by Harlan Groves
Juliana had tried to quit drinking once before. When this occurred she had told only but a few of her closest friends–maybe two, just to start out–about the plan and its reasonings at all beforehand, and they were seriously supportive because they had both/all known Juliana for quite some time at that point (in variant lengths and capacities, naturally) and had seen what a terrible affliction or choice it was for Juliana, the drinking, or at least that it had been and still always very well could be, though they had still drank with and loved and cared for her very much for complexly personal reasons; otherwise, she pretty much shut out her less significant friends and acquaintances entirely, and she didn’t tell her family at all. This last bit was crucial, as it turned out.She didn’t tell her family for many reasons, many of those which she didn’t fully understand herself (or that she just couldn’t articulate, which ability functions surprisingly well as a sort of litmus test for understanding), though one she knew was a romantic ultra-American idea of wanting to do this on her own and to be able to say to herself and to know that she did it on her own, which all pretty much boiled down to pride; an adjacent facet of that was not wanting to put anyone out; she disliked asking for help because she disliked inconveniencing people, especially those she truly cared for, and part of that genuine desire to not impose was also not wanting to feel as though she owed anyone, because she knew that no matter what those imposed-on people said or how much they brushed it off as no big deal that it (the time they helped Juliana) would be well within their conscious reach the next time that they needed or asked for help, and she also truly hated anyone knowing or thinking that she needed help at all, which pretty much boiled down to pride as well. Another reason had to do with anxiety, all around. Juliana was never very talkative, unless she was drunk, and she especially never was with her family, and she especially especially never was when talking about herself. For Juliana, talking about herself was literally exhausting; she could never get more than a few sentences in without becoming psychically depleted and wanting so desperately to just change the subject. And so since Juliana so rarely opened up in a meaningful way, her parents and kin would latch on to every bit of information that she revealed about herself, which again was not much at all, and they would do so especially because they thought that she was so reserved because she was (had to be) brooding over some terrible personal troubles that she was bound to talk about eventually, they hoped, and they would fall upon the information they did get and chew and obsess over it to themselves and then reveal all this chewing and obsessing to Juliana for months on end, and they just wouldn’t fucking leave it alone, which would drive Juliana insane with anxiety, and so every time that Juliana tried to open up to her family it had become a great reminder of why she never did that in the first place–or, at least, why she felt that she could-/shouldn’t.
The result of all of this failed communication was a failure of sobriety. Juliana was at her cousin’s wedding eleven days after entering her personal trial when her sister had convinced her to have one glass of the shittiest white sangria that Juliana had ever tasted.
But Juliana had not always been an alcoholic. When she was a teenager or twenty years old, every other popular recreational drug that existed in her time seemed to be much easier to obtain than alcohol, which actually was actually ironic. In her young adult life she had experimented with all of the following at the very least once: caffeine, nicotine, THC, hydrocodone, diazepam, cocaine, oxycodone, psilocybin, alprazolam, amphetamine, zolpidem, LSD, DXM, DMT, MDMA, oxymorphone, methamphetamine, lorazepam, morphine, and synthetic cannabinoids; most were taken on many frequent occasions, and almost always in various combinations, usually along with alcohol. These had led to many fun and memorable times with many friends, but eventually those friends stopped doing those drugs too. She wasn’t sure why she’d stopped; it just sort of happened, almost naturally. Maybe she just needed to change.
Some days, maybe most, or less than half, Juliana would wake up before Hunter. She would stare at him in the dark morning light and think about how beautiful he was in a kind of melancholic way, and then she would think about herself thinking about him, which would bring on a routine psycho-philosophic crisis, and then she would slide into thinking usually on more earthly topics like work and shit-to-do, or recalling her past social interactions on a repetitive mental loop, trying very hard to stay away from thoughts of her family or anything equally depressing. Eventually she would get up to use the toilet and sink because she had drank quite a lot the night before (not even eight hours ago), and she would splash cold water on her face (not to wake herself up, but because her eyes would feel as though they had been dried in the sun for days and cold water made them (her) feel better, a bit). She would then reenter the bed because she was too tired to make coffee, but then, too tired to sleep, she would lie there and just stare at him again, looking at his hairy back and ass and backs of his arms, and she would see this grid upon him, upon his skin, and it would take over his whole body, and pulsate with this glowing green, kind of from pictures of the Aurora Borealis (the green), and she would see within this grid, whose vibrant rectangles would expand and contract and shift with the rises and falls and breadths of his skin, constellations–not exactly stars, but pinpoints of greenish-white light that seemed like inexpressible times and places within people themselves, and Hunter would breathe deep and the room would be fiery with neon and swell and grow until our world just about couldn’t hold together–and then he would roll over and sigh roughly or something, and reality would snap back so harshly that Juliana could actually feel it, and when the day came back to just so it felt to her as though she had had and lost something infinite. But she couldn’t seem to really explain that to anyone, even herself, so she spent her mornings feeling deprived and kind of hollow, and sad. By the afternoons, she was just ready to drink.
And some nights she would cover her eyes with her hands completely instead of looking at the starred sky because her own dark nothingness seemed more infinite than the everything she could see, somehow. It was weird; everything seemed weird. She felt both in tune and at odds with the world, as though the universe and her understood each other, but the universe also understood something that she didn’t, something great and vital, and the universe was patiently waiting and hoping that she would get it.
Harlan Groves is the editor of Starfall Sea. He lives in Orlando, Florida.