Charles Wong lived all alone in a five bedroom house, in an affluent neighborhood on Long Island. Charles Wong had a rather ordinary suburban American home, except for one particular detail. His walls were lined with pictures and portraits. Some would say it was jarring, but Charles would have attributed it mostly to his extraordinarily large family.
Charles had a two car garage and one car. He had, as most American houses do, due to an extraordinarily poor set of values, a green grass lawn. He even had a thirty foot swimming pool in the backyard. He had many of these normal things, including an incredible proclivity for alcohol.
Charlie moved to work in the New York City area because of his upwards momentum in the tech company he worked for. He abandoned the midwest, his relatives, and a blossoming relationship, for the prospect of making a six figure starting salary and being the top of the food chain in his respective field.
Nevertheless, Charlie spent many hours at home lapping up whiskey alone, wandering through the halls lined with pictures. The pictures were of an eclectic mixture. Some wide, some tall, some in ornate or simple frames; some were single portraits, some were collages, some were paintings; but all of them held a myriad of smiling faces. Many of these faces looked similar to Charles Wong in some way, in fact, he himself could be seen in some of the family shots. But on the other hand, some of the faces looked strange and out of place; families and individuals who bore no resemblance, and whose place on Charlie’s walls was a mystery to all but himself. Sometimes Charlie stopped abruptly in front of one particular picture or another and gazed at it longingly, before going back to his bar to refill his glass.
On many mornings -particularly weekend mornings- Charlie would wake up on the floor of the living room, or in the kitchen, or on the chair in his bedroom, having passed out there from the night before. But Charlie knew that he was not an alcoholic. He simply liked drinking. There was no crime in this, he reminded himself. And besides, he wasn’t hurting anyone, and it’s not like he was passing out in the streets. He was simply drinking alone in his five bedroom house lined with pictures on Long Island. And there was nothing wrong with that.
Charlie worked in his new position for several years, getting used to his new life and new location, before deciding that he needed to do something about his love life. Several Christmases passed visiting or being visited by brothers and sisters and nieces and nephews and cousins and second cousins and so on. In all this time, Charlie was growing tired of the constant questions and pesterings from relatives about his love life. He was, after all, a wealthy, intelligent man, decently handsome enough, fifty years of age, and it had been some time since he had any kind of prospects in the romance sector of his life. His family all knew (much to his frustration) that he had abandoned a relationship many years previously, back in his hometown; a relationship that they had all clearly had high hopes for. It struck Charlie as horrifying to recognize that that had been in his mid thirties when he left home. The years had passed too quickly.
Charlie woke up one morning in his living room, the warm sun on his face. He blinked, taking in his surroundings. The stereo system was buzzing, and the record needle was skipping, having clearly been left on. He could be sure that he had been listening to music the previous night. An empty bottle of wine sat forlornly on the coffee table, next to the burnt out stub of a cigar, and a tumbler glass with a centimeter of golden brown whiskey still in it, glistening in the morning sun. Charlie stood up, rubbed his neck, grabbed the tumbler glass and went into the kitchen.
After making fresh coffee and pouring the last night’s remainder of whiskey into it, Charlie sat down on his sofa and checked his phone. It was a Sunday morning, and he ignored most of the messages on it except for a text from a close colleague of his that read: hey charlie, remember meeting Daphne at the conf last week? (her brother works in our pr dept, friend of mine) tall brunette. She was asking about you… want her number?
Charlie scratched his chin and thought for a moment. The conference last week was mostly a bore, but come to think of it, he did recall meeting a tall, smart looking woman there. Wearing a flashy suit from what he could remember. Red, maybe? The thought slowly started to take shape in his groggy mind. The idea of pursuing a woman was both exciting and daunting, and made him feel old and confused. The voices of doubt quickly sprang to life, spinning for him all sorts of qualms and reasons to just say “no” and ignore the whole prospect. But at the same time, he had been sensing recently that something needed to change. Impulsively, and before he could second guess his actions anymore, he wrote back, “sure.” Which to him, felt akin to pressing launch on a dangerous missile. He sank back into the sofa, blinking into the sun, before downing the rest of his coffee in a single gulp.