It’s a cliché, I know, but here I am the hard-bitten alcoholic, twenty years clean, sitting staring at the unopened bottle of whisky in front of me, contemplating its deep smokey flavour and iodine traces running across my tongue. Note I said unopened, the seal not even cracked.
What I am really doing is another cliché, staring past the bottle at the rain running down my kitchen window. The dark, menacing clouds have cut out most of the natural light and the rain is persistent, providing ever changing patterns for me to follow as they run down the window pane.
Whilst the bottle and rain match my mood they do not exist. I am looking beyond them to a world where an invisible disease has infected many and killed some of you too. I sit and contemplate its nature, the whisky desire nagging at the back of my mind and the rain washing it away, bringing clarity.
You cannot see the plague but it’s virulent, affecting most of the world. It insinuates itself but the symptoms are not necessarily visible. People may think they recognise it in others but its physical presence is a conceit, that can attract or repel you. Ultimately, no one knows if you are affected. Even if you vocalise it that doesn’t mean it is so. Only you can know how deep the infection.
The atmosphere inside the church is cool, the pews hard, a stray, faint tang of incense plays on my nostrils. The few people, my companions in contemplation, silent in their thoughts. The desire for communion wine pulls at me, the draw of mere alcohol but also what it would represent as it enters my body. I sit and stare at the vault of the building’s roof, a monument to a once virulent presence, now more benign but still its underlying principles never failing to attract and seduce.
The verdant hills of a cliched portrait punctuate my stroll. A bag of dog faeces hang from an ancient oak, a greater metaphor than the hills for how your country can now be viewed. A divisive disease of intolerance, belligerence, hatred and ill conceived rhetoric, some visible, much unvocalised and often unseen, but still influencing your behaviours towards others.
There, behind me, a ticking clock. The chair at the kitchen table is hard, as is the constant nag of time being marked. Time, visible in the way the sun moves, how seasons are marked and in the age old trope of the lines on your face. The way we define time, however, is artificial. Your internal clock is the opposite of the timer on the movie bomb – you know when the latter is meant to explode. No hero can stop your internal, invisible clock. They can retard time, but not stop it.
The alcohol tastes as I remember. It doesn’t disappoint. It’s effect will be visible and real the more I consume. The rain has passed but the sunlight merely sets my stark reality in a spotlight.
My tears were visible as they took her away in the van. I couldn’t even wave goodbye at the airport. I loved her. I told people I did. I think she knew but it is only something that can be felt not just understood through superficial gestures. If I hadn’t fallen in love the pain would not be here now. I have been abandoned by my God, my country and ultimately by love. My true friend succours me in its brown blanket on my tongue.