I've been loving you too long to stop now...

The record player was skipping again. Had been for a spell. But when the last drops of whiskey had evaporated from his lips, and his cigarette had burned itself out against the old marble ashtray, he heard it for the first time. Otis is probably tired of crooning the same line over and again, he quipped to himself as he moved to the old turntable.

Harsh sunlight was creeping its way through the holes of the curtains. Particles of dust were turning in the sun's rays, transforming the dirty apartment into a snowglobe. Was it midafternoon? Late? How long had he been sitting there alone, drink in hand? The empty bottles, cans, and old tv dinners gave him away. He'd been sitting like this for years.

In a moment of clarity, he gathered bits of trash in his arms to carry to the kitchen garbage. The linoleum reminded him of the day she'd walked out--in heels. In those black pumps that made her legs look incredible, she'd yelled at him to pay attention. He had been, of course, but to her legs--not to what she'd said. Would he always regret ignoring her then? Had he looked up, he would have seen the end in her eyes. He could have stopped her from leaving. But he hadn't. Her legs, in their stockings and heels, had inspired him to think of other things. Always thinking of other things: another beer, the game, taking her to bed.

He was deep into his fantasy. After she'd made the house spotless and dinner was warm in the oven, he'd throw her down over the kitchen table and do her right there, like old times. His stale, wrinkled jeans twitched at the thought, like the stirring of something ancient under years of fossil and ruin. Even now the fantasy is what moved him.

Only with a deliberate grunt and shake of the head did he return to reality. Had he heard her say she wanted more? That she was leaving? This time for good? He vaguely remembered hearing the door slam behind her. She never did come back to act out that kitchen fantasy.

A handful of cans sprawled out of his hands and clanked over the dirty kitchen floor, sunlight making them twinkle and shine. He bent forward slowly, his back warped with age and misery, reaching for the trash as it scattered across the messy tile. There on his knees, body contorted in a painful crouch, he could see that he was struggling to pick up more than wrappers and cans. He was trying to pick up the pieces of his life.

For some, great epiphanies happen in churches. Others get their greatest inspiration from paintings, books, or speeches. In a brilliant stroke of kismet, our protagonist received his great awakening from a half-crumpled can of Miller Genuine Draft. He'd be nothing without her--had been, all his life--and he'd have to get her back.

lyrics from Otis Redding's "I've been loving you," circa 1965