I sit by the window smoking my first cigarette of the day. It tastes like the sidewalk outside the English department of my university; seven years and seven-thousand miles ago.
Someone is calling out something through a megaphone outside. N comes into my room, he walks over to the wardrobe and reaches up to where he stashes his emergency cigarettes.
“What the hell is that noise?” he asks, coming over and sitting on the window sill. He listens a moment then grumbles.
I frown. “What is he saying?”
“God is alive, he remains alive, we have brought him back.” N makes a noise like someone being reunited with spoiled shrimp.
I close the window. There is a noise from the hall.
“Is someone here?” I ask N.
He nods. “My friend C, in from Moscow, came and passed out last night.”
“C?” he calls. A young man with blue hair and nose piercing stumbles into my room, holding his head. He makes it to the couch, fumbling for a cigarette. He has a half drunk bottle of whiskey which he drops onto the table.
“I sniffed a girl’s neck!” he moans. His eyes are swollen.
I look at him, then at N. “What?”
“I sniffed it! for, like, no reason! What is wrong with me?” he shakes his head. “No–no, it’s the pills! I know it’s not a big deal. But, why would I sniff it? I was just standing there, then I just leaned and sniffed it. I didn’t even drink that much!”
I frown at N, he shakes his head and shrugs.
“What pills?” he asks
C pulls an empty box from his pocket and hands it to N. N studies it.
“What are they?” I ask.
N frowns at the box. “Shame pills,” he turns it over, “make every drunken misstep feel like defecating at the alter?”
“What the hell does that mean?” I ask.
“It says here that they exaggerate feelings of shame after drinking.”
C groans, nodding.
“So?” N says, placing the box down, “I’m guessing they worked?”
C’s eyes go wide. “Have you ever sniffed someone’s neck!? For no reason?”
He looks panicked.
“Uh, no,” N says.
“Exactly! Idiot!” He hits himself with both hands, close-fisted. He shakes his head, over and over.
“I’m never drinking again,” he moans. He begins to weep. His cigarette sags, slowly burning a hole in the end of his shirt. Finally he stands up and lumbers out of the room. N picks the package of pills up. He raises an eyebrow, holding them out to me.
I think, only for a moment.
“Not there yet,” I decide. N nods in agreement, tossing the pills aside and snatching up the abandoned bottle of whiskey.