Oftentimes, I write based on feelings and whims. I allow myself to ‘free think’ when I’m doing other things and tasks around the house. I may jot down some of those ideas and then when I sit down to write, I consider some of those and see what comes to me. Usually, I’m surprised because I don’t always know where the story will take me. I didn’t plan on writing the following story. I was filtering through my thoughts and this fella named Clarence popped into my mind. At first, I thought his life up to this point was insignificant to the story, but now I realize this isn’t true. Just like us all, past experiences have made him who he is, led him to make certain decisions that altered or directed the course of his life and the lives of others. The outcome isn’t always what we expect.
He didn’t like to feel this way, anxious and uneasy, feeling uncertain, feeling like he wasn’t sure where things were headed. Clarence tried to make it go away. He took to the television, immersing himself in standup comedians and sitcoms with laugh tracks, hoping they would remind him to smile. They didn’t.
He drank beer and tried to get drunk. When the beer didn’t work, he looked for something harder but he was out of everything. He didn’t feel like going out to buy any booze. He decided to go rummaging through the medicine cabinet in the bathroom. Maybe he had some old cough medicine that would knock him out for the night. As luck would have it, a bottle of codeine cough syrup had been pushed to the back of the top shelf. He turned it up like it was a bottle of beer, realizing he might have drank too much after he’d already consumed it. Didn’t matter now. He shut the cabinet to face himself in the mirror. He looked tired and old and worn down.
Only a guilty conscience or desperation could do this to a man. In his case, it was desperation, the kind that comes from loving a woman too much. He wondered if she ever felt that kind of need, too. He wondered if she ever felt anything, sitting at home with her rich husband. She had the world by the balls. Slumming, that’s what she wanted. Highfalutin to her friends and a poor man’s whore for him. Well, he’d had enough of her and her game playing.
He would take care of this in the morning. He’d walk over to her fine house at the edge of town and tell her directly that he was through; he wasn’t going to be somebody she could toy with anymore. He didn’t care who saw him there. He didn’t care if her husband was home.
The next afternoon a woman stood outside Clarence’s apartment, knocking gently at the door. She shifted her weight, trying to balance the suitcases she carried. Finally, she set them down, calling out to Clarence, knocking a little harder. The next-door neighbor heard her calling for Clarence. He opened his door a crack. He’d seen her around before.
“Ma’am, Clarence ain’t there no more. They took him away this morning. He…well, he done drank himself to death.”
The woman leaned against the door of Clarence’s apartment, hands and face pressed against its cold exterior. She looked down at the bags by her feet. A knot formed in the pit of her stomach. Whenever life was especially difficult growing up, her mama used to say, “This, too, shall pass.” Until now, she always believed it was true.