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You Have No Idea
Vance never liked the bar scene; the air smelled of hopelessness and alcohol and the people always stood too close for his liking. But tonight he stood among the swaying bodies and dirty glasses because for once, he had something in common with these people.
Sighing, he made his way to a bar stool in between a man in need of a shower and a woman who was slowly losing her motor skills. He traced the familiar ring-shaped stain in the wood of the bar, finding comfort in the feeling of its warped surface under his fingernail.
He ordered drink after drink until hopelessness was an idea that he could no longer grasp; the night seemed endless and he felt happy…almost. He didn’t want to remember anymore—memories were annoyingly permanent, no matter how much alcohol he poured down his esophagus. For a moment he almost wished he could drown himself this way, with his old friend in the glass bottle.
Vance looked to his left, expecting to see the filthy man he glimpsed when he walked in. But he was no longer sitting there. In his place was a familiar face—though the alcohol made his vision unreliable.
“Huston?” Vance squinted. “It’s been years! How are you?”
Huston turned to look at him with glazed eyes and a smirk. “Been better. Apparently so have you.”
Vance laughed, the sound sour and forced. “Is it that obvious?”
“Well I wouldn’t expect you to be okay, considering what happened.”
Vance cringed. The memories were back, scratching at the wall the alcohol had formed in his mind.
“Sorry, man. Didn’t mean to pour salt in the wound.” Huston pressed his glass to his lips.
“No, it’s okay. I’m fine, I really am.”
Huston set his glass down and turned his body to face Vance. “I just can’t imagine how you feel right now. Losing someone like that—it’s a tragedy, it really is.”
“Yeah. Yeah, it is.” Vance rubbed his temples. The memories were clawing now, growling and hostile. He wished Huston would stop talking.
“I don’t know what I’d do if it happened to me. I respect you, man. You’ve been pretty strong through this.”
“Thanks. It hasn’t been easy.” Vance closed his eyes. His wall was crumbling with every word that dripped from Huston’s mouth.
Huston laughed. “I’m sure that’s one hell of an understatement.”
Vance pulled at his hair. “You have no idea.” The wall was broken now, and his memories rushed every corner of his mind until there wasn’t room for anything else.
“You okay, man?”
Vance just looked at him. “No one knows.”
“Knows what? What are you talking about?”
Vance groaned, rubbing his face. “No one knows…”
“Vance! No one knows what?”
“It was me! It was me. It was me.”
“That night.” His head was pounding. “When Holly was driving Gracie home… it was a bad night, Huston. Kind of like tonight.”
“You had been drinking?”
“Yes. A lot. But I didn’t want to call Holly and make her worry… and I convinced myself I could drive home, no problem. But if there’s one person I shouldn’t trust, it’s myself. I didn’t realize the light was red. I couldn’t slow down.” Vance choked.
Huston looked at him, his eyes disbelieving and betrayed. “It was you.”
“Yes. And I haven’t been able to live with myself. Everyone thought it was a random drunk driver, someone who was reckless and didn’t care if anyone got hurt…” Vance’s whole body was shaking. Huston’s disgust was deafening, filling the air.
“But you weren’t random. You were the husband, the father…how could you?” Huston had set down his glass and rested his clenched fists on the bar.
“I didn’t mean to!” Vance was screaming now. “Every day I pray to God to let me go back and fix it, to take me instead, to just allow me to die, because without them my skies are empty, my skies are empty…where is my sun?” He was whispering now, his eyes searching for a way out and failing.
“Vance. Go home.”
Vance’s eyes darted up to search Huston’s face. He felt a burst of anger at this man for not understanding. How can you explain pain to someone who had never truly felt it? He clutched at Huston’s shirt, trying to find an anchor in this spinning world.
“Please understand. It is my biggest regret. I loved them, I did. It’s all my fault, okay? I killed them. They’re dead because of me. I did it.” His hands slid from Huston’s shirt, coming to a rest at his sides. He felt empty, but the wrong kind of empty.
Huston looked at him, full of drunken contempt. “The truth is painful, isn’t it?”
Amongst the hammering in his head and the ropes in his chest, Vance whispered, “You have no idea.”