With the suicide rate at its highest in three decades, the story told in Mark E Scott’s Drunk Log is more relevant than ever, and lends fresh insight into the psychological factors that play an integral role in how people respond to deep trauma. The fast-paced narrative chronicles what are intended to be the final hours of one man’s life, but avoids becoming an ominous dirge through dark humor and undercurrents of romance, hope and, ultimately, redemption. Drunk Log is a darkly humorous, deeply introspective exploration into one man’s attempt to find peace in the face of unrelenting pain. The entire book covers about eight hours and deftly avoids becoming an ominous dirge through relatable — and flawed — characters, unexpectedly funny situations, a budding romance and the wobbly balancing act of a man who must remain sober enough to write in his journal and finish what he started, but drunk enough to jump off a bridge. The book is the first instalment in Scott’s three-part Day In The Life series, in which the unexpected, twisted saga of Jack and Aria unfolds over a combined period of 24 hours.
I’m hiding in a port-o-potty behind a taco truck.
I’m in the dark, basically.
I’m writing in the dark.
There’s just enough light to stay in the lines.
Kevin said he was hungry and the taco truck almost showed up out of nowhere,
like it showed up just to feed Kevin.
It’s snowing pretty hard and I didn’t think it was a good idea
to try to write in the snow so I ducked in here.
Off topic – this would be a good place to do drugs.
It’s private and it’s got a lock.
Even better than a crack house.
I’ll bet people shoot up in these things.
I would, if I were a drug addict.
This is what I am now – a guy that writes in a notebook in the bathroom.
Any bathroom will do, I guess.
This is what I am now.
I’m pretty drunk, Posterity, so you should be impressed
with my writing ability right about now.
I’m working really hard to keep this legable.
Walking in the snow sobered me up a little.
But not too much.
I’m feeling the beer courage starting to rumble.
Hell, the pink-haired girl (Lucy) proved that.
I’m never been that good at talking to girls, unless I know them.
I actually went for a few minutes without thinking about Troy.
I’ve done five minutes before.
I was pretty drunk then, too.
Problem is, when I don’t think about him I feel guilty for that too.
There’s no way out of this.
Well, that’s not true.
That’s about it for this bathroom break.
Sorry about the sloppy writing.
Can’t be helped.
Jack folded the notebook and, ever so carefully, slid it into his back pocket. It would be disastrous if it fell into the part of the port-o-potty from which it would be rendered irretrievable. After double checking to make sure the log was as deep as it would go in his pocket, he adjusted his pea-coat, made sure no part of the notebook would be unprotected from the storm. When he exited, he found Kevin standing on the sidewalk, finishing off the remainder of his street tacos, lost in thought.
“Thanks for waiting.”
Kevin turned to Jack, still chewing. “No problem, dude. The snow’s beautiful, huh?”
“It is. Definitely.”
Jack had given their next bar some thought. Bathrooms weren’t just for writing. A person can get a lot of thinking done in the bathroom. “Let’s go to the Main Event.”
Kevin stopped chewing. “Really?”
The Main Event was the reincarnation of a gay bar called The Subway. About a decade before, The Subway, and all the residents who lived in the flop house that existed above The Subway, had been kicked out of a building on Walnut Street to make room for a high-end hotel. Once evicted, the denizens of the flop house scattered to the four winds, as by then the city was running out of flop houses. However, The Subway, having thus far been a successful concern, chose not to gracefully fade into the darkness, and moved a couple blocks away, reborn as the Main Event. Though the Main Event was every bit as dilapidated as The Subway had been, perhaps more so, it no longer had a reputation as a straight-friendly gay bar, though some vestiges of that history remained, like the occasional drag show playing out on the huge dance floor. Nowadays the Main Event’s weekday patrons frequently consisted of an eclectic group of local panhandlers, drug dealers and, most likely, the occasional prostitute. Though the dirty facade was usually enough to warn most “regular” people away on weekdays, the occasional hearty traveler or intrepid downtowner could be found inside. Conversely, the weekend crowd included people of all stripes and socioeconomic situations.
Jack had chosen the Main Event on purpose. He had chosen it because he needed to get rid of Kevin before he got to the river and was hoping the seediness of the place would be sufficiently overwhelming to Kevin’s gentle psyche that he would choose to abandon Jack of his own accord. Kevin’s reaction to the mere suggestion of walking into the Main Event let Jack know he made the right decision as to what was likely to be the last bar visit of his life.
Kevin, for his part, was quietly questioning all the decisions he had made leading him here to this place, a place he had been only once before and felt no compunction to revisit. He was kicking himself, thinking he could have just stayed at MOTR, as usual, hung out by himself, as usual, and go home alone, as usual.
“Ok.” Kevin could see the place. It was only a block away.
“Excuse me.” Aria approached the bouncer at MOTR, although she wasn’t sure the job of sitting beside a door and asking patrons for their driver’s licenses was still categorized as “bouncer.” Door guy? Security guy? She didn’t have time to find out.
“What’s up? Hey, don’t you work up the street? At Libs?”
“Uh, yes, I do.”
“How do you like it over there?” He was already too chatty. She needed to keep moving.
“It’s good. It’s good. Hey, do you know a guy named Jack? I think he was here earlier.”
“Jack? The regular? Kinda tall? I think so. How come? And what happened to your head. Looks bad.” Clearly, the Bouncer/Security Guy did not share Aria’s sense of urgency. An influx of patrons suddenly streamed around her, all of them trying to shove their licenses into the Bouncer/ID Inspector’s hands for his inspection. But he seemed perfectly fine talking to her, barely glancing at the plastic cards stacking up in his hand.
“Just wondering if you saw which way he went when he left?”
“I think I saw him go down Main, you know, toward the river. He was with that other guy. I think his name is Kevin. Do you know him? Jeez! Did you get stitches?”
“Ok, thanks!” Aria was back out the door and into the snow, hoping she hadn’t been too rude, but then didn’t care. In this case manners were not a priority.
Aria’s head throbbed and the wind blew directly in her face; she ignored both as inconvenient. She was excited, more hopeful than she had been all night, despite the delay at the corner. She had convinced herself that Jack would not stray from his southerly course, that he would remain on a straight line until he got to wherever he was going.
Being careful in the snow, Aria increased her walking speed as much as possible without risking any more danger to life or limb. After all, she had already fallen twice that evening, and though she didn’t know it, would fall once more. The late hour, the proximity to which she had found herself to Jack before she fell, and thoughts of her sister drove her into the storm. The snow on the sidewalk now hid a layer of ice beneath, making every step difficult and tiring her legs.
She was stopped by the light a block short of the edge of Over the Rhine. While waiting for two cars to skid their way through the intersection, the feeling she was being stalked returned. Involuntarily, she thought back to the last time she had spoken with her sister. It was three days before she killed herself. She sounded fine on the phone. Ostensibly, Steffi called Aria just to say hello, to “check in” in her own words, and see what her sister was up to at college. They chatted for at least half an hour, Aria’s impression after the phone call was that she couldn’t remember the last time her sister sounded so calm. This should have been cause for joy but, for some reason, only made Aria apprehensive. Aria knew now, after months of therapy after her death, that Steffi WAS calm, that the reason she was calm was that she had already decided to kill herself. Steffi was, essentially, making the rounds of family and friends to say goodbye without actually using the word. Aria would never forgive herself for missing it. She would never forgive herself for not calling her mother or father, for allowing herself to think her sister was alright even when she suspected she wasn’t.
Of course, everyone told her it wasn’t her fault, which it wasn’t; that everyone else seemed to miss the signs as well, which they did. But still, for many months Aria couldn’t shake the feeling she had missed something, something in that conversation that was different from their other conversations, something that had nothing to do with Steffi’s tranquil tone. It was years later, years spent rolling their last conversation over and over again in her mind, that the difference was revealed. It was this: Steffi never mentioned joining Aria at college. For Steffi, joining her sister at college had become an article of faith, evidently a lifeline that helped her lurch from one bad day to the next; that helped her hang on. Something to which she could look forward as a new beginning. They rarely had an exchange during Aria’s last year in high school and through her first semester in college that Steffi did not mention her own matriculation and chance to be reunited with her big sister. That was the thing Aria had missed, the thing that stuck with her every day, the thing that wouldn’t disappear.
Standing on the corner, lashed by wind and snow, Aria knew she could not ignore what was happening with Jack, that she couldn’t allow herself to ignore the voice inside telling her something was very wrong. It fell upon her to try and do something about it. She had ignored the voice before, and her entire life since that moment had been forever altered. It had been altered to the point she found herself hiding from the world in a bar, a job which did not require the degree she eventually earned, the degree with which she had done nothing. She would find him, and even if she didn’t find him, she would at least have tried.
Aria reached Central Parkway, just about to leave the neighborhood. She heard the sirens while she waited for the walk signal, and then came the lights. They were converging just a couple blocks ahead of her. She was getting closer.