Thursday, June 29, 2017

the thing about circles

THE LOST WEEKEND (1945; d: Billy Wilder)

Helen knows I've got what it takes. Hell, even Wick knows, though what that brother of mine would never concede (at this point) is that I'm anything more than broken promises and tattered dreams.  He always was the practical one—what the devil does he know of dreams?  I've always had to do the dreaming for the both of us. Though lately those dreams only serve to mock me. Some writer he'll be—ha!

If only I could learn to live without it. The one thing in the whole world that makes me happy, that really sets me free, and it's certain doom.  But without it...Helen sees, all sweat and jitters and hesitation—what kind of man is that, I ask you?  

Ten days. Ten blessed days on the wagon and suddenly I notice some of the old Helen's returned, the one that fell in love and believed in me well past believing. And even poor Wick—who'd reached the end of my rope—has started being patient and kind again, treating me more like the brother I used to be than the burden I am. Despite the courts, the jails, the hospitals, the hushed tones and myriad looks from neighbors now all too familiar with the proclivities of the illustrious Donald Birnam, Helen and Wick might still believe.

If only...If only this day-to-day panic would stop. If only I could find comfort and complacency in a simple life, maybe a couple of kids, a house in the country, weekly Bridge club, lazy Sunday drives...Helen, relaxing now, the children in bed, a big happy dog at our feet. Why can't it be?

Why, in college I was Donald Birnam, Esq., a young man of words, a young man to watch—the very soul of wit! There were mountains to scale, and fresh new lands to conquer, and the girls—how they swooned.  Never could I imagine my foray into adulthood would begin and end in the gutter.

Ten days. Oh, why can't it be a hundred...a thousand? They don't get easier like they say; certainly not yet, at least...certainly not. All I do is think of it, dream about it, plot on it...I'm finally out of that hole, free to live, free to collect myself and set my nerves to rest, and they want me to go to a farm for the weekend. So Wick can watch and prod and nurture, and tell me it's all for the best, and tell me I'm looking better. Ten days of sheer, unmitigated hell, and they want me to go sight-seeing!

Oh, what I wouldn't give for a few capfuls...just for these jangled nerves. Just enough to keep a man going...

But it never works that way, does it? No, it's all or nothing, and that's the way it is and always has been for Don Birnam. If I louse up this weekend—after all that's happened, after everything I just put us through—Wick's time-honored charity might dry up for good, and who could blame him? Six long years of coddling and collecting and cleaning up after a drunk, even if it's your brother, has got to be a bellyful.   

No, the writing's on the wall and it's been there since the end of the last bender, plain as day: this is it, Don.  Brother or no brother, Wick Birnam has had it.  Why, if it weren't for me, he might already be married off with children somewhere. But no, Wick's had another calling...

And poor, dear Helen, another hostage to fate.  Could've walked away long ago, but she's not only a lovely, caring woman, she's unfaltering in her devotion to a lost cause—so that I might ravage her life as well.

Well, all of itfor the life of meit's too much. Too much for a heart and mind to carry. Too much for these frayed nerves.  Too much for a long weekend in the country.