I wish I wasn’t forced to walk away. I wish my legs would somehow moor me to the spot where he said good-bye, so that I could stay in this one place without trying to go back and live my life – a life that endures his absence while his presence is all around.
Since the world was too cruel to allow me this sort of favor I headed back to my car, turned up my Cranberries CD, and made my way down 9A. I pulled in to the all too familiar parking lot of Total Wine. I left twenty minutes later with eleven bottles of wine. In my own defense, there was a buy one get one free event and an impulse purchase as I headed up to the counter. But if I were living in reality, I would know that a trip of this kind happened all too frequently and that eleven was on the lower end of my average.
I settled back in the car and took care to drive slowly home. Not because I was worried about damaging my eleven precious bottles (I made sure they wrapped them well in the store), but because I dreaded pulling into my driveway, seeing his truck, knowing it probably still smelled of his morning cologne and held his coffee cup, where the marks from his lips were still visible. I dreaded even more opening the door and having to get on with the business of getting on for the next six months without him.
When I opened the door to our house the aroma of flowers– an enormous bouquet full of yellows, pinks, and fuchsias, surprised me. My heart sung as I wondered how he was able to sneak these in, but the handwriting on the card stopped me. They weren’t from him. They were from her.
She was always so thoughtful. The best thing I had ever done was to give her a key to my house. I loved coming home and finding that she picked up the mail and set my favorite magazine on top. Or to see my dog playing with a new chew tow, beside a bowl of clean, fresh water. Sometimes she even put her leftovers in my fridge, an odd yet welcome in gift my world. She even once had my new ceiling fan installed so I didn’t have to waste an evening on it and could instead watch something really important on T.V. like, Desperate Housewives.
The flowers were a nice touch, and only slightly stinging that they weren’t from him. That he would have the foresight for a romantic notion such as flowers on this day was a hope that I would eventually release six years down the road. But flowers are flowers, no matter whose intent and these were beautiful. I picked up the phone to call her and say thank you, but all that came out was an unintelligible mess. She said, “I’ll be over in ten minutes.” And I knew she would be over in five.
With such an amazing friend, it seems like I wouldn’t need so many bottles of wine. But you’d be wrong. Friends, family, everyone, no matter how awesome they are, they eventually go home. In the space between the door closing behind them and the morning sun, that is when I need my wine. Or it needs me. Because at this point, now that it’s in my house, I decide that it needs me to drink it, to fulfill its purpose as wine.
Again, living outside of reality.
One day when I was standing in Total Wine trying to find the cheapest bottle of red so I could buy the one that was a dollar more, a guy told me not to take it all so seriously. (I of course wondered if he meant Life or the buying of the wine.) I had actually been standing in the ‘Pinot Noir’ section. At the time I hadn’t realized this was any different from a Cabernet or Merlot section, I just thought it was all red wine. So this angel of a man told me, “You can’t go wrong with a Pinot. $5 Pinot tastes just a good as $30 Pinot, so find a label you like and enjoy.” I noticed he grabbed a $3 bottle and walked away. What did I tell you about weakness finding weakness? It just happens. So I followed suit with the $3 Pinot and made my way to the ‘Chardonnay’ section, and I say ‘Chardonnay’ because I distinguished between white wines the same way I distinguished between reds. I grabbed a couple $5 bottles thinking I’ll see if this ‘all wine is essentially the same’ theory works out here too.
I’m fairly certain this was my addiction in its infancy.
I’m also fairly certain that I didn’t notice there was any sort of issue, daresay, problem until recycle day and the clank of bottle upon bottle sent up a flare of repulsion down my street and my throat. I was grateful for, at the time, a short driveway and an early start to my day and not having to pretend to ignore the sound of my sins around another human being. Praying also that no one walked a dog or child past my house until the recycle guy came to wipe my slate clean.
Days passed. Weeks passed. Nothing changed. He was still gone. My friend still came by leaving leftover chicken parm in my fridge and her copy of PEOPLE on my counter.
I still bought my bottles.
Why couldn’t I be the person he loved while he was under the sea, serving his country, providing for our family, that I was when he was in port and in my arms?
I had tethered my identity so closely to his that when he was absent, so was I.
I did what any reasonable person might: went out with friends, got a hobby, threw myself into my work, scrubbed my house from top to bottom, cried for hours into the neck of the world’s most steadfast and trusty chocolate lab that ever existed, I went to church.
I prayed. I know I prayed for all the wrong things. Praying for another two-for-one sale at your favorite liquor store probably didn’t count towards actually wanting to change one’s life and probably increased my chances for being struck by lightning, but I’m hoping I got points in the ‘hey, it’s a start’ category.
It was a bad start. I kept buying and I kept drinking.
In my emails to him, everything was fine. Letters to him were, ‘miss you baby,’ and ‘holding down the fort.’ I had no idea what he was doing out there and he had no idea what I was doing back here.
When it comes to drinking, there are many categories: social drinking, weekend drinking, party drinking, binge drinking, those who only drink beer, or only drink wine, or only drink schnapps, or only drink when they smoke (I’m certain this is the other way around), or during the ball game, or with out-of-town guests, or if it’s been a bad day, or if it’s been a good day or if it’s a Friday, or never alone or always alone and always to excess.
I fit into all and none of these categories at the same time. The difference being, that when he was home, those glorious weeks or days he was at home, I didn’t need to drink.
So because I can reason down any situation where I might be culpable into zero degrees of separation of him being culpable, I reasoned out this situation to being, yeah you guessed it: