The L-shaped street was lit by the one light that was nestled in the rincon. Opposite of said light was a white car, brand unknown, that belonged to my future brother-in-law. Between the two was a gate that served as the entrance to the house where I was currently abiding. Inside that gate there was another gate. And inside that gate there was a courtyard. The courtyard had ben setup with tables placed longwise that were lined with chairs. At that table sat my family (or soon to be…), a couple of missionaries and maybe some friends. It was a dinner. I can’t remember why.
I also don’t recall why that night I decided to leave the party. I walked out both of those gates, down the street to the liquor store. I bought a bottle of Pisco and found my way back to that white car, sitting in the shadows of a poorly lit Santiaguino street. Popped the top and took a big drag. The first one burned. The second one not so much and pretty soon I was sipping on some cheap ass liquor on the street. About a half hour passed before Veronica emerged from those gates and found me 1/3 of a bottle in. It wasn’t so much the quantity that alarmed her as much as the fact I was drinking it straight.
I had no idea you were supposed to mix it.
It was about a year prior, maybe a year and a half, that something changed in my brain.
I had noticed them several times before the image was solidified. They were a group of 3-5 old men who congregated on the same corner every evening. Sometimes, it was a little earlier than evening. They each had a jug of wine purchased from the proprietor who owned the store on the corner where they chose to stand.
At first, I pitied them for their lack of will power being drunks who had to drink every night. I thought about stopping to preach to them, but being the person I am, instead I watched them. They never seemed sad rather they were a jovial bunch with the exception of when something bad happened in the news, or their team lost. Then they were a bit somber. For the most part, they were a bunch of poor, old, retired dudes gettin’ together with the bros to spend the evening. They didn’t have anything more pressing to do, so they drank.
It was after a particular trying day for me, (I struggled as a missionary, it was a role that never felt right and mostly felt like I was faking it. It also happened to be a time when my depression first began to manifest itself even thought I didn’t recognize it at the time.) we were heading back to our apartment and we happened to pass this group. They were slurring their words and stumbling around. But this time, this time, I got it. I don’t know what changed. Maybe it was the chemicals that were as out of balance as these drunks, but I understood why they were on that corner every night.
And I longed for that freedom.
Veronica took a drag. Leo showed up, someone popped off to snag some eSprite (spelling error on purpose, that’s how they pronounce it). The whole $3 that the bottle cost me was of little concern and shortly we were sharing it with whomever walked by. I’m pretty sure I even offered some to the missionaries. I don’t recall exactly how long we were out there, nor who all ended up drinking with us. I do recall that it was a descent group with the above mentioned folks plus Fabian and a few other local rats that always came out of the woodwork when there was free booze.
Of course, at some point, you gotta take a leak. Veronica opened the gate for me and shouldering my staggering body, slowly leading me to the bathroom. En route, we passed by her parents’ bedroom which had a window into the courtyard. I looked over as we passed to see her mom looking out. I could tell she was confused having never seen me this way. I smiled and waved. Said waving was a bit too much and I feel backward straight on my ass.
I don’t recall hardly anything else from that night. I know we went back outside, I know we went to bed, that’s about it.
The next morning, I walked outside squinting at the late morning sun. One of the neighbors walked by and questioned how I felt. I replied fine as my head was still swimming in my thoughts and I had no idea what the significance of that night was.
P. L. and R.