The tears welled up in my eyes. A passing waiter noticed that my glass was empty and came back with the gin bottle.
I took up my glass and sniffed at it. The stuff grew not less but more horrible with every mouthful I drank. But it had become the element I swam in. It was my life, my death, and my resurrection. It was gin that sank me into stupor every night, and gin that revived me every morning. When I woke, seldom before eleven, with gummed-up eyelids and fiery mouth and a back that seemed to be broken, it would have been impossible even to rise from the horizontal if it had not been for the bottle and teacup placed beside the bed overnight. Through the midday hours I sat with glazed face, the bottle handy, listening to the television. From 3 to closing-time I was a fixture in the bar. No one cared what I did any longer, no alarm woke me, no television admonished me. Occasionally, perhaps twice a week, I went to a dusty, forgotten-looking office in the hospital and did a little work, or what was called work. I had been appointed to a sub-committee of a sub-committee which had sprouted from one of the innumerable IT committees dealing with minor difficulties that arose in determining Meaningful Use within the Affordable Care Act. We were engaged in producing something called an Interim Report, but what it was that they were reporting on I had never definitely found out. It was something to do with the question of whether commas should be placed inside brackets, or outside. There were four others on the committee, all of them persons similar to myself. There were days when we assembled and then promptly dispersed again, frankly admitting to one another that there was not really anything to be done. But there were other days when we settled down to our work almost eagerly, making a tremendous show of entering up our minutes and drafting long memoranda which were never finished – when the argument as to what we were supposedly arguing about grew extraordinarily involved and abstruse, with subtle haggling over definitions, enormous digressions, quarrels – threats, even, to appeal to higher authority. And then suddenly the life would go out of us and we would sit round the table looking at one another with extinct eyes, like ghosts fading at cock-crow.
The television was silent for a moment. I raised my head again. The bulletin! But no, they were merely changing the music. I pictured vote tallies behind my eyelids. The trends were a diagram: a red arrow tearing vertically southward, and a blue arrow rising rapidly. As though for reassurance I looked up at the imperturbable face in the portrait. Was it conceivable that the red arrow did not even exist ?
My interest flagged again. I drank another mouthful of gin. A shrill trumpet-call had pierced the air. It was the bulletin! Victory! It always meant victory when a trumpet-call preceded the news. A sort of electric drill ran through the bar. Even the waiters had started and pricked up their ears.
The trumpet-call had let loose an enormous volume of noise. Already an excited voice was gabbling from the television, but even as it started it was almost drowned by a roar of cheering from outside. The news had run round the streets like magic. I could hear just enough of what was issuing from the television to realize that it had all happened, as I had foreseen; a vast electoral surge, the blue arrow tearing across the tail of the red. Fragments of triumphant phrases pushed themselves through the din: “Vast strategic manoeuvre – perfect co-ordination – utter rout – half a million counties reporting – complete demoralization – control of the whole of the Electoral College – greatest victory in human history – victory, victory, victory!”
Under the table my feet made convulsive movements, and I felt a thrill going up my leg. I had not stirred from my seat, but in my mind I was running, swiftly running, I was with the crowds outside, cheering myself deaf. I looked up again at the portrait of Big Brother. The colossus that bestrode the world! The rock against which the hordes of Republicans dashed themselves in vain! I thought how ten minutes ago – yes, only ten minutes – there had still been equivocation in my heart as I wondered whether the news would be of victory or defeat. Ah, it was more than a right-wing party that had perished! Much had changed in me since those first days of the Administration, but the final, indispensable, healing change had never happened, until this moment.
The voice from the television was still pouring forth its tale of electoral booty and slaughter, but the shouting outside had died down a little. The waiters were turning back to their work. One of them approached with the gin bottle. I, sitting in my blissful dream, paid no attention as my glass was filled up. I was not running or cheering any longer. I was back in the hospital, with everything forgiven, my soul white as snow. I was walking down the white-tiled corridor, with the feeling of walking in sunlight, and an armed guard at my back. The long hoped-for bullet was entering my brain.
I gazed up at the enormous face. Four years it had taken me to learn the smirk of a smile. O cruel, needless misunderstanding ! O stubborn, self-willed exile from the loving breast ! Two gin-scented tears trickled down the sides of my nose. But it was all right, everything was all right, the struggle was finished. I had won the victory over myself. I loved Big Brother. Thank God for Big Brother.