Samuel sat inside of his Chevy, shivering. He didn’t bother with the buckle, he wouldn’t need it. On the passenger seat next to him, among the napkins, dirt, and straws, lied a paper bag. The contents of which Samuel was all too familiar.
It started in high school, when there was nothing to do on the weekend. Samuel and his friends would go to the barn, chug a few and goof off. Maybe shoot a gun at the empties, jump into some hay or even attempt to ride the horses. Harmless teens just looking for fun.
But for Samuel, the drink followed him. When he went to college, his “associates” came with him.
“Jack, Jim and the Cap’n!” He would always bellow. “And I can’t forget my six friends…the Bud’s!”
Soon they became his only friends.
The more Samuel consumed, the more the drink consumed him. Weekends bled into weekdays, and his life became a blur. If you asked William, he was alive. He allowed the alcohol to drive his life, but it was not anywhere he wanted to go.
The wipers of Samuel’s Chevy slid up and down, discarding the droplets of water that were snowflakes moments prior. Samuel reached into the paper bag and pulled a Heineken from the six-pack.
The cold bottle burned against his hand, as his mouthed wailed in anticipation. He cracked it open and stared into the bottomless abyss that had been his life. The sweet popping of carbonation called for him. “Just one sip?” it asked. Or, rather, it commanded. William wanted to swim in it, drown in it. But instead, he just stared, his eye catching the flicker of the bracelet that lay on his right wrist, not three inches from the bottle.
1 year…5 years…10 years the charms read. The bracelet was his anchor. He used to rub each charm whenever he felt the need to answer “Yes” to the question he so often asked himself. He tore the bracelet off, and dropped it on the floor.
“Sorry,” he said absently. Now William and his first love could be alone. The way it used to be. The way it was meant to be. “Six in Six.” he called it. Six bottles-six minutes-no spills. He never wasted a drop, for his body craved the drink. It was his oxygen.
One winter, when things were dark, William had a party by his lonesome at a local park. After he stumbled to his car, William slid into the driver’s seat, poked at the ignition for ten minutes, and finally fired up the car. He had done this countless times before. “Eyes on the dotted lines and keep ‘er at 35 MPH’s,” he would always repeat to himself on the journey back. That night, William could not find the brake in time, and the paramedics said he was lucky to be alive. The other driver was fortunate too, they said, only a concussion to go with a broken leg and fractured jaw. William had to undergo physical therapy for the fractured vertebrae, plus the mandatory trip to rehab for a year. It was the turning point in his life. He started to regain control, he was a new man.
The snow danced as it landed on the windshield. Back in his Chevy, William was suffocating. Now, with bottle in hand, he started to breathe again. He caressed the bottle, cherishing the final moment. This would be the actual last time the two would dance together. William knew that.
William snatched the six pack from the seat. He crumpled the paper bag and tossed it into the back. It landed on the infant car seat behind him. He paused, and turned around.
The shivers stopped.
“No,” he whispered with finality. William buckled his seatbelt, turned the ignition and began to cry as he started his journey home.
The six pack, scattered in pieces, lay drowning in his exhaust.