The truth hurts. Drake knew that, so he found himself avoiding the truth like it was the plague. He had multiple methods for avoiding the truth, but perhaps his most favorite method was alcohol. It didn’t require a lot of thinking or effort except maybe when he had to guzzle down cheap booze. He could distinctly remember the burning sensation as he drank the $10 bottle of whisky.
When the nights were long Drake would find himself breathing heavily. He’d be covered in sweat and he would find himself reaching towards his phone. He took a deep breath and immediately stopped. You know what happens when you call her… it’s best you don’t. For both your sakes. Then he rolled off his bed and reached underneath for a half empty bottle of Jameson. Half full when he found himself thinking more optimistically.
There was comfort in the alcohol he drank. After two or three shots, Drake would stop shaking. His breathing slowed down and then he’d be smiling. The relief it brought was enough to make Drake feel at ease, and then he’d pass out and wake up as if nothing had happened last night. Employee by day, and drunk at night. It was the life that Drake was content with… until now.
Drake found himself standing outside a bar in the cold. He rubbed his hands together and then quickly reached for his phone. Damn… early again. Drake hated being late, but then he found himself arriving too early for things and that meant waiting alone. He watched as a couple walk past him. What a loner, that’s what they’re probably thinking.
“Drake!” The sudden voice caused him to quickly turn around. Standing in front of him was a short brown hair girl. She had a smile stretched across her face and she began laughing.
“Did I scare you?!”
“Shut up May… ” Drake scratched his head and turned away for a moment. “It’s just been too long. I almost didn’t recognize your voice…”
“Yeah… almost a year now… but it’s okay! That’s why we’re hanging out now!. She laughed again. Her laugh caused Drake to feel weak at the knees. “How have you been?”
“I’ve been good… Just been busy with work.” A drop of water hit Drake square on the forehead. Drake immediately raised his hand towards his forehead.
“Maybe we should continue this conversation inside. Looks like it’s about to rain and I could use a drink.”
May nodded quickly and they both rushed into the bar. Once inside they could hear the rain slamming against the tinted windows. It was a lot darker inside with the exception of the bar. The bartender mixed drinks in front of the brightly lit shelves. The lights brought attention to a large variety of alcohol available.
“So what do you drink? My treat.” Drake nudged May towards the bar.
“What? No! you bought the drinks the last time we hung out!” May responded.
“Yeah but that was more than a year ago!”
“Who cares! It’s my turn. So tell me what do you drink?”
Drake was too tired to go back and forth on who’d be paying, so he accepted May’s offer. “All right. all right. I’ll take a Jameson. Neat.”
“Wow. Someone’s growing up. I remember how you used to struggle with just drinking beer” May let out a giggle.
“Shut up… You’re such an ass.”
“But I’m also your best friend!” Then she turned towards the bartender.
“I’ll have a Blue Moon and he’ll have Jameson. Neat.” The bartender nodded and left the two alone to talk.
“So where were we…” May turned back towards Drake.
“Well I just talked about work. What about you? What have you been up to?”
“Hmmm nothing much. Still working at my dead end office job. I mean I’ve been trying to apply elsewhere, but I’m struggling to get past the interview process! Maybe I’m just awkward… you know?” May lowered her head.
May awkward? That’s crazy! Drake thought to himself. Between the two May was the one that everyone liked. She could always keep a conversation going and her attitude was so intoxicating. Whenever you were around her you couldn’t help but smile. Drake often wondered how he managed to find an amazing best friend like May.
“No you’re not!” Drake exclaimed, causing May to immediately look back up towards Drake. “You’re a great person and I always thought that even before we became best friends. I just think the interviewers just need to see that!”
May smiled. “Thank Drake… you somehow always know what to say.”
“I got you. You just get so nervous in situations like this. Maybe you need to take a shot before the interviews.”
May responded in laughter. “Yeah and then I’ll throw up during the interview!”
The both of them laughed. It felt odd to Drake, but at the same time comforting. After all these years it felt as if nothing had changed. They both continued to drink for the rest of the night and they both found themselves reminiscing about simpler days. Drake avoided conversations about his current situation and quickly deflected the topic whenever May tried to ask about him and his life.
“So… really how are you doing? It feels like I’ve just been talking about myself this whole night.”
Drake came close to confessing the truth, but he convinced himself otherwise. I’ve managed to keep quiet about this with everyone... May wouldn’t be any different.
“I’m fine. Just been keeping myself busy with work.”
“I know. You’ve said so multiple times… ”
“Well you’ve been asking the same questions and nothing’s changed since the last two hours.”
“Ok fine.” The alcohol seemed to be hitting May now because her words began to slur and she was rocking back and forth in her seat. “Are you still at the same job?”
“No…I left my old job about a month ago, and now I’m just working at a warehouse. Moving boxes. Loading and unloading. All that fun stuff”
“That sounds like hard work! What made you want to change jobs?”
“Ah well you know… just looking for something new. I felt stuck at my old job, so working at a warehouse just seemed like the change of pace I needed and I don’t even need to go to the gym anymore!” Drake exclaimed.
“I’m happy to hear that you’re enjoying it!”
“Yeah… yeah it’s been good so far.” Drake attempted to keep eye contact with May, but found himself struggling to look at her.
“Oh what? It’s nothing.”
May moved closer to Drake. “I know that look. It may have been awhile since we last hung out, but I know you. You’re hiding something.”
Drake eyes widened and he attempted to move away from May’s prying gaze. “I told you. I’m fine. There’s nothing to worry about.”
May sighed and moved away. “Then tell me…”
Drake looked back towards May. “Tell you what?”
“How are things with Alexis?”
Drake froze. His chest tightened and he found himself looking away once more. “Things… are fine.”
Drake glared back at May. “Look I don’t want to talk about it. Okay?!”
“And why not? You used to tell me everything…”
“Well that was before you moved away and stopped talking to me!”
The both of them went silent after realizing that their voices were drawing gazes from around the bar. Drake took a deep breath and spoke first. “Look I’m sorry okay? I just rather we not talk about it.”
“That’s fine, but have you talked to anyone else about this?”
Drake hesitated. “No. I can handle this alone. I don’t need anyone’s help.”
“And how’s that going?”
“Yes it is.”
“No it’s not! Because the Drake sitting in front of me is completely different from the Drake who sat in front of me a year ago.”
“I’m not going to lie Drake. You look terrible. Exhausted. It’s as if you’ve lost what made you… you. You’re not the same cheesy idiot that I remember…”
Drake clasped his hands together in front of him and then he just stared at it. Damn there really is no point in hiding it from her, but… I can’t keep relying on people, because she’ll leave too… just like everyone else.
“Drake…” May whispered gently. “You’re not alone. I know it feels like it sometimes, but you shouldn’t close yourself off because of it. You have friends, family, and me to help you through things like this. So please talk to me.”
Drake hesitated. “I’ll try… okay?”
“No! Not “you’ll try!”” May’s face turned red, and she stopped rocking and held herself up. “You’ll never move on if you keep hiding and isolating yourself!”
“I told you May… I’m fine.”
That was the truth. Drake thought to himself. I’ve learned how to not rely on others and I’ve managed to make it this far without anyone’s help. I’m fine. Drake’s chest began to ache, but he kept telling himself over and over again… that he was all right.
Then without warning May moved closer and hugged Drake.
What… what is this…? Hugs weren’t out of the ordinary for Drake. He’s hugged friends and family before. Yet, this hug felt different. Drake felt a warmth that was different from the warmth he normally felt when downing shots. It was comforting and most importantly it felt real. Drake tried to stifle his tears, but it was too late. All of a sudden tears streamed down his face and Drake immediately held May close to him.
Drake slowly released May from the hug, but May didn’t let go. She held his head close to her chest. “I’m sorry that I haven’t been there for you, but just know that you shouldn’t be afraid to call me. No matter what. Promise me you’ll stop handling this on your own and reach out to others.”
Months of holding everything in eventually came bursting out. Drake had a long way to go before he could open up to others again, but this was what he needed. It was a step forward. A simple gesture to remind himself… that he wasn’t alone.
“Thank you May.”