'A Lack Of Color'

this is fact not fiction

for the first time in years

With one eye scrunched shut, the neck of the bottle partially blocked the view of the television. With the other eye closed, it appeared to bisect the bookshelf a few feet to the TV's left. Either way, Bright decided, beer bottles were good for one thing and one thing only, and he took long swallow, finishing it off. Down it went to the floor in front of the couch he was slumped on, joining quite a collection of assorted beer bottles, all empty of course. Bright sighed and let his head fall backwards onto the back of the couch. He stared at the way the ceiling fan made flickering shadows on the cracking paint and tried to think.

After a heavy moment of pondering, and a million thoughts speeding through his head, the one he zeroed in on was 'Beer before liquor, never sicker,' as he brought his head upright and his gaze landed on the almost-empty bottle of vodka on his bookshelf. "Old wives' tale," he muttered to himself before standing up and grabbing both the bottle and a shot glass off the shelf.

Bright was not usually a heavy drinker but on summer nights like these he could think of little else to do. He was welcome to spend time with his family at home, but they occupied so much of his time already that sometimes, despite the sharp pangs of guilt he felt, he just couldn't deal with it. That was part of the reason he'd gotten his own apartment even though he knew he'd wouldn't be in it a whole lot for awhile—as an escape. Someplace where nobody was sick with cancer.

Shot.

And so he sat: wincing as vodka burned down his throat, escaping, and missing Hannah like he never would have thought possible.

"What would she think of me now," he said aloud to no one. It wasn't a question because he knew the answer already—she would be disappointed in him for getting drunk to solve his problems, and probably worried about him for drinking alone.

And it hadn't solved his problems, he thought. His mom was still struggling with cancer, and Hannah was still gone. 1061.21 miles away (he'd looked it up). Probably sleeping soundly in her old bed, or writing in her journal, or having a late-night snack with her brother, or telling her mother all about the past year in Everwood. "Stop being such a girl, Bright," he chastised himself. Wondering what Hannah was doing at that very moment was a very girly thing to do, on par with asking her what she's thinking or buying tampons, he decided.

Shot.

But despite all attempts to steer his brain towards more manly pursuits, like sports, or boats, or jock itch, it kept defying him and turning back to Hannah and her lack of presence. Letting the shot glass fall to rest between the cracks of the cushions of the couch and burying his face in his hands, he groaned and gave in to the thoughts that just wouldn't go away.

He and Hannah had talked on the phone quite a bit since she'd left; she'd even written him a couple of letters. He'd replied with emails, not understanding the singularly feminine need to express emotions through flowery stationary. In their conversations, she would talk about her dad and how spending so much time around him when she hadn't in so long was affecting her. He would tell her stories about how his mom was doing with her chemotherapy. Their shared stories of sadness covered up the sentiments underneath—after one initial, very awkward phone call, they never spoke of The Kiss or of what their relationship was becoming. It was the elephant in both of their rooms whenever they talked about anything related to the future, but they dutifully ignored it, each determined to not be the one to bring it up.

Not talking about it didn't mean not thinking about. Bright wondered what would happen once Hannah returned to Colorado, and could come up with no obvious answer. He hardly knew precisely what he wanted, let alone what she wanted. There was a small nagging fear in the back of his mind every time he thought about Hannah and the future, and it filled him with doubt. He worried that three months was too long to go without seeing one another and still have strong enough feelings to start a real relationship. Beyond that, he worried that he wouldn't know how to have a real relationship. At times he wondered if this thing with Hannah wasn't doomed before it even began.

All manner of rash ideas had entered his mind during the past two months without her. Roadtripping to Minnesota to kidnap Hannah and bring her back to Everwood for good had been the one that he liked best; the strict attendance policies of his Everwood Community College summer classes and the need to be there for his mother prevented him from even seriously considering it. And besides, he knew that she needed to be with her family for awhile. He knew this, knew it without a doubt, but it didn't make him feel any less alone.

Shot. Shot.

Bright closed his eyes and felt the dizzying sensation of being drunk enough for nothing to stay still when his eyes landed on it. This was drunk enough, he decided, which was good, because he was out of vodka and the beer was long gone. "Beer before liquor…" he began, and trailed off, forgetting the rest of the adage. He moved his head, very slowly, from side to side, and watched the room spin long after he'd stilled. When his eyes closed he felt as if he were spinning so he tried his best to keep them open, looking all over the room, from object to object, trying to focus on something.

Television, bookshelf, coffee table, all blurry. Arm of the couch, other arm of the couch, fresh beer stain on the carpet, all blurry. Doorway to the tiny kitchen, dirty dishes in the kitchen sink, phone mounted on the kitchen wall, all blurry, but an idea came into focus in his head. He stood up far too fast and had to sit back down, and it was a good three minutes before he finally felt stable enough to give it another try. This time he was successful. He walked into the kitchen from the living room, zigging only slightly and zagging even less, and stopped before the phone, which was mounted at eye level and blinked bright red at him. Then commenced a short staring contest between Bright and the phone. He stared it down and contemplated what he was about to do, almost deciding against it, but at the last moment muttering in the direction of the phone, "You lose," and picking up the receiver. The numbers came easy.

Three rings and on the fourth, the answering machine kicked in. A standard, friendly, Hi, we're not in but please leave your number and we'll be sure to get back to you message in a pleasant-sounding woman's voice. Bright waited for the tone, and when it beeped at him, he still hadn't worked out quite what he was going to say.

"Hannah. 'S Bright. You, ah…I know you're sleepin', I think, it's like four in the mornin' there I guess, so you're sleepin', and 'm callin', and I'm—I'm drinkin'. Just thought I'd get that out of the way 'cause I know you can tell and I don't want you to hate me. Please don't hate me, Hannah. 'S stupid. I shouldn'ta called. Hannah, sorry, 'm sorry Hannah. Hannah. Hannah come home. I know you can't, but I miss you like you wouldn't believe, and…you need to come home Hannah. I know, you're in Michigan, or Milwaukee, or wherever, and I'm drunk, but I miss you and…and this is real I think, Hannah, I think it's real, so please come home Hannah. Uhh…call me when you get this I guess. I know you can't come home. But please come home. This is Bright. Okay. Uh. Bye."

The phone went back into its cradle and Bright squeezed his eyes shut to ward off the spinning, which of course only worsened it. It was only a few steps back to the couch but it seemed to take forever, and once there, he sprawled out in a position only comfortable to a drunk person and passed out. When he awoke the next morning he would have an enormous headache, an all-day hangover, and no Hannah. Every day there was no Hannah, and massive hangover or not, it all felt just as bad.

i should have given you a reason to stay

given you a reason to stay