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Content warning: addiction
That sticky sweet smell lingers in the air, flickering and dissipating again and again, a smoke cloud burning with the memory of your gentle fingers cradling glass after glass after glass. It is a fire that never burns out. Those glasses, those half-washed, fully poured glasses were your greatest love. You found them impossible to resist; relentlessly tempting, they seduced you with their golden-brown complexion, making your heart race and forcing hot blood to tickle your veins. They made tingles crawl up your spine, made the hairs on the back of your neck quiver with a sensation only equitable with feeling alive.
They let you forget.
The first time was understandable. The second, forgivable. But the third, fourth, fifth, sixth…? You leant on those glasses like they were the oxygen keeping you alive. With every breath, a little part of you would burn away – the heat from those love affairs boiled and bubbled away inside of you, pushing you further and further away from the you we all knew. From the you that we all loved.
You would stumble home, your crutch buckling under the weight of your guilt and self-hatred because you knew it was wrong. You desperately tried to hide all evidence of your illicit affairs with the golden girls. But it was futile – those golden-brown drops seeped into your skin and engulfed you, making your hair, your skin, your sweat, sour with their putrid aftertaste.
That sickeningly sweet, sticky smell tormented you, constantly luring you back into the embrace of your golden-brown lovers again and again and again until you were left lying alone, helpless, that sticky sweet smell no longer emanating from your breath.
Your heart no longer pumping hot blood through your veins.
Years have passed since that sticky sweet smell stung our eyes and made us sick with sadness. Years have passed since your warm, gentle fingers were replaced with a cold stone slab, memorialising our love for you as if you were a saint and we were your followers. Years have passed since your greatest love took you away from the ones who loved you most.
Yet, after all those years, the aftertaste of your addiction still hangs in the air. Because now, that sticky sweet smell lingers in the memory of your wife, the nightmares of your daughter, the breath of your son. A fire that never burnt out.
Maybe those half-cleaned, fully poured, golden glasses shouldn’t have been your greatest love.
Maybe you should have chosen us.
It’s a crazy little thing, love.
Analysis by the writer
This piece is about addiction, specifically alcoholism. It is something my father struggled with and something that I wanted to try to delve into from the perspective of what it must have been like for him, but also how it affected those who were close to him.
The reference to ‘sticky sweet’ comes from how I used to see beer. It was something I hated, especially its smell, because it reminded me of my father’s struggles and specifically how dangerous alcohol could be when someone was dependent on it. For years I refused to drink alcohol, due to a fear that it was almost a magical entity which would consume you and turn you into an alcoholic even after just one sip. Thankfully, I have come to realise that this is not the case, and that it can be used responsibly, but I do still believe that it changes a person and turns them into someone that they aren’t, whether this is bad or good. Hence, in the reference to drinks being “relentlessly tempting”, “seducing” and “impossible to resist”, I was imagining how alcohol must be perceived to someone with an addiction, as something wholly consuming and which made them feel alive, keeping them coming back for more even when it was ultimately hurting them and those around them. I wanted to show alcohol’s transformative effect; I imagine it almost as a possession, that alcohol, once it has gotten its grip on you, drags you deeper down with it, and farther away from the person you are and those you love. It makes you hurt them even when you don’t want or mean to, whether that be emotionally or physically.
Addiction is different for everyone. There is no universal reason as to why someone develops an addiction, but I believe it often stems from a struggle with something that you don’t know how to deal with. Thus, the line “they let you forget” is a reference to this, because in my father’s case, I believe much of his dependency on alcohol came from things from his past that haunted him, and he couldn’t quite get over. He had a hard life, and though he sought help he was not able to get it, leading him further down this rabbit hole.
My father was not a bad man, he was kind, loving and very special. He would do anything for those he loved and tried to make lasting memories with us all when he could. By referencing how the smell of alcohol tormented him, I wanted to make a point of the fact that he was just as much a victim of his addiction as the people around him were, to ensure that the memory of him was not tainted by his struggle with addiction. There is always a tendency to glorify a person after they have passed away, to respect them, however, I tried to make sure that both the good and bad parts were represented in this writing, so he was remembered for the person he was, not solely by the good or the bad.
It was ultimately my father’s drinking which caused him to pass away, leaving behind a loving family and friends, none of whom were able to say goodbye. But in this, I wanted to remind myself and my family of the good memories we had while he was here. He was a gentle giant, who gave loving hugs in which he was so insistent on not hurting anyone that his fingers would only skim the surface of your skin. He read books to his children and wrote cards despite his long-term struggle with dyslexia. He loved music, one of his favourite songs being “A Crazy Little Thing Called Love” by Queen, which he never ceased to get up and sing on karaoke night. Of course, the last line is an homage to this, leaving the piece on a more positive note that those who knew him would recognise and appreciate, reminding them to think of the good times even through the bad.