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How my roommate managed to overcome her drinking problem.[]


My roommate Anna Jansen had a drinking problem.

This wasn’t really news to me. I knew it, long before the night I found her passed out in the toilet. Almost dead. When she woke up, she told me about her ‘drinking problem’. I was expecting to hear a depressing sob story, with a teary-eyed confession that didn’t mean nothing.

Except I wasn’t quite prepared for the truth she had to offer.

Let me back up a little bit. My name is Lisa Petersen, and I have a shitty-paying job. It’s the reason why I live in a scrummy, two-person apartment with a drunkard as my roommate. And when I say drunkard, I mean it. Seriously, we’re talking a real boozehound here.

I can count the times on my fingertips when I couldn’t smell alcohol on Anna’s breath. Those would be the (few) times when her hangover had long worn off, and she was passed out in the hallway, or the toilet, or the sink. Most other times, though, I would just find her sitting alone in her room, draining down beer bottles in a single breath.

She was obviously depressed, that much I could tell. Oftentimes, I could hear the sound of muffled crying from her room late at night. On the few limited face-to-face interactions we shared, I could make out streaks of tears and blurred make-up on her face.

That sadness she carried manifested itself in her attitude. Everything about her overall demeanor was gruff and unwelcoming. I tried making small-talk a few times, but the replies Anna gave were sharp and terse.

How’s it going, Anna?

“What do you care?”

You’re coming back pretty late. Is everything alright?

“Stop badgering me!”

Looking back, I can see now how some of the details that I ignored at the time, made perfect sense with Anna’s situation. She was jobless from the day I met her. Every morning, while I forced myself to get my lazy ass off to work, Anna would be dead asleep in her room. And she stayed that way the entire day, stirring only when the Sun had set down. My guess was, she had some kind of a sleeping disorder.

Besides insomnia, there were also certain anorexic tendencies in Anna’s behavior. She had a very lean and frail body shape. Almost unnaturally so. I didn’t once see her having any breakfast, lunch, or dinner in the apartment. It’s possible that she ate her food outside- where she spent most of her time, as you’ll soon learn- but I always had a feeling that she was struggling with an eating disorder that caused her to eat less.

The signs were all there. My roommate had a disgustingly unhealthy lifestyle. You put Mickey Mouse in her shoes, even he’d be depressed.

Now all the descriptions I’ve given you so far beg a few obvious questions. Why was I living with such a troubled person? Well, for one thing, my lease owner was a lying asshole, who didn’t care to provide me any details about my would-be roommate.

Moreover, he had me stuck in a legally complicated deal with the apartment, that basically forced me to stay there unless there was a major emergency. Or I’d end up losing a good amount of money.

But I guess the more pertinent reason that I chose to stay with Anna- despite the general negative vibes that came off of her- was because her precarious lifestyle hardly impacted me. I’d be out working the whole morning, and by the time I’d return, Anna was already out or heading out.

Where to?

I didn’t have the slightest clue. Like I mentioned before, talking to her yielded minimal to no results, so I had no reliable way of knowing. But I had a few guesses. Maybe she was moonlighting as a hooker? It would explain the copious amounts of makeup she had on her face all time. Not to mention, the slick and gaudy outfits she wore.

Or maybe she had a rich beau, or boyfriend, or girlfriend, who was enabling her addiction? Maybe they were the ones responsible for her depression in the first place?

Whoever would’ve known?

So for as weird and troubling Anna’s behavior was, as long as she didn’t cause me any direct problems, I really had no reason to complain. Sure, I had reasons to worry. But the only person I could share those vexations with was my lease owner. And I didn’t have a particularly helpful opinion of him.

For three entire months, I wordlessly watched Anna’s flimsy spool of life entangle in front of my eyes. It was plain obvious to see. Clearly, she was in need of some professional help, guidance, or counseling.

Or maybe none of that was necessary at all. Maybe it was something much simpler. Perhaps all she needed was a heartfelt talk from someone. Someone, who was genuinely looking out for her. Someone, whom she could find a friend in.

I’d love to tell you that in due course of time, I became that special someone for Anna. That I managed to directly confront her one day and had a long, candid chat to find out what was troubling her. Why she drank so much, why she was upset all the time. What places her late-night adventures lead her to. What mysteries she possessed.

Except I never did that. Not until it was too late, anyway.

Almost too late.

I woke up late one night with an urge to use the toilet. But when I went inside and faced the situation that awaited me, the urge obviated itself.

Anna lay unconscious on the floor in a pool of her own blood. Scattered all around her were shards of glass from the mirror on the wall. One of those shards lay right next to her severed left wrist, still oozing blood. In her right hand, gripped weakly, was a lipstick. With it, she had smeared the bathroom walls countless times with the words, ‘UGLY SLUT’.

I was in sheer panic. For the next five minutes, I kept alternating between screaming Anna’s name, shrugging her still body, and stopping the blood flow from her wound. A small part of me hoped that her body would give the slightest response; maybe a twitch, or a labored cough- anything!

But in my head, I knew it was a fruitless cause. All her vital signs were down. She had lost too much blood.

Anna Jansen was no more.

With tears in my eyes, I grabbed my phone to call the cops. That’s when I felt the icy-cold grip of death lunge at my arm. When I turned, Anna’s deep-brown eyes stared into my soul. She started coughing. Moments later, her body started to move to a position to better meet my gaze.

I was too awestruck to register the miracle that was happening around me. It was only when her cold hands grabbed my shoulders that I was frozen out of my trance. “Please”, she spoke in a shaky voice. “I can explain. Just don’t tell anyone…”.

I disconnected the call. The next thing I know, me and Anna were sitting face-to-face in the living room. I had dressed her wrist, scrubbed the dirty makeup off her face, and lent a pair of my pajamas to wear. She was taking small sips of water from her glass. I gazed expectantly in her direction.

“Lisa”, she finally spoke with a sigh. “I have a drinking problem.”

“Okay. Have you, like, tried to work on it?”

“There’s nothing to work on. It’s just something I have to accept.”

“You know, I’ve read about this shrink online who has had a lot of success with struggling alcoholics. Maybe, you know…”

“No, you don’t understand, Lisa. It’s too late for me. You shouldn’t have tried to save me.”

“Don’t say that Anna, it’s never too late for nobody. A lot of people beg for second chances in life, and you’ve been given just that. And if you stay committed, you will be able to turn your life around. Now I know it’s gonna be difficult, but-”

“Have you not listened to a word I’ve said?!” Anna bellowed. “It’s not a matter of staying committed. There’s no therapy, no-shrink, no AA meeting that’s gonna cure me. I can’t give up drinking. It’s literally impossible for me.”

“Why?” I croaked after some time.

My roommate glared at me with anger burning in her eyes. She opened her mouth to yell but faltered.

“Because it’s the only way I feel pretty”, Anna spoke with an alarming sense of calm. “Drinking’s the only way I can numb my senses to the point where I don’t feel or remember anything. Everything passes by in one crazy blur. And I’m too hammered to give a damn about a thing.

“I am a slut”, Anna said after a measured pause. “Every night, I get myself drunk on purpose so that people can take advantage of me. I do it because I need their validation. I’m too shy and awkward to approach anyone and actually take a shot at knowing them; try to form an actual, meaningful relationship.

“But when I’m drunk, the whole thing becomes a lot easier. Hell, it’s like I don’t even have to try. I just have to pour a little alcohol inside my system. And in no time, I’m buzzed out of my mind. Instantly, I become the center of attention. Moving around the bar like a crazy bimbo. Singing songs with slurred lyrics on the stage. Tripping and twirling on the dancefloor. I’m just too difficult to ignore.

“When I’m finally too exhausted from my drunken antics and am about to collapse, there’s always a well-wisher in the crowd to pick me up. They smile at me, ask if I’m okay, and walk me into their booths. Once there, they buy me more booze and start getting frisky with me.

“I don’t object. I’m too inebriated to process what’s going on, anyway. But just feeling their touch on my body, hearing them offer me their empty, meaningless sweet nothings- all the while the sweet taste of their drinks flows in my mouth- it feels…so good.”

It took a while before I could form my words. “Anna…you’re wrong. You shouldn’t be doing this to yourself. It’s degrading. It has ruined your life.”

“That’s the funny thing, Lisa. I can’t tell right from wrong when I’m drunk. I don’t care that I’m being hauled into a complete stranger’s car in the middle of the night. I don’t mind how I’m being dragged across the carpet like a ragdoll. At that moment, when I’m lying drunk on the bed with them, what I feel is…power. A sense of satisfaction. It’s like…I hear a familiar, suppressed voice in my head telling me, ‘You’re finally beautiful.’

“Of course, it’s all smoke and mirrors. Because when I wake up the next day, I’m confronted with a head-splitting hangover. And then I’m confronted with the horror of my actions. I am too ashamed and horrified to even look them in the eye and acknowledge the mess I’ve made.

“I rush to the bathroom to cleanse myself of the guilt and disgust. But I can’t do it. Because I hate the person that stares at me from behind the mirror’s glass. I don’t like her; I never wanna see her face. So I block her out of the glass with the same stale breath of booze that got me into this mess in the first place. And then I run away.”

Several moments passed before I realized Anna was staring at me. “Tonight, I had finally gathered all the courage to kill that person. To end this cycle of meaningless regret, for once-and-for-all. And then you came along and ruined everything.”

“You think killing yourself is the solution to your problem?”

She measured my question for some time. “No, it’s not. It’s a futile effort. I just have to accept that I’m condemned to this endless life of ugliness.”

“You are not ugly, Anna.”

“Then why am I always searching for validation? Why is it that until I don’t hear that familiar voice in my head tell me I’m beautiful, do I not feel worthy of living?”

“Anna, everyone has confidence issues. Nobody’s perfect. But getting drunk and pretending to be oblivious to the world around us is hardly a solution. That person in the mirror you’re trying to run away from? You’ve got to face her. Stop letting addiction take control of your life.

“And besides, there’s no point in seeking external validation. A person’s true beauty reflects from what they’re inside.”

Anna stayed dead silent for a long time. “That sounds rehearsed.”

“Well…it is rehearsed. It’s what I’ve grown to hear all my life. But I believe it.”

“Well, I don’t buy it. Because it’s just a convenient way of side-stepping the issue. All my life, I’ve searched for a means to realize my beauty. And I’ve found it- no matter how degrading it is. What about you, Lisa? Have you ever been able to realize your beauty? Can you make me feel beautiful in a way that doesn’t ruin our lives?”

Hearing Anna say what she was saying made me realize just how damaged she was. Her notion of beauty was so superficial. And to think the horrible life she had succumbed to just to chase meaningless vanity. It amused and upset me at the same time.

But there was something else bugging me. Seeing Anna, as I was seeing her then- no make-up on face, no artificial glamour, nothing- made me jealous. Because this woman, Anna Jansen- she was a living and walking embodiment of beauty. The way all her body features worked in unison: her dark hair, her bright lips, her profound brown eyes, her immaculate physical attributes…

This woman, Anna Jansen, my perpetually depressed roommate- was a perfectly beautiful specimen of nature.

And yet, somehow, she could not realize it herself.

Not unless I made her realize what not being beautiful really meant.

I shifted on the couch towards Anna and grabbed my phone. “You are beautiful, Anna. And I’m gonna show it to you.”

I switched the phone’s camera to front mode to take a selfie of us both. But before I could position it properly, Anna shoved my arm upwards.

“No, Lisa, don’t! –“

Click!

Anna nearly swooped in and got hold of my phone, but I reacted just in time to avoid her. I clicked Gallery to see the picture.

And I froze.

The picture featured me as I was, in my true, unspectacular physical appearance. Freckles on my nose, crow’s feet around my eyes. Grey roots developing around the edges of my hairline. A dorky, thick-rimmed set of spectacles to round off a bland, ordinary look. The epitome of an unattractive woman. One, who didn’t look beautiful.

The one I had dared to compare with Anna.

Who was absent from the picture.

It was like the camera had scanned right through her body. Her entire outline was omitted from the photo. Nothing. The couch in the background had blended in perfectly with the part of the picture that she was supposed to be in. Like she wasn’t even sitting there. If it weren’t for my arm positioned awkwardly due to her shove, the picture wouldn’t even seem odd.

I looked up at Anna, horrified, but the woman I was faced with was a stranger. The nervousness and sadness in her eyes had transformed into something more sinister. Something a lot darker.

“Anna…why aren’t you in the picture?”

“I told you”, she spoke with an eerie calmness. “Because I’m not pretty enough.”

I tried diving under her legs to make a run for it, but she had me pinned down in a second. Her face drew dangerously close to my jugular.

“You know, you were right, Lisa. True beauty does reflect from the inside of a person. But then I have no reflection! Or image, for that matter. So does that even make me a person? An empty shell of a person? Or a ghost? I guess you could say that- after all, most cultures classify vampires as paranormal beings.”

I had to think fast.

“And believe you me, Lisa: there is nothing normal about being paranormal. You see this face- this, right here, of the woman who’s about to kill you? Of course, you do! You’ve been living with her for three months now, watching and judging her every move. How does it look, tell me, Lisa? How do I look? Am I tall? Has my hair started greying already? Do I look old? Fat?

“You’ve no idea how frustrating it is to live your life knowing you might not be beautiful. That you might actually be ugly. And I can’t afford to look ugly! That’s why I drink so much. Blood, obviously. Hell, I don’t even like booze. But it’s a good farce to keep up the act. You’d be surprised to know how many shrinks I’ve managed to kill with my ‘drinking problem’. Anyway, drinking blood keeps replenishing my youthfulness, glamour, and general sexy vibes. It’s the only way I can ensure I stay beautiful all the time.”

Think. Think.

“I’m not gonna lie; it won’t be the same without you around anymore. Most other roommates I lived with tried taking advantage of my sob story and ended up getting killed. But not you, somehow. Makes me wonder though: am I losing my charm? Is your gaydar too strong for my irresistible vampire appeal? Eh, whatever. I’m in the mood for a drink. Anyways, I just want you to know: it’s nothing personal, and- “

“Why are you telling me all this?”

My murderous roommate seemed puzzled. “I’m sorry?”

“You’ve got all the time in the world to kill and drink my blood. But you’ve been stalling. Why, Anna?”

“Well…I don’t know. I guess it was kinda nice having a roommate who didn’t try to take advantage of my situation, for a change.”

“Maybe. Perhaps that’s also why you chose to stage that suicide. So you could seek my help in overcoming your addiction. Without directly approaching me, you still called out to me for help.”

Her grip started to loosen. “What?”

“You need help, Anna. You know it. That’s the first and most important step towards addressing a problem. And I’m gonna be there for you.”

“What is this, like a last-minute intervention?”

“I know you don’t like being a murderer and drinking people’s blood. That’s why you’ve taken to alcoholism, isn’t it? To distract yourself from your real problem? You deserve better, Anna, and I’m gonna make sure-”

“Closure. That’s it, it’s why I’ve been telling you about my M.O. So that you die knowing at least why I had to do what I had to do.”

“So now you also need validation from the people you want to kill?”

By this point, I had distracted her enough to let her grip slack. I took the chance to kick her in the stomach and get her off my body. By the time she got back on her feet, I was already backed up against the wall and resuming my intervention.

“Anna, listen to me. You’ve got problems with your self-esteem and body image. I mean literally. But you’ve got nothing to worry about. I’m here to help you. But you’ve got to control the monster that’s inside you. Don’t let it take over, and-”

A fierce blow on the face knocked me off guard. I had underestimated her physical abilities, especially her lightning-fast reflexes and how quickly she could charge up to me.

“You’ve fought well, Lisa. But now you die. I thought I had no personal agenda against you. But I’m gonna enjoy sucking the life out of you. And you know why?

Her grip was crushing my neck.

“Because that’s what I’m supposed to do! I am a vampire, Lisa. Killing people for blood runs in my blood.”

As Anna opened her mouth, the teeth on her mouth began to exponentially grow in size. Seconds later, they became sharp, silver fangs gleaming in the moonlight. I couldn’t even register my horror before I felt them press against my neck, their piercing edge almost digging through the skin.

I had to take my shot. It was now, or never.

“You don’t need him to tell you’re beautiful.”

The piercing pain in my neck stopped, but I could still feel Anna's vice-grip over my body.

“What are you talking about?”

“Your father. The voice in your head when you drink. He has poisoned you.”

“Shut up, Lisa.”

“He scarred your childhood. He did unspeakable things to you.”

“You have no right!”

“He made you the monster you are today.”

“Please…don’t.”

“All the people you slept with. Everyone you killed. You weren’t looking for their approval, were you? No, you wanted to hurt someone else.”

When Anna’s grip loosened this time, I didn’t attack. When I met her gaze, she was in tears.

“Kill me if I’m wrong”, I managed after a while.

“I can’t. You saved my life.”

“No. I haven’t. But I want to. If you’re willing to listen to me.”

Anna looked up nervously.

“Okay.”

It has been almost a year since Anna made her promise and decided to embrace sobriety. It hasn’t been easy, mind you. For the first six months, I had to sleep with a silver knife under my pillow. There were times when I was tempted to use it. And I almost did.

But in the end, Anna always managed to stay strong and truthful.

We soon moved out of that crappy, two-person apartment into a nicer condo across the town. Money’s a problem, as usual. My shitty job still paid squat, and Anna…well, she had a lot of resources, but we weren’t going to use them.

You see, Anna hails from a royal family. Back in her home country, they’re a pretty big deal. In fact, it was from the trust fund they had set up in Anna’s name that she got the money to buy booze and enable her addiction.

How they earned that money is a horrifying story in itself. Basically, Anna and her siblings went going around killing rich people in their country. From a very young age, she was programmed by her father to be a blood-sucking mercenary. Whenever she disobeyed, or expressed hesitance towards the dirty job, her father would abuse and mentally torture her with the whole, ‘You’re an ugly slut’ diatribe.

It was horrible. It has taken a lot of time and strength for Anna to repress that painful past in a forbidden corner of her mind. And I intend to keep it that way.

These days, we run a small nursery of shrubs in our home. Anna really enjoys it. Something about nurturing life really appeals to her. Most mornings, she wakes up before me to tend to her little green friends in the warm sunlight.

She has also developed a knack for baking, which is something I and our neighbours enjoy a lot. It’s also a fun and convenient narrative to cover up our reality. Most people think she’s my nice, homely aunt. Which is kinda true, in a sense.

Anna is old. Really, old- like some four or five hundred years. Not long after she stopped drinking, her real age started to manifest itself on her body. Her hair is all grey and frizzled now. She has wrinkles all over her skin. She often ends up pulling her back or a muscle, and I have to help her get back on her foot.

It can be a hassle at times. Seriously, it gets pretty annoying. I almost want to quit.

But then I look at the framed photo we keep on our mantlepiece. Me and Anna, sitting on the sofa. I look dull, bland, and plain, as I am. Anna looks old and weary, sort of fatigued in a plain yellow cardigan.

Just two ordinary women sitting together. Not particularly beautiful.

But then we don’t need to look beautiful. After all, true beauty reflects what’s inside a person. And my lovely roommate Anna, aged and worn out as she is, is able to realize that now.

And that’s all she needs to feel beautiful.




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Te (talk) 14:35, 27 January 2022 (UTC)[]

Hello there! Having seen that you reached out to Empy asking for feedback (but I know he's very busy saving the animal kingdom), and noticing your story here in the workshop, I'm going to provide you with some feedback. Think of me as a budget version of Empy.

I shall begin my feedback by first pointing out my personal opinions on the story, then I'll add objective observations.

I'll start this off by saying there's a lot I really liked about this story! The way it was written was compelling, and I found myself almost missing my stop on the train, due to how captivated I was.

One thing I feel is a significant issue, was that it kinda reads like two separate stories that became blended together.

The first half had a good build up, it was slow, but creeping. Although it provided a sense of unease, it very gradually slid into a more spooky tone, without being boring. After the suicide attempt, however, the story takes a very different turn.

Bam! Paranormal! Action! Vampires! It felt somewhat out of place.

The rest of the story continued in that same vein, where it ultimately ended in a wholesome and happy manner.

Now I feel as though you could separate this into two stories, in and of themselves, completely irrelevant to each other. But I understand that is absolutely not your intent. Perhaps slipping a few hints, or methods of foreshadow, into the earlier part of the story? Nothing so significant as saying "I found blood on her clothes" or something else obvious and blatant, but perhaps just a few changes to the words? With a certain use of language, you can insidiously implant the concept of something dark and mysterious, leaving the reader further on edge (and perhaps guessing what the spooky element will be, instead of simply wondering). I did pick up on the descriptive foreshadowing of her Anna's habits, but they were more conceptual than literary (mainly the description of her 'anorexia' and 'insomnia').

I found myself really enjoying the illustrating you did in "mundane" half. I felt very drawn to the characters, descriptions, and scenario as a whole. The "paranormal" half left me a bit overwhelmed. We kinda go from 0-100, and just sit there on the rollercoaster wondering what happened. The self image descriptions felt a bit overt and obtuse too. I feel as though the reader is being beaten over the head with it, a little bit.

The dialogue between Anna and Lisa, shortly after the suicide attempt, was very dichotomic. Some parts flowed very naturally, others seemed awkward, and forced. Especially the referencing of Anna's father. What possible knowledge could Lisa have of Anna's ancient, vampiric family? Was she just taking a shot in the dark on a hunch?

The last point I'll make about the plot is the photograph at the end. I'm unsure whether the aspect of Anna no longer drinking blood, and beginning to age is supposed to be indicative of her becoming human again (and coming to terms with her self image) or an oversight. Seeing as Anna previously didn't have a reflection or show up in pictures, because she's a vampire, I was curious why Lisa would reference the photograph of the two of them as a means of reassurance.


On to the more technical aspect of things.

There are a few incidences where the word choices are a bit peculiar. "...teary-eyed confession that didn’t mean nothing." for example, reads as though Lisa may have a Southern vernacular (due to the double negative), which isn't present anywhere else in the story. "...didn't mean anything." could possibly be more appropriate, or some other variation.

The line "Is your gaydar too strong for my irresistible vampire appeal?" felt a bit weird too. I mean, a gaydar doesn't keep someone heterosexual, or resist being gay, it merely detects gayness itself. Both gay and straight people have varying degrees of gaydar strength.

There are a few other word choices that seem a bit peculiar, but for the most part, the message always came across. Fixing or changing them would be more 'minor housekeeping' edits.


That's all I'll bring up for now. I hope my feedback is useful, and doesn't feel discouraging.

All in all, I quite enjoyed this story. There was a lot that kept me glued to my screen. I was thoroughly surprised by how excited and enticed I was by the build-up of the story, which can often be a slog.

I very much look forward to reading your final product. Keep up the good work!

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