I watched him over the space of a few hours, as his eyes narrowed with increasing disdain. You could see his shoulders tense and relax as he crossed and uncrossed his arms, as he’d open his mouth and shut it again baring his teeth as he went. He gripped the arms of the chair until his knuckles threatened to pierce the tracing paper skin covering them and shifted uncomfortably from one cheek to the other, grimacing with sheer disappointment.
There had been a time when he would have heaved himself from his chair and stomped about. Woe betide any bloody fool who crossed his warpath. How he could menace with a sneer, deride with a “pfft” that gift you were so delighted with, freeze conversation just by hovering nearby and staring. Once, he’d knocked a glass over on one of his prowls, and rubbed all of their bloody noses one at a time, into that choking alcohol that was soaking into the new rug. Another time a new jigsaw wasn’t suitably out of his way, so was trampled underfoot and covered in painful tears, themselves trod the same. Oh yes, there had been a time alright.
His eyes grew narrower, his shoulders more hunched. You could see he was itching to thrash about and unleash a fury inside him. The alcohol he sipped brought tears to his eyes which he slapped away, furious and disgusted as he looked at the wet streaks on the back of his hand. As his head drooped more, I asked him if he was OK. His head rose, he straightened his back, pushed back his shoulders and curled his top lip beneath his perfectly groomed moustache, into a perfectly formed sneer. His watery eyes focused on me for a moment, opened, narrowed, then faded away back into their own gloom. Did he want a top-up, I asked.
There’d been a time when he would have sat with the bottle and he’d have poured it at his own bloody leisure. A time when he’d have anyone close by running about making sure he had whatever he needed, not waiting for some do-gooding no-neck to pass by once an hour and ration him. It was Christmas and there was nothing more that he wanted than to give that skinny streak of grease a solid slap. He would have once upon a time and, he’d tell you, he would have stayed slapped right through New Year’s. Right through, he would have.
He flinched slightly as his glass was topped off. He wasn’t really supposed to have more than two a day, but this was Christmas and what harm could it do? He breathed deeply and stared at the spot he’d been eyeing with disgust for the last few hours. I walked away and heard him cough. I turned as he rose in his chair and launched his drink with a vicious throw, against the floor where he’d been staring.
It didn’t smash, and the whiskey soaked quickly into the crappy brown carpet. Plastic cups and cheap whiskey; for crying out loud. He couldn’t cry out loud. He couldn’t cry out at all. He was stuck inside himself, with only his bloody self for company.