A Breath of Fresh Air

Twist the cap off, snap it between fingers into the corner. Sniff, inhale.

Exhale. Drink, taking care not to slurp.

Set bottle down in exactly the same space as the previous one. Match up the bottom ring with the one on the table from countless bottles before.

Peel back the label. Pick up, inhale, drink. Stifle a burp with a fist pressed against his lips. Set bottle down, lining up the ring on the bottom with the one on the table.

Peer through the murky green bottle at him. Adam's on the phone with her. His girlfriend. Listen to him say those words. Pick up bottle, drink.


He's not an alcoholic though he drinks a lot, but sometimes, in these too-close quarters, he needs to do something to numb himself. It's a fine line, drinking enough to become oblivious, but not enough to lose his self-control, do or say something he'll regret.

Adam's there again, on the phone, laughing at something his girlfriend said. His eyes are soft at the corners.

Patterns are easy. Inhale. Lift bottle to lips, drink. Swallow, exhale, repeat.

He doesn't know how long he can keep it up. It's not an indefinite thing; something must change soon.

He meets her in a bar. She distracts him when he's trying to watch Adam through the bottle raised to his lips, but she bends over the pool table.

So cliché, but it works. He can't inhale and drink at the same time and chokes, which messes up the pattern. The change was inevitable, he knew it had to come sooner or later, he just didn't expect it to come shaped quite like her. Patterns are easy, but they also restrain, and there is nothing confined about this girl. She's maybe a little too wild, a little too easy, and she isn't the one, but she's the one he wants right now. She thumps him on the back while he recovers from beer tasting stale mixed with smoky air that's caught in his throat, and reminds him to breathe.

About the author:

Vanessa Wieland completed her MA in English at Queen Mary, University of London in 2007, where she looked at the conflict between the way time is measured and the way it is perceived, as represented in the works of Virginia Woolf and Walter Benjamin. Has been published in The Giles Corey Press and on air at WFPL, Louisville, KY's NPR station.