This weeks prompt:
“I'll say it one more time Claude. I don't care what you do or say, I'm not going to argue with you!”
Claude's temperament had risen steadily along with the early morning temperature. He'd been drinking as usual. So now he was looking for an argument, and I as usual was his nominee.
“You're such a wuss, especially when it comes to defending a point of view. I don't think you could argue your way out of a wet paper bag.”
He was unshaven and been wearing the same clothes for the last four days. He looked a mess. His odor was rancid, making it hard to breath in the air around him.
“Why don't you put down that bottle and give it a rest? God knows you both could use one!”
I saw the sparkle bubble up through those bloodshot eyes. Claude thought he had me.
“Oh, so you’re afraid I'm squeezing the bottle dry do you? Well then maybe it's about time to pull the cork on another one.”
Five, four, three, two, one. The silent countdown ran slowly down in my mind. I'd started at five, which gave me just enough time to control my breathing and annoyance.
“You can squeeze it all you want. I'm not going to stop you, or tell you what to do. You're a big boy. You can do whatever you want to.”
Our eyes met. It surprised me to observe the lack of depth they projected. As if they were one dimensional. I'm not sure which one of us turned away first, although in retrospect, I guess we both blinked at the same time. Claude, however recovered first. He had always been the strongest and was not going to give up the baton anytime soon.
“You are useless! A complete waste. So why don't you leave and stop breathing in my air?”
The words fell sharp, even though they flowed from a mouth unable to pronounce them clearly. Ten, nine, eight... I had to begin higher this time with my heartbeat now racing faster than my attempt to breathe. Three, two, one. The tension between us remained. I had a premonition that if I wanted to stay calm I would soon need to start my countdowns somewhere in the hundreds.
There was a stubble of gray on his chin, which poked at my eyes. That's when I realized he'd grown old and tired. All those years filled with alcohol and drugs finally coming to rest on his face. He'd done a fantastic job of hiding it. Or had I been hiding from the truth?
The seconds escaped with long poured out scenes of our shared history washing over us. I'd stuck with him through it all. All the humiliation. All the broken promises. All of the blaming of everyone and everything but him for his own problems.
I felt a spark ignite in my eyes. Claude saw it too. I immediately knew I had him. I was now the strong one. Snatching the baton out of his hands wasn't easy, and because it wasn't easy it was all the more satisfying. We stood there face to face. One triumphant, the other defeated. The emotions of joy and despair floating delicately in the open air between us.
We'd known each other forever but now forever had ended. Over the years, we'd turned our backs on each other hundreds of times. Only later to meet unexpectedly at a party or darkened bar. I'd plead with him to slow down on his drinking. He'd mock me for being too weak to make him. Then we'd argue. Throwing words of accusation back and forth in a debate neither of us could win.
Not this time though! Something had changed. I'd changed. This time I was leaving for good. Leaving the room, I couldn't help tossing one last parting shot over my shoulder.
“I don't care what you do or say, I'm not going to argue with you!”
That was six years ago. I haven't seen Claude once since that day. Oh I know he's still in there. I know he's still in my bathroom mirror waiting. Thirsty for an argument I won't be giving him. Even when I shave that gray stubble from my chin, which is something I do every day; I do it without looking in the mirror.
You might accuse me of being a coward or weak for acting as I do; although to that I only have one thing to say.
“I'm not going to argue about it!”