Tunneling, by Justine Manzano

When you’re an alcoholic, you make a lot of excuses for yourself before you take the drink that knocks you off the wagon.  There’s a lot of ‘one won’t kill me’ and ‘I’m on top of this’ and ‘I was never really as bad as people said I was’ running around your head and it justifies buying that beer, ordering that whiskey, pouring a glass from that bottle of tequila.

When you’re an alcoholic, during the drink is bliss. The burn of it going down your throat is like going home.  There’s a mindlessness to it, a sort of freedom, a moment suspended in time where life is perfect. Like when you’ve had to piss from the minute you left the house and held it through two hours of traffic – it’s that happy, relieved feeling you get when you finally make it to a toilet and let go. Like it’s a goddamn bodily function to guzzle down something that has the potential to turn your liver into mush and riddle your brain with holes.

And it feels exactly as good as it does that first drink through every drink – one after another, after another.

Until you hit a wall.

Or, in my case, a table.


Everything around me is blurry and I don’t think it’s just the liquor.  Something sticky is dripping down my cheek and over into my ear and then my hearing is muffled.

My ceiling is turning and twirling over my head and it’s a bright white, but it’s got a couple of scuff marks from last fall when the ceiling fan half detached from its mount.

I can still hear the thwack-thwack-thwack of the panels hitting the ceiling, or that might be my pulse in my ears.

“Grayson?”  It’s Claudia.  “Gordon – call 9-1-1! He’s conscious, but he cracked his head open.”

Claudia and Gordon are right here as usual. My anchors.  My closest friends.  The only two people who had been through it all with me.  Six years of drinking.  Four years in and out of rehab.  Five years since it finally stuck.

Claudia’s tiny hands against my cheeks are like ice packs.  She tilts my head so I’m looking at her.

The bulb from the ceiling fan lights the back of her head, shining off of her sleek black hair, and she looks like an angel come to cart me off to heaven.  Which is impossible because we all know that is not where I’m headed.

“Gray, what the hell happened?”

I have to lick my lips three times before I feel like I can control them.  “I trped nn smashed m’head n the tbl.”

The scent of tequila wafts from my mouth.

Her face falls even further.

“You’ve been drinking.”

When you’re an alcoholic, the worst part is after. When you realize that you’re a loser. Worthless.  That there was one major test in your entire life that you needed, NEEDED, to pass and you’ve failed it, just like you fail everything else.

Stay alive is too difficult a goddamn objective for you.

It’s all in the look on her face. The one that tells you that, after all the time spent cleaning your puke and holding onto you when you cried and watching you as you fucking tunneled, all the time you spent falling off the wagon and back off, and back off, and back off, you’ve managed to do the impossible. You’ve surprised her.

She actually believed I was clean this time. Permanently.  She thought those days were over, and now, they’re not.

I get sick all over the floor between me and her as Gordon’s dress shoes slide in and he announces that the ambulance is on the way.

Her hands comb through my hair on the safe side of my head, the one that hasn’t been smashed by a table.

“Oh Gray.  Not again.”

I’m so fucking sick of saying sorry.


Justine Manzano lives in Bronx, NY with her husband, son, and a cacophony of cats. Her short fiction appears in the anthology Things You Can Create and in the upcoming inaugural issue of The Greenwich Village Literary Review.  She also works as a fiction reader for Sucker Literary Magazine.  Her blog, where you can find all her news and views about writing, can be found at JustineManzano.com.



  1. Diana Minners says:

    You rock…such a talented writer in such a small wonderful pack


  1. […] Majkowski. Fiction by Claire Ibarra, Hannah Dela Cruz Abrams, Jeremy Townley, John Hough Jr.,  Justine Manzano, Matthew Dennis, Teresa Milbrodt, and Valerie Valdes, Nonfiction by J. Michael Lennon, Erin Khar, […]

  2. […] follow the link to find my flash fiction, “Tunneling.”  And while you’re at it, please check out the rest of Issue 8 of Sliver of […]

  3. […] her news and views on writing and life. Check out Justine’s story “Tunneling” HERE. – Next, we have Shannon […]

  4. […] If you haven’t already, please check out my flash fiction, “Tunneling”. […]

  5. […] and a cacophony of cats. Her short fiction has appeared in the anthology Things You Can Create, Sliver of Stone Magazine, and The Greenwich Village Literary Review.  She maintains a semi-monthly blog […]

  6. […] new stories! My writing life has absolutely been blessed this year. Forward momentum for the win! Tunneling, which also happened to be my first piece of flash fiction, One Percent, which I mentioned in my […]

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