R. E Hengsterman




I’ve been many things over the course of my life, some good, and some bad. I’ve said things I shouldn’t have said. Told lies I shouldn’t have told and pretended to be someone I wasn’t when I was unsure of who I was. But there’s one thing I could never be, and that was him.

I’ve tried, in various ways to be him, to be better than him, to run from him. The truth is, I’m a coward. So, I do as cowards do and hide within myself, but with help. For me, it’s the bottle. But for others, it’s the vein or the pipe or the pill. To each his own I suppose.

Today, as with most days, the smell of whiskey reaches my nose long before I raise the glass to my lips. The woody aroma, the mouth-coating warmth, and the familiar, deliberate kick. I know it won’t be long before my lucid and rational thoughts become compromised and the burden of him retreats; even for the briefest moment of time.

Drinking is how I survive him; transforming myself from average man to inebriated, stumbling, confused, semi-conscious arrangement of human flesh. I’m aware of the paradox; seeking escape from the infiniteness of him by pouring my soul into the finite space of a whiskey bottle. And whether on purpose or through my flawed interpretation, the idea of him has made me feel something less than human. What made him so special? He could have been many things. In fact, he could have been anything. It was of little importance what he did; only that he did it better.

I’ve given it considerable thought and have determined the flaws in my existence lay deep in my cerebellum, well-hidden within the sulci of my brain; a severed neuron; an under-developed section of gray matter; a slow growing tumor; or a fault in my genetic code.

The whiskey is not ideal. Not by any means. It’s sloppy. Some days it leads me down a path of endless vomiting, and I curse him. Some days I hemorrhage tissue from my esophagus, evident by the spattering of blood in the sink. Some days my insides corkscrew themselves into knots, and I pass out from the pain.
My relentless obsessing over him leads me to drink more and more; hoping to forget him. I have felt such a burden; of being part of him, but in no capacity, resembling him.

I suffer; as I have always known I could never measure up to him, and over time fell, helpless into the deep chasm of despair. My mind grows clumsy as the toxic substances; the metabolites of the whiskey; the ammonia, and the manganese reach toxic levels in my liver. I live this way; bloated, stumbling, ruddy-faced, and alone. The memory of him, I believe, fades the slightest bit. I scream his name in the dark with a tongue thick as cotton. I sound as if were a boxer; that would have impressed him, to become punch drunk one-to-many times by fist and not by the bottle.

I have come to the point in my life I’ve forgotten almost everything I have known. Except for the idea of him. And this, even though I have tried to forget, has never left me.
I tip the bottle back, again and again, a good measure, a wasteful measure, spilling. A sliver of sunlight parts the darkness, and in the mirror, I see with perfect clarity, after all this time, that I am him. That he is me and I will never be able to escape him.


R. E Hengsterman is a Pushcart-nominated writer, film photographer and flawed human who deconstructs the human experience through images and words. He writes under the Carolina blue sky. You can see more of his work at www. ReHengsterman.com and find him on Twitter at @rehengsterman

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