For all we knew, the Manny had been living comfortably on a pig farm for the last several weeks, enjoying the company of his new porcine brothers, reveling in the fresh air, and enjoying a snort of bourbon whenever and how often he liked.
He was clearly drunk. He claimed he was sitting atop a grate in NYC with all his bags and baggage and was freezing to death. Interestingly, that day was a balmy high of 66 degrees with a low of 45, but "It's below zero out here!" he stuttered.
"Dude, what happened at the pig farm? Why did you leave?"
"Oooh, their son was really annoying. I couldn't tolerate him! He was crazy!"
Some information was clearly missing. Perhaps he had gotten too cozy with one of their pigs in the sty and they sent him on his way? Either way, he was sitting on the streets of NYC.
"You drinking?" we asked.
"Me? Nah! I've been sober for 15 days, at least." Except it came out a bit like: "I'sh been stober for fiteen days at leash!"
"And your choice to quit drinking was motivated by...?"
"I just didn't need it. Can take or leave it. Why bother?"
He didn't listen much to reason, including the suggestion that he check in at an AA meeting.
"Why would I do that?" he said. "I don't drink!" Except it came out a bit like: "I dunnn drinkuh!"
After a while, he hung up. We were worried about him, but what could we do? It wasn't like he'd even proposed a solution to us. He hadn't even asked to come back.
Then, a couple of nights ago, we got a voicemail at 1:30 a.m. "Dude, I'm homeless," it said. "I am homeless. And scared. And you fucked me. You screwed me."
I didn't really like that message. So when he called the next day we were prepared for the worst. But this time he was sober. Completely, rock-solid sober. He said that he had hit bottom and was prepared to do whatever it took to get help. He was terrified. He sounded like a scared little boy who had thrown a rock through a window.
What would you do? Really? Here is what we did. We drafted up a list of ironclad rules and told him to come back and take a shower and start attending a program for drunks and show us the chips they hand out at AA and blah-de-blah and, oh, by the way, pack up your stuff and get the fuck out ASAP or we will do it for you. The point was, Obey the Rules or Ye Shall Be Homeless Again.
Last night I was lying in bed and at around midnight I heard the front door open and he came in, huffling and shuffling. I hid beyond our bedroom door as he thumped and mumbled up the stairs on his way to the attic. I peered through the crack into the light but I couldn't see him as he passed. When he was gone I darted to the bathroom and back, on bounding fleet feet like a kid afraid of the dark.
I didn't see him today at all. And I didn't hear from him either, except for that one time he entered the upstairs bathroom and released a series of loud farts.
I told the story today, in brief, to a friend who has some knowledge of alcoholics. "He's sober right now," I said. "And we've given him lots of warnings and all that. And he said he hit rock bottom. So, we expect things to get weird but maybe he'll make it this time, maybe—?"
As we were speaking she held up two fingers.
"Is that the peace symbol?" I wondered, briefly. "Is she wishing me peace for being a good egg for taking in this poor soul again?"
Then she leaned over and said: "I give him two days. Two."