Drunk Off The Moon
By Christopher Williams
Sometimes when I wait in lines I think about drinking. And about this friend I had who disappeared to Vegas. Once we rode bikes on a country road in the middle of the night. We had a bottle of whiskey and we laughed while passing it back and forth, edging our rusty mountain bikes a little faster with each successful hand-off, the summer moon providing just enough light for us to pretend we could see what the hell we were doing. We were going to a party in a barn and when we got there my friend broke a window because some girl he liked was there. He was like that. I slipped away like I usually did when my friends were getting their asses kicked and deserving it. I took to the road on my bike, falling repeatedly and laughing, and then, on the final fall, I started crying and didn’t know why. It was fun to fall, I tried to tell myself, like a ride.
Pretty soon a cop drove up. He shone his spotlight on me and, being in high school, I thought about running. In the end I sat there drunk and indignant. It’s a fucking public road, I thought, I can sit here if I want. They always shone that damn light on you though, so pretty soon I wished I had run. Run into the woods bordering the road. I could live off blackberries and the whiskey in my system at least until the world ended, I reasoned. That was never too far off.
To add to my woes, the cop was one of those people who asks you why you’re crying and when you tell them they ask again. Great, I thought, I should’ve just stayed at the party and gotten my ass kicked with my friend.
“Fall off your bike little buddy?”
“No, it fell off me.”
“You think you’re funny?”
“I fell off the moon.”
He didn’t look at the moon. I hated him for not looking at the moon.
“Do I get a ride home?”
“How much have you had to drink?”
“Nothing. I don’t drink. I fall off my bike. I cry. That’s all I do.”
His engine idled like it wanted to say something. After a while I squinted up at the cop’s shadowed features, wondering what else there was to say. Wondering who had called this man out to the country and what they had been dreaming about before they awoke to make that call. Silent, peaceful dreams, I figured. Dreams in gray and silver where lumbering all white beasts carry you away from your stressful job, your annoying kids. In other words, the kind of dreams a nice house out in the country can afford.
The next afternoon my friend came over while I was still asleep. My mom let him into my room with an ice pack she’d given him. He held it to his lip and asked if I had gotten arrested. Nope. Burgers were in order. We had to go out of the window because the cop had talked to my mom. Had they talked about the moon?
It felt good walking the sweltering streets not having brushed our teeth or showered. It felt rebellious, like we weren’t denying what happened last night. If anybody had a problem with that, well then they could bring it on. I’ll cry all over them, I said, I’ll cry the weight of the moon on their fucking faces. We laughed.
I miss that friend. But I can’t help but admire him for the way he just up and disappeared. He reminded me so much of my bike when we fetched it that day. The way it lay in a ditch next to a vineyard: handlebars skewed, chain off its sprocket. It looked like a spider crushed against a wall. As I propped the bike up and started putting the chain back on my friend looked up the road, then down it, and up again. It annoyed me for some reason. We weren’t doing anything wrong, he didn’t need to keep look out. And if he was impatient and wanted to go, then go already.
Then he was gone. We knew from a note he left his mom that he had gone to Vegas to live with his dad. A few years later I got an email from him. He was working in a warehouse or something. He hinted at having been in some trouble. I can’t remember exactly, but I wasn’t surprised. The kind of kid that breaks windows when he likes a girl is bound to get him self into some jams. The email was short, cryptic even. The main reason he wrote was to see if I remembered saying that I’d cry the weight of the moon on people’s faces. He told me that that had always stuck with him, and that he never forgot about me and probably never would. He thought it was strange and amazing that we both believed our tears could move oceans. I sat there, thinking about whether I believed that or not. I’m still not sure. Maybe there was a time I believed that. But now? The ocean is so vast, and sure, those high school dramatics seemed to hold the weight of the world then, but now they just strike me as silly. How everything could be so serious when really we were just scratching the surface of melancholy.
Sometimes when I wait in lines I think about that, about the sheer weight of sadness, the pull of it. I never can wrap my head around it though, so I switch back over to drinking memories. How we passed that bottle of whiskey back and forth like a couple of trailer-trash circus performers that night. I’ll think about how the sound of frenzied laughter spread over all that country. About how the warm summer breeze over my forearms made me feel intractable. And lastly, when I’m feeling warm and lethargic from being almost full of memories, I’ll think about the sky that night. About the sky and how its reflection on the bottle made it look like we were drinking the moon.
Christopher Williams graduated from San Francisco State's Creative Writing program. He is currently living and working in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
Image: Graphic - Summer Moon Rising, courtesy of Dez Pain, Australia.
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