Between A Bottle And A Blade

 

*Photo credit- Dark Knight image copied from Pinterest.

 

 

To those who dive into darkness, men and women alike. For the brothers and sisters who never made it all the way back into the light.

 

He wasn’t into self-pity, not for a long time. Even during the period when he had been, it wasn’t textbook. Hell, it couldn’t be, not with his mindset. Back when he was stumbling down that road, Joshua was an unconventional soul who always looked for the limits of everything and sought individuality with what seemed to be a self-destructive desire to confound easy categorization. Simultaneously disciplined and free-spirited, he negotiated with ease the winding paths of life, the internal and external stresses, because he was young and believed in the power of good to overcome evil. Where others became something else while drinking, he was composed and clear-thinking. Nothing, but nothing ever escaped his lips that he didn’t want to let out. Oh, what a fearsome machine he used to be…

 

 

“When you dance with the devil by the pale blue moonlight, you don’t change the devil, he changes you.” This quote wasn’t standard, nothing ever was. He’d brought two quotes together and came up with something else. Something deeper, darker, more realistic, or so he thought. Even if there’s no Devil, there are plenty of demons in every man, and they change him over time with their blatant and subtle torments, the sometimes impossible choices he has to make. They leave scars. Some can be seen and when enough of them accumulate, they change the man’s outward appearance. But it’s what lies beneath that matters, for under the jagged or straight, the deep or shallow reminders of pain lurks the poison left behind, and it boils and festers, spreading slowly and insidiously to do its terrible work.

 

 

Some of the damage could be noticed and guarded against. Blocks could be put up, bulwarks to defend what wasn’t yet contaminated to ruination. It’s not a permanent solution because the poison is corrosive and in time will burn through everything in its path, but it’s what Josh could do and he did it. For a long time, it seemed like he was doing okay. He’d turned a lot of corners along the dark and lonely way, had seen virtue in accepting inevitability. He put the frustration and noxious bitterness behind him and if things weren’t exactly going well, at least they were going. He should’ve known better. He should have been on his guard. You don’t kill demons. They’re like energy, indestructible in their changing forms. All you can do is to expel them sometimes, but that only leaves room for another to get in, assuming you’re strong enough to exorcise yourself. It’s a war without end, the enemy is legion and always there, but he had gotten lax and now a demon was waiting...

 

 

Life is what happens when you’re planning something else, and Joshua’s plan was to buy a newspaper and read it to the accompanying bubbly and bitter tones of a beer. It was going well, he sat on a stool, the newspaper open in front of him, the beer tasted fine and the new bar looked good. Yeah, this was going to become his watering hole. Then two of his friends walked in. It’s weird how that happens sometimes, to think about some people and then they show up a little later… Happy to see them, he welcomed one who’d just returned from an overseas holiday by buying them a round and toasting his return. It went on like that for a while, they were having a good time and the hard liquor tasted fine, its sweetness cancelling the earlier bitter taste of beer. Josh should’ve known better than to drop his guard, to feel good and free. One of their number left, and he convinced his remaining friend to stay for another round…

 

 

One round became two, which became five. Eventually he lost track of how much he’d drunk and became intoxicated. Not a problem, his friend could drive him home or he could walk. Then they came in… Two women, one quite beautiful. His friend was a good guy, with a very happy disposition and easy charm. It was seamless, the way the women got closer to them. Things were going well, but it was when the more beautiful of the two was taking quite an interest in him that something went wrong. She told him frankly that she used to be addicted to cocaine and was leaving the country, and that’s when something in him snapped. He didn’t trust drug addicts, recovering or otherwise, having been bitten before and suffered quite a loss at the hands of one. He should have left then, but stayed and told her “Go talk to my friend, he’s a very nice guy. Talk to him because you should be scared of me.” She looked at him with a puzzled expression and said “I’m not scared of you.” Joshua gave her a cold stare, then said to everybody “Guys, I’m gonna do something scary, but don’t worry, I mean no harm.” They were drunk and seemed okay with it because they didn’t know what he meant, then he reached behind his back with one hand, put the other behind the woman’s neck and in a flash had his sheathed knife to her throat, all the while looking into her eyes without expression. The moves had been fast, done in about half a second. So fast that the woman thought later she’d had a blade to her throat when instead it was leather. The bar was still for a second or two, then it exploded.

 

 

At that moment, Josh didn’t care. There was a silence around him, and cold dark clarity of focus beyond which death waited with a gaping mouth. The potential for a fight was there, he could’ve unsheathed his knife and killed them all, but realized he’d become unhinged and this should not have happened. Haunted by a sense of failure, he made sure the kill switch was in the OFF position, then surrendered his weapon to the bar owner. What he’d done was stupid, so it was time to make amends. Much as he tried, Joshua couldn’t feel sorry. Not for himself, not for her, not for anybody, but he had to make it look like he did. So it wasn’t pity, just curiosity about why he’d done this, why there was a need to be a scary asshole. With contrition on his face, Joshua got on his knees and asked the woman to forgive the stupid thing he’d done, all the while hoping somebody would kill him. He wanted death. He was begging for it in his mind, that final release from the torment of a long war he felt destined to lose, but it didn’t come. Joshua was unable to feel pain or remorse, only detached contempt for his weakness, such loss of control unknown until then. At that moment, he realized the Romans had been right when they said IN VINO VERITAS. In wine lies the truth, and the truth was he hadn’t vanquished his inner demons. All he managed to do was to bury them deep, and while that was alright when he was lucid, alcohol allowed them to come up and turn him into a monster. Then again, blaming demons is the coward’s way out of accountability. Joshua saw another truth- there were no demons, it was him all along. He’d been doing this to himself until a minute earlier because others had done it to him many times before, but he’d crossed a line and dragged somebody else over it.

 

 

In wine lies the truth man hides from himself. In man lie troubles and pain. But it’s between the bottle and the blade where darkness waits, and in it are the decisions one has to make. It’s then and there a man tormented must be careful not to become a man demented because when the sun comes up, the painful sobriety unmasks the stupidity done in darkness- and there can be hell to pay...

Comments

john guzlowski Added Aug 12, 2017 - 8:49am
I hate these cornball pictures of these "heroes" and villains in armor.  
Let's see some pictures of the people they kill, the mothers and children.
 
It's all a part of our intense glorification of soldier and warriors.  And in doing so we forget the millions of civilians that die in wars.
 
In WWII 50 million mothers and fathers and children died.  Where's the monument to them?
 
Instead we get statues of soldiers.
 
Pictures of warriors.
 
Civilization needs to grow up. 
Mircea Negres Added Aug 12, 2017 - 10:13am
John, there were words beneath the picture...
john guzlowski Added Aug 12, 2017 - 11:21am
Yes, there were no words.  Just the picture.  It speaks pretty clearly.
 
 
Leroy Added Aug 12, 2017 - 11:57am
Wow!  What a profound journey into the human psyche.  Enjoyable read, Mircea.  Well done.
Stone-Eater Friedli Added Aug 12, 2017 - 2:33pm
John
 
Yours:
 
I hate these cornball pictures of these "heroes" and villains in armor.  
Let's see some pictures of the people they kill, the mothers and children.
 
You wrote on another thread:
 
War with North Korea is a good idea!
 
We can't lose and it will create jobs.
 
the decrease in world population is also a good thing. 
 
What the fuck is wrong with you ? 
Stone-Eater Friedli Added Aug 12, 2017 - 2:37pm
Mircea
 
Thanks for that goodie. 
Phil's Personal Perspectives Added Aug 12, 2017 - 3:38pm
Many of us live in a more gray world so the dive need not be so deep.  Even a not so distance journey inward is essential for us all.  What we take from it to hold onto is critical.
Mircea Negres Added Aug 13, 2017 - 3:23am
Apologies for the late response, but for some reason I couldn't log on last night.
 
John, it's a better picture than one of people chopped up by a Mexican drug cartel, of which there are plenty. This wasn't my first choice. There was another, with a faceless female warrior covered in darkness, but it was too big. Had you clicked on the pale blue "Read More" button that's in the bottom right corner below the picture, you would've seen the post wasn't about glorifying violence.   
 
Leroy, I'm glad you enjoyed it. 
 
Stone-Eater, it was my pleasure. Still, too bad I'm not a comedian...
 
PPP, some people go that deep. It's a damned shame they don't come out, but they hold onto the darkness and it holds onto them.