And so he went from celebrated Bohemian and confrere of the Bebop avant-garde, to a twice-married, burned out and washed-up has-been. Worse than a failure, a cliché. Then he struggled for ten years to live a normal
The money, slowly, slipped away. Where did it go? Where had it gone
? Who knew? Some here, some there. Much of it, of course, had disappeared as a result of his habit, which, although he'd finally broken it, had left him strung out and exhausted. Those three days when he walled himself up in that shitholethe loft in New York City, staring wrathfully at the ceiling, not eating, drinking, talking or sleepinghad enabled him to save himself, but had also left him with the nagging feeling of deprivation. He had displaced his desire for his fix into the need for sleep, but those three days he kept himself awake, alone and unassisted in his bedroom, had left him with a relentless craving for the slumber he had missed.
Alone, at last, in New York City; the city of dreams, unfulfilled dreams, and broken dreams. He ended up doing the two things his father had done, which he had sworn he would never emulate: he took a job as a janitor, and he discovered the petulant panacea of alcohol. That was his life for six years: sleeping the days away, working the night shift (the graveyard shift
, as it was morbidly, if accurately dubbed), never without his flask. His bourbon. The sour mash
. That's what they always called it, back in the day. The difference being, back then, on a good night, they'd drink it until they fell asleep. Now, he drank it in order
to fall asleep. How many times had he awoken, the light seeping through the shades (because, of course, the middle of the night for him now was what most people knew as the middle of the day), shaking and sweating? The warm pull of the sour mash was too much, so he would rush to the refrigerator and swill down a can of beer, in the hopes that it would either help him vomit, or calm his nervesand his cravingenough to allow him to get back to sleep.
This was the bad time. The dark years. The same exact day, spinning itself out, impossibly, over six years.
And it still didn't kill him. His body was bloated, his spirit was sloshed, but it wouldn't kill him. He didn't get better so much as finally run out of options. He just got so tired he eventually couldn't sleep anymore. He couldn't run anymore. And when he finally gave up, he either was ready to live or die, and at that time he didn't really care to live. But he couldn't die, so he just, finally, got back to the business of living.
It was not too late to learn something else, he knew. To do
something. Be someone else. Have a normal job. Maybe have a family. All that picket fence, apple pie, happy kind of shit. He just never got around to it, never found a way (or a reason) to make it happen.
Of course, he eventually discovered that such a cultivated condition was not possible, and could not exist for him. Continue to Part 5.