I step out of the elevator, walk down the corridor, take the key card out of my pocket, and swipe it down the slot on the electronic lock on the door leading to my hotel room.
I enter, and immediately know something’s wrong. My suitcase is open and all my clothes are strewn about the room—though that isn’t unusual. I’ve never been the kind of traveler who unpacks his shit methodically, setting up my hotel room like a miniature version of my home: clothes hanging in the wardrobe, toiletries lined up by the washbasin, etc.
It’s something else. There’s a big-ass bottle of gin lying by my open suitcase, and I’ve been sober for almost a month. It’s a liter bottle, but not the kind you buy from duty free. The shitty kind with some shitty name, and you know it’s going to have an acrid aftertaste that lingers, but you get it anyway, because what kind of asshole only buys 700 milliliters of gin at a time?
Around a third of the bottle is gone. I place it down and see something even more unusual. There’s a disposable paper plate with what used to be a lemon on it, hacked to bits with the type of plastic knife you buy for guests to use at the barbecue you’re hosting.
There’s also a bottle of tonic water. Only a little of this is gone.
“What the fuck…?” I say under my breath, my voice trailing off. “Has some jerk broken into my hotel room so he could get wasted on bum gin?”
Something catches my eye. I look up, and see someone standing outside on balcony. I squint my eyes, not believing what I’m seeing.
That jerk is me! And he has a glass in his hand and is looking over the balcony railing, and not to admire the view.
I knew there was something screwy with that elevator. When the lights flashed on and off, and there was a surge of electricity through the elevator keypad, and smoke was momentarily emitted from it, I thought what anybody else would think: I should’ve checked out the reviews for this hotel on TripAdvisor.
Not for a moment did I think I’d stepped into a time machine. But who would?
I walk up to the French door, lock it as silently as I can—just in case I’m wrong about the elevator and it’s a crazy person out there, who just so happens to look exactly like me from behind—and then knock on the window.
He turns around, and I sigh. It is me, and I’m shitfaced, which goes someway to explaining his response… My response, I mean. I’ll write him so this shit doesn’t get confusing. He says, “Hey, dude. I was wondering when you’d join the party.”
If the guy was wearing a mask or a disguise or some shit, he’d have given himself away, anyway. Only an asshole like I was would describe standing on some shitty balcony, in some shitty hotel, drinking shitty gin on my own, as a party.
He seems friendly enough, but I tread carefully. “What you doing out there, buddy?” I ask, lamely.
He shrugs, and says, “Drinking.”
“You weren’t thinking about doing anything stupid, were ya?”
He frowns. “What makes you think that?”
“I couldn’t help but notice you were looking over the balcony edge a minute ago.”
“Oh that!” He starts fumbling in his pockets, and pulls out a crumpled pack of cigarettes, takes one out, and takes his time lighting one, like it’s a natural pause. He takes a long drag, exhales a cloud of smoke, and then says, “I was thinking about jumping.” And then explaining, though it’s unnecessary: “Down there.”
Not knowing how his killing himself would affect my existence, I rush to unlock the French door and go out on the balcony with him. He looks at me confusedly and asks me if I want a cigarette. I ignore him and look over balcony railing. I’m looking down at an otherwise regular swimming pool, if it weren’t filled with foaming beer. Jeez, that was a screwy elevator. And a really shitty time machine.
Half to myself, I say, “So you weren’t thinking about killing yourself?”
He laughs. “Of course not!”
I stand up right, and turn and look at him. “Then why were you thinking about jumping?”
He shrugs again. “I was thinking about switching to beer.”
“And this is the best way to do it?”
“There isn’t any in the refrigerator.”
“Does this hotel room have a refrigerator big enough to hold regular-sized beer cans?”
I peek through the glass, shading my vision with cupped hands, and spot it. It isn’t a mini fridge you’d typically find in a hotel room, but a full size.
That was a shitty time machine. Someone should really take a look at it.
I’ve recently been reading about the twelfth step in the Big Book, so I’m aware I need to start helping other alcoholics as part of my recovery. If this guy wasn’t me, I’d let him carry on drinking. That’s if he wasn’t in my hotel room. I take the drink from his hand, and bring it close to my nose so I can smell it. “Jesus,” I say. “How many ice cubes did you put in this thing?”
“I filled it to the brim.”
There’s a miserable lemon wedge floating on the surface. I look at it and feel depressed, and then I take action. I toss the drink over the balcony, though I hold on to the glass, placing it down on the floor. If this time machine is on the fritz as much as I think it is, there could be a whole host of replicas of me walking around down there.
“Hey, why’d you do that?” he asks.
“I think you’ve had enough.”
Having a coherent conversation is difficult for Shitfaced Me right now, as he says, “Of what?”
“You sound like my dad… Which reminds me, you look…” His voice trails off, and he searches for the right word. “Familiarize. Like me, but an older, uglier version.”
“Almost,” I say. “You were thinking of familiar. And I am familiar. I’m you, from a screwy future where hotel rooms have tiny refrigerators in them.”
He looks at me with one eye, squinting a little. “Remind me why you tossed my drink over the balcony again?”
I slap him, because I’m still figuring out this helping-other-alcoholics gig. “This isn’t a party, guy. You’re standing on a balcony, drinking by yourself.” I pause to look out at the view. “And is this one of the Canary Islands?”
“I think so,” he says.
“This is more depressing than I thought. Let’s get you inside.”
I open the French door, and he says, “Good idea. Let’s get another drink.”
This is going to be more difficult than I thought.
I take the cigarette from him, stub it out, lead him inside, sit him down on the bed, and I take chair in the corner, because I’m not fully comfortable sitting by a shitfaced version of myself on a bed. Then I explain to him that I was just like him, but now I’m sober, and my life, while it isn’t perfect, is way better than the life he’s living now.
And he says, “Good for you, dude. But I’m just going to cut down. I’ve been thinking about it for a while.”
I slap him again, but this time I don’t immediately regret it. “You’ll do that, putting rules in place, but none of it will work. You might succeed for a while, but before you know it, you’ll be back here, out on that balcony, drinking a ridiculously strong gin and tonic and thinking of a really bad way of switching to beer.”
“Are you saying I’ll decide to vacation here again? Is that what you’re doing here?”
“Maybe I’m not explaining myself right. It was a metaphor. I’m saying you won’t manage moderation. You’ll fuck it up a whole bunch of times. And then you’ll get to the place where I’m at now, and a shitload of time will have gone past that needn’t have.”
I pull out my iPhone, and cross my fingers that 4G exists in this screwy future. Failing that, at least 3G. It does, so I open the Safari app and pull up this blog, navigating to some post about relapsing.
I hand the cell phone to him, and he reads it. Then he looks up at me and says, “Whoa. You sound really down.”
I smile. I’m gaining some ground. “I was, but I’m in a better place now.”
There’s a moment of realization painted on his face. He looks down at the carpet, but may as well be looking deep into his soul.
And then it’s gone.
Picking up the gin bottle, he says, “If you’re right, which I don’t think you are, I need to find this out on my own. I just need to make myself another drink first.”
I sigh and give up. He’s right, and it’s the most intelligent thing he’s said since I’ve spoken to him.
As he stands up and starts wandering around, looking for a glass, I make a quick exit. I go out the hotel room, in search of reception desk, so they can get a maintenance guy to fix the screwy time-machine elevator. I’ll be taking the stairs.
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