When I saw it, I nearly cried.

There it was. The thing that I had been working towards for days on end. The ultimate goal that I had been savoring all this time, for all my life, really:

The final screen of Super Mario Brothers.
When I saw it, I nearly cried. They were not tears of joy for slaving over the game for days and days. They were also not redemptive tears of satisfaction for the pain in my wrists and thumbs being worth it. And they weren’t tears that sprang forth upon seeing the beauty of a rewarding finale of a fantastic journey.

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There he sat at his table in the pathetic apartment that had become his living quarters. In front of him sat a shot glass, three-quarters full.

Nothing else.

A door opened and slammed shut, snapping him out of his daze.

He didn’t turn to look.


Behind him. A woman’s voice.

“That’s what I hate about you the most,” she continued, as if she owned this place too. “You put a shot in front of you and stare at it, making a whole big production out it. It’s pathetic, really.”

His wife. Ex-wife in progress. Still, he didn’t turn to face her. He hadn’t thought about what it would look like if someone walked in on him.

“You know that you’re going to start drinking again. So just do it.”

She came behind him and plopped a stack of papers on the table next to the shot.

Court papers. Bills. Things he had to pay for:

His house. Now hers.

Lawyer fees.

The tiny coffin.

On top of the papers, she placed a bottle of gin, which she had retrieved from the pantry. A cruel paperweight.

“So that you can finish what you started,” she said.

And then she left his pathetic apartment as cruelly as she had entered, making sure that she slammed the door.

Despite what she said, he stared at the shot glass for a few more minutes before he picked it up.

   “What does it taste like?” he had asked the guy.

   “No harsher than a shot of vodka.” he had told him.

He poured the clear liquid down his throat and gagged. The guy had lied to him. It tasted much harsher than a shot of vodka. But perhaps after five months he forgot how unkind alcohol could taste.

   “Will it hurt?”

   “Quite the opposite. You’ll feel euphoria and then you’ll lose consciousness.”

He felt a familiar tingling rush sweep over his body, his face, his brain. Then numbing.

The sweet numbness.

   “And then what happens?”

   “And then that’s it.”

With shaking hands, he unsteadily placed the shot glass back on the table, where it fell over.

After a moment, so did he.

-Youngman Brown