99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall

Marley did not become a devoted debauchee all of a sudden: he savoured each ill-fated sip of froth-filled beer and hallucinogenic fix of cannabis he consumed on his cold and lifeless voyage to sensual and cerebral enslavement. See he was shadowed by an obscure fondness for self-satisfaction and psychedelic bliss right after he had graduated from college; and a lethal cocktail of alcoholic beverages and cannabis that he binged on insatiably, rehabilitated his existence in the nastiest manner conceivable: he unintentionally stumbled on the uneasy realisation that he could not function without the benefit of alcohol in his body. Yet he did not resist this sinister and shameful neediness with the honesty and mental astuteness it so rightfully deserved. Instead he chose to cave in to his extravagant desires and embrace decadence with an emphatic and coarse keenness for illicit and uninhibited fun that transgressed all the boundaries humanity had set in his young life.

By Tafi Mhaka

He had a car once: a brown Renault. It ran incredibly well and boasted an amazing and unblemished interior. But this praiseworthy and entirely uncharacteristic acquisition from Marley could not outrun his sleazy cravings on one frenzied night of senseless overindulgence: his small Renault sustained massive mechanical failure after he had used it without checking to see if the engine had sufficient oil in it. And after all that reckless drama had settled down: it was unfortunate that he did not have the financial resources to fix the little car. So he sold his first and only car for what amounted to be a pittance and never moved on from that serious setback. He lost his moral steadfastness and ended up enmeshed in an endless state of dreadful inebriation and awkward malnourishment. Because he would drink a few beers before he went to work early in the morning and this bad habit fast matured into an unhealthy and high-priced obsession that would obliterate all he had worked for in his short career as a high school teacher.

Marley lost all of his household furniture and electric appliances when moneylenders seized his belongings after he had defaulted on enormous debt settlements. However each and every time Marley looked down and out – he fabricated money-spinning schemes to further fund his noxious inclinations. Like the clothing store account he abused for hard cash. He would buy clothes for friends and family and complete strangers on credit – for a much-reduced fee of course – but would avoid paying his debts at the end of the month and endeavour to remove debit orders associated with his bank account. So his mountain of debts and newfound dubiousness swelled uncontrollably.

But Marley could not outfox the sober ramifications of alcohol abuse and constant inhalation of cannabis for very long. Still twenty-something he looked old and emaciated and thoroughly humbled by the dual machinations of carelessness and childishness: he would borrow money from his students and never return it; his small family would go hungry at night, while he came home penniless and as drunk as a skunk; and he had a growing tendency to physically assault his wife whenever she found fault in his ruinous conduct. So she left home for some time. That is how low Marley was drowning in alcohol-induced chaos and vileness. That is how far his love for alcohol had commanded him over the moral precipice.

I often reminisce about Marley. But I recall how alcohol and brilliant and ebullient banter lent an emblematic and exhilarating ambiance to his slow and nonchalant decline from a loving family man and studious teacher to a hopelessly impoverished drunk – to the extent where I could not blame Marley for his miserable emasculation. For I remember that Marley and I became much closer than acquaintances in his darkest days: we became friends. So I cannot forget how we felt so gloriously invulnerable to the never-ending passage of time and wholly immune from the stresses and strains of becoming responsible adults. See it was not only Marley who had found himself ensnared in a menacing web of hedonistic jolliness: I drank a lot – fully convinced I had no anxieties over alcohol to reflect on.

I drank alcohol after work. I drank alcohol on Fridays. I drank alcohol on Saturdays and Sundays as well. My Saturdays in particular often got off to a cheerful start. I would have my first bottle of beer around ten in the morning. I liked it that way – nice and early, just after I had had my breakfast. By the time it was early afternoon on a Saturday, I would have drunk about six or more beers; and by seven at night: I would be utterly smashed. But I was not alone in my obsession with alcohol. I had multitudes of likeminded friends and acquaintances to socialise with wherever I went to. And I never ran short of environments that enabled and enthusiastically promoted an abnormally high consumption of alcohol through so-called happy hours and special offers. So I would drink hard and drive home in whatever state of intoxication I happened to be in.

I had chosen heedless madness over clean and clearheaded logic and considered alcohol-related concerns and fatalities as unfortunate but unavoidable manifestations of fate. I had sacrificed my soul for erratic outbursts of sheer elation and habitual spells of out-and-out helplessness and passionately placed my faith in the false sanctity and free-spiritedness of YOLO: you only live once. I had found odd motivations for countless instances of matrimonial disharmony and acrimonious estrangements manufactured by alcohol abuse among my friends and family. I had paid no mind to scandalous illustrations of child neglect and abandonment around me. I had coolly snubbed the seriousness of substance abuse and championed debauchery with wild enthusiasm and macho vigour. I had sunk my cultured restlessness in an ocean of gin-soaked denial. While I have eluded my demons and quit alcohol – Marley has not.

The writer Tafi Mhaka can be contacted on the following details: tm2587@gmail.com

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