Encountering Courage

January 14, 2008
By Ausin Kennedy Kennedy, Arlington Heights, IL

Joe sat staring at an empty vodka bottle filled with boneheaded decisions and cheap regrets. The bottle was resting on its back, label facing up. The room was too dark to make out words on the label, even though Joe knew the words on the Absolut bottle by heart. His eyes wandered around the room. The rough white carpet was littered with spots of red from spaghetti spills to spots of blue from sports drinks. From the white carpeting, his eyes wandered across the basement to the carpeted stair. Even the walls were white. He began to drift off, mistaking the white surroundings for a snow cave. He felt trapped. He was undeniably wasted.
When he came to, he shook his head and looked at the blank screen of the new LCD TV that was sitting in the corner.
“Where am I?” Joe slurred.
A voice called out form the other side of the brown leather couch where Joe lay, “Dude, you’re still at my house. You passed out.”
Joe recognized the voice but couldn’t remember who it was.
Ryan dropped the pool stick and Joe now sat up, peaking his head over the top of the couch, looking at Ryan who shot him a cold, blank stare.
“What’s wrong?” Joe saw a face on Ryan that he had never seen before.
“For starters, my dad came down here when you were passed out, vodka bottle in plain sight, and ignorantly blamed me for everything even though I had absolutely no alcohol whatsoever. He just grounded me and told me that I can’t go to any of the Homecoming events, even the dance. All because of you.” Ryan was twitching in a mix of anger, distress, and depression. “You brought that, you snuck that terrible thing into my house. Why?” Ryan’s mind started to race though a highway of disbelief.
“I don’t…” Joe started.
“That’s a lie!” Ryan interrupted. “It’s a lie, you know it and I do too. Let me guess, you use all of your friends’ houses as places to get wasted? Or do you just use my house because we were best friends? Seriously, I hate it when people get drunk!” Ryan was flustered. He started to rant, “What’s the point? If the cops catch you, you’re done, you’re a goner. Your life is ruined. If they don’t, you get away with murder. What makes drinking fun? Peer pressure? The taste? Wow, I would be very shocked by that answer. Is it the “cool” thing to do? Or is your life just such a shameful embarrassment that you need an escape? That’s just pathetic. How did you let your own life just come to it? I think it’s the dumbest thing you could do. Why would you put your life in jeopardy for a night of stupidity and next-morning regrets? I swear never to drink alcohol until I’m 21. I have no respect for any underage drinker.”
Joe sat there like a deer in the headlights, taking the last line like a punch in the face.
“Aw, come on man, your parents are drunk all the time. Your liquor cabinet is the size of my house. Your dad loves his rum and beer, and your mom…” he paused momentarily, “She loves, and I mean loves her wine. Honestly, how much does she drink? Like 3 glasses a night, right?”
Ryan, embarrassed for his parents, thought about Joe’s words. He was exaggerating his dad’s behavior, but his mom; he had his mom spot on. Well, almost, because after she gulped down three glasses of wine, she moved on to the Baileys.
“Ryan, your parents are drunks. If you can tolerate them, why can’t you tolerate me?” Joe crossed Ryan’s threshold.
“Enough is enough!” Ryan snapped, yelling in an aggressive, oppressive voice. “Joe, I’m through! Get out of my house! You have no right to come here, get drunk, and make fun of my parents, because you’ll turn out a thousand times worse than they did! At least they’re sober most of the time! Get out NOW! LEAVE!”
With tear-filled eyes, Joe pleaded, “Ryan, I was just joking. Come on man…” he sniffled, “you can’t just leave a friend on the street.”
“If we were friends, you wouldn’t be drunk. You did this to yourself!”
“You just hate me. That has to be the reason. You just have a grudge against me. That’s all.”
“Just leave. I don’t just hate you. I hate what you did. Now LEAVE!” Ryan stood his ground, pointing to the stairs.
Like a dog, Joe got up, and stumbled up the stairs. “Wow man, I thought we were friends.” He muttered as he moped up the stairs, burying his sobbing face in his hands.
Ryan closed then locked the door behind Joe with a sense of relief.
“Glad that’s over,” he whispered under his breath. “So long, you faux ami.”
Ryan decided that he was going to finish shooting pool. He strolled through the kitchen, making his way back down stairs. As his foot reached the first step, he heard a car pull into the driveway. He picked up his foot, about-faced, and watched his mother as she marched to the back door.
“Hi Mom,” Ryan greeted his mother cheerfully.
“Hey Ryan, is something wrong? Why is Joe sitting in the front yard?”
“Yeah, something is wrong, very wrong. Joe was drunk, and acting out of line, kind of what you do when you’re drunk. He said stuff that he wouldn’t have said if he were sober, just like you. He mirrored everything thing you do. Gets drunk, says something stupid, and goes back and drinks a little more.” Ryan slurred a couple of the words, and stumbled a little, all to drive the point home.
“Oh, well, I am going to relax and have some Bailey’s.” Her ignorance was easier to see than her body.
“No you’re not. I guess I didn’t make myself clear enough. Hold yourself accountable for what you do. I told this to Joe, but I am going to tell you, too. I think you drink because you’re insecure, and I think you’re ashamed of who you’ve been. Mom, you can change, I know you can. I am your biggest supporter when it comes to that.” Ryan put his foot down.
“What? You’re my son, and you can’t tell me what to do.”
“Mom, apparently you’re not responsible enough to know your own limits. How about just a glass of water with some lemon and lime?” He wasn’t about to budge.
Giving in, “alright, fine, I’ll try some.” His mom agreed.
Ryan was at the sink filling up the glass with water by the time his mom spoke. He let out a sigh of relief.
“Thanks Mom, I honestly am not sure if you know how much this means to me. I’m glad that you can change, and hopefully Joe can too. Joe couldn’t tonight, so I had to be his friend, I had to do what was right. He didn’t want to, and until he does, he isn’t worth my time. Some people may say that I am ‘uncool’ or whatever, but ‘screw them’ they are the ones messing up their own lives. I think I’m going to finish my game of pool now.” He handed her the glass filled with water.
She gratefully accepted the cup as she took a sip of the crisp water. She nodded with approval at her son, and flashed a smile at the future.
He kissed his mom and headed into the basement. Once downstairs, he picked up the pool stick, now a wooden spear, and prepared to do battle with the liquor cabinet.

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