Charlie closed his eyes again, tighter this time, as if by force of will he could make himself see something different once they re-opened. It didn’t work. As he opened them again he was still in the cell. His head still pounding at the meagre serving of light, slatted by the bars on the high window, his mouth still felt like a graveyard and his gut was still somersaulting over whatever it was he’d drunk the night before. Everything, probably, although judging by the smell that was radiating off of him some of it hadn’t stayed down for long.
Looking around, unhappy clarity slowly but viciously returning, the pain of the hangover started to become a secondary concern. The night before was a blank, one into which dread was starting to flood. Nothing good could have happened because nothing good ever led you to a cell and even without that solid clue half distorted images were bubbling up which may, or may not, have been real but which seemed plausible enough. Being thrown out by belligerently bored bouncers, heaving up a toxic mixture into the gutter, lights and sirens and staggering walks through disgusted crowds. Depressing, but worse than that – fleeting. Fractured images that left too much unseen and unremembered even as they hinted at worse.
Pulling himself upright he felt his balance failing, the alcohol still in his system was enough to throw him off even after a night of comatose sleep. Another side note though, marginalia to the undiminished abyss of uncertainty about what had led him through the night and to his current sorry state.
The possibilities were multiplying in Charlie’s aching mind. Theft, violence, sin and idiocy, anything was possible and with answers lying beyond the borders of intoxicated blackness he could barely even attach himself to the process of figuring the truth out. Somewhere during the acid tasting night he’d separated from himself, the small and broken man he was now couldn’t conceive of the potential actions that had led him on. He closed his eyes again, it hurt to contemplate it, although there was little enough comfort to be found behind the veined shields of his eyelids.
There were footsteps outside, heavy and striding. Charlie tried to ball himself up but a wave of nausea stopped him before he reached full foetal seclusion, too late anyway as he could hear a key turning in the cell door. Whatever was coming in to see him, whatever shame or disgust, wasn’t going to disappear no matter how deep inside himself Charlie tried to retreat.
It took bravery to re-open his eyes, small bravery, but bravery nonetheless. He felt momentarily proud, as if he was stepping back towards civility by daring to face the light. It wasn’t a feeling that lasted though, the cell was unchanged and the cop before him did nothing to add to it’s hospitality.
“Awake at last, get up, we need to process you.”
The policeman was young and scowling, dull brown eyes expressing an unfamiliar disdain that Charlie knew was meant for him. It couldn’t have been a simple drunk and disorderly, no one looked at you that way for that. That the lost possibility of mere shame and humiliation hit him so hard made him sway twice as much as he struggled to stand up, although with effort he didn’t fall back. The cop backed away a step, wary in case his ward tried to seek a supporting arm, understandable given the smell of vomit that neither man could ignore.
“What was it?”
The question took a part of Charlie’s flesh with it, as real as the churning gut or pounding head he could feel the physical wrench of asking and risking getting an answer. He prayed quickly for a mundane reply.