And so here he is again, throwing up behind a Michelin-star restaurant at eleven o'clock at night, one hand on a dumpster to keep from falling over, bringing up very little but bile.
This time, something goes a little differently. A road closes — a young man takes a shortcut.
Someone crouches behind him, at a safe distance.
“...hey. You okay?”
He tries to swallow down what threatens to be another round of retching -- fails -- doubles over again.
(He's dressed too well to be a drunk or an addict. His shoes are patent leather, gleaming except where he's thrown up on them; his fingernails are manicured.)
“...food poisoning from Presto is new.”
He pats his shoulder gently.
"...no," he says, miserable but feeling the need to defend their honor. "Bad, not that bad."
“—right? I thought it was just me!”
"Can't poach a fucking--" he spits, trying to get the taste out of his mouth -- "fucking egg."
“...deconstructed Benedict thing not working for you?”
"I just asked them to poach me an egg!"
He sounds so betrayed.
“...condolences on the egg tragedy, I guess.”
He stands up and offers a hand.
“D’you want a glass of water or something?”
The man with the French accent takes his hand. His fingers are a little too cool, his skin a little too dry.
"...yes. Please. If you have honey for it I'll pay you fifty dollars."
“...dude, I’ll give you honey for free.”
He pulls him up, carefully, puts an arm out to keep him steady once he’s on his feet.
“I’m around the corner. You think you can make it?”
"...yes. Yes, I can ... yes."
He's putting a fair bit of his weight on the arm, but he's lighter than he should be for his frame, not much of a burden at all.
He helps him down the street, and around the corner, taking as much of his weight as necessary.
There’s a small park, wherein a food truck is parked in dubious compliance with the law. Tables and foldout chairs are halfway set up in front of it, surrounded by a bizarre assortment of floor lamps and floodlights. The signage promises SHISHITO PEPPERS, OBVIOUSLY and BBQ BROCCOLI FRIES (TRUST ME OKAY) and MINI CREME BRÛLÉE (vanilla bean, rosemary, blowtorch).
He helps his unfortunate companion into one of the chairs.
His unfortunate companion puts his head down, cheek on the cold metal grille of the table, and closes his eyes.
"If you have distilled water, I'd like that, please. With a tablespoon of honey in it."
He climbs in the back of the truck and returns with a tall glass of faintly golden liquid.
The man rouses himself to sniff the water -- take a suspicious sip, rolling it in his mouth -- greedily down the rest of the glass, as if he hasn't drunk in a week.
“—more where that came from, if you need it.”
"...I don't suppose you've got a toothbrush -- I fucking hate vomiting -- I wasn't joking about the fifty dollars, I really will pay you, I've got the cash."
He's slightly more alert now, sitting up and looking around him.
“...think I’ve got an emergency one back there still. Lemme check.”
(Nightmare Snacks gets a lot of sad drunk people. It’s nice to be prepared.)
He ducks back into the truck. There’s some clattering around.
He's followed by a slightly intrusive stranger, who peers into the back of the truck after him.
It’s not that unusual a setup — fridge, fryer, stove, counters. The cooking torch is a little out of the ordinary. There’s a bowl of batter inching towards room temperature on the counter, a crate of shishito peppers by the door, a few cuttings of fresh rosemary hanging from a shelf, an array of little honey jars scattered beneath it.
The proprietor is digging in a drawer, occasionally blowing his overgrown bangs out of his face.
Toothbrush! In original packaging and everything.
He jolts a little when he turns and sees a relative stranger looming in the doorway.
"Smells good," he observes, as if he's acting perfectly normal.
“...you want something? I don’t know if I’ve got anything you can eat, but...”
"You probably don't. What do you do with that honey?"