

Meeting his incisive blue eyes, I teetered on the edge of blackout. Several breaths ran through my system before I steadied myself.

“Bride’s my sister.”

“Here’s to ya,” he said, taking an especially long drag of his cigarette before sliding the butt into the beer bottle.

Another few moments passed in which he simply looked at me. I felt as if he were assessing something, seeing if I were fitting. Then, without much ceremony, he nodded.

“Well, be seeing you.”

With that, he took off in the opposite direction from which he had seemed to come. Pushing in some chairs and straightening the tables on his way past them, he removed my shirt from the entanglement of the tree and carried it off with him.

Part of me wished he hadn’t left, as that feeling of mortality crept over me once again. I was alone. My feet throbbed from dancing in shiny shoes and my eyelids felt heavy. Maybe that was how things always would be. People alone only distracted by passing attractions. I shrugged that thought away with a cough—it was too cynical.

I sat by the fountain and stared into the lights until my eyes were shocked awake by the intensity. The sound of running water had a soothing effect over me. I hated being drunk but it wasn’t as if I could have gotten stoned at my sister’s wedding.

The clinking of glasses behind me gave the impression that someone was clearing the tables. Paying no mind to the servants of Barbados, I ran my fingers through the fountain.

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