“Dare to feel the pain without the bandage of drugs or booze. Let yourself feel the sting, so the wounds can breathe and heal naturally. So the wounds can heal for real.” ~~~Unknown
All of the bars in the state of California had gone smoke free years ago, but there was something in the atmosphere that kept the heavy aroma of smoke in the air all these years later. He picked up his glass and watched as the light reflected off of the amber liquid inside, the ice cubes clinking lightly as he moved. The light reflected off of the glass and onto the mahogany of the bar in front of him. Briefly, he wondered if the wood had anything to do with retaining the scent of the smoke, almost as if it were somehow ingrained in the wood and the two had now become one.
This was the closest he’d gotten to a drink in a long time. He thought back to the Tate Harrison case and how incredible it seemed to him at the time that a man who had been sober for twenty years would just wash all of that down the drain. At the time he’d wondered about what it might take to bring him to that point… to this point.
He swirled the liquid around again, listening as the ice cubes clinked against the side of the glass, watching as a bead of liquid traced a path down the glass to land and join the small puddle on the table.
He couldn’t say how long he’d been sitting there. Wasn’t sure even what time it was when he’d walked out of the church. All he’d known was that he couldn’t take it any more. The last few days had been a haze. Rusty, Nicole, Emily, Rickie and hell even Drew had been fluttering around him. Provenza and the team had been acting the same way.
No one knew how to handle him. No one knew what to say. And really… what could they say? What was there that could possibly be said to him that would amount to anything?
If he was being honest, there wasn’t anything that anyone could say.
He and Sharon had made sure to do everything right, made sure that they were getting involved in things with both eyes open and fully vested in all that was ahead of them. Now it just seemed like a lot of time wasted when they could have been together. Time that they could have spent walking on the beach, curled up on the couch, or even better yet, tangled in the sheets on their bed.
Time that they would never get back. Time that had been squandered because they figured they’d have several years ahead of them before they’d even have to remotely contemplate something along these lines. And even then… it would be his mortality that they’d be discussing, not hers.
The bartender came back his way, eyed the drink in his hand and then just made his way back down the counter. He was probably good at his job, could pick up on the vibe that the last thing And wanted to do right now was talk.
This time the glass almost made it to his lips. He stopped it and inhaled the heady scent of the scotch. The aroma bringing back memories much the same way that the fragrance of a familiar perfume floating on the air might. And oddly it made him think of Sharon again. Even here, even now… he couldn’t get away from her. Couldn’t get her out of his mind.
His bit down on his tongue to stop the sob from coming forth and contemplated his drink again. He knew one way to get her out of his head… one way to drown in the sea of despair that lay before him and just be… numb. He wouldn’t care about anything, anyone… wouldn’t have to feel.
He tilted the glass at a different angle, the cool cup at a different angle and heard the slightly metalic clink as it connected with his sobriety ring. The ring that, until recently, had occupied his other hand.
The vision of Sharon walking down the aisle was almost too much to bare and the glass approached his lips again, once more gaining some ground and getting ever so slightly closer.
“Don’t do it.”
He almost didn’t recognize the voice speaking, and doubted several times over that the voice was actually speaking to him. So he did nothing. The glass stayed poised mere centimeters from his lips. His throat practically burned to feel the warmth as the liquid would pour over him on its way to his stomach -- where is would soon be followed be several other glasses full just like it.
He swallowed and took a breath in through his nose, the glass shaking slightly in his hand and moving the slightest iota closer to his lips, before a hand wrapped its way around his wrist and stopped any further forward movement.
The man moved to position himself between Andy and the bar stool next to him. “Not going to happen.”
Andy felt his temper flaring and knew that if he didn’t take a drink soon, chances were that a head would be connecting with the bar next to his glass. Whether it was his head or not remained to be seen… and at this point he wasn’t really sure that he cared.
“How the hell did you find me, anyway?”
Jack took the glass from his hand, sitting it on the bar between them, and Andy felt his posture wilt into one of utter defeat. He watched as Jack looked around and studied their surroundings for a moment.
“I’ve been here myself a time or two. Several times over the last week, in fact.”
Andy glanced toward him. It was no secret they weren’t friends… maybe back in the day when the two of them could have tossed a few back and compared notches on their headboards. Back before they’d both been madly in love with the same woman; one expecting her to give him chance after chance, while the other clawed his way through hell and back just hoping for one. Only to have it granted… and wind up right back in Hell anyway.
Andy sighed as he glanced at the glass once more. “I’ve talked to my sponsor. I have talked… and talked... and talked... to everyone. I’m done talking, Jack. And I’m definitely not discussing this with you.”
“Good.” Jack shrugged as he moved to face him. “Because I don’t want to discuss this… to discuss her... or anything about it with you.”
The two men sat there for a moment. There was nothing to say. Truly nothing that could be said, and they both knew it.
Finally, countless minutes later Jack drummed his fingers against the strong mahogany and turned. “Ready to get on with it?”
Neither of them mentioned what it was. Neither of them had to, nor wanted to.
Andy finally removed his tie from his neck. It had been hanging there loosely since before he’d walked into the establishment. Since just about the time he exited the doors of the church, his conversation with Father Stan being just too much. Stuffing the silk into his pocket he slid off of the bar stool and took a deep breath.
Jack nodded once, moved to push in the stool he’d been standing in front of and took the glass from the bar, emptying the contents in a single swallow.
Andy stared at him, numb and searching for something to say.
"I never would have admitted this to her, but you were the better man. Still are. Which is part of the reason that I won’t let you give in.” He turned to lead Andy out of the place and back toward the church. “Besides, by this point, everyone expects it from me and no one will be disappointed. They deserve better. They have that in you.”
The sting of tears that pricked at his eyes annoyed Andy, and he tried to brush it off as the blinding California sun as they exited the darkened area of the bar. He shook his head as he mulled over Jack’s words trying to formulate a response. Only to come back to what he had thought before. This was not a moment where there were words to express. This was truly a moment where there was nothing left to say.