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Thursday, November 11, 2004

Substitute
A tall 24-ounce glass of ice water.
It was usually by this time in the morning that this glass would be filled with vodka, but not today. It was the first day out of alcohol and drug rehabilitation for the glass's owner, and this glass, like all others from this point, would contain no alcohol.
It was hard to say just how many hundreds-or could it be thousands- of drinks this glass had seen over the past five years. It could somehow count itself lucky, for how many of its brethren in the fluid container community in the kitchen cabinet had been dropped, or for that matter tosseed against the wall in anger, and shattered.
It was the shape of this glass that kept the owner coming back for more. The glass was thick, and had an etched imprint of the name of the owner's favorite beer in all the world. In the old days, the glass only saw beer. The owner would frost the glass in the freezer, readying it for the weekend, for in the days before dependence, the weekend was the only time it was used. Dark beer was the drink of choice, forming a thick icy sheet inside the glass as the bottle slowly emptied into the slightly tilted glass. The head of the beer would leave a naturally-created series of descending foamy brushstrokes, which plunged to the bottom of the glass, as if each ring was a nomad completing one final Hejira to end its brief life. Though their lives were always short, every beer was consumed with a smile, every sip savored, every painted ring bringing the owner closer to an unknown secret.
Soon, beer binges on the weekend gave way to a nightly beer to unwind from a work day. Sooner than anyone anticipated, the owner was up to two, then three. In what seemed like the blink of an eye, three beers before dinner and three beers after dinner gave way to ten beers as dinner. What had once been a lucid mind attached to the mouth which fed from the glass slowly became less nimble; less quick with a joke, less fleet with a fact. The owner's hands, which had taken lovers into them with a passion and a love of life, now reached out to nothing. Nothing, of course, except the glass and its contents.
There were days when the glass suffered from neglect. In the end, as the owner bottomed out, dishes were left dirty for days, sometimes weeks. The glass, which had held mind-clouding beverages that filled the owner with dreams, nightmares and delusions of every stripe, soon found itself with a coating of mold at the bottom, neglected, temporarily unloved and unused. Drinks were consumed straight from the bottle. Such a useless thing a bottle; created as nothing more than a temporary weigh station for the soon-to-be-consumed. Recyclability is all they have going for them. Some have a very distinctive shape, but one use later, they are useless. Who would refill a bottle these days?
Twelve weeks had passed since the last beverage touched the glass. The owner returned to the house and became reacquainted with the layout and the items in the house. All remnants of beer and liquor had been removed from the house. The glass and its owner would now do their level best to go without, which was going to be no easy task. The glass would be of no help in this regard, its etched trademark staring its owner in the face, reminding the owner of days gone by. The owner had the look of someone wanting to rebuild a life from ruins. Cigarettes were now the addiction of choice, a half-smoked pack now joining the car keys on the dining room table. If smoking takes the place of alcoholism, is it only nothing more than trading short self-destruction for time-released doses of the same thing? Would the next dramatic narrative in the house center around the ashtray? Only time would tell.
For now, the glass would do the work for which it was made. It would not be so central to the story of the owner anymore, but its lifespan with the owner would be much less threatening and tenuous. More time from now on would be spent in the cabinet, resting with its surviving brethren at the end of an interior war that threatened the life of the owner. Occasionally, for the inevitable jogging of the owner's memories, the glass would be called upon, as it was at this very moment , for a victory lap. Hopefully, this would not be the last tall 24-ounce glass of ice water the glass would hold, but given the abuse it and the owner had suffered, the glass was more than happy with the substitution of water for vodka.

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