Splashing through the muck and vomit out front of Molly Bloom’s public house, I rushed to the train station. Greying snow banks filled with city debris flashed below, while I tried to read and not make eye contact with commuters. Between the Mariachi band and the opera singer, I sat stock still. Queensboro Plaza: where I could disembark and dash across the platform to ride the N-train to Union Square. Hunters Point Avenue: wasn't there a 1990s HBO documentary about prostitution on this street? No, that was Hunts Point. Vernon-Jackson: nearly everyone exited the train car, and I spied a woman’s purse under a long row of plastic seats. Quickly, I reached, extending my leg awkwardly, jamming it under the seats and grabbing the woman’s deserted purse with my size-eleven boot. After retrieving the bag, I looked around. I was the only passenger. I hadn't had a drink in over twelve hours and was beginning to feel the signs of withdrawal: deep flu-like body aches, herky-jerky hands, and current of anxious electricity flowing through my rectum, along my alimentary canal, and up into my skull. I wanted to barf and shit at the same time. A little diarrhea leaked out when I coughed.
I had been drinking heavily for ten long years. I’d drink anything: malt liquor, fortified wine, any of incarnation of alcoholic beverage, really. As long as it contained alcohol, I was quaffing it, chugging it, shooting it. On one occasion, I loaded a syringe with vodka and slammed it into my basilic vein. I dropped to my knees and quickly fell unconscious. Don't ask me where I got the needle, and don’t ask me how I know these things, trust that I know too much. My experience has taken me to unspeakable places.
Inside the purse I found wallet full of keepsakes. I thumbed through as fast as delirium tremens would allow me to finger. By now we were under the East River, and it would be moments before we arrived Grand Central. The lights flashed and the tunnel walls whizzed past in a blur. I began recognizing the photographs. They were of my family, photos of me as I was a kid growing up. Snaggle-toothed first grader. Mullet-wearing seventh grader. And Tuxedo donned twelfth grader. This was my mother’s purse. Had she left it behind purposefully? I hadn't spoken to her in eight years. I thought she might be dead. Assumed she was dead, and that was the reason we didn't talk. I dug deeper. Each layer was sentimental kickshaw. Like nesting dolls or an onion’s skin, each layer removed to reveal the next. The more I peeled back the more I saw and the smaller life became. I discovered minute bacteria at the cellular level, and beyond that viruses consuming pizzas and drinking human perspiration, lapping shedding skin. Beads of sweat coalesced on the back of my neck. I saw into the future, the past, and into inner space. My mother was The Big Bang. The contents of her pocketbook were where the secrets of life, riddles of the universe, were stored.
The train jerked violently and squealed as we entered Grand Central Station. Suits and ties rushed aboard. I thought of my mom and was uncomfortable that she was still alive. I took her twenty-dollar bill, sped through the closing doors, and bought beer at a bodega, but not before dumping her purse in the nearest garbage can. Lying limp on the shit smeared platform, a canary-colored cob of corn, half eaten, sugary kernels squeezed from their sockets, crossed my course.
Faster. Head in a vice. Stand clear of the closing doors, please, reverberated in my head, throughout the cave, and against the subway tiles.
Yes, I will drink on. Yes. I. Will.
Braxton's work is upcoming in the next issue of Funhouse. See more information here: https://braxtonyounts.ink/index.html