Shoes By D.I. Jolly

“You ever wake up with a headache, a dry mouth and a stranger in your bed and just think. Is this what rock bottom feels like. Not drinking piss out of a trashcan with a needle in your arm, but a state of such moral decay and deplorability that you don’t want to be looking into the mirror that drunk you decided to hang over the bed. Because you’re more interested in fucking yourself, than the person you’re actually fucking?”

James rolled over on the couch and looked at his therapist, who cocked an eyebrow and said.

“I can’t say that I have, but I have heard you say things like this before. I thought you were supposed to be clean?”

James ran his fingers through his hair and sighed.

“That’s the problem doc, I am, and it’s so fucking boring that when I look back, even the parts I hated seem better than this.”

Dr Edwards let the room go silent for a few minutes while he thought.

“Do you have friends James? People outside of what you do, or did?”

“Do you count doc?”

“No.”

For the first minute, James only pretended to think about the question, certain that it was stupid because of course he had friends. But as the question hung in the air in front of him a dark realisation began to dawn, bringing with it a strange desperation.

“I used to hang out with this cool barkeeper from a place down the street from me, but had to stop that after I got out of rehab. I’d call him my friend, I guess. Oh, and there’s the chick I always use for travel plans, she sometimes sends me Christmas cards.”

He rolled again and sat up to really look at his doctor.

“I sometimes flirt with your secretary, but she keeps putting me off. Something about dating patients.”

His gaze slipped and Dr Edwards watched as his eyes darted left and right, searching his memory for something, someone he could call an actual true friend until finally, his eyes came back to rest on the doctor.

“Why do you ask doc?”

“Have you ever stopped to consider that a part of the reason you enjoy the debauchery isn’t just the drink and drugs, but also because you surround yourself with people, and you hate sobriety because you tackle it alone? You’re a showman, a born leader, you need people to stay focused and sane. I think it’s time you try find more people, and this time don’t corrupt them quite so much.”

“I’m thirty-five, I don’t think I know how to make friends anymore, or sober friends anyway.”

Dr Edwards looked at his watch and thought.

“There is a shoe store across the street. The woman who works there has been married for 25 years, had three children and has worked there since she was a teenager. Go buy yourself a new pair of shoes and make a friend. Then come back and tell me how it went.”

Another long silent minute went by until Dr Edwards raised his hands in a shrugging gesture.

“What are you waiting for?”

“Right, right.”

Flustered James got up and quickly made his way out onto the street, spotted the store and walked in, while Dr Edwards took himself to the bathroom and then the kitchen before returning to his desk with fresh hot coffee. A good forty-seven minutes late James walked in wearing new shoes and a confused look.

“How did it go?”

“I’m going around to her house later for dinner to meet her husband and daughter, apparently she’s 23, and, just my type.”

“And what type is that?”

“Margaret said she did really well in school and that she was doing really well at university, only visiting home for the weekend. And that I could use someone calm in my life.”

“Did she recognise you?”

“Yes, and said she can’t wait to show off to her daughter how cool she is having a friend like me.”

“Will you do me one favour?”

James’s vision seemed to clear as he remembered where he was and looked at the doctor.

“Yes?”

“Please don’t sleep with that woman’s daughter.”

James’ face shifted into an awkward smile.

“I’ve been told that if I touch her I’ll have my hands chopped off and fed to the dogs. And to bring cake.”

“Oh good, because there’s a bakery down the street on the left, try making a friend there too.”

“Why am I doing this again?”

“Because James, you need people in your life, good people. You’re naturally charming and charismatic if you just apply that to the people you deal with every day, you’ll find new people and make new friends everywhere. I’m not saying Margaret from across the street has to be your best friend. But doesn’t going to her house for an awkward dinner sound better than eating alone tonight? Doesn’t it sound better than going to a bar alone tonight, waking up with a stranger in the morning feeling alone?”

James looked down at his new shoes and thought about how little fun he was going to have at dinner but understood what the doctor was trying to do. It might not be good but it’s better, and it’s a start.

“Thanks, doc, I guess I’ll see you next week.”

“And I look forward to hearing about all your new friends, and how it went at dinner.”

With that James left, winking at the secretary on his way out to go buy cake.

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