Relapse by Radim Nemela

It was a Friday night and I just came from work, the door to the sitting room was closed and from outside the house I saw that the light was on but I just assumed that County Boy was having one of his sessions of solitary drinking.

I barely managed to get changed before I heard some noises. I looked out and I saw a strange man-shaped figure walking upstairs, I decided to drop County Boy a message.

‘Why is there a random dude making noises in my house?’

I didn’t have to wait long for the answer.

‘Oh, that’s Jon-O, we were supposed to go out but he decided to have a whole bottle of vodka for himself and passed out on the sofa.’

I’ve definitely heard of the guy and I think I’ve even met him once before. From what I’ve gathered it wasn’t really a secret that he had a drinking problem which made him drop out of Lancaster uni. He claimed that it was because the place made him depressed, yet, he decided to come back for a second try after he’s told all his teachers and other people concerned to fuck off when they’ve prepared an intervention for him. It won’t take a genius to guess that he turned up off his face.

I wasn’t too bothered though, knowing County Boy, a passed out drunk is not the worst thing he could have decided to bring home. 

I smoked some weed in my room desperately trying to think of an idea for a story when I heard that some carnage was happening in the living room. I decided to ignore it for the moment and keep on pretending to work but then I started hearing some guttural noises from upstairs, I waited until they stopped and then contacted County Boy.

‘Can I use the toilet or is there still a raging alcoholic vomiting?’

‘Did you hear it, too?’

‘How the fuck could I not?’

Few minutes later County Boy responded.

‘The mirror nearly fell off the wall but apart from that the bathroom is alright, much better than the lounge anyway.’ With that he attached a photo of the TV being knocked down on the ground along with a chair and some other things. Then, another message arrived.

‘It better not be fucking broken, it’s enough I’ve already lost £10 worth of underwear because he just knocked on my door to tell me he’s pissed himself because although he managed to find the bathroom he forgot to take his boxer shorts off, then asked to borrow some of mine which he ripped while trying to put it around his fat ass and then proceeded to dangle his bollocks right in front of my face.’

I decided to finally leave my room to investigate and I met County Boy just in his bathrobe taking a look at the damage done. Although I swore to myself that this was his problem to deal with and I wouldn’t help him with anything, I gave him a hand putting the TV back in place when we noticed some liquid on the screen. I pointed at it.

‘What the fuck is that?’ County Boy thought out loud.

‘He didn’t piss on the telly, did he?’ 

‘Well, that’s a sentence I never thought we’d use in a conversation,’ County Boy responded as we both started hysterically laughing, he took a step back right into Jon-O’s wet jeans lying on the floor, I burst into some more laughter while County Boy decided to punish me by trying to dry his foot on mine. 

Then we moved on to do a deep investigation of the sofa.

‘Right, is there any urine here?’ County Boy said as he moved closer to it while I decided to stay at a safe distance.

‘That corner part looks a bit dark, doesn’t it?’ I finally said out loud what I’ve been thinking for a couple minutes. County Boy looked at it with hesitation and then turned to me.

‘Touch it.’

‘There is no way in hell I’m touching that, it’s your friend’s piss, you touch it.’

He very slowly moved his finger towards the pillow, then breathed a sigh of relief.

‘It’s dry.’

 After that I went upstairs to see what’s the situation and I couldn’t help but giggle at the sight of a six foot three tall Jon-O lying passed out on the floor in County Boy’s room under his Notts County shirts.

When I came down, County Boy gave me a curious look.

‘What is he doing?’

‘Just sleeping on the floor in your room.’

‘Fuck’s sake. Literally, after all the shit he’s already done, he then collapsed on my bed and for ten minutes straight he kept mumbling something like: I gotta tell you something, no, listen, shhhh, I gotta tell you something… and just couldn’t get to the point and when he finally did he managed to say: Mate, I gotta tell you something, I’m an alcoholic! Well, no shit! I’m kicking him out tomorrow morning anyway.’

After this we headed back to our rooms, me being highly amused by knowing who was going to be County Boy’s company. As I was getting comfortable in my bed, I heard insanely loud snoring from upstairs and was even happier knowing County Boy was experiencing them first hand.

When I woke up the next day it was my day off which meant wake n’ bake and then  football. I wasn’t too shocked to see Jon-O still around at 2 in the afternoon despite County Boy’s promises but I didn’t have the time to worry about that, I had a game to catch.

Derby County were playing Queens Park Rangers, the first time Wayne Rooney would be present at a Derby game since signing his deal, it was supposed to be a big occasion. Was it fuck? The game ended as a fairly boring 1:1 draw, Derby were poor and QPR even worse. After the game I set off for another 40 minutes long walk home from the ground and meditated on the game. Sometimes, it just doesn’t work out, you can’t always get a thriller like that time we played Birmingham City and won 3:2 or that away leg of the play-off semi finals away at Leeds. We were 1:0 down after the first game, we’ve lost all the previous games with Leeds that season and nobody favoured us, but our Rams won the game 4:2. I really wanted to go to Leeds for it, but it was hopelessly sold out, I watched the game on the TV and collapsed on my knees before jumping around my room like a lunatic when Jack Marriott scored that late winner. 

I slowly left my little cloud of nostalgia for times not too long gone when I walked into McDonald’s to get the bitter taste out of my mouth. Honestly, I love whoever invented those self-service machines they use, being able to buy some food without having to talk to anyone must surely be one of the biggest accomplishments of Western civilization.

When I entered our house, Jon-O was still passed out on the sofa, County Boy arrived shortly after me from a Notts County game in Northampton. I gave him a big smile while he just shook his head in disbelief.

‘All day he’s been telling me he’s booked a taxi which is coming in an hour, I asked him several times, it’s always an hour away and never comes, I even offered him a lift home but he said something like he doesn’t have a home that he’s homeless and hates his family after I picked him up at his house literally yesterday. On top of that he told me he’s punched somebody in Sainsbury’s when he went to buy more vodka, I didn’t believe it at first but then I heard the cashier talking about it to someone in a quite serious tone so who knows…’

‘Dude, do you realise that is an actual criminal offense?’ I replied, still smiling.

‘Yeah, I mean, could be a nice addition to our little house, we already have two Czech stoners, one Ugandan far-righter and a depressed alcoholic so why not a violent one?’

‘Right, listen up, baby boy,’ I started explaining, ‘if you wanna snort angel dust, brew meth or have sex with dead animals, that’s fine, this a house for you, but the rule is no witnesses and no hurting anyone, we’re peaceful offenders and we really don’t want the cops to show up at the door, especially given the constant gorgeous smell lingering around the place’

A bit of silence followed, the truth was Jon-O could eat any of us for breakfast so there was no way we were getting him out by force, the more peaceful methods County Boy has tried all failed and the police were never an option unless we would open all the windows in the house for at least a day and still it would have been too much of a risk. Seeing the state of him we had to deal with the fact that the visitor will be overstaying his welcome for one more night.

I returned to my room when, similar to last night, I started hearing loud guttural noises from the bathroom, not being phased by it at this point, I also returned to my previous activity and that was exploring the blissful effects of cannabis on one’s mind while trying to come up with a story idea but at that point I already knew, that the story was currently throwing up upstairs.

It didn’t take too long before this happened again but the difference was that now it was much closer, the obscene amounts of hard liquor seemed to have caught up with Jon-O and this time he wasn’t able to even attempt to make the toilet dash and headed straight for the kitchen, however even the sink was too much of a challenge as I have deducted from the sound of huge amount of liquid getting splashed on the floor that I heard through the door.

It was time for County Boy to be called to action once again as I started typing.

‘I have a slight suspicion that your friend has just vomited all over our kitchen.’

‘Go and check,’ he responded.

‘I don’t have to, what I meant by that is that he definitely puked all over the kitchen floor, go deal with it.’

So he did, I heard them talking but couldn’t make out much of it, given Jon-O’s condition I probably wouldn’t have understood even if I was standing right next to him. 

County Boy then came with an update.

‘It was mostly liquid, he offered to clean it up and actually did as well, I told him that he could stay for tonight as long as he keeps quiet and doesn’t disturb us again.’

I didn’t get my hopes up too high about that promise and I knew why, although, who wouldn’t question what somebody is saying after three bottles of vodka.

However, what was to come from Jon-O was far beyond my expectation. Between 1 and 3 AM he went to throw up eight times in nearly exact 15 minute intervals, I decided to put it to the test and right after his, roughly, fifth punishment of our sink I put a pizza in the oven, only moments after I took it out Jon-O was at it again.

Although his tempo was slowly wearing off, he kept going until about 5 in the morning when I finally managed to fall asleep knowing that in 3 hours I would be waking up for work.

It wasn’t a nice awakening because only a couple of minutes before my alarm I heard a lot of noise from the kitchen, but it was different to the ones from the night. When I came out of the room, I saw another one of my housemates who we lovingly called The Black Tommy Robinson given his obscure far-right sympathies and hatred of his own race. Nobody really understood what was his deal but he paid the rent on time and occasionally did some housework so we allowed him to stick around. He welcomed me with a smile on his face while still wearing rubber gloves from cleaning up the whole kitchen.

‘Damn, dude, did you even sleep?’ He asked me.

‘A little bit,’ I said with a bitter smile as I went on to get ready for work.

Being a kitchen porter I wasn’t a big fan of Sundays, lunch time is busy and everything tends to go wrong simply because there is nobody available to come and fix it on the day. Our dishwashers had a habit of doing so, it was always something with them, this time it was a leaking pipe. I cleared the water off the floor being completely unphased by it at this point after a year of Sunday’s kitchen nightmares in Quarndon and somehow managed to power through the rest of my shift counting minutes until 5 o’clock when I could finally leave.

When I came home, Jon-O was gone and the house was back to its usual quiet weirdness as if nothing happened. County Boy was waiting for me with a relieved smile.

‘So, we managed to finally get him out, he didn’t even care that it’s not his house, or that nobody wants him here or the fact he wasn’t even invited to begin with, we were just supposed to have a dinner, anyway, I had to leave and basically forced him out of the house and he still somehow managed to act offended, bear in mind, this is after I told him not to disturb us again during the night and he kept the whole house awake again destroying or vomiting all over it in the process, highly doubt he remembered much of it though. Also, he knocked on my door in the middle of the night again, asking for a fucking charger, he wasn’t even bothered to contact his family or anything, just wanted to watch shit on YouTube. Anyhow, I thought that we got rid of him at that point, he was out of the house, and I drove away but apparently he had the audacity to come back and talked The Black Tommy Robinson into letting him again, from what he said it all ended by his family coming to pick him up.’

Partly due to the amount of information and partly due to his Nottingham accent – thanks to which he probably could recite all of Shakespeare’s work in three breaths – I took a moment to process all of what he told me. 

‘You got lucky as fuck by the way,’ I told him after a while.

‘Why?’

‘Well, with The Black Tommy Robinson cleaning up all the mess in the kitchen today? You know, given his… views of the world, let’s say, I’m quite surprised how much of a hippie he was about the whole situation.’

Both of us being pretty tired from the events of recent nights and days we decided to head to our rooms. I started wondering if Jon-O threw up blood. I mean, surely, he must have. Three bottles of vodka, hardly any food, it must have been enough. 

I decided to search the house for clues and when I went up to the bathroom, the answer was waiting for me in the form of red stains on the wall. I came back down, opened the window in my room and leaned out to finally have a well deserved after-work joint. 

I started thinking about all the people I knew that threw up blood. Jake, my friend since sixth grade, had a rough childhood, his father left them, his mom was changing partners fairly often and recently his brother turned out to be a methhead, can’t blame the man for needing a drink after all of that. Next up Nicky, knew him since we were nine, we were born on the same day, played ice hockey together and for a while had been inseparable. He was a metalhead and really got me into that type of music when I was about 13, he started drinking when he was 14 and only a couple years he could drink most people under the table, those were the genes after his dad, and his grandad, all the men loved their drinks.

Vince was another one, I met him in second year of high school when I was forced to take dancing classes. I hated the everloving fuck out of it while most people had the time of their lives. Mainly because they were drunk, but then again, so was I, the enjoyment just didn’t come. Vince always had a flask with rum and coke and because Nicky was his friend, I was his friend, so he always shared. I think he joined the army recently, I don’t know how, he’s previously failed psychological tests to become a police officer and on top of that he’s got a kid on the way. 

And finally, my poor old dad, the effects of excessive drinking have been catching up with him over the last few years, diabetes, spleen problems and last year it was a couple of strokes, only thanks to my mom and her big mouth which never stayed shut and essentially forced the lazy-ass doctors in Prostejov to actually give him a decent care he is now able to walk short distances and talk a bit again and he’s getting better with each passing day.

I started thinking about myself, still smoking into the early December night, I’ve never really forgiven him for the drinking but being 22 years old and having an awful job that I hate, I come closer to understanding. He was doing a job he probably didn’t want to be doing for pretty much all of my life, the booze was the way for him to get through the tougher times.

And here I was doing pretty much the same thing, I knew I was unfair to him on a few occasions because over the course of my short life I’ve already managed to do a lot of the same shitty things he’s done and it took me until now to settle the things inside of me and try to focus on the better stuff. I tried not to remember the arguments, the words and once even punches flying – it was my seventeenth birthday, my mom ran away the day before and I spent the night at Nicky’s place, when I came back he wasn’t bothered about mom and just asked me for money to buy more booze…

I decided to put all of that behind me and remembered that time he drove me to Prague to see a band called HIM, we listened to The Dark Side of the Moon on the way and that is why as far as I’m concerned it is one of the greatest albums of all time. I played Time by Pink Floyd, finished my joint, knowing that dad was back home from the hospital, able to kinda take care of himself while my mom was at work, my twelve-year-old sister always made him coffee in the morning and for the first time everything seemed right and all too far away for me to be a part of it.

Radim Nemela is a Czech writer who moved to the United Kingdom at the age of 19 to study Creative Writing at University of Derby. During his time in the East Midlands he became fascinated by performance poetry and began to perform on regional poetry events himself and eventually appearing at poetry festivals in Derby and Nottingham. 

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