By Katiso Thatho, Lesotho
Another long day at work had passed and he found himself once again in the one place to which he had sworn never to return. Of course, he had sworn it ten times prior to that and yet he always ended up there regardless. It’s not that he particularly enjoyed being there, but there was something that kept him coming back. It certainly wasn’t the women–the only women you’d find there already had children with at least half of the men there and would sleep with anyone for just one quart or even a single cigarette if you played your cards right. Not that he was in any position to judge their life choices; after all he was a regular at the tavern just like they were. He definitely didn’t come for the music either. Every night they’d play the same music, or at least it all sounded the same to him. The younger customers seemed to enjoy it a lot and danced their posteriors off every time they heard it. To him it was just a whole lot of banging and clattering that made absolutely no sense, at least not when he was still sober. After having a few drinks he’d find himself dancing to it and feeling like he was ten years younger. One would think that perhaps then it was the alcohol that kept him coming but even that wasn’t it. In fact, the alcohol was the reason he wanted to stay away so badly. Unfortunately his mind and body were very much out of sync on this issue. All throughout the day his palms would crave the sensation of holding an ice cold quart of his favourite lager and no matter how much water he guzzled down, his throat screamed of thirst, one that only alcohol could quench.
Despite such severe cravings, finally getting his hands on it was never as satisfying for him as he would have hoped. The more he wolfed down the greater his self-loathing grew. He wished so badly for someone to enter the tavern, knock it out of his hands and take him home but alas he knew no such person existed, the alcohol had made certain of that. And so he sat there beer in hand and staring emptily at the dance floor looking at what he was sure were teenagers dancing with the same type of women he so feared.
He knew the alcohol was kicking in because suddenly he had begun tapping his feet and nodding his head to that insufferable racket he loathed so much. It would only be a matter of time before he skipped and hopped his way to the dance floor. From time to time he would pull his phone out of his pocket to check what time it was and then stare at his screen saver for a few seconds before stuffing it back into his pocket and downing a sizeable gulp of the elixir as if to help him swallow whatever emotion that had resurfaced while looking at that picture. It was a photo of his wife and their then ten year old son.
A few years had passed since he had last seen them both. One day Mampho had decided she had had enough of his alcoholism and unwillingness to change for the sake of their family. Perhaps that was why he always came back to the tavern, the emptiness of his home had become too much for him to bear. It wasn’t that he was unwilling to change. He wanted to stop more than anything in the world but he just couldn’t. His life wasn’t that bad; in fact for one looking from the outside it was quite good. He had a family, a nice four bedroom house and a car to drive his family around. One would think having all this would make him happy but he was anything but. Even he couldn’t say for sure what the source of his perpetual state of melancholy had been. Perhaps it was the lifelong dream he had given up because;
“A man has to provide. You can’t possibly hope to make a good living doing that.”
Maybe it was due to all the emotions he had suppressed all his life because of the strength everyone expected out of him. Alcohol was his only escape from all his woes. He had thought that maybe getting married would take away all these problems and for a while that seemed to be the case. However, he slowly began to realise that marriage had its own set of problems and those problems caused all his unresolved traumas to resurface and this time it was more than he could handle. Inebriation was his only escape from such trappings, after a few drinks all his problems seemed to just disappear. The alcohol itself wasn’t what he wanted but rather the freedom he felt as he consumed it. It was during those brief periods of intoxication that he felt he could go back in time. Back to when he could dream of being more than just an accountant, when his problems were a bit more bearable and he didn’t have so many people depending on him that he couldn’t afford to depend on anyone else. It was for this reason that he gulped one quart after the other, hoping to once again be free even if it’s only for a fleeting moment – even if he wouldn’t have any memory of it thereafter.
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