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Drowning Man - Chapter Ten

May 18th, 2008 (11:30 am)

In a quiet neighborhood in the Dublin suburb of Clontarf, on an ordinary street, in a rowhouse with darkened windows, Larry Mullen sat in a wooden chair with leather upholstery, staring at his television set, not absorbing the scene before him. He changed the channel and the beginning of Rattle and Hum was playing. Too drunk to exert that much effort again, he stared at the young Larry Mullen Junior and felt like it was a different person. Someone else's memories were playing before him.
 
He had a scotch tumbler in his hand and he brought it to his lips, expecting Irish whiskey, but nothing came. He tipped the glass further. Still nothing. He couldn't be sure, but the nothing in his glass must've had something to do with the long-haired bloke on screen who would not shut up. He lifted the glass to his eye and stared at the TV through the bottom of it for a few seconds before realising: Oh, fuck. It's empty.
 
Larry lowered the glass back down to his armrest and stared back at the TV. Bloke with the hat and guitar was singing. He belched into the empty room. The only things in what used to be the sitting room were Larry, his chair, a lamp, and the TV. He'd cleared the house of almost everything that reminded him of Lucy. There were also several empty and broken whiskey bottles strewn about the room. Larry's belch shook loose a thought from his brain. More.
 
Larry sighed. Getting up seemed like an awful lot of trouble. He wasn't sure it was worth it. Then ginger hair floated past his mind. He put his feet on the floor on the left side of his chair, leaned over the armrest as far as he could, then used it to push himself upright. The room lurched and swirled from standing up too quickly. Larry closed his eyes and still felt the room moving beneath his feet, but he ventured a shuffling step. That was alright.
 
He opened his eyes and saw the shiny bottle sitting on the sideboard just a few feet away. He stared at it and it split into two. He blinked and it stayed split. He didn't know if it was real, but he'd find out once he made it across the room.
 
Larry shuffled across the sitting room, stumbling over himself most of the way. He ran into the sideboard before he realised he was anywhere near it. He looked down at the sideboards and grabbed one of the bottles. Using the table to hold himself up, he tipped the neck of the bottle into his glass.
 
He stared at himself in the mirror above the sideboard as he poured, it had to be someone else staring back at him. This pale, bloodshot-eyed, skeletally-skinny man that he hated couldn't be himself. How long had it been since he'd slept? When did he last eat? Did it matter anymore?
 
Glass sufficiently full, he tipped the bottle back upright and glared at the man in the mirror as he brought the glass to his lips. More nothing. Fuck. Larry looked into his tumbler for a minute to make sure it wasn't a trick glass or something. Nope. Just empty. He upended the bottle. Faic. He lifted the upside-down bottle to his eye. He leaned backwards as he stared into it. The last drop of whiskey dripped onto Larry's cheek and knocked him off-balance. He stumbled backward a few steps and landed sideways in his chair. Fuck.
 
Larry threw the bottle in an unknown direction and he didn't know if it had landed with or without a crash. Not that he cared either way. Larry stared at the front door. He'd have to get up to go get more. And getting up wasn't fun the first time. And he hadn't left the house in over a month. What was out there that could possibly be interesting? Fuck the front door. Larry repositioned himself in the chair, back in his usual TV-watching slouch. He belched at the man on the screen in the Sun Records t-shirt, showing off a worn sock. Pub, the thought stumbled through.
 
The pub was within walking distance and he could get beer and whiskey there. So he pushed himself to his feet again and stumbled to the doorway, smacking into the door before he realised its proximity as well. He grabbed his heavy leather jacket, never mind that it was the height of summer, and slid one of the sleeves on. He couldn't figure out the other sleeve, so he let it dangle. Larry opened the front door and the evening air hit him. It was cold, colder than the air inside the house anyway.
 
He somehow made it down the stoop without falling and breaking his neck, though he couldn't remember how. His drunk feet weaved all over the sidewalk as they carried him to the pub. Larry leaned against the doorframe when he arrived. The level of activity was far less than tolerable. Regaining momentary balance and temporary mental clarity, he navigated the crowd from the door to the bar. He sat down on a stool and slapped the bar to get the barman's attention.
 
The barman was a fat, balding, ugly old sod who knew who Larry was, but didn't care. He'd heard Larry's drunken ramble about Lucy more times than he cared to. But tonight, Larry wasn't speaking, so something was up.
 
"Rough day, Mullen?"
 
Larry stared unblinkingly at him with his dead, blood-shot eyes.
 
"I'll take that as a 'yes'. Whiskey?" Larry blinked, but held his gaze. The barman put the whiskey bottle on the bar and Larry poured a dose of it into the tumbler he'd brought from home. It had become like an appendage. "You look like shite, boyo." Larry took a drink of whiskey and began to feel better. He still thought the barman should go take a flying leap off Ha'penny Bridge, whiskey supplier or not. "Have you eaten?" Larry twitched one of his shoulders in a shrug. "Aye. Let me make you summat." The barman walked off to the kitchen, and Larry felt victory. The bastard had finally decided to fuck off and leave him alone.
 
But would it last? Of course not. A woman had noticed Larry's entrance and decided to approach him. He noticed her perfume first. It wasn't Lucy's, though, so it didn't matter. She sat down on the barstool to his right. "Hi there," she said brightly. American accent. Probably a tourist.
 
Larry glanced at her. He couldn't think of the word for her haircolour. Wasn't ginger though, and the colour of her eyes may as well have been the same bubblegum pink as the halter top she was wearing for all he cared. She wasn't Lucy. So she could join the barman in jumping off Ha'penny Bridge.
 
She told him her name, but he didn't hear it. She could've said it was Slartibartfast or Ford Prefect for all he knew. It wasn't "Lucy", she wasn't Lucy. She wasn't worth paying attention to. Larry tipped the whiskey bottle. A few sloshes went onto the bar, but most of it made it into his glass. He lifted it to his lips and felt it sear his throat seconds later.
 
"You feeling okay?" she asked. Larry twitched his jacket-less shoulder again. She picked up the loose sleeve of his leather jacket and set it over his shoulder. Larry drank his whiskey. It was beginning to kick in, he was feeling warm and fuzzy and drunk. And if he was drunk, that meant he didn't have to feel or think. Larry drank his whiskey. If he was drunk, he didn't have to feel so crushingly alone. He didn't have to feel the bottomless pit inside himself that Lucy had left. He could float, numb, on this river of whiskey until it dried up or killed him. And maybe he might be able to close his eyes for more than a second without seeing Lucy shot dead or Stacie stretched out on the coroner's slab.
 
The ugly sod of a barman set a sandwich on the bar in front of Larry. "Here you go, lad." Larry looked up from his glass at him and tried to glare. He drank the last bit of whiskey and started to consider leaving, now sufficiently drunk and all.
 
"Is he okay?" the pink-eyed woman asked.
 
"He misses his Lucy. Don't ya, boyo?" The barman asked. Larry threw the bottle of whiskey at him. The barman barely ducked in time to not get clocked in the head by it. Larry fished some paper out of his jacket pockets, threw it on the bar, slid his arm inside the empty sleeve, and turned away from the woman and the bar. He had to get up again. How he hated getting up.
 
He leaned forward until his arse lost contact with the barstool and his feet touched the floor. He simply stood there for a few seconds, staring at three doors and trying to determine which one was the real one that would let him out. He stumbled down a straight path toward Door Number Two and ran smack into it before his feet stopped. Larry backed up a couple of steps and opened the door on the fourth try just as the barman discovered Larry had "paid" with Lucy and Stacie's funeral program. The barman added the bottle of whiskey to Larry's tab, now in the thousands, and put the program away for safe-keeping, if Larry ever returned for it.
 
Larry stepped out of the pub and looked up and down the street, trying to remember which way was home.
 
"Mind if I join you?" the Pink American asked. Larry turned left, toward Kincora Street and home, and didn't care either way if she came with him. He weaved all over the sidewalk again, trusty tumbler still in his left hand, bumping into buildings and street lamps as he did. Pink followed him closely and almost reconsidered going with him when he told a 14-year-old to "F'kawwf," drawing out the vowel as long as his vocal chords would allow, when she asked him for an autograph. Larry continued to the house, pleased with himself for cursing at the girl who wasn't Stacie.
 
Pink was shocked that not only was his front door unlocked, but he hadn't bothered to shut it in the first place. Larry wobbled up the stairs and went inside the dark house. Pink suddenly got a very bad feeling about going in, but did anyway, thinking Larry would be different after he sobered up. The house was cold, and there were no lights besides the lamp in the sitting room and whatever streamed through from street lamps and the moon and stars. Larry has settled back into his TV-watching slouch, leather jacket on the floor beside his chair, staring at the long-haired man (who still needed to shut up) talking about the IRA.
 
"Fuck the revolution!" the TV blared.
 
Pink pulled her arms around herself. Larry wasn't just on a drinking binge, something was very wrong with him and this house. Everything was covered in thick dust and it looked like no one had been to the second floor in a year at least. She got a chill when she joined him in the sitting room and found the floor literally a minefield of broken glass. She thought it was also a little funny that Larry was watching Rattle and Hum and smiled as she straddled his knees.
 
Fuck off, Larry thought. He wanted this woman to leave. Why'd she come with him anyway? Oh, God, that feels good. Pink was kissing and nibbling on his neck. No. Not Lucy. Was she expecting to be able to fuck him? She wasn't Lucy, there's no way he would fuck her. She also had no right to be in Lucy's home. Larry shoved her off him and Pink landed on the floor.
 
"Sorry," Pink said softly. She looked to her right and saw a broken picture frame lying beneath the sideboard. She rolled over and pulled it out. She sat up as she dusted it off. Fuck off, Larry thought again as he turned back to the TV, end credits now rolling. But he couldn't be bothered to tell her so.
 
A beautiful, ginger-haired woman was in the photo with Larry, someone he loved very much, obviously, if that blonde little girl was theirs.  She put the picture in Larry's face. "Who's this?" Pink asked. "Is this your wife?"
 
My Lucy, Larry thought as he pushed the frame away.
 
"What happened to her? Did she leave you?"
 
She left me ages ago.
 
"Why?"
 
I don't know.
 
"Did she start shagging some other guy?"
 
Rage quickly bubbled up inside him, rapidly approaching his boiling point.
 
Pink took his silence as a reluctant affirmative. "That's it, then. She was a slut, huh?"
 
And the rage boiled over. Larry jumped to his feet and screamed at her to "Get the fuck out!" Pink screamed, frightened, and dropped the picture frame. Larry threw the chair he'd been sitting in out of his way and ran at the invader.
 
Pink cowered in the corner, trapped. "Please," she whispered. Larry stood mere inches from her face. She looked into his eyes and the emptiness in them frightened her even more. Before she could stop him, he reached out and snatched her throat. Pink started to cry. She thought he was going to kill her. He pushed her against the wall and pressed his fingers against her windpipe. Though drunk, Larry still had his arm strength and he held her so tightly to the wall that she couldn't call for help.
 
He growled, "If you ever disrespect my Lucy again, I will end you. I will fucking end you," Larry pushed her into the wall to emphasise the word "end" as well. Then, still holding her by the neck, he pulled her away from the wall and threw her to the floor. "Now get the fuck out of her house."
 
Pink stared up at him from the floor, crying and coughing, scared to move. Larry walked toward her and she tried to scramble to her feet, but they wouldn't cooperate. Larry pulled her off the floor and held her by the arm, just above the elbow.
 
"Please, Larry, I'm sorry, don't hurt me, please. I didn't mean it, I'm sorry," Pink whispered as Larry escorted her from the sitting room to the front door. "Okay, fine, you got it, I'll leave, I'm so sorry, Larry." Larry opened his front door and threw her down the cement steps, then slammed the door and locked it.
 
"I'm sorry for letting her into your house, Lucy," he whispered as he went back to the sitting room.
 
Pink picked herself up off the sidewalk, bloodied and scraped, but not too badly injured. She looked back at the house and saw Larry staring at her from the sitting room window. Pink held her throat as she walked away, wondering if she'd have bruises from him nearly strangling her.
 
Larry walked away from the window when she was gone and not coming back. He walked over to the sideboard and pulled open a drawer. He lifted his foot to the table and pulled a hypodermic needle out of the drawer. Moments later, he set his chair back in its spot in front of the TV. Slouching once again, he tuned in an old movie, turned up the volume, and dropped out of the outside world once again.