The wall to his left is low, in disrepair, and almost invisible in the fog. Nonetheless, his hand finds it as he stumbles through the alley, using the rough stone to right himself. He has enough laudanum in his veins to forget how he got here, but not enough to ignore the gash in his hand.
He squints, blinks his eyes to clear them and realises he is in the alley behind Ryan’s Tavern. Baltimore! The last he can remember, he was on his way to New York City, clutching a set of papers containing a given set of new rules by which he would live from now on. A better life. But his pockets are almost bare, containing some coins left from the sale of his last works, ‘Annabel Lee’ and ‘The Bells”. And, thank God, half a bottle of his pain medication.
His throat feels raw; the cough he picked up in Philadelphia and thought long-gone is back. He sits down wearily on an empty spirits crate and cradles the bottle in his hands.
I can remember, he thinks. My notes are lost but I can write them down again. New York City. As I planned. And I can start writing again. I can make you proud, Virginia.
But just another sip or two before I go. Something to help with my journey. And the pain in my throat and my heart.
The bottle is lifted.
Drinking, drowning, he plans.