The evening news played on the television in the midst of his drunken fog. He had gotten off work at 5 o’clock from a dead-end job flipping hamburgers at the local grill. Just like any other night he stopped by the liquor store on the way home and bought a 12-pack of cold beer.
“Doesn’t really matter what I watch,” he thought to himself when he got home to his apartment. “All the same anyway.” The news featured a story on the Libyan conflict as it was called now. Apparently Kaddafi operatives were planning a terrorist attack on Times Square in New York City coinciding with Super Bowl Sunday.
He took another gulp of beer.
In an inebriated haze he lit up a cigarette. “Not much on TV,” he thought so he changed the channel. It was a remarkable invention cable TV. He had a host of 15 movie channels to choose from for a movie or he could watch a sit-com on one of the network channels. What he really wanted to find was a new action-adventure movie that he hadn’t seen yet. It was hard to mix self-pity, a 12-pack of beer, and an action-adventure movie, but he would try.
“Here it is,” he thought to himself. It was an old Clint Eastwood movie that he had never seen. He could remember his friends talking about it way back in high school when he still had friends. “It was one of those, what do you call it, spaghetti westerns.” He had always preferred Clint Eastwood’s cop movies but between a 12-pack of beer and himself this would be good enough.
It had been a typical day at work. He had woken up around eight in the morning with an unenviable hangover. He drove to the local mini-mart and picked up an egg and bacon sandwich. Along with a couple of cups of coffee it got him out of bed and ready for a new day.
He had been drinking all night the night before, but it hadn’t been an action-adventure movie night. Instead, he had chosen a deep and suspenseful drama in an attempt to spur his interest. He was remembering back to high school; it didn’t seem like too long ago. He had a seemingly limitless number of friends. Every night of the week back then he was drinking with his friends. Now it was an endless stream of an alcoholic solace shared with nobody but himself. He didn’t do too well in high school but that didn’t matter because he was having fun and he had a lot of friends.
Here he was. He was a 32 year-old unmarried bum with no kids. He kept thinking he might try again at submitting an application to a bank teller jobs. He had tried a couple years back but they had insisted that he would need at least a high school degree and most likely a college degree. So now he was a 32 year-old man flipping burgers all day at the local grill without any other prospects.
Yesterday wasn’t special either. He got to work at about 9 in the morning. He preferred the breakfast shift to the lunch and early dinner shifts. Working the breakfast shift he didn’t have to sweat over hot, greasy cheeseburgers in the sweltering summer heat. Instead he was able to hang around all day supervising as he was the head cook in charge of the breakfast help. He had somebody else cutting the potatoes for the hash browns and he was able to serve more as a manager than a cook. It certainly paid a lot more than cutting up potatoes. When he had started here more than ten years ago he had been an unemployed high school drop-out in dire need of an income. His father and his mother had insisted that he find work. Soon after securing the job at the grille he was able to move out on his own and get his own car and his own apartment. His parents always told him throughout high school that he would not be able to live with them forever so he had guessed that it was time to start living his life on his own. Besides, he had just broken up with his girlfriend at the time and he had once heard somebody say that such a situation called for a fresh start. He had been working at the grille since. Incidentally, he thought to himself, he had not had a girlfriend since.
He had arrived at work the day before at about 9 o’clock. The waitresses from the night shift were just going home and the waitresses from the day shift were just showing up. They didn’t pay him much notice but it beat staying at home all day alone in front of the television.
He usually was not in the smiley mood and this morning was not an exception. He hated getting up early every day hung over and ill-prepared for a new day but he knew nothing else. They greeted each other like they did every morning but to him it was just going through the motions. One of the waitresses who worked the early morning shift gave him a half-hearted smile that was more like a grimace.
He got home earlier today. Yesterday’s obsession with a crime drama on TV was replaced by the comfort and solace of beer for some other venue of entertainment. It was a small one-room, studio apartment but it was in the neighborhood where he had grown up. The Clint Eastwood movie was on television. He took another chug of beer.
The desert-feel of the movie did not agree with his now inebriated haze so he decided to change the channel. Remote controls were cool he thought to himself. He couldn’t find anything that he wanted to watch but he kept trying. He finally settled on a station. It was the music channel. He never really considered himself a music-lover. There had been dance parties when he was in high school but other than that he never paid much attention to music. He had always figured that a good beat and a party atmosphere were the only purpose that it served.
He listened and watched anyway. No reason in particular, it just caught his attention. It was a singer that he had noticed people talking about lately. That is not what made him stop and see what it was. Instead it was only a vague feeling that it merited his attention.
The lyrics were striking, not that he had ever listened closely to the lyrics of songs. The singer sang a line about the hope that can be found from leaving the bottle and searching for a fulfilling life. For a second he almost threw the remote control across the room in protest of a sort of vindictiveness that he almost felt was directed specifically at him.
The song played on. “What was the worth of a song,” he thought to himself. But, yet it was engaged him. The chorus played on, “Just when it’s at its worst, then is when you open your eyes. Just when it’s at its worst, then is when you know they’re right.” It had a mellow sounding melody playing along with the lyrics and guitar riffs that soothed his soul.
He changed the channel and the news was on again. There had been a recall of all the ground beef produced in the central valley of California. He switched the channel. A loud laugh track highlighted the puns and trite misunderstandings of an old “Three’s Company” episode. He changed the channel. The song on the music channel was just ending. “Just when it’s at its worst, all you have is to start trying.”
He did not know why, but he had to fight off tears from entering his eyes. One trickled down his cheek. He finished his beer and passed out devoid of hope and inspiration for the day to come.