The basement storage unit was a little dim. He’d have to remember to change the bulbs out of the dangling light fixtures once he finished this. It was no problem, Noah could keep going all day.
The loose piles of shit from the far corner were now bagged piles of shit in the near corner by the stairs. He needed to get some of that up the stairs in the next couple of days. Then he’d bring it to the backyard. And then…
Shit, the lamps. He was going to change the bulbs. Okay, he could do that now. He unscrewed the top of the flask, took a sip, and screwed it back on.
Where was the ladder? There had been a ladder down here two days ago, where was it? Noah turned around to look and fell off balance as the room spun faster than he did.
Where was that fucking ladder?
He saw the little shovel and pail he’d bought for Mia for the summer tucked away under the stairs. He had been so excited at the idea of buying toys for the baby that he’d bought them when she was only three months old. Olivia had been with him at the store. She’d argued that he didn’t need to do that, that they’d just end up forgotten in the basement by next summer when Mia could maybe, but not definitely, use them.
Well, the joke was on her then. They were here, and he was looking right at them. That meant that they couldn’t be forgotten. How could something be forgotten if he was looking right at it?
Wait, the lights. Which meant he needed the ladder.
But first, he needed another drink.
He tipped the flask to get the last drops. No problem, he almost definitely had more in his apartment. He’d just get the bulbs changed and then go up.
Noah’s head hurt. When was the last time he ate? Or drank water?
Oh well, that didn’t matter.
There was the ladder, tucked behind some of the crap he’d moved from Point A to Point B. He started walking over, the ground lurching nauseatingly under him as he moved. He tripped over nothing, falling to his knees on the dirt floor. Thankfully, he’d had enough to drink that he hardly felt it as the hard ground dug into his shins.
It took a couple tries, but he finally pulled himself to his feet and shoved aside the bags to get to the ladder. One of the bags opened as it tipped, spilling broken knick-knacks onto the floor. But he barely noticed as he pulled the ladder out, tearing another bag open as the legs ripped into it.
There were three lightbulbs that needed changing. Noah slowly set up the ladder, leaning too far back at one point and nearly losing his balance. But finally, it was up.
He went over and flipped off the lights. He didn’t have the bulbs on him, so he’d just take them out for now. Then he could run upstairs and get the new ones.
The dim basement was spinning in a way that was all too familiar now. Noah stepped onto the first rung, then the second. He didn’t need to go any higher than the third.
Small favors of being six and a half feet tall.
He gripped the bulb and unscrewed it. The bulb was still hot, but it didn’t seem as hot as it should be as he pulled it out of the socket.
It was at that point his foot slipped. Noah went down hard, the lightbulb smashing under the palm of his hand. Something gave in his wrist and he felt slivers of glass going into the flesh of his hand. But it really didn’t hurt that much. So it couldn’t have been that bad.
He lay there for a moment, head swimming and stomach churning. The ladder was on the floor beside him, and he hoped that the noise hadn’t been enough to attract Olivia or Andrew’s attention.
If they were even home. Noah wasn’t quite sure what time it was. Or what day it was. He knew he had to work at some point, but he couldn’t quite bring himself to care.
He sat up slowly, his hand throbbing. There were glass shards and splashes of blood on the floor, the tiny wires from the lightbulb sitting in a small pool of blood. He looked at his hand, but couldn’t quite focus on the wounds.
But it didn’t hurt. At all really.
He went to stand up and hissed as he put pressure on his hand. A flash of pain cut through the haze, and it was enough to clear his head just a little.
Shit, he couldn’t let any of the others know about this. They already thought he had a problem and if they found out that he’d been hurt doing home repairs while drinking, he’d never convince them otherwise. He wasn’t an addict, he was just drinking to feel better.
And if he was starting to need alcohol to feel functional at all, that was his business.
He managed to carefully climb to his feet, avoiding putting any pressure on the wrist. That was enough for today. Now he just needed to get up to his apartment without anyone noticing and he could get this cleaned up and go to bed.
The sunlight smacked him in the face as he stepped out of the basement and into the back hallway. He closed his eyes, but glare cut through his head anyway like an ax through his skull.
Opening his eyes, he slowly started to make his way up the stairs to the privacy and darkness of his apartment. He held his wrist to his chest, feeling the glass shards pressing in as he tried to hold his wrist steady.
It was fine. It wasn’t broken, so it just needed some ice.
He got to the top of the stairs and started walking toward his front door. Then he froze.
Laying on top of the box he’d been meaning to move for weeks now was the card Roman had given him. The one with the Alcoholics Anonymous information on it.
How had it ended up here? Noah hadn’t put it there, but it was placed so deliberately that it couldn’t have fallen there on its own.
A wave of shame nearly made him vomit where he stood. Olivia. She must’ve found it on the ground. She’d recognize it for what it was. And she’d have put it here because she thought he was an alcoholic.
He picked up the card and squinted at it, trying to focus on Roman’s handwriting. Meetings? Noah didn’t need a meeting. Maybe he needed to cut down a little, sure. But it wasn’t like he was an actual alcoholic.
No, Olivia and Roman both just needed to mind their own business.
He set the card back down where he’d found it, then opened the door and stumbled in. He was starting to feel the pain in his wrist now, a dull throbbing that was going to get worse if he didn’t drink something and block it out now. He’d do that first, then work on getting the glass out of his hand.
Or he could lay down right here on the floor and go to sleep. And forget the pain and the shame for a few minutes.
Yeah, that seemed like the smartest option right now. He’d do that.