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Subtle Forms of Manipulation


Detective Peter O'Brien sat at the far end of the bar staring at a glass of Scotch and soda. He heard the voices of his unit barking in his ears. He heard his family crying in his head. He remembered the interventions and finally the rehabilitation. He remembered feeling weak and powerless when he confessed to being an alcoholic.

O'Brien could smell the Scotch and soda as he watched the glass sweat with pure nectar. It was the drink of the gods, and he wanted to taste it. He wanted to sip it down before anyone saw him. The alcohol was well within his reach and there wasn't a soul who knew him standing around. His hand would shake and his knees trembled. He wanted so much to reach out and touch the drink. The bar tender brought his change and moved the drink closer to him.

He knew that both of his hands were free as his eyes were just locked on that beautiful drink. He noticed every little bubble pop as he watched the condensation run down the outside of the glass and soak the napkin beneath it. He slowly looked around the bar and only saw a handful of patrons sitting around nursing drinks. He saw two men playing pool and a waitress with a cowboy hat serving ice cold beers in tall glasses.

It had to be a sign, he thought to himself. One drink, what harm could it do? Maybe two, but he felt sure he could control that and stop at two. Perhaps three would be his limit, and then he'd go home and forget about drinking for the rest of his life. Since he was going to stop drinking for the rest of his life, the limit should be five, or six.

The detective's mouth went dry as he tried to compensate by licking his lips. He thought about the other police officers at rehab talking about their repeated failures. They talked about how they thought they could handle just one drink, and then they crashed. O'Brien was tougher, he thought. He was experienced and had a strong will. He wouldn't fail, he couldn't fail. His unit was counting on him staying around. He couldn't let them down.

O'Brien knew that somewhere deep down inside him, he could handle a drink. He never truly believed he can go on with his life in the state of sobriety. If he planned to drink after weeks out of rehab, why not now. He stumbled into the bar solely to check on an abandoned vehicle. At first he wanted to call in uniforms to handle it, but he had to face the music so he decided to enter alone. He saw the neon signs flashing and the drinks pouring. It had to be a sign. It was fate.

The detective walked in and made his way to the back end of the bar. That was where he planted himself as he battled the two demons on his shoulders. One telling him to just have one, and the other telling him to splurge. There were no good and bad, just evil and eviler.

The waitress with the cowboy hat walked over and leaned against the bar sideways so she could get a good look at the detective.

“If you're saying a prayer before you drink, say one for me,” she said.

The detective's face looked broken, empty. He nodded abstractedly, his watery eyes washing over the waitress and then became fixed on the tray filled with drinks that the bar tender handed her.

“Drink up,” she said as she walked away carrying her tray.

O'Brien looked at the counter and saw a row of flavored vodkas that appeared to be dancing. He closed and opened his eyes and they were still again.

The detective made himself reach forward as he touched the glass. The moisture felt so good on his fingers. It was inviting and he felt invited, welcomed.

“Hey,” said the bar tender. “Are you feeling okay?”

O'Brien nodded and smiled.

He knew that he promised his friends that he wouldn't touch another drink. He also thought that what they didn't know wouldn't hurt them. He just had to have that one drink. With his shaking right hand he clasped the glass, raised it slowly so that the shaking wouldn't spill the alcohol spirits. O'Brien was sniffing the Scotch as it moved closer. He smiled as the Scotch and melting ice touched the top part of his lips.

That was it. He savored the first sip. It was like a weight being lifted off of his shoulder. His face was calm and serene. The shaking stopped and his breathing was no longer laboring.

From over his left shoulder someone yelled loudly, “ what the fuck, Pete?”

O'Brien spat out the drink and almost choked on a piece of ice as the glass hit the floor. He turned to his left side and saw Laura Kimber standing there with her hands on her hips, obviously not happy to see him.

“You promised the entire unit.”

“I'm an addict.”

“You kicked that, Pete,” she said. “Now you're just being weak!”

O'Brien's shoulders sagged and his face grimaced as the Scotch and soda was still attacking his taste buds. They were reminding him of the good old days. The Good old days?

While drunk he almost fell into the seaside and drowned. Instead he missed the water by four feet and hit a pile of river rocks cracking his skull. He also remembered tying one on as he crashed into an oak tree that came crumbling down. It took out six parked cars and crushed his cruiser flat. Captain Roque almost fired him that night. Instead they elected to help him. The interventions started, and then the stint at rehab.

“I'm weak Laura,” he said as he stood up. “I'm weak.”

“You gotta hit rock bottom Pete, before you can climb out of this hole. I'll be here for you if you want me too. But if you don't want my help, tell me so that I can walk out that door and leave you here in your pleasure, selfishness and your addiction.”

“Plus death,” added the waitress in the cowboy hat.

Kimber nodded.

“Lets get out of here, Laura.”

She smiled.


© 2016 Frank Atanacio

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