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FRANKLIN MCGAFFY had been drinking since early afternoon, and he had no intention of stopping anytime in the foreseeable future. He had booked an emergency flight for the morning, but he hated flying and had no desire to remain sober for that either. There were few things in life worth experiencing sober.
Franklin sat in an overstuffed recliner, his immense frame taking up most of the chair, glass half full of ice in his hands and a near-empty bottle of Beefeater Gin on the table next to him. He looked around his sparse hotel room. His life, for the past few weeks, had been small enough to pack in a suitcase, and for a while that had suited him just fine. He traveled for weeks at a time, and a few days a month he’d come home to his two sons, fight with his ex-wife, and then head back out on the road.
How many moments of his life, he wondered, had been spent waiting for the next? Each day he traveled was a day he spent waiting to go home to his children, and each day he spent home he wished he were back on the road. He loved his kids – god, he loved his kids – but when he was at home in his small and terrifyingly messy apartment or out fighting with his ex he wished he were somewhere, anywhere else. Franklin was struck by a near paralyzing fear that somehow he was a dreadful failure just waiting to occur – that somehow the responsibility for other living creatures would prove to be too much, that he would realize with unnerving certainty that he was never designed to be a parent, and his children would turn out far too much like he had: directionless, listless, and wholly unhappy. Franklin was jovial, charming and wild, which earned him more than a few friends, and a few lovers, at that – but knew far too well how quickly he became the drunken buffoon, the caricature of himself, and he knew as well how much of his light-hearted nature was an act, a method of coping, a means to disguise the hollow, unfulfilled feeling that hung about him like stale air in a deserted house. And so he maintained his routine, and kept with a dissatisfying career, because the sheer impulsive notion of optimism unvaryingly led to failure. Franklin was far too familiar with feelings of failure, and the unfathomable depths of depression that followed. Traveling was a way of not existing, of stepping outside of normal responsibility. Fly. Sleep. Work. Drink. Repeat.
He poured himself another glass, the clear liquid popping and sparkling over the ice cubes and reflecting against the bright light of the evening sun – a contrast to his dark and somber mood. He squinted into the window; evening had fallen quickly as he sat alone, drinking and mumbling to himself. He reached out and snapped shut the blinds; darkness quickly swept across the room.
The phone call had come that afternoon. His doctor – his family’s doctor – had called his hotel while he was out. There was a message at the front desk: “Please call immediately. Your mother is unwell.”
Unwell was relative, he thought. She’d been fighting cancer for a year now; she’d been fighting mental illness for thirty years. Well, fighting was relative too, he supposed. More like drifting listlessly along, hoping for the best.
But she’d taken a turn for the worst, and there was little more anyone could do.
He lifted the glass to his lips and swallowed another large mouthful.
He was going home.