Hi, my name is Christopher Hitchcock, and I'm an alcoholic.
Mostly I drink because I'm guilty.
My life's story is pretty simple. My parents were alcoholics. They raised me as well as anyone could. I graduated from the state U with a business degree, married my high school girlfriend, and work the nine to five. April and I have a nice house in the 'burbs, about halfway between her parents and mine, and the mortgage is mostly paid off. April works at the local theater. She cooks, she cleans, she likes to watch Friends, and she thinks I'm funny. She's 32 years old and she still plays Mimi wearing fishnet tights. I don't think it would be possible to find a more perfect woman.
And I'm cheating on her.
It's Thursday, and that means we're going to go eat dinner at her parents' house. Ma and Pa O'Brien will ask how business is and gush over April's newest production. April will want to gossip and Senna will fill her in on the newest and juiciest. David will ask if we're still on for golf tomorrow.
The only thing worse than cheating on your wife is cheating on her with her brother-in-law. Worse than cheating, to be truthful. In my mind, there's 'cheating' and there's an 'affair,' both bad, yeah, but two separate and distinct entities. Cheating is sleeping with the pretty girl from the lobby on a business trip. No strings, no feelings, just sex. I might be able to forgive myself for something like that.
An affair is sex with one specific person over a period of time. It's more than fucking. There are feelings or… something. Otherwise you wouldn't keep going back, would you? That's what makes it so bad. The sex part is bad, yeah, I'm not enough of a misogynistic asshole to think that doesn't matter. But getting emotionally involved when you're married to someone else seems ten times worse to me. Wanting to hold them and love them and protect them in the way you swore to do with someone else – it's the best feeling in the world, and I know it shouldn't be.
But most times I can admit the truth to myself – I don't regret it. Not a minute. Oh, I hate how it could hurt April and I hate the guilt. I hate the general sleazy feeling of it all. But I can't forget the moment his eyes met mine. I knew my life was over and I didn't care. I couldn't have walked away if I wanted to. And you know what? I didn't want to. I don't.
That's what haunts me. That's what keeps me awake at night, what keeps the beer in the fridge and the scotch under the sink. Being in love with two people, having them both and being scared as fuck that one day I'm going to have to choose. Not knowing who I'm going to choose. Beg my pretty, perfect wife to take me back, and I know she would. Ask David to leave his wife and shack up with me, break all the rules, fuck convention. Huh. Should be a no-brainer, right?
Maybe that's what keeps me up at night.
Hi, my name is Christopher Hitchcock, and I'm an alcoholic. I'm also a witch. In my case, the two are directly connected.
All my life I've known I was different. I knew stuff I wasn't supposed to know. I did things that weren't supposed to be possible. It was just lucky for me that I lived in the 21st century. People today are so cynical they're always managed to write off any slip-ups I might have had. Probably had. Anyway, it was a sight better than being burned at the stake in the Middle Ages.
My mother was a witch too, like Samantha from Bewitched without all the nose wrinkling. When I was nine she abandoned me. At least according to the police reports. My father told them she had dropped me off at his office and driven away. She'd dropped me off there, yeah, but she hadn't driven away. She'd disappeared into thin air. Pop. Like she had never been there at all.
Dad took me home. I had nowhere else to go, after all, and he was my father. A guy bringing home a nine year old son by an old girlfriend to his new wife and baby. I wonder sometimes why my stepmother didn't kill him.
I grew up in their house. Pretty normal, I think. I played baseball and football with dad, made fun of my half-brother at every opportunity, nearly failed a grade. All the stuff boys are supposed to do. Your average teen with a less than average talent.
As far as witchy powers went, I was a little disappointed. TV had led me to believe I was going to be able to do something cool – flaming fireballs of death, or calling up demons and monsters, or messing around with the time continuum. But noooooo. I didn't have anything like that. I don't know what it was, to tell the truth. I saw things. Felt them, really. I knew when people where sad or angry or hurt. I knew about things that had happened to them. I knew about things that would happen to them. I could fix it sometimes. Make it better, or at least less fucked.
Jalil was one of the ones I thought I could fix. I'd noticed him in chem. class. How he had this angry buzz underneath his skin, something gleaming and tearing. It continued, day after day after day, always there, always grating, always demanding. It was driving me crazy.
I didn't help him right off. I mean, I waited a while to see if it stuck around. I had to. Hell, if I went around healing every angry teenager I'd put myself into a coma.
Anyway, the buzz? It stuck.
I just… took it away one day. We were alone after school one day and all I needed was to reach out and touch his shoulder.
His hands shook for an hour afterwards.
Jalil wasn't stupid. Hell, the last thing Jalil was was stupid. Problems like Jalil's didn't just disappear for no reason. I don't know what he thought it was, but he knew I had something to do with it.
He thanked me.
We were friends after that, or something like it. I changed his life, you know? Big-time miracle shit. You don't just walk away from it. Jalil changed, man. I didn't know him all that well before, but even I could see it. He's… looser. Happier.
It was maybe a week after that the dreams started. The weird ones. All my life I've dreamed weird mind-bending acid trip type dreams – witch thing – but these took the proverbial cake. I was dreaming about a giant wolf, and a man who broke me in half and ate me, and then a whole shitload of… things appeared. Scary as fuck things. Bug people, and something that looked like a pop-eyed elephant, a blue man with wings, bleeding hearts lying on a platter, still beating.
I woke up covered in sweat, scared nearly shitless. I watched I Love Lucy and drank a fifth of whatever was under the sink. Turns out that when you're good and truly unconscious, you don't dream.
I think that night was the first time I got really and truly drunk. I drank before, yeah. Parties and stuff. At home too. The 'rents had been all types of sloshed lately. I don't know why, but it became my escape too. If stepmom could more or less ignore a kid her husband had by another woman, it would work for this.
The dreams kept coming, night after night, and I kept drinking. It dulled the dreams, if they came at all. I started showing up to school drunk, hungover, sleep-deprived. On my worst days it was all three, but I didn't even care.
Jalil followed me after school one day. Pulled me into a coffee shop because, frankly, I didn't have the energy to fight him off. There was a guy who went to our school behind the corner – dark hair, dark eyes. Angry and sad and hurt so deep I think that he might be one of the ones I can't fix. It was draining just standing next to him.
"You're drunk," Jalil said bluntly. I knew he wasn't the type to pull punches.
"'Cause it beats being sober." I took a sip of whatever caffeine-laden shit Jalil had ordered me. "I mean, you know what I am, right?"
Maybe the first smile I'd ever seen from Jalil. "That's probably the last thing I know."
"Well, you know I'm not exactly… normal."
And there it was. The pink fucking elephant. The craziness that is me.
Another odd smile. "I'd say that was safe to assume. What are you then?"
And he accepts it, but God, how to explain without sounding like I just broke out of a mental ward? "I can't explain it, Jalil. The last thing I can do is fucking explain it. I twist things, I guess."
"Fix them. Like I fixed you."
Jalil's hands started shaking again.
"Yeah, well, it's not all sunshine and fucking rainbows." Another sip of coffee. "It's coming."
For a long moment we don't say anything. I mean, I don't know where that fucking came from. It's like something out of a B-grade horror flick.
"Christopher," Jalil said slowly. "Christopher, what's coming?"
"I don't – I don't fucking know, okay? I've been having these weird dreams lately. Nightmares. Horrible nightmares. And my dreams always come true, Jalil, fucking always if I don't stop them. And I'm scared shitless here, because I don't know if I can. Not by myself. Jalil, man… I can't ask you this, you know. I mean, I can't ask you, but who the hell else am I going to ask?"
"Christopher," Jalil breaks in calmly. He puts his hand on my wrist, and it isn't shaking anymore. "What is it?"
I look at him – really look at him with all that I am, and all that I see is deep. His strength, a strong mind borne of a terrible necessity. Confusion over what I am and what this is, but a deep certainty that he will help me, if he can. His face blurs through tears I didn't know I was crying and I ask a question I didn't know I needed to ask.
"When it comes, will you save me?"
Hi, my name is Christopher Hitchcock, and I'm an alcoholic. A teenage alcoholic. My weapon of choice is beer – imported, domestic, basically whatever is on hand. Being an alcoholic kinda snuck up on me, I admit. Probably mostly my parents, a little too much partying too. It doesn't really matter to me – it hasn't been a problem. I'm passing school, I show up to my job on time. I've had bigger problems.
Like my girlfriend, for instance. Senna Wales. B+ face, A+ body. Not the first girlfriend I ever had, or the prettiest, but she's something. I know enough about Senna to know I'll never know. Confusing? Believe me, you have no idea. Senna is a mystery wrapped in an enigma wrapped in a conundrum. You could spend a millennia with her and not scratch the surface.
We're in the back of my car right now, after the fact. Senna's talking, though I'm not sure if it's to herself or to me.
"Christopher the soldier," she murmurs. "Christopher the warrior. Christopher the Viking. Christopher the Jester. The Joker. Lord Christopher."
Senna doesn't make sense a lot of the time. In fact, most of the time I think she's a little crazy.
"Secrets within secrets. Plans within plans." Her eyes flutter closed. "But you'll never betray me, will you?"
Even a lot crazy. Think Drusilla from Buffy, only without the fangs and disturbing Daddy-kink.
"Of course, baby." It's the standard guy answer.
She smiles and kisses me. Her lips are cold, maybe because she's lying around half-naked, maybe from the beer, but it doesn't matter. She's all mine.
Hi, my name is Christina Hitchcock, and I'm an alcoholic. Or I'm well on my way to becoming one. Probably the same thing in the end, huh?
I'm a senior at the local high school. And I'm the school slut. I don't mind it. I'm not stupid enough to end up pregnant, or sleep with a guy who has a girlfriend, or let a guy call the shots. Frankly, I like sex and I don't like strings and that means people get to call me names. I can live with it. I've got plenty of friends. People always say "that Christina Hitchcock, she's funny. A little slutty, but funny."
Yeah. I can live with that.
I'd only ever taken one break from being the supreme slut. Only one time I acted like a normal girl and did the relationship thing. Only one time I let a guy break my heart.
His name was David Levin. He was the new kid at school. He had dark hair he wore a little long, ragged shirts and holey jeans. He was quiet most of the time. He joined the track team. He seemed nice, I figured I'd have someone check him out, you know? I mean, I don't sleep with everyone. Really, I don't. I've got standards. April and Magda scoped him out for me. They said he was cool. So, with the girl-world seal of approval, I made my move.
And he was quiet. But I didn't expect him to be so nice. Or so stubborn. I didn't expect him to be quite that good a kisser – and believe me, I usually had stuff like that pegged. He was supposed to be sex, no strings. My latest Friday night.
He took me out for coffee. I met his mom. We made out in the back of his ancient convertible, no music, just him and me. I let him hold my hand. Sometimes. He broke Butch Kilkullen's nose one day when Butch wouldn't take no for an answer. He made me laugh. After I slept with him for the first time, he cracked a joke and he made me laugh. I think I loved him then. I told him things I never told anyone. Stupid things, like how when I was seven years old I was terrified of squirrels. Serious things too. He told me about Donny. I told him about my parents. I was happy with him. I was myself with him, all kinds of sexy and funny and messed up, and he didn't care. If what we had wasn't love, I don't know what was.
When she came it all changed.
She was Senna Wales. Poison in human form. Everyone at school avoided her with some bone-deep instinct, like how the hair on the back of your neck stands up when you're afraid. She was April's half-sister. No one in our circle of friends ever went to April's house.
David and I were at some party or another. I went to talk to a kid named Jalil – he'd kept me from failing chem. last year and now I needed his help in physics. When I came back she was sitting with David. One hand in his hair, one shapely white leg between his. She saw me and smiled.
And I wasn't angry at her, or even at him. Not then. Then, I was just angry at myself for being so stupid. I never asked for promises. I shouldn't have expected promises. I'd lived without promises before. I did fine that way. I shouldn't ever have changed.
I tossed back my drink and stalked to the other side of the room. It's hard to stalk in heels – it's a fucking art form – but I can do it. Then I latched onto the nearest guy who wasn't a complete sleaze.
He glanced down at me fuzzily and grinned. "Thought you were going steady with Levin?"
"Please. Am I ever steady with anyone?"
He burst out laughing and leered. "Nope. Am I tonight's lucky winner?"
I gave him a mock-shove. "Get me a drink and you might be."
Josh is a pig. Basically a man-whore, but hey. We'd be a matched set.
They started going out. Senna and David. The perfect couple. April and Magda were sympathetic and if it were any other girl in the world they would have helped me get back at her. But it was Senna, and there was nothing we could do.
A month later Senna up and disappeared. Gone. Her bedroom just the way she left it. No note, nothing. Some people said she ran away. Others said she was kidnapped or something. I don't know what to think. But what does that matter? I was glad she was gone. I'm not gonna lie. And I could have had David back right then, you know? Gone and had him. Would have been the suitable smutty thing to do, right?
But I didn't. Like I said, I've got my standards. I don't beg. I don't even ask. And for David? I might never do anything.
Time moved on without Senna Wales. Her parents had a memorial service. I stood next to April the whole time.
David showed up at my door one night. Maybe drunk. I know I was.
"Go away, David. You chose Senna. Not me. I'm not going to be your little piece of ass on the side."
"But Senna's gone."
"And you wouldn't be here otherwise."
I shut the door in his face.
About a week after that David disappeared too. I wonder about him sometimes. If he's with Senna. If he went after her. If he's okay. I see him in my dreams. Riding a horse, rushing towards me but never quite getting there.
I think, sometimes, that I really fucked it up with David. That we could have had a happy ending if I wasn't such a bitch. But it doesn't matter now. In a few months I'll be off to college, drinking and working my way through a whole new group of guys. Who knows? Maybe I'll even one-up myself and sleep with a teacher. Aim high, yeah?
Anything to get David out of my head.
Hi, my name is Christopher Hitchcock, and I'm an alcoholic. That's the way I like it, thanks. I'm perfectly okay with being stone-cold drunk. Better than okay. It's really the only thing I've got.
April says I'm trying to drink myself to death. She's right. Sort of. I'm drinking to get rid of it – get rid of everything, everything I think, everything I dream, everything I remember. And if it means I die? That's a price I'm willing to pay.
You don't know the things I've seen. You couldn't even imagine them. I've seen a monster hold my beating heart in the palm of his hand and felt the terrible stillness in my chest. I've seen a woman so beautiful it would make you weak, so terrible you wish the maggots crawling around in her face would eat out your eyes. I've seen my entrails become my extrails. I've seen an angel chewed to pieces by an insect god. I watched April slit her sister from navel to nose with a knife the size of my pinkie. I've seen wolves the size of houses, snakes big enough to fill subway tunnels, a dragon that literally blocked out the sun, blood running down a staircase, caked thick. Inches thick. I've seen my friends die in ways too horrible to name. Whole fields of people killed where they stood, an ocean of dismembered parts, a sea of blood.
They mean it when they say some people aren't cut out for war. I know I'm one of them.