As fog drifted below Twin Peaks and downhill into the valley over Victorian rooftops and the very tiptop of Castro theatre marquee peeking in and out of fog, Abel Erikson, a middle-aged man with a strong jawline, blue eyes, and salt-and-pepper hair, stood at the window of his living room at the top of Pemberton steps fascinated by the beauty of fog sweeping over the white city. It had been three years since he had returned to live full-time in San Francisco from Charleston with the boy.
The boy was not at home or in the studio on Dolores Street.
He suspected he was in the Castro, in The Pendulum on 18th Street, glorifying himself before the eyes of men lusting one thing—that he accompany them back to Room 10 at Cherrywood Hotel to sip acid punch, smoke reefer and party. Thoughts of that were disconcerting; he was jealous and unhappy and swung around glaring at two decanters on the bar, one full of gin, the other brandy.
He swallowed a dry lump in his throat, wiped his thick brow and glanced anxiously around the room. No one was around. He could really do it, could have a drink, fool them and himself.
A corner of his lip twisted into a crooked smirk, his mouth watering to taste. He stepped across the Tibetan rug over to the bar fixed against the plastered back wall. At the bar, he slammed the ice bucket lid down on the counter, readied gin, vermouth, ice into a tall shaker. And then all the problems that had made him feel less than a man came back to him.
He shook his head wanting to scream.
Once upon a time he could drink until he was literally blue in the face. There were no hangovers then, no grave problems. Now, he went to therapy and made special appearances at AA meetings upon his therapist's suggestion. He hated the meetings, having to sit there in that melancholy room, half listening to their stories, thinking he was not as far gone as those people.
Drinking out of control and waking up in a gutter was not something he had in common with any of them. He looked dubiously up at the ceiling admitting he was powerless over alcohol-that his life had become unmanageable. The second step he whispered, then paused at mid-sentence to hear the door open.
Standing in the threshold looking up at the chandelier and gasping for air was an old woman with snow-white hair erect like an electric bush and a beige gown clinging unnaturally making her look naked. A second later she shuffled into the room by the wall towards the light switch and turned out the lights.
"Farchrisake!” Abel's voice cried in the darkness startling the old woman who grabbed her heart, "Bernie, I didn't know anybody was here," she said.
“Turn that light back on, now.”
The woman struggled to find the switch in the dark. She turned around after the light came on and squinting was horrified to see him behind the bar.
"That is right, it is I,” he said, “the other one you so ardently hate.”
"I don't hate you so much," she said after catching her breath.
“Oh, get out of here. Go to hell!”
“Why must you curse me all the time.”
“I curse you because you’re a simpleton, an idiot.”
“I’m not an idiot.”
“Then a worthless, pathetic hag.”
"How dare you speak to me in that manner."