I start the car and begin to back out of the garage.
"You don't have to do this, you know."
The same one that had said precisely the same thing a couple of weeks ago when I was stopped at the red light at the last intersection before the liquor store.
I'd ignored it then.
I ignore it now.
I put the car in gear, and drive out of the neighborhood, taking the route that leads to the "nice" liquor store. The one in the shopping center with the Kroger and the Blockbuster and the cute little Italian restaurant.
I park the car in a spot midway between the Kroger and the "package" store, and walk diagonally across the asphalt to the sidewalk, keeping my sunglasses on, hoping I won't run into anyone who knows I'm supposed to not be drinking.
My stomach knots up, and I stop momentarily when I spot a car that could belong to some friends from the neighborhood, who like to eat at the Italian restaurant, which I have to walk in front of.
Screw them. I've already come this far.
I enter the store, and head straight to the vodka. I pretend to look over the selection, but then pick up a bottle of UV Citruv. It sparkles under the fluorescent lights.
"You still don't have to do this."
Whoa. Where did that come from?
"You can put the bottle down, and just leave."
I put the bottle back on the shelf.
I begin to reach for it again, but my hand falters, as I am hit by a wave of dread. Ominous images flash before me, too fast to comprehend individually.
I let my hand fall, and turn toward the door and walk out.
As the door whooshes shut behind me, I feel strangely light. I'm relieved, euphoric, almost giddy.
As I begin to drive away, it hits me. I recognize the voice.
The voice is mine.