A story based on the lyric 'Sugar Mice' by Marillion.
Date: Sunday 18th September 2011.
Place: The Holiday Inn, Milwaukee.
Time: 10:34 am
Derek sat there in a chair that had become his own, in a rented room that he now called home, the third cigarette of the day steadily burning away in his hand that caressed his second glass of Rehorst.
In the other hand, which lay lazily on the arm of the chair, he held the remote control for the small portable TV that was his only source of entertainment within the room. Casually he flicked through the channels, the never ending stream that Sky, Digital and terrestrial delivered at the mere flick of a switch, whilst being serenaded by the tap tapping of the rain upon the window nearby. He sat with his back to the window, not just because the room was laid out that way, but just because that was easier. His pride and dignity replaced by guilt and shame, and having been brought to his knees with his head bowed, it was now safer to hide in the shadows, than stand in the light.
He flicked through the channels one by one, lingering for no more than a minute on each; although there were a good number that would only last 10 seconds; trying to piece together fragments of conversations, into a fluid piece of dialogue, in order to hear the truth, the real deal, the true cause and effects of why he was here, and where to lay the blame.
He had been here six weeks now, and in all that time he had barely left the refuge of the Holiday Inn. It hadn't been his choice to come here, well not initially, but when she told him to leave their home, citing that he spent more time here than there, he didn't have anywhere else to go. And with a suitcase pack, an overnight bag upon his shoulder, he called upon his best friend and drunken confidant Randy, who duly gave him the keys to room 4b.
Leaning back deep into the comfort of the chair, he listened to Sinatra's voice calling to him through the floorboards that separate him from the saloon bar downstairs. He had spent many a night recently, pay a dollar a time to sing in rhyme with the great man himself, who crooned from old 45s encaged within the jukebox in the corner. Often Old Man Jack or Tiger Tyler would join him, and they would perform to the other nameless faceless patrons of this establishment, who were passing through on their ways home to their family lives. Their drunken slightly slapstick singing and dancing routines, entertaining all except Janet, one of three waitresses who worked the bar and the wife of Randy. She would just look on, scowl faced as she watched the clock, counting down the time to ring the bell of 'Time Gentlemen please'. Their finale would of course be 'My Way', but last night when he sung it with the passion of so many nights before, the words had felt different, like they held new meaning, and before the song was over, he had left the party to go to his room.
Locking himself away with the comfort of a bottle of Rehorst, he found himself lost in memories, drowning in a sea of emotions, and finally washed up on the beach of realization; the realization being that when all is said and done, when all the truths are out there in the open, there was no use in pretending, there was only one person to blame. And he muttered to himself in the darkness of his solitude, 'Blame it on me, blame it on me, blame it on me, for I am your sugar mouse, and I am melting in the rain,'
A heavy tear rolled from his eye and down his cheek, as he remembered the last time he had spoken to Nicole, the day of coming here. She had been so angry with him, and he knew at that moment, that she knew, that she had lost him to another mistress. Every night he rolled in with her alcoholic fumes upon his breath, and the stained odour of 20 or more Marlboro Red upon his clothes, and every night he would promise Nicole it would be his last, but without the self-control, the commitment she asked for, he would soon be by his lovers side the fending off the symptoms of addiction.
'I want to be with my family.' He had told her in earnest, lowering his voice to soften the words.
'Really,' she then continued to question adding a sarcastic tone, 'Not another drink?'
Bowing his head in shame, he muttered, 'I know what I am.'
'You know,' she had asked, 'you fucking know do you?' she had repeated, her anger rising and fueling her choice of words, 'then get help.' she concluded.
'I will,' he said as he had many times before, 'tomorrow, I will go to the clinic tomorrow.'
'Tomorrow, it's always fucking tomorrow,' she had replied, her anger spat out with every syllable. 'You either go now, or you leave this house for good.' she told him, offering the ultimatum he had feared, before turning to walk out of the lounge, slamming the door behind her.
For a moment he did consider leaving for the clinic, getting up from the sofa, taking out his mobile and calling for a cab, and he even pictured himself being welcomed by the sliding doors, the young pretty receptionist smiling at him as she asked if she could be of assistance. But within the calmness of the room, he felt the shakes come on, that dryness of the mouth, and that need within to feed, and promising himself one more night with his mistress before offering himself to the righteous ones of the clinic, he rose and headed upstairs to the bedroom, to pack the overnight bag and suitcase he had arrived with six weeks earlier.
As the sun crawled out from behind a cloud, and the rain dripped to a stop, it flooded the room with its light, and reflected a glare he caught in the corner of his eye, and drew his attention to the clock on the wall. An hour and half had passed, and he watched as the second hand roll pass the 12, taking the big hand with it, and taking the morning into the afternoon. That was when the phone rang, and the commitment he had made long before his mistress had entered his life came calling. Due to his previous job taking him away from home some weekends, he had made a promise to his children that he would always call them midday on the Sunday. These days, well at these for last six weeks, they had been calling him, and as much as there was a temptation to allow this commitment to slip into the bin of broken promises, he had never not taken their call.
Picking up the phone and lighting another cigarette, he did his best to keep up the pretense that he was away. To his knowledge she hadn't told them the truth, and he was glad of that, yet it still didn't stop the shame he felt when he answered every one of their questions with a lie. However within the questions, he could read between the lines, and the hidden story told him that she was still alone, and he wondered if she was waiting for him, and if she was, he wondered how much longer would she wait?
Placing the receiver back into its cradle, the frustration of this situation and what it was doing to him and his family, finally took hold of him and he fell against the wall, sliding down into the corner, and into a fetal position. And with the tears now in full flow, the floodgates open, drowning his eyes, he muttered to himself the truth he wanted to tell them. The truth that the Government had, due to there ever increasing cut backs, left him out of work, and he had been reduced to claiming welfare benefit, and he couldn't stand the looks upon their faces, saying 'What a jerk.' And broken by the system, with an addiction already beginning to take control, he had headed to the place of solace and understanding, and given himself to his mistress.
Date: Monday 19th September 2011.
Place: W Fairlane Ave, Granville, Milwaukee.
Time: 13:42 am
Peeling the envelope open, Nicole pulled out the piece of paper inside and unfolded it, it's scrawled writing the only evidence she needed to tell her who it was from.
'My Dearest Nicole,
Time has passed and weeks have drifted by, and still I am here. I am so full of shame of what I have become, and yet I still drink to forget, still while away my troubles with others caught up in the same trap as I, and still hide away from the rest of the world like an unwanted and unloved stray dog. I am the shadow of the man I once was, but yet as surprising as it may sound, I have yet to hit 'rock bottom' as they call it. However I feel I am close, I can taste the stone, the saltiness of the waters, and each morning I look at myself in the mirror, and tell myself today is the day I will leave here and go to the clinic. However then my mistress calls me, her fumes and taste excite my addiction, and I reach for the bottle, a glass and a cigarette and the process begins again.
When I spoke to the kids an half an hour before writing this, I got the sense you were still there on your own, that you were waiting for me. Are you still waiting for me? I asked myself this same question at the time, but now I am asking you now within this letter. Cos if you are, if you still want this wreck of a man, if you are still willing to take him into your arms, to love him like you once did, and to take him to your bed and offer him your all, then I will seek treatment. I promise you I will seek treatment. I just need to know you still want me. I just need to know it is not too late to start again.
I love you my darling, I have loved you every day since the first time I told you, and I will always love you, regardless of what happens from now. You made me what I was, and without you, I would have been nothing. And I believe with your belief in me, your support, and your love, I can be that man again. Just tell me that you still want me.
I now reside at number one, the saloon bar, where I sit with the other fallen angels, fallen heroes of their past, clutching at the remains of our lives, nursing the scars of injustice and our self-inflicted wounds.
Give my love to the children and tell then daddy has taken a raincheck.
From your Sugar Mouse, melting in the rain.'
Nicole re-folded the letter, placed it on the small table beside her, and rose to leave the room, picking up the car keys lying idle on the arm of the sofa near to the door.