Last evening, from 4 to 6, I was very, very, drunk. I am not going into the shame of relapse, or offer platitudinous dictums to myself. I am not going to type a bunch of moral strictures or warnings about alcohol. I am going to state objectively the events of last evening, my fall from grace, and my spiralling relapse into self destructive behaviour.
I drank a fifth of Ballantine’s Scotch, Bushmills, and two hundred ml glasses of Irish Cream, and a Martini. I washed all of this down with 200ml of Black Ram whiskey. All in all, by half past four in the evening yesterday, I had a blood alcohol content of 0.25%, and I was collapsed on a bench in the city where I occasionally, just to see the buses and cars go past. I sat there in a stupor, passing in and out of consciousness, yelling and smiling at those who listened. I was so drunk by this time, I could text my friends around the globe only because I had the help of autocorrect on my smartphone.
At 5 in the evening, I was awoken from my stupor by a 14 year old boy, brown haired, carrying a pink umbrella. He asked me if I was alright. He asked me if I smoked and if I needed a cigarette. I told him that I didn’t smoke, but it was nice to see him. I extended my hand, introduced myself, and he shook my hand and winced a little at the strength of my grip. He called himself “John”, but it could be “Jean” (pronounced Zhaun, French) and he looked like someone I knew. I liked his grip, it was reassuring to me as I sat on a bench in almost 3 degrees Celsius in the Eastern European rain. I was freezing, but I didn’t know it. He looked into my eyes and I saw the same pity that I remember seeing in Vivienne’s eyes. I looked into his eyes, greyish green, and fell in love. At this point in this journey that I am no doubt on, I must admit that I am a man who sees beauty and he appreciates it.
If I see a beautiful sculpture, no matter how cruel its message, I will stop and appreciate it.
I fell in love with the boy, and creepy that it no doubt is, I ask for consideration only on the account of the fact that I was piss drunk, passing in and out of consciousness. I told him never to drink, because he would end up like me, a drunk on a bench, and a foreigner to boot. I blew him a kiss and told him that he looked like an Angel, the Angel of Verdun. The Angel of Verdun was a story I heard from an old veteran who told me that in times of distress, and when he was in dire straits on the frontlines, at the very last minute when all seemed lost, the Angel of Verdun would appear, like a spectre of benign bravery and courage. The Angel would guide the lost, the wounded and the defeated towards a certain victory.
“The Angel of Verdun helped to my feet as I lay in pieces because of the machine gun fire,” the old man whispered, “All of a sudden, I could feel the blood in my veins, the life in my nerves. I could walk, and I could fire my weapon. The Angel of Verdun helped me to my feet”. He paused and I remember asking him “What did the Angel look like?” my voice thick with sentiment and passion. “He was a young boy, brown-haired and with grey eyes.”, the old man replied, his voice a whisper. The Angel would take on many forms, but that night, as the old man lay mortally wounded, the Angel appeared to him in the form of a 14 year old boy.
“You’ll fall in love with the compassion in his eyes,” he said, “beware of that, son, beware of just that”.
I am not one for myths and legends. Scientific reasoning will tell you that near-death experiences are nothing more than hallucinations. Subliminally, I was associating my defeat in my battle with alcohol and this redemption with the Angel of Verdun. I told John, for that is what his name probably was, that he was the Angel of Verdun. He’d come when I needed him most. I don’t remember what he said next, but I remember him blowing me a kiss as he walked away. I collapsed into my stupor, his face radiating a halo of understanding and compassion. He mouthed something but I cannot remember what. I like to think, 24 hours later, that it was “I love you”.
I woke from my stupor and made my way to another bench near a mall. I vomited my shame there and before passing out, I sent a message to one of my colleagues here, begging him to pick me up. He called me up and I told him where I was before passing out. He reached an hour later, and helped me into a car and took me home, where I ranted and raged like the drunk I was. He listened, he left and I tried to recover from my drunken sin.
I realised something very important when I was sober. I calculated my blood alcohol content, and I knew that I hadn’t just passed out. I was close to dying due to respiratory arrest when John showed up and woke me out of my stupor. I was going to die on a bench, freezing and alone in the middle of some Eastern European country and this boy, by chance or will, saved my life. I have discovered that how much ever I may have desired death in the past, I am not ready to die. There is a certain value in life, I knew it, but last evening, as I saw the abyss of nothingness stare back at me, I realised that there is a certain value of life, and I am going to find it. All the night I felt that I was in an embrace with him, the boy, and it could be that he helped me sit up while I was passed out. I have a strand of his hair on my coat, and I have left it there, not sure whether he was real or not. The evidence exists that he was a breathing person, but if he was an Angel, it is up to me to decide. For once, I have decided to let wonder take the better of me, and I accept that mortal though he was, there was a sense of deep compassion that only made him divine.
My father was sympathetic. I am sympathetic on myself now, as I sit at my desk. We’ve all missed a step sometime in our lives, and I missed a step yesterday. I regained my footing because of a kid with a nice smile, grey eyes and the sense to show up at the right time. John, or Jean, I hope I will see you again. I hope I will see you when I am sober and we can have dinner somewhere. I owe you that and much more.