What shall we do with a drunken sailor?


I sometimes run across drunk cyclists. Some of them are sober for life, some are in between drunks, and some of them are going to die drunk.

The sober drunks I don’t have much to say to. They have found their way and it was usually by wandering through a lonely forest along an unmarked, overgrown path where each blade of grass was a razor in camouflage. They don’t need any advice or support or companionship from me.

The drunk drunks I have even less to say to. They have also found their way and they don’t want to hear any atheist psalms. Plus, I’m a lousy preacher because I cuss too much and say reassuring things like, “We’re both going to be dead for a zillion billion years no matter how much we do or don’t imbibe.”

And extra plus, the most useless piece of advice is the one no one asked for.

A few days ago, though, I butted my head into someone else’s problems, unwanted and unasked for. This Terrible Drunk didn’t care what I thought but listened politely, the way words flow around a person’s outer being and elicit only a kind, understanding look, with the corners of the mouth slightly upturned, the eyes saying “Don’t try to intrude on my hell.”

I spoke a river for half an hour and never said a single dog-damned thing.

My words must have been powerful, though, because no sooner had I finished delivering my fancy soliloquized philosophized rationalized Theory of Sobriety™, than Terrible Drunk went home and got terribly drunk. I thought about that and wondered if maybe I shouldn’t go to New York, invest my entire $500 savings, and tell the stock market to go down really, really low.

It was a good lesson for me. I may be sober, but you can’t teach sober. Some people are flat fucking out to find the bottom and there’s nothing you can do to stop them. Maybe the bottom is lying face-first in a pile of someone else’s puke on skid row in DTLA, or maybe the bottom is being dead, but the elevator’s going down lickety-split and it’s not stopping on my floor.

I suppose I should be happy that I was able to get off where I did, and I suppose I should accept the fact that everyone chooses, but it’s still sad to see, looking over my shoulder, walking quickly away, afraid of what I’ve seen.


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