If you knew what I knew, she told me, you’d drink too.
We found her in an alleyway, down near most of the other homeless. In that she would have been unremarkable, just another drunk, begging for money by day to spend on alcohol or drugs by night. Just another person on a short lifespan and probably grateful for it.
But she was different, because unlike the others there, we had been looking for her. People had been looking for her. Because she wasn’t just someone who fell off the treadmill of work and money and society into this sad degradation. She wasn’t an economic or even a health statistic. She was a missing person. An important missing person.
So we’d been looking for her for months, and it probably took us this long to find her because it was the last place you’d think to look. Before this she’d lived in a penthouse apartment in the financial district of town. She went to important parties, brokered important financial deals. She was someone.
And now, now she sought to be no-one. And she was singularly unimpressed to have been found.
You should have left me there, she said, it was a good place to hide.
Not good enough it seems, I’d replied, since we eventually found you.
Eventually, she repeated, dressing each syllable as though I was a simpleton and couldn’t keep up.
What did you see? Why this? What do you know? I asked her.
They initiate you, she said, at certain point. At a certain juncture, you reach the level where they have to make you like them so they can control you.
And what does that mean?
Terrible, terrible things. I couldn’t know that and stay. Not another day. So I ran away, and you, goddamn you, found me. So god knows what happens now, but then, there isn’t much of god in any of this, unless it’s a very dark god indeed.
You aren’t being very specific, I complained.
You should thank me, some things once known, can’t be unknown. And if you have a soul, you’d be driven to drink too, if you knew. Do you have a soul?
I don’t know, I’m not sure what one is, I replied, as honestly as I could.
You’ll know when you lose it, she commented, and then you’ll want a drink, I can tell you that at least. That, at least, I can tell you.
Your family will be glad we found you, I offered.
My family won’t care one bit, they are part of it. They’ll just be angry I left. I was their shining star, their ticket to the next level. Hah! you think you are rising up, don’t you, on the career ladder? But you’re not, you don’t realise till it’s too late, you’re just going down. The only direction with them is down.
And so I jumped off, jumped off the ladder, because I figured, the only other direction was up. So I’ve been trying to fall upwards again, and when it doesn’t work I drink. And if you knew what I knew you’d drink too.
So I let her go back to the alleyway, forgoing the money I would have earned for finding her. I guess she is mad, and what she said was insane also, but something in it scared me. I started thinking about falling upwards, and what that might mean, and what you might need to sacrifice to do so. Her bounty seemed the first step to that.
And that was preferable, I believe, to knowing what she knew.
(c) Helen M Valentina 2017