By Arti Behan
I’VE been in over my head, arse over tit, three sheets to the wind, bit off more than I could chew and down and out. I’ve seen jail cells, slept in hospital beds and felt fists to the face. I’ve begged for mercy and asked for forgiveness.
I’ve hated so many moments of this life but I’d live every second of them ten times over and ten times worse if it led me back to where I am now, back to Her. I’d take a bullet, spend a decade in jail, I’d do anything to see Her with open arms. In fact, I’d sign up for whatever hell there was on offer even with no guarantee of open arms, just to see Her face — and have a chance.
How could this happen? It brings me back to the classic Casablanca line “of all the gin joints … in all the world”. Well, for me anyway… I look back to all the heart ache and closed doors that got me to where I am right now and thank a God I don’t believe in for every one of them.
Sometimes I wake up, hung-over and blurry-eyed and my mind harps back to those nascent teenage days of 16, where I discovered alcohol and thought I finally found freedom. It takes a few moments to realise 10 years have passed. How did I get to London? How did I end up in a job in journalism? I failed high-school English for Christ’s sake.
This rolling freak-show of debauched narcissism could have just chugged along neurotically until it put-put-putted out in a lacklustre backfire bang, with just a few semi-well-wishers left to “oh and ah”. But no, London had other plans; London took me into a secure, well-paying job and introduced me to Her.
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Now, I’m rapidly trying to pull my life out of this tailspin and show Her how high and glorious I can fly. I’m trying to straighten out in the Capital of Debauchery, but is it possible?
This city caters to my thirst. Hell, the more I reflect, the more I think that’s all I ever wanted. Just some watered down version of Leaving Las Vegas. I just wanted to have customs search and seize all my responsibilities at Heathrow. I wanted to pack all my guilt and regrets into a bag and leave them at Brisbane airport — tip off the staff to an unattended bag and watch as officials came out and took the bag behind closed doors to be destroyed. I wanted to be free like Shane McGowan said: “to wander the Dark Streets of London, buggered to damnation, without a penny, just wandering”. It seemed the right place for a wretch like me.
But, this horribly dark city, where the sun now sleeps at 4pm and the fog and cloud chokes light, making the warmth of the Great Star a faint memory; this bleak, grey town has shown me the brightest most beautiful light I have ever seen. It has shown me a future my teachers would cringe to think I have and ignited a spark in my chest I thought would never burn again.
This Christmas I have to walk past the cheap warmth of the neon lights of so many London bars, clubs and off licences to try and tend to those beautiful tiny glowing ambers. I have to find some sort of faith, or something…
But what the hell do I know? I’m just a drunk.
And, She has a boyfriend…