There is nothing left for people here. Our livers are no longer coddled, valued, saved. The lobby of the home is fresh and styled. There are no posters hung haphazardly, no empty bottles lining the tops of fridges or the perimeters of trash cans. When I get to the home, I drop off the fifth of gin in my pocket at the front desk. Emma wields a thick black marker, writing the names of the drunks on their bottles. We are contained in those glass enclosures on the table behind the welcome desk; we drop ourselves off and pick ourselves back up. We are not allowed to drink in the rooms, and so we do not linger there. Though there are televisions and beds more comfortable than I have known or afforded in my lifetime, I do not linger either.
The back porch is where the voices are, the warm bodies, made warmer by the booze. Faces flushed red navigate the cigarette smoke. Conversation is lively, there is usually laughter, though everyone knows how quickly laughter can turn into something else, something to defend against. Then there are the sirens and flashing lights. But those nights are fewer and farther between than before we lived here; our defenses have cooled a bit now that we are no longer in mixed company. Only three people have died since I have come here, though I know that my spot on the waiting list didn’t open because of a building expansion. There are men with yellow eyes and loose clothing. I stay away from them because there is nothing left to cultivate. Their laughter is frightening – it is weak and wheezy – and it kills my own.
I can say this much: I am calmer now. There is less that is riding on my success or my failure or any of my decisions. I watch the sunrise and the sunset from this patio, and I am no longer guilty.