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When Roland woke up in the morning, Mary was gone. Soon, Idika got up and headed home. Roland sat in the living room alone. Despite...

When Roland woke up in the morning, Mary was gone. Soon, Idika got up and headed home. Roland sat in the living room alone. Despite his drunken stupor, Mary’s words had sunk into his heart. He thought of how faithful, kind and loving she had been all through his drunken rage. I have to change, he thought to himself. He walked into the bedroom to pick up his laptop. I have to get back to job-hunting, he thought. The scent of Mary’s perfume filled his nostrils. In a moment of clarity that was devoid of the influence of alcohol, he paused to take in that beautiful alluring smell. He wanted to reach out and hold her, except, she was not there. They had not been physical since he began to drink excessively. Suddenly, he wanted her deeply. He thought of calling her, but he decided against it, knowing that Mary would expect him to make some real changes before agreeing to see him. He carried his laptop to the dining table and turned it on. He sent off a few emails to friends asking of any job openings. Then he went to work putting his CV together again. About an hour later, the urge to drink came storming back. He fought it off at first, but the urge was not about to go away.

Some two hours into his renewed desire to give up alcohol, he walked to the fridge and looked at his stack of Star and Gulder lagers. The bottle glistened at him as the rich cold beers beckoned for a taste. He reached out for a bottle of Star. He brought it out and reached for an opener. Then, he thought of Mary. He placed the beer back in the fridge and walked back to the dining table and attempted to focus on job-hunting. The more he tried to focus, the stronger the urge to drink. Normally, at this time he would have gulped down about five bottles of beer. Soon, his fingers began to shake feverishly as his entire body cells shouted and begged desperately for a drink. Again, he walked to the fridge, placed his hand on the handle without opening it. He could feel the craving in his heart as his hand shook like someone with Parkinson’s disease. Once more, he returned to the dining table, trying to focus, but he could not. He went to the bedroom, took a sleeping pill and slept off. His intention was to sleep the urge away.

Several hours later, he woke up. He was very tired, and to his disappointment, the first urge he had was to get a drink. The urge seemed to have intensified while he was asleep. He held on, lying quietly in bed. He called Mary, but she did not answer. He dragged himself out of bed and went straight to the fridge, took a bottled of Star lager beer, opened it and drank it up. Like a storm calming down, his cells became relaxed. He felt at peace for a moment. When he returned to the bedroom, he stared at Mary’s picture on the wall. Her eyes seemed to be accusing him. They stared back at him with pain and disappointment written all over them. He jumped back into bed as a wave of guilt took over him. Why did you do it, Roland? He thought. But I could not help it. The urge was too much. He tried to rationalize his action as he battled with himself. Somehow, he managed to hang on for the rest of the day, lying in bed while working on his laptop. 

Around 6:00 in the evening, a call came through. It was Idika. “Rolly how are you doing?” He asked. “Not too good. I need to get my life back on track. “Is it because of what your wife said last night? Come on, let’s go and drink our sorrows away. A job will come through at some point. For now, let’s make ourselves happy. Life is short,” he persuaded. “I feel like drinking, but I am going to say no tonight. Life is short, but it could get even shorter with alcohol,” Roland answered. “You already sound like a changed man. That girlfriend of yours really knows how to work on your mind. As for me, no woman tells me what to do. I am a man of my own. I will be at Madam Hemehe’s bar in case you change your mind.” “Have fun, Idika. I will opt out of the bar tonight,” Roland maintained his stance.  Around 7:30, the urge to be at the bar grew stronger. The urge to have a taste of beer was even more overpowering. Several times he went to the fridge and stared at the bottles of beer as if they were TV screen. By 8:00, he got dressed, walked downstairs and headed for the bar. Then his phone rang. It was Mary. “Hi Rolly, I noticed you had called me earlier. I hope you are fine. What are you up to? I can hear the sound of vehicles around you. Are you going to the bar or returning from it?” “I am just taking a walk,” he lied. “Sounds good. I can’t remember the last time you did any form of exercise.” “I am just trying to clear my head. Please could you come over tonight?”

“I am sorry Rolly’ I can’t.” “Okay…I wanted to let you know that I miss you.” “And I miss you very much as well, Roland. I hope to see the real you the next time we meet.” “I hope so too.” “Good luck my love and take care of yourself.” Roland was disgusted with himself for lying to her. However, he could not resist the lure to go to the bar. “I knew you’d be here eventually,” Idika said as he joined him at their regular table. By the time he got home, he lost his footing on the staircase as he climbed upstairs. He sprained his ankle in the process. He managed to get inside his apartment. It was too late to call Mary, so he placed ice on his right ankle and sat on the couch. He slept there until morning. By morning, he called Mary. “I don’t want to bother my parents. Please can you come and take me to hospital?” He pleaded with her. “Are you trying to lure me to your apartment Roland?” “No honey. If you get here and I am not hurt, never talk to me again.” Mary got permission from her boss to leave. She took a taxi to his apartment.

Hurriedly, she helped him into a taxi and rushed him to hospital. The doctors needed to operate on the ankle, but efforts at anesthetizing Roland proved abortive. “He is somewhat resistant to anesthetics. Does he drink a lot?”  The doctor asked Mary. “Yes, he lives in a drum of alcohol.” “Unfortunately, we cannot operate on him now. He needs to get some of the alcohol out of his system to become responsive to anesthetics before we can do the surgery, otherwise the pain will be too much for him.” By now, his parents had arrived after Mary had called them. “Honey, they cannot operate on you yet, because you are unresponsive to anesthetics. We need to get you off alcohol before they can work on you. You have a choice…keep your beer and live with the pain in your ankle and perhaps a permanent deformity or shake off alcohol and have the doctors operate on you,” Mary said to him. “This could have been worse, Roland. You could have been hit by a car. Don’t you worry about me? Don’t you know that I would die if I lost you?” His mother asked through teary eyes. “I will do my best. Will you stay by my side Mary? Please, don’t say no. I cannot do it on my own,” Roland pleaded. “I will be here with you for as long as I can afford to, as far as you are willing to fight for your life.” “I will.”

Mary took a leave of absence from work and moved back into Roland’s apartment. She shuttled between the hospital and the apartment. Roland’s parents were at the hospital every day too. A day later, Roland lay in bed and Mary was seated beside him. She had just finished shaving him. “Your hands are shaking honey,” Mary pointed out. “I know.” “Is it the urge for a drink?” He nodded. “I did not realize that the urge can be this strong. Is there anything I can do to help, except giving you a bottle of beer?” She teased. “Please throw the blanket over me. I am getting cold.” “But it is very hot in here.” “I am feeling cold and feverish, honey.” Mary threw a heap of blanket over him. She sat beside him, stroking his hair. Soon, he was shaking like an old steam engine, shunting down a rail track. The shaking got worse with time. He shook violently as if he was about to die. Mary began to cry, not sure what to do. He removed the blanket and asked him,” are you going to be alright honey?” “Can I have just a glass of beer? Just a glass honey?” “I am sorry I can’t do that!!!” Mary said, although a part of her wanted to run outside and fetch him a bottle of beer to end this violent shaking. She ran outside and fetched a nurse. “Just stay with him. This will soon stop. His body is withdrawing from alcohol. By tomorrow, he will be alright. It will go by. No matter what he says, do not offer him alcohol, otherwise, you will be starting all over again,” the nurse explained.

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