Half-Empty

There were two shot glasses set atop the table in the dining room. There were four chairs around the table and three of them were empty. The smell of bourbon pervaded the room. One man sat in a chair that made it so the left side of his body was facing the sliding glass door that was the portal from the dining room to the backyard. There was no light shining through the glass of that door.

A nice bottle of bourbon sat half empty on the table in front of the man. He rested his forehead against the palms of both hands. The chair across the table from him was askew; it’s backrest facing more toward the sliding glass door than toward the kitchen counter like it would have been if it were placed neatly. The only sensation more prominent in the room than the odor of aerated bourbon was the thorough silence.

Just a few minutes ago however, the room was raucous with noise. The man’s throat began to feel sore. In this moment, he remembered how someone had told him that whiskey, or bourbon, basically eats away at one’s vocal chords–like acid for your throat.

He thought of this as he tipped some more bourbon into one of the shot glasses and knocked it down. He felt the burn against his throat and the warmth advancing on his gut. He also thought that with the shot, he could actually feel himself become drunker and more dour.

He immediately began musing to himself that stripped vocal chords might actually do him a lot of good. ‘Definitely more dour’ he thought to himself as he served up another shot of the fine bourbon. It was an expensive bottle and when he went out to procure it, the evening carried with it so much hope. As the night lurched on and the liquid inside of the bottle dwindled however, so too did that hope.

Another shot. This time to hear something besides the silence all around him. He made it a point to set the bottle down hard on the wooden table when he was done pouring, and to damn near slam the shot glass back down to the surface after downing the liquid. He let out a long, audible breath that to anyone else would have signified refreshment. But it just made him feel more miserable because when he was done with the brief spectacle, the house was silent again.

There was a little over a quarter of a bottle left now but the man was still keenly aware of his situation and felt that any prospects of a turnaround–any hope of rationalizing it all towards some optimistic end–were only growing scarcer.

He thought back to when the bottle was full. There was easy conversation then, and the loneliness the man desperately wanted to scare away, was actually hiding somewhere away from his senses.

Somewhere around when the bottle was 3/4 full the conversation was beginning to turn. In retrospect, the man thought that maybe that was the time he began placing too much responsibility on the other. ‘But if that were the case’ he reasoned to himself ‘then I was expecting too much even from the very beginning.’

When the brown liquid reached the middle of the label, the night began unraveling but the man kept going because at least it wasn’t loneliness he was feeling. No, instead, as the dialogue was getting heated, there was a frantic urge to salvage the night coupled with a wild lust to prove some mercurial point.

None of the words borne of this jangled state of mind came out sweetly. Before long there was a full-fledged shouting match erupting in the usually quiet home. As the man yelled, he felt the numbness of the bourbon in his throat and a fiery whiteness in his mind. He almost felt like shouting and being hostile were the best things to be doing in the moment. Nothing else existed other than the sport of being aggressive. It somehow felt good.

As the nonsensical argument blasted on, the man began noticing a strange feeling of being in his element. There was some great satisfaction that came from raging–by any means–against the numbness that grew more prevalent with each swallow of the brown liquid.

He cursed, banged his fist on the table, and screamed until he felt a grating in his throat, but it all felt good. Like throwing unfettered haymakers non-stop in a room flooded floor to ceiling with cotton balls. When the other had enough and the shouting ran out of momentum, the bottle was half-empty.

At present however, there was a little less than a quarter of the bourbon left and there was no numbness left in the man. Only an acute longing that would not disappear. It had come out of hiding.

Consumption had always worked in the opposite way for the man before, and he grew profoundly troubled with each slug he took down. But at this point, there was no other course of action to take. He filled up his glass once again and after this shot, a new feeling seized his consciousness–fear.

The man felt fear at seeing the liquid in the bottle almost completely gone and still being so far from any kind of resolution. There was almost no hope that the man’s longing, regret, and loneliness would subside by the time the bottle was spent.

But again, there was no turning back now. The man pushed his shoulders back in his chair, bracing his arms against the heavy table.He took stock of the room and allowed himself to listen to the silence. The noiselessness did battle with his burning thoughts and at the same time, fueled them.

He took the bottle in his hand and as silently as he possibly could, poured himself the last of the bourbon. He held the bottle completely upside down for several moments so as to let every last drop consolidate, build, and then drop meagerly into his shot glass. The glass was filled nearly to the brim.

The biggest shot of the night. The man raised it to his face, craned his neck backwards, opened his mouth and tilted the contents of his little glass straight down his throat. Without a sound, he set the glass down very gently back on the table.

Then, a brilliant flash of light went off in his mind. ‘Of course, that’s gotta be it!’ he thought to himself. ‘There just wasn’t enough of it. I was sharing!’ He clung to this feeble excuse  as a man cast overboard a ship will cling to a life-preserver. The observation consoled him as to how the bottle could be so empty with him still feeling so hopeless.

As he thought this, he heard the faint conversation of a man and a woman as they walked towards his house out on the sidewalk. For once, the utter silence of his home worked to his advantage as he listened very carefully to the sound. The conversation grew clearer as the couple got closer to his house. Then they were just outside his door.

Then the talking became a little fainter. Then a little more faint. And fainter still as they walked past the man’s home. The man turned his attention back to what was in front of him. The bottle of nice bourbon was now empty and there were still two shot glasses set atop the table in the dining room.

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