Five, Seven.

The bottles speak volumes through the stinging eyes and rushing lips of the habitually insipid. Grotesque pulses pound through the room in a painful rhythm that contradicts the simple, steady rhythm of my manipulated breathing. In for five, out for seven. In for five, out for seven. Pulse. In for five, out for seven. Three quick, heavy pulses. In for six, out for five. In for four, out for four. No. In for five, out for seven. The room is charged, packed, dense with sweat and stress and sound and rapid murmurs and life and darkness. Five, seven. Focus on one voice, one sound, one anything. Three pass me, one covers the next, four overlap, and I cannot find one concentrated, calm point of focus. Six, five. No. Five, seven. A light presence brushes against my conspicuously clothed shoulder. Slowly, in control, I step forward with my vibrating knee, away from it. Good. Five, seven. Darkness. Energy. Control. But a person is attached to the hand that dropped from my shoulder. Five, seven. Seven, three, four, two, two, three. In, out, in, out, in, out. Breathe. This feeling is “normal,” she told me. She told me to breathe, five, seven, she told me to breathe five-seven. I cannot talk and breathe, five, three words, no breath left for seven. His hand does not touch me now. I can breathe. Five, seven. He gets closer. Five, three. Pulse. He speaks. I do not understand. He speaks, but he does not say words. The bottle is wasting itself through blurs and sounds and noises. Five, four. He trips when he walks away from me. Five, seven. I want to leave. I don't know how to leave. I step back to my chair. I am the only sober person here, but my thoughts are whirl-pooling too, no different from everybody else. I do not need the cold glass or the coated throat or the tired smoke for my brain to spiral and for this confusing blend of intense apathy and unwilling emotion to consume me. My legs curl towards my twisting stomach and I hook my arms around them, grabbing my shaking wrist in my opposite hand. Five, seven. They have never seen me like this. I have never seen them like this either, but this busy scene is only a replication of my cynical expectation. A high majority of them are most likely not aware enough even to recognize any difference in their own behavior. Or to realize my presence. It still feels like every set of teary, blurry, spacey eyes here is focused intently on me, analyzing my reaction to what they do for fun on the rare occasion that they get the chance. Five. Seven. Seven nights in a week, but only five sober ones. When the weekend comes, they indulge in sour syrup. I am uncomfortable here, with them, with the sweat and stress and sound and rapid murmurs and life and darkness. I just wanted to experience the happiness and the relaxed, love-everybody mentality that my friends and acquaintances talk up every time I see them. Five, seven. It does not exist for me. Five, seven. It will not exist for me. Five, seven. It is not an escape; it is a punishment that disguises itself in the kindest, sweetest, sickliest manner. I do not want it to exist for me. He won't give me the keys. He won't give me the keys. He thinks he's funny. Five, seven. He is not funny. Five, seven. He wipes his thumb beneath my stinging eyes as though he cares. His hand slides to tangle in my hair, five, but he won't give me the keys. The key master is supposed to stay sober. What an imbecile I was to expect even the lowest standard to be met by one of these slobs. Five, six. I am getting angry. He won't give me the keys. He won't give me the keys. I take the keys. He lies on the ground, unconscious, breaths whispering, gasping. He would be here before an hour passed, anyway. No. I am guilty. Five, seven, five, seven, I am guilty! But at least I have an escape. I am a bad person. Five, seven.

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