It’s late November so this kind of weather doesn’t surprise. Grey at dawn, with slight cold winds, and little hope for any true warmth for the entire day. The clouds seem leaden with rain and darkness, as if high noon might be cancelled due to lack of interest. But here at dawn, in the middle of the Big Empty, with no one to talk to but Bonnie and the space inside, the overcast sky makes me laugh again.
There are times I miss my former life. I know I shouldn’t and I understand why it’s gone now, but there are times I miss being able to live that life. I miss the edgy feeling of near consciousness that being an alcoholic and stoner brings. We ran in a loose pack of young adults, none of us over twenty-one, all of us aged beyond our years, and none of us with any vision past that day’s supply of party favors. Robin, the woman I was entangled with and I, had passed out on the sofa the night before, and truthfully, I don’t remember where we were that day.
Robin’s brother, David was there, a man in far orbit to anyone and everyone his family knew. David drank more than I did, which was a very odd thing. He also got better weed and other drugs than anyone else we knew. David reminded me of a bartender held at gunpoint. He was always super nice to everyone, no matter who they were, and it seemed almost desperate in his efforts to make Robin’s friends like him. We were going to a concert, I think, and David had promised us he could get good tickets at a decent price. We may have been in Atlanta, but it could have been Birmingham.
I remember that the apartment was on the fourth or fifth floor and that Robin and I had sex on the balcony that night. There were many lights, but the balcony itself was in a shadow but it wouldn’t have mattered that much. We all gravitated towards tuning the rest of the world completely out. I think it was a friend of David’s who owned the apartment, or maybe it was the other Mike’s friend. The other Mike was a broken man, a man who had lost a wife and two kids to drinking. He was allowed to see them once or twice a year, and he was more or less a minor holiday to them, like Saint Patrick’s Day, or Columbus Day.
On the other Mike’s eighteenth birthday, he had discovered that his wife was pregnant again. That was also the day he flipped his car while he was too drunk to stand up. There was another motorist involved, who sustained terrible injuries, so the other Mike spent a year in jail, and lost everything to his former father-in-law’s lawyer. The other Mike was a very quiet man, subject to long periods of time spent in total muteness. The other Mike would sometimes look up, and slowly look around as if had just discovered where and when he was. That morning he was sitting in a chair watching the television, even though it was off. The night before Robin, David, the other Mike, and I, had killed off a quart of whisky in fifteen minutes by doing shots.
“It’s overcast out there.” The other Mike said, and it surprised us that he had spoken at all.
The words hung there in the air like the cigarette smoke, the pot smoke, and that haze that seemed to follow us around. “Yeah, yeah it is, “David quickly agreed. He got up and looked outside after he spoke. “ I wonder if it will rain today?”
“ I wonder why they call it overcast.” I asked. I blew a smoke ring towards the window. For some reason, I remember that smoke ring wafting towards the yellowed blinds in the apartment, and the dead clock on the fall. We had reset the hands to midnight, and that’s where they stayed.
“Sounds like a fishing mistake.” The other Mike said.
“What?” Robin asked. “ A fishing mistake?”
“Yeah, Overcast.” The other Mike said. “It’s when you throw your lure into the bushes.”
Everyone kinda laughed at this. I thought it was funny, and David always laughed at any joke anyone made.
“Why is it they don’t call clear skies Undercast?’ I said, and everyone kinda laughed at that too. “Today will be sunny with undercast skies” I said in my best radio voice. Robin giggled hard at the sound of my impression.
“Over cast is when they put Robert Redford and Richard Burton in to play “The Odd Couple” on TV.” David said. Robin was sipping coffee and choked. Everyone else fell over laughing. It was hysterically funny. Yeah, I know that right now, reading it, it doesn’t seem like a belly laugh but right then it was one of the funniest things any of us had ever heard.
That entire day was filled with overcast jokes, and jokes about famous actors in bad sitcoms, and that sort of thing. We were listening to the radio and when the weather report called for overcast skies, we had to pull over and laugh at it.
Drug addicts and alcoholics get together like leaves that have fallen in a stream. The current carries them together for a while, then aimless separates them, and perhaps unites them again later, but no, likely not. I saw Robin ten years later, when we were both much older, and she had not slowed down, had not stopped as I had. The other Mike had killed himself with a gun. David was dead, too, of a self-inflicted overdose of whiskey and drugs. Robin told me there wasn’t a note, so it must have been an accident. It seemed important to her that I believe it was an accident, and there was no note. We reunited for a weekend, laughed about the overcast joke, made plans to see each other soon, and then we drifted apart again, forever.