“Last call was an hour ago Andy, time to head out”, the barkeep yelled across the dimly lit room. You could hear a slice of frustration in his tone, but even more so it was filled with empathy for the middle aged writer. Andy looked up from his glass which had been filled too many times to count that evening and merely nodded. One look at Andy’s face would show you the pain he had endured throughout his life, especially the past few years. He wore every emotion he felt in his eyes..
After dealing with the tragic loss of his brother 3 years back followed by the cold betrayal of his wife 7 months ago Andy Redmond had lost faith in nearly everything. Friends, the few he maintained, would speak with him occasionally yet it always seemed more out of pity than actual interest. Strangers, would barely give him the time of day, and why would they? He isolated himself to his words and his thoughts and they were slowly eating away at his will to live. Both his writing style and general perspective had made a drastic change from once optimistic and bright, to now extremely cynical.
As he staggered slowly out of the bar, Michael the owner stopped him and joked, you ought to have the record for most bourbons ordered here Red. Andy laughed but it wasn’t genuine, he knew it was true and that troubled him deeply. What was he doing? Spending 5 nights a week getting loaded at this dive down the street, “cmon” Red thought as he grabbed his coat from the closet adjacent the door, “you’re better than this” he told himself. He certainly had experienced many a great night at Mike’s Tavern and loved the sentimental history it held for him , but he hadn’t left feeling fulfilled in over 10 years. Looking back he thought fondly on all of the stupid, wild, amazing nights he spent in that place, and bit his tongue in an effort not to cry .
He exited the bar into the 18 degree New England weather, and reminisced. His roaring 20’s as he would often refer to them, was his only time of tangible success as a writer, and he felt, as a human. Andy had the world in his hands back then and nothing could stop him, or so he naively believed. But it was true, he had everything he ever wanted in those days. His career was thriving off of his first two books, Comfort and especially his award winning second novel From a Seaside Town. The novel was well received not only in his native “seaside town” but all across the United States. His voice was vibrant, uplifting and most importantly brutally honest in a way that made readers and the industry fall in love with his work. Financially he was well off but he would never tell you so. Following in his brother Steven’s footsteps he had learned to be incredibly modest. Steve was an incredible sports star in high school excelling in both Football and Baseball but never was in your face about it. He was respected on both teams for being not only a solid player, but a leader. With no father figure around growing up Andy learned all he knew from his brother who was 3 years his senior. That’s what Steven was, he muttered to himself proudly, a goddamn leader. As Andy walked, he was not bothered by the cold sharp wind hitting the right side of his face, his mind was running too fast to notice it. He thought back to his own high school days at Tremont High and how exciting, new, and free of obligation they were.
Andy had noticed himself feeling nostalgic frequently lately and while he loved his trips down memory lane he was worried he was becoming too attached to these moments. Andy thought back to a potent line he had heard from a crew member on a boat he raced on a while back saying calmly “the greatest form of depression comes from believing the best years of your life are behind you”. The message and the rawness in the way the man had delivered the insight was forever ingrained in his head, and now more than ever he felt its relevance. At this very moment he stopped moving, he was overwhelmed by this thought and the reoccurring negative thoughts that had been circling all day, all week, and for as long as he could remember.
He looked up at the night sky hoping at least the beauty of the stars would bring him peace but instead saw a foggy grey with only a few faint stars glowing quietly. He was trying to hold it together, all of these feelings. Even during the hardest times of his life he had forced himself to remain “strong” and not to cry but today more than ever he had felt the urge multiple times to let everything out. And that’s exactly what he did. On the corner of Washington Rd and Middlebrook Ave he found himself on his hands and knees crying because he had nothing left to do. The streetlight shined down on him hauntingly and he felt even more ashamed. He thought of someone driving by and seeing him like this and was worried, what was wrong with him he thought as he angrily tried to get it together. But as his cold hands pressed against his face he realized this was something he had been postponing for too long.
He didn’t cry when his mother spontaneously left town to go to Montana with her now husband Rick, whom he despised and felt was definitely not deserving of his mother. He didn’t cry when he realized his wife had been unfaithful, nor when his publishing company gave him extended leave to “figure himself out”. His stories were becoming too emotional they said, bullshit. Andy even held back tears during his brother’s funeral service, as he read the personal eulogy. He had always tried to keep moving through the painful times in his life, which he knew was important, but he never understood the value of letting it all out. He hardly ever cried, which is why on that December night he stayed in that vulnerable position under the glowing yellow streetlight for a long time, he had years of tears he was catching up on.
When he finally gathered himself, he looked at his watch and noticed it was almost 3 o’clock and also realized that he was freezing his ass off. He was mad at himself, first for crying, and secondly for not picking a warmer place to cry. He lightly jogged the last half mile or so to his home, the home he had grown up in that his mother had so graciously handed to him when she left town with Rick. It wasn’t that Andy hadn’t given Rick a chance, he had, and every time he had only reinforced Andy’s theory, Rick was a douche-bag. He hadn’t said anything to his mother because, he made her happy and when all was said and done, that’s all what Andy wanted. In fact, he wanted everyone around him to be happy, he just was having trouble finding happiness himself lately .
Opening the door quietly out of habit though no one was inside to wake up, Andy creeped into his own house. He shut the door quietly, hung his coat, and headed to the kitchen. As he heated up his late night snack of chicken soup he turned on the old radio his mother used to play while cooking. The radio which was no bigger than a coffee mug rested on the mantel above the stove. He threw on the only station he cared for which was 97.7 Breezy Classic Hits. The main DJ for the station, Doctor Breeze was some late 60 year old still living off the table scraps of the 60’s, your poster child hippie. But man this guy knew his music.
When the soup came out of the microwave it was lukewarm but he didn’t have the patience to wait another 30 seconds so he sat down and ate as his hands simultaneously thawed out from the cold, he hated that feeling in his fingertips. Next thing he knew he heard the guitar riff introduction to a song he hadn’t heard in years, “Life’s been good” by Joe Walsh. It took him back to a specific night with his roommates in his sophomore year of college where they all were drunkenly singing, (if you want to call it that) along to this song. It was probably at about this hour of the night too, and he thought, it may have been the last time he heard it. Wow this was a great song. He also recalled the girls next door banging on the walls telling them shut the hell up, sorry.
He hummed along as he quickly rinsed his bowl and put it in the dishwasher. Then, just as he was approaching the radio to turn it off he heard the lyric “I can’t complain, but sometimes I still do”. Pondering the line as the music continued to play in the background, he wondered why that particular line had stood out to him so much. Andy knew, he had been doing a lot of complaining lately, but all he wanted was to get back to the way things were. Was that possible? No, he said to himself, of course not. But, after tonight’s breakdown, he had finally received some closure and some sense of relief in his life. He told himself, I’m ready to move on, to tackle this world with the confidence I once had. Rather than feeling for bad himself, and complaining even when he shouldn’t he decided to make a conscious effort to find the good in every situation, or at least try.
After turning the radio off, he brushed his teeth, stripped down to just his boxers and hopped into bed. As he slid underneath the covers he was singing the chorus “Life’s been good to me so far” and then laughed and thought , no it hasn’t. Quickly he caught himself, he was trying to be more positive, see the best in everything, all that good stuff. So he reassessed as he drifted into sleep, he thought you know what, maybe life has been good to me, although he still wasn’t fully convinced.