Last Call

Sliding off the barstool, Antonio could already tell he’d overdone it. Again. It was only through his years of practiced overindulgence that he managed to navigate the spinning room without finding himself facedown in a pile of his own vomit.

Through muscle memory alone, Antonio found his way to open air. Unfortunately, the dense humid lakefront air was stuffier than the putrid atmosphere of O’Toole’s. No matter. Walking helped with the spinning. Somewhat. Tomorrow. Tomorrow would be a new day. Antonio swore on his abuela’s grave, tomorrow he would quit drinking. Or at least he’d try.

The three blocks to his apartment felt like more of a journey than they should have been. Even taking the shortcut through the alley, Antonio couldn’t shake the feeling that some immortal god had rearranged reality to spite him. Had he taken a wrong turn? Had he blacked out? No! He wasn’t some lightweight teenager anymore. But something wasn’t right. He should have been on his street by now. Drunk or not, he knew his way around the neighborhood.

“Yo, watch it!” WIthout realizing it, Antonio had nearly stepped upon a fellow human. One that he knew no less. A great relief washed over him as he recognized the figure of the old man Flowers laying in his path. He knew exactly where he was now.

“My bad, my bad!” Full of grace, Antonio pulled the last three dollars from his wallet and held them out to the man encamped in the garage bay door before him.

With gleaming eyes, the man grabbed the crinkled paper bills from him. “My man.”

Antonio could see his building from where he stood. All was well. There was a chilled bottle of tequila waiting for him in his freezer. A couple more shots and he’d sleep the night away, refreshed for the new life ahead of him. Everything would be different this time. No more regression, no more faltered steps.

“Heeeey bud.” Came the slurred voice from behind.

Antonio turned, the world whipping around him as he did so. “No thanks needed, hermano!” He shouted out, feeling himself a true humanitarian.

“No, no, thank yoooou!” As Antonio turned to rebuke the poor soul, his own sense of self filled to brim with righteousness, he barely felt the needle-pointed teeth pressed into his neck. He felt an unrivaled rush as blood was siphoned from his body. For a moment, he felt he could see his own conception into the world and felt, with much certainty, that his admittance into heaven would be sure to follow.

“Gracias. Muchas gracias.” Said the man standing above him, seeming to Antonio as a shadow. He had become so tired. The pavement beneath was to him as soft as any fancy hotel down mattress topper. At last, he thought, a good night’s sleep.

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