I want to be alone for a couple of hours to kind of assemble myself. Is that such an extraordinary thing to want?
I didn't know it was there. Even if I had, I wouldn't have touched it. Do you think I wanted you out of the apartment because of the bottle? I resent that like the devil. If there's one more word of discussion, I don't leave on your blasted weekend.
You know what brand, Mr. Brophy. The cheapest. None of that twelve year old aged in wood - not for me.
Don't wipe it away, Nat. Let me have my little vicious circle. You know, the circle is the perfect geometric figure. No end, no beginning.
What you don't understand, all of you, is that I've got to know it's around. That I can have it if I need it. I can't be cut off completely. That's the devil. That's what drives you crazy.
Come on, Nat. Join me - one little jigger of dreams, huh?
It shrinks my liver, doesn't it, Nat? It pickles my kidneys, yes. But what does it do to my mind? It tosses the sandbags overboard so the balloon can soar. Suddenly, I'm above the ordinary. I'm competent, supremely competent. I'm walking a tightrope over Niagara Falls. I'm one of the great ones. I'm Michelangelo, molding the beard of Moses. I'm Van Gogh, painting pure sunlight. I'm Horowitz, playing the Emperor Concerto. I'm John Barrymore before the movies got him by the throat. I'm Jesse James and his two brothers - all three of 'em. I'm W. Shakespeare. And out there it's not Third Avenue any longer - it's the Nile, Nat, the Nile - and down it moves the barge of Cleopatra. Come here...
That's my novel, Nat...I was to start writing it out in the country. Morbid stuff. Nothing for the Book-of-the-Month Club. A horror story! Confessions of a booze addict. The log book of an alcoholic...You know what I'm gonna call my novel? The Bottle. That's all, very simply, The Bottle. I've got it all here in my mind. Let me tell you the first chapter. It all starts one wet afternoon about three years ago. There was a matinee of La Traviata at the Metropolitan...
That's what's gonna be so hard to write. Love is the hardest thing in the world to write about. It's so simple. You've gotta catch it through details, like the early morning sunlight hitting the gray tin of the rose garden in front of her house, the ringing of a telephone that sounds like Beethoven's Pastorale, a letter scribbled on her office stationary that you carry around in your pocket because it smells like all the lilacs in Ohio....He thinks he's cured. If he could only get a job now, they could be married and that's that. But it's not, Nat, not quite. Because one day, one terrible day...you see, this girl's been writing to her people in Toledo. They want to meet the young man. So they come to New York. They stay at the Hotel Manhattan. Their very first day, she's to introduce him to her parents, one o'clock, in the lobby of the hotel...
I couldn't face it...I couldn't face 'em, Wick, and all the questions they'd ask. I just couldn't do it, not cold. I had to have a drink first, just one - only the one didn't do anything to me.
But then there are the ones who can't take it and can't leave it either. What I'm trying to say is, I'm not a drinker - I'm a drunk. They ought to put me away once.
That was three years ago, Nat. That's a long time to keep fighting, to keep believing. She knows she's clutching a razor blade but she won't let go. Three years of it. I'm gonna do it now. It's all there, you heard it...That's why I didn't go away on that weekend, see, so I can be all alone up there and sit down at my typewriter. This time, I'm gonna do it, Nat! I'm gonna do it!...I'm going home. This time, I've got it. I'm gonna write.
Stop it, Helen, stop it, stop it. I'm all right. I just can't talk. Please stop it!
Come on, I need that liquor. I want it and I'm gonna get it. Do you understand? I'm gonna walk out of here with that quart of rye one way of another.
I'm gonna put this whole weekend down, minute by minute...The way I stood in there packing my suitcase, only my mind wasn't on the suitcase, and it wasn't on the weekend. Nor was it on the shirts I was putting in the suitcase either. My mind was hanging outside the window. It was suspended just about eighteen inches below. And out there in that great big concrete jungle, I wonder how many others that are like me. Poor bedeviled guys on fire with thirst. Such comical figures to the rest of the world as they stagger blindly towards another binge, another bender, another spree.
Happy to have you back with the organization.
I live right on the corner house - you know, where the antique shop is, the one with the wooden Indian outside? They got the Indian sign on me, I always say...Second floor front.
Save your saliva. I've had enough of you...What do you think I am? I break a business date. I buy me an evening purse, a facial, and new hairdo, and maybe you can do that to your ritzy friends, but you can't to me, understand? ...I waited half the night like it was the first date I ever had. The other half I was crying. ...You do like me a little, don't ya, honey?
The management insists. If we let you guys go home alone, a lot of you don't go home. You just hit the nearest bar and bounce right back again. What we call the quick ricochet...This department is sort of a half-way hospital, half-way jail...Listen, I can pick an alky with one eye shut. You're an alky. You'll come back. They all do. Him, for instance. He shows up every month - just like the gas bill. And the one there with the glasses - another repeater. This is his forty-fifth trip. A big executive in the advertising business. A lovely fellow. Been coming here since 1927, good ol' Prohibition days. Say, you should have seen the joint then. This is nothing. Back then, we really had a turn-over. Standing-room only. Prohibition. That's what started most of these guys off - whoopee!
They'll happen to be a little floor show later on around here. It might get on your nerves...Ever have the DT's?...You will, brother...After all, you're just a freshman. Wait'll you're a sophomore. That's when you start seeing the little animals. You know that stuff about pink elephants? That's the bunk. It's little animals! Little tiny turkeys in straw hats. Midget monkeys coming through the keyholes. See that guy over there? With him it's beetles. Come the night, he sees beetles crawling all over him. Has to be dark though. It's like the doctor was just telling me - delirium is a disease of the night. Good night.
There isn't a store or a bar that will give him five cents worth of credit...I went over the apartment with a fine-tooth comb - the places he can figure out!
That's the nice young man who drinks.
A writer. What did he write? I never heard his name.
I know what goes on in this house. I know Mr. Don Birnam. I knew all about him the first week they moved here five years ago. Heard those bottles rattle in the garbage can. I know all about you. You're Helen St. James, you're working on the Time Magazine, and you're his best girl. I also know he's not staying with any friends in Long Island. He's off on another toot and you know I'm darned right...I could have kicked him out fifty times - the last when two taxi drivers dumped him into the entrance hall out cold on the floor. With all my tenants going in and out and children leaving for school!...Well, I didn't put him out. Not as long as his brother could pay the rent. You couldn't help liking him anyway. He was so good-looking. He had such nice manners.