Better Days

Better Days

A Story by Timothy Ryan

    I was back in the swing of things, baby! My bottle was full of beer, my lungs were full of smoke and I was full of life. Nothing's better than a night off with no responsibilities or commitments the next day. You can get as fucked up as you want, and you don't have to worry about a god damn thing. That's the way life should really be. You should be able to be happy without having to sacrifice so much to get it. Work, money and bills all wake up you up from any chance of that dream ever coming true. I still can't believe my boss had us working on the fourth of July, a national holiday for Christ's sake. Nothing says freedom and independence like being forced to work, right? And of course, he didn't even come in that day, that rich prick. He could f**k right off, though. I was free at last and there wasn't a damn thing he could do to hold me back. Bartender, keep 'em comin'.
    Nothing says freedom like dancing does. Think about it, no one really knows what they're doing, and most of us look ridiculous when we're doing it. The reality is that we flail around, incoherently shaking our bodies off-rhythm to music. To know deep down that's how you look, and still do it speaks volumes about how much you let other people dictate who you are. I wasn't sure if it was me or the alcohol speaking, but I didn't give a s**t that night. The stars were shining above the bar patio, the band was playing and we were all a drunken mess. A few of us had left, but some of us we're still alive and kicking. Paul was laying on the ground, after tripping on gravity, laughing as the beer in his hand spilled all over his shirt. Apparently coordination and alcohol don't mix well. You gotta love the guy, though. Nothing stopped him from a good time, except for blacking out. A few of us had tried to settle him down throughout the night, but he was out of reach from our helping hands. That hangover was gonna hurt. No one else was really causing a scene, except for her, standing in a silent storm and saying it all without saying a word. She could always get my attention. She made me weak at times, and I hated it. I was supposed to be the one with the control, not her. But that's the spell women can have on you. Julia was standing off to the side with her arms crossed, smoking a cigarette and glaring at me with eyes that said "I don't know why I thought tonight would be different".
    Everything was really my fault. I knew she hated when I was an a*s. I knew she hated people getting too drunk, and I knew she hated unwanted attention in public. But I brought her out anyways. I thought I could get away with it. I just had my first piece of writing published, and I felt unstoppable. She shut me down at every chance, though. A slap to my hand when I went to hold hers. Pushing my arm away when I tried to slither it around her waist. And a "Ryan, you need to get away from me right now," after I was a couple(or a lot) of drinks deep. Could you really blame me? Just take a look at that girl and you'd see what I mean. That wavy black hair that waved in the wind. The way that white sundress hugged her beautifully, plump a*s. And my god! The way her cleavage was spilling out of the top of her dress. Every cell in my body felt like it was on fire whenever I looked at her. I thought  she was just being moody, and I'd be able to charm my way out of it like always. But I got the idea that wasn't going to happen when she took a cab home that night, while I was left with Paul leaning against me for support as we stumbled through the downtown streets.
    My body ached when I woke up the next morning. Even when you're free, you can't have too much of a good time without paying for it in some way. Every one of those drinks had a small aftertaste of regret in them. I got up and looked to Paul, who was passed out on my couch. The sun streaked through the windows, across his face. I was surprised he wasn't catching fire. The brightness of the sun was like the deep fires of hell to all the hangovers in the world. The clock said it was a little passed two in the afternoon. I walked over and shook Paul in an attempt to get the day going. All he did was groan. I wanted to throw water all over him to wake him up. He deserved it. Everything wrong with Julia was all his fault. He encouraged me in the worst ways. Why couldn't he control himself around her? He always made it a point to do the opposite of what she said to piss her off. It was a weird tug-of-war between him and her over who I would side with. He knew I would join him every time too. All he had to do was keep egging me on, the b*****d. "Come on, Ryan. What are you, p***y-whipped? Have you lost your balls?". He was a poison that I couldn't help myself but to drink. I had enough that morning. I was cutting him off.
    "Hey. Wake the f**k up," I smacked his feet. He groaned again. He ruined my night, so I had no problem ruining his morning. The feet did nothing. I grew frustrated and hit the top of his head a few times.
    "Ughhh, what?..." Paul weakly squabbled as his eyes remained shut.
    "Get your a*s up, you bum. You got work in an hour."
    "What?" Paul turned his head into the pillow as if he heard nothing.
    "I said get up," I yanked the pillow out from underneath his head. He slowly sat up and rubbed his eyes before taking a few seconds and finally answering.
    "You can be a real dick. You need to chill out. It's too early for you to be bent all out of shape," Paul said while burying his face in his hands.
    "It's not too early. It's mid-afternoon. And I can act however I want. This is my apartment. I'm actually being nice to you after the s**t you pulled last night."
    "What did I do last night?"
    What did he do last night? Was he kidding me, or had he actually drank himself retarded? Everyone saw how hammered he was. What didn't you do?
    "You fucked things up with Julia, again," I answered.
    "How did I f**k things up? You're the one who's with her, not me."
    "I'm not with her. And you reflect on me when I'm the one who invites you out."
    "You invited everybody out, though," Paul looked at me, with his eyes finally open.
    "So, what?" I asked.
    "So, that means good people were there, too. They don't reflect on you at all, only I do?"
    He had a point, but he was still the one who made a mess of everything. It shouldn't be me who had to clean it all up.
    "When it comes to Julia, yes. You seem to be the only one who who gets me into bad situations."
    "Oh well. She's just gotta get used to it."
    "Why would she ever want to get used to us making a******s out of ourselves in public?" I asked. His logic truly puzzled me.
    "Not us, but the life-style."
    "What kind of life-style do you think we're living? We work close to minimum-wage jobs."
    "I mean you being a big time writer. Think about it, man," Paul looked into my eyes. He had my hesitant attention. "Everyone's going to want to hang out and party with you. It's only going to get bigger. I'm broke as hell. Just wait until you see how crazy it gets when you're rich and party with other rich people. I bet they'll make me look boring."
    "You really think so?"
    Oddly enough, he had a point. I planned on being the greatest writer the world had ever seen. If I had this much of a problem over a short-story being published, what was going to happen when I sold millions? Maybe I needed to embrace the chaos more.
    "Absolutely, man. You're just warming up," Paul stood up and stretched, looking around the room. "Is it really almost three? This is gonna be the third time this week I've gone in hungover."
    "It's getting there. I think you got enough time to make it before you're late if you leave now."
    "F****n' a. Alright. I'm gonna take a piss and then I'm probably heading out."
    I lit a cigarette and waited for Paul on the front steps of my apartment building. Julia lived in the basement apartment below. I knew I'd have to face her at some point, but I wasn't ready to yet. There was still a calm about the day that I wasn't ready to shatter.
    "Can I get one of those?" Paul asked. I opened my pack and handed him a cigarette.
    "You really think things are only going to get crazier for me, huh?"
    "Absolutely. You know it deep down, too. You're a bad mother f****r. The world needs to get ready for the party you're bringing. Just don't forget to invite me when it goes down. I'm about to head out. Thanks again for all those drinks. We'll have to do it again some time soon," Paul patted my shoulder and started walking down the steps.
    "Oh, I'm sure we will. I'll see you later, brother," I said. Paul waved his hand up behind his head as he walked towards the road, away my apartment and away from the damage of the night before.
    As unstable as he could be, Paul brought up some solid points. A certain madness did come with success. I could definitely handle it, but could I handle the repercussions of it all? That's what I really had to face. All the people I'd offend for the sake of a good time. All the ugly sides of myself I wanted to hide from others. All the reasons people would have to throw dirt on my name. Those were all parts of success that I wasn't sure if I was ready for. But it was too late to run from them. I had already knocked on Julia's front door, and heard the doorknob twisting from the inside.
    Some people in this world are born with vice-grips that can clamp down on all of your attention and desires without even trying or meaning to. The world keeps on spinning, but they stand still. I realized this every time I saw Julia. She was the one the fell through the cracks. She was saint amongst us sinners. There was something pure about her that no one else could touch. Even though she was only a few doors down, she seemed worlds away at times. No matter how much I got in my own way, she was really the destination I wanted to end with. There she stood. A long, gray t-shirt, just barely reaching above her knees. Her black hair was in a ponytail. She was jut barely taller than five-foot, but her presence was bigger than I had ever felt it. Those beautiful, brown eyes were sharpened, piercing straight through my soul with their first glance. And those beautiful lips that tasted like home, held back a tongue that was ready to spit fire. As beautiful as she was, she didn't look happy as she stood in her doorway with her hands on her hips.
    "Are you sober?" she snapped at me.
    "It's three in the afternoon. What do you mean am I sober?"
    "It's the weekend. That's a fair question to be asking you after last night."
    "Yes, I'm fine. Can I come in. I wanted to apologize to you."
    "Fine," Julia crossed her arms and walked into her apartment. I followed her as we sat on opposite ends of the couch. There was an uncomfortable silence at first. I didn't know where to start or what to say.
    "Well," she shrugged her shoulders and stared at me with her eyebrows raised, urging me to start.
    "Well," I paused to gather my thoughts. "I realize last night was supposed to be a night to celebrate. I wanted to make it so my joy spread to everyone, and we could all have a good night. But everyone got a little carried away, and it turned into a drunken mess."
    "Only two people really got carried away."
    "We we're all drinking."
    "Yeah, but only two people got fall-down drunk."
    "I never fell down."
    "No, but you were just as bad. You can't go around being loud and causing a scene, then try to be all nice to me. What the hell were you thinking? Did you really think I wanted to be around you after you and Paul got that sloppy."
    "I just wanted to let you know I was thinking of you."
    "Ryan, you slapped my a*s in front of everyone after you and Paul knocked that table over. Do you have any idea how embarrassing that was? When you act that way in front of people, then hang out with me, people think I'm just as bad. And that's not who I am."
    Finally, she understood. That was the exact point i was making to Paul earlier. I knew we would be able to work things out.
    "That's exactly what I was telling Paul. When he acts that way it..."
    "No, stop, Ryan," Julia interjected. "You can't put all of this on Paul. As annoying as he can be, Paul doesn't control what you do. You have to take some accountability. Is he a good influence, no. But you're just as bad as him when you two get together."
    Maybe I was wrong. She didn't understand at all. Paul, that free-loading son of a b***h. He set me up for this. Why couldn't he stop when I wanted to? There was always one more shot, one more drink, one more chance to get it all wrong.
    "I'm sorry. All I wanted was for everyone to have a good time. And for Paul, that meant drinking like he did. I'm sorry that it ruined your night."
    "In a weird way I understand what you mean. You just wanted your friend to enjoy him himself. But look, you achieved a goal you wanted for so long. It was so great to see how happy you were. Then the first thing you do after it happens is give people a reason to see you in a negative light. I want the best for you and I want you to succeed. But you can't act like an a*****e at the first sign of success you get. It'll only grow worse."
    "Hey, that's not true. I've been an a*****e way before I ever got published."
    "Oh my god. You're missing the point. I can't talk to you when you're like this."
    "Relax. I'm messing with you. But I'm gonna smoke quick. You want one, too?"
    "You're gonna be the death of me, Ryan Jonas. I swear to god. I actually just ran out. Can I borrow one from you?"
    "Sure," I reached into my pocket and took out the cigarette pack. It was empty. F**k. My one shot at redemption and I messed it up. "I'm actually out. Let's just run to the gas station quick. We can both stock up"
    "All my clothes are in the wash. I don't want to go like this," Julia motioned to the clothes she had on.
    "You know what, I'll get them. You just sit and relax. I'll be back in a few minutes."
    "You don't have to, Ryan."
    "I know, but I want to. Gotta make it up to you anyway I can."
    "With cigarettes?" Julia laughed. "You're so romantic. How did I ever get so lucky?"
    "You hit the jackpot with me," I smirked at her.
    "Whatever," Julia rolled her eyes and shook her head. "Just hurry up."
    "Alright. I'll be right back"
    I thought about a couple of things on my walk to the store. Clearly, my life was changing. I had no intentions of slowing down with my writing. Paul was right, the more success I had, the crazier things would get. I wasn't sure if I could handle it, but I certainly wouldn't say no. I pictured walking into my bosses office and telling him to suck it, because I quit. I could taste all the drinks we would pour in future celebrations. I could feel my wallet shrink from all of the flowers I'd have to buy Julia to make-up for my mistakes. But most of all, I could feel the concern for if I was ready for it all. I quickly snapped out of my daydreams when it was my turn to in line to pay for the cigarettes. The clerk rang me up, I was five cents short. The greatest writer in the world, and I couldn't even get my s**t together enough to buy cigarettes. Pathetic. I double-checked my pockets and felt no coins. I looked into the small take-a-penny tray on the counter. I counted out five and payed the clerk. I was going to be just fine.



© 2016 Timothy Ryan

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Added on July 5, 2016
Last Updated on July 17, 2016


Timothy Ryan
Timothy Ryan


A self-taught, soulful degenerate who puts life into words. IG @timothyryan1990 more..

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