My neighbor moved out tonight.
Actually, it's taken him the better part of a week to get all his stuff out of the apartment next door.
But tonight he texted me he was "finished."
All done not coming back keys under the front mat.
He was a nice enough fellow, and a good neighbor in so far as he was friendly and quiet. Not great with boundaries sometimes -- wanted a bit more of a friendship than I was up for maybe, but a nice guy. The move was not a happy one; that is, he could no longer afford to live here, and put most of his stuff in storage while he did a little couch surfing and regrouped. Has a job starting (potentially) next month, so while it's not a really happy story it's not a very sad one either. Just life, I guess.
I struggled a little with being a generous and helpful neighbor but not getting sucked into what appeared to be a pretty deep vortex of drama and need.
Boundaries and balance: Two learned skills for me, as opposed to something that comes naturally. And as far as the learning goes, it sometimes feels like school is still in session. I guess school is always still in session, in one way or another.
When he texted that he was "all done" he told me there were some cleaning supplies he'd left that I might want. A lamp he didn't feel like making room for on his final trip. A rug too, if I thought I might want it.
Equal parts nosy and curious about how big the lamp was, I put on my hoodie and walked next door.
It's cold and rainy here tonight
I confess it made me sad to see him go, boundary issues and all. If his financial picture was different he wouldn't have moved. So the situation made me sad and maybe anxious. A little.
I'd been listening to music, listening to the light rain, reading, but really listening maybe a bit too much to my head, when he texted. The music was a Pandora station I'd made for myself a long time ago. For whatever reason I thought it would suit my mood, my book and the night, but somehow the song selection algorithm gods decided "mellow to read by" really meant "melancholy to listen to rainfall by," so while I guess it suited the evening it wasn't doing much for my mood.
(Give an alcoholic some melancholy music and the patter of rain against the window and you've got all the makings of a three act opera, condensed down to one short, slightly self obsessed mental scene: Glorious, majestic, and everybody dies at the end.)
So I walked next door, pulled the keys out from under the mat and went in.
It wasn't the way I leave an apartment when I move. Or leave anything, really. He hadn't trashed the place but he hadn't done much to make it right, either. Among the many things AA has taught me, "leave clean, head high," is firmly entrenched in my operating system now.
There were some cleaning supplies around but I thought I'd leave them where they were. The apartment prep people could certainly use them, and I really didn't need them. A container of cookies on the kitchen counter. No thanks.
I opened the fridge, understanding immediately his constant gripe about the door being hard to open all the way because of the poor job they'd done with some of the cabinet install. The fridge wasn't filthy, but it wasn't clean. A container of orange juice. A jug with some kind of sports energy drink in it. The remnants of what might have once been a stalk of celery.
I opened the freezer.
While I did not quite do a double take, I blinked twice to really register it. There, all alone -- with not even an ice cube tray for company -- stood a dazzling cobalt blue bottle of Skyy vodka.
I didn't really think about it, I just reached in and pulled it out to get a better look at it. To see if what it was was what it was.
And it was full. The seal was broken but it was down maybe only one swig. Two swigs, tops.
(Swig, by the way, is an actual standardized and scientific unit of measurement for alcoholics, I assure you.)
I felt its weight in my hand. There is a very particular, special kind of weight a bottle of vodka that's maybe only two swigs down has in the hand. Like it has its own specific gravity. Heavy enough to feel powerful but light enough to easily lift to the lips. Buoyant even. And it was cold. It had been in that freezer a long time, to get that cold.
I couldn't believe he'd left it. How would it be possible to forget something like this? My mind could not even process the kind of thinking, the kind of mental state, the kind of brain activity, which allowed one to forget a bottle of vodka that's maybe only two swigs down and leave it behind when you left.
What should I do? I wondered. Should I text him? Tell him it was here? That he should come back for it?
Maybe I could give it to someone as a gift. Sure. I could take it, and then give it to someone as a gift. Who do I know that would want a bottle of vodka that was maybe only two swigs down as a gift?
As almost all of my friends are in AA, no names immediately leapt to mind.
Well, just because I couldn't think of anyone right away doesn't mean I wouldn't think of someone. I mean, the holidays are coming!
Oh, the cleaning people would find it. They would find it and keep it and drink it. That didn't seem right. I should protect it. I should protect it to maybe then give back to my neighbor, if he should ever ask about it.
I should prevent the apartment cleaning people from getting it, that's for sure. I mean, it was worth... whatever they charge for a bottle of vodka now. How much is it worth? I haven't bought a bottle of vodka in more than twenty-five years. What is the going price for a bottle of vodka? I could take it and maybe sell it. Or I could just take it and put it in my freezer in case I had company who wanted a cocktail. I might have someone over some day who wanted a drink or I might have a special occasion what if I had a party I would need to serve liquor if I had a party it would be rude not to have liquor on hand to serve and this way I would already have it damn this bottle is cold in my hand when was the last time you smelled vodka straight anyway maybe it's not vodka it could be like a gag or something you should open it and smell it to see if it's really vodka because that would be important to know and
and there is not one good reason for you to open this bottle, Mr. SponsorPants.
And there is absolutely not one good god damn reason for you to take this bottle of vodka that was maybe only two swigs down and put it in your freezer.
In fact, this vodka, this vodka right here in this sexy cobalt blue bottle with maybe only two swigs down which is freezing the palm of your hand right now is none of your business. Nope. Not one little bit of your business.
I wondered, suddenly, how long I had been standing there, holding that bottle and staring at it.
The apartment was so, so quiet. Even the rain had stopped its pitter pattering. I listened for a moment, and heard nothing but silence. I could have been, in that moment, the only man on earth.
But that wouldn't have meant I was alone.
I knew that.
Because my alcoholism is always, always with me.
I put the bottle back.