bottles. (part one)

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:
his fault.


Every person has a weakness. I think if we’re lucky, we recognize our weakness and we stay away. But that’s why it’s called weakness, mostly because when we know we need to not do something, when everything in our skull tells us to not do something, we go and we do that thing we know will only make us weaker.

I think what I’ve noticed about weakness is that it is always hanging around. I once thought that weakness just preyed on the weak, like sniffing out a dying animal. But weakness is sneaky. Weakness looks for fissures in the strong. Weakness likes to sit around and wait. Weakness is the most patient son of a B* I’ve ever known. Weakness has certainly been patient with me; I think taking notes on how it can be even more weakness-y. Stalking me with its footnotes and endnotes and running bibliography, to just remind me, I don’t stand a chance.

The worst thing to do if you have a weakness is to find other people with that weakness. But sometimes, you don’t even have to find them, they find you. It’s as if your weakness and theirs have met already, and you are the third parties being introduced to each other. The best thing to do at this point is to run.
But as you know, this is often impossible. That’s why weakness is tricky. Weakness likes to hang out in those spaces you can’t avoid, with those people you can’t avoid. Creating opportunities you must avoid.

I’m fairly certain that we are given opportunities in life to continue to make the same mistakes again and again and again. I don’t think Life wants us to continue to make these mistakes. I think Life is generally on our team. I just think Life is patiently waiting for us to realize a) that was a mistake. And, b) the next time I have the opportunity I will not make that same choice, i.e., mistake.

It’s simple, really.

And yet, every time, I know I want to choose: mistake.

Mistakes feel good. Mistakes make great stories. Mistakes are fun.

The only issue really with mistakes, is at some point, you know it’s a mistake. That teeny tiny voice in the back of your head makes just one little ‘peep’ and ruins a perfectly well reasoned and justified mistake.

The space in between the making of a mistake and the not making of a mistake is what eats away at your core. You have the guilt of even thinking about making the mistake, but the clean slate of having not carried through with it. Here, usually guilt wins out, followed by disgust.

You could spend weeks in this space. Months. Years, really.

I was told once to make decisions outside of situations. Then, when you’re in the situation, the choice will be easy. The choice will be definite. The choice will have been based on reason. The choice will not be a mistake. The problem with this, is that situational projection is a much stronger force. Situational projection being peer pressure, desire, excitement, confusion, emotion, second thoughts, and everyone’s favorite of “oh, what the heck,” or as kids these days say, YOLO.

YOLO, but you’ll have to live with that choice/mistake/regret/weakness always. Maybe I’m being pessimistic. Maybe I should do a little more YOLOing and a little less confounding on all these choices that seem like weaknesses, but maybe are just not so important. What defines me? My weakness or what I am as a result of or in spite of my weakness? Do I get the gold star for effort or the gold star for preservation? Is character developed without having given in to a weakness or is it developed in spite of that weakness, the overcoming of that weakness? Do I get one free weakness fail or if I’m kinda-pretty-certain-I’m-in-weakness-territory-and-keep-going-anyway, is that worse than not realizing I’m in the weakness zone at all?

My weakness is currently laughing at me from the corner.

Laughing at my sophomoric attempt to unpack its abilities and secrets, laughing at my attempt to evade and avoid by setting up a continued dialogue with it, a small effort in the enormous task of keeping it in sight but out of reach.

And yet suddenly it’s quiet.

Weakness: 419, Me: 1.

the hat.

I think whenever your kid is sick, the instinct is to run. away. No I’m kidding, of course I’m kidding. If you’ve ever had a sick kid, you know your instinct is to get a trash can, and fast. So that’s what I did. Four days he held that trash can. It went everywhere he went. And in four  days, he threw up six times. Not once in that trash can. Once on my feet. Once in my hands. Once in the middle of the kitchen. Once on the dog (so much fun to also give the dog a bath). Once in bed (sorry twinkle turtle). And then once on the car ride home after his first day back to preschool, after we had achieved those critical 24 hours of no puke. In the car he had been holding his second favorite blanket, his Chuggington lunch box, and the Boston Red Sox hat his daddy bought him at his first Boston Red Sox game, and he was sitting in the car seat that I had bought him only two weeks before and had been vacuuming out every. single. night.

This particular throw up event was serious stuff. I think all parents know there are varying levels of puke: mostly liquid, some unidentifiable chunks, chunks, and food that still looks like food, only it has that slimy “this has been in your small intestine” coating on it.

We were in the slimy intestine coating range. He had just had lunch. Fantastic.

As a point of interest, we live in Maine. We had just experienced the longest winter. My kids were wearing long sleeves, coats, mittens, the whole deal all the way through May. Then like magic it was warm-ish. We had those beautiful days where wind seemed to compliment the trees and the sun took turns with the clouds — simply gorgeous.

Well today was not one of those days. Today the sun was being a jerk. The sun was shining and shining and shining. It was actually the hottest day of the whole year. The best day, really, to get sick and puke over all of your most prized possessions (if you don’t think a Chuggington lunch box is priceless you obviously don’t have a 3 year old).

The silver lining, because there always is one, is that we had an outside shower. I plucked two wipes out of my handydandy mom wipe bin that I always keep in my car (because I am super prepared and have never, not once, left the house without everyone wearing shoes) and carefully unbuckled my child from this mess of a seat. I carried him at arms length from our driveway, up a hill around the back of our house, and in front of the shower.

It might be useful to mention that no one in my family had ever used this shower. We were renting this house and just never felt the need to shower, outside. It suddenly occurred to me, my child has never showered either, like ever. BIG SIGH.

So here I am, in the brightest sun Maine has ever seen, trying to peel pukey clothes off my child while explaining to him what a shower is and why this is ok. He let me know this wasn’t ok. yadda yadda yadda. he got clean.

So now I have a clean naked kid, outside, who needs to be inside. The closest door, the deck door, is locked. My keys are in the ignition of the car, where I left it turned on with the a/c blasting, because of the baby. (I know what you’re thinking, but I didn’t forget the baby!) So I koala carry my naked boy, back around the house, down the hill, peek into the car at the baby, baby hisses at me, I tip toe around all the puke paraphernalia that is now baking in the hottest sun ever and up two flights of stairs for new clothes.


I went back, got the baby. (wait, did I wash my hands?!!) washed my hands. got the baby in a nap. attended to 18 action items as requested by the toddler. washed my hands again. found gloves.

I couldn’t ignore it any longer. I went back down to deal with the puke mess. I’ll spare you the details, but I will say this. It was bad. It was really bad. I am extremely thankful for the yard hose, even though it was in the shed, under a mess of cardboard boxes that we had piled on top of it just a day before, and apparently new home to mr. hornet and his hornet family.

I had a lot of laundry to do that day. Included, of course, was the Sox hat that got puked on. I almost threw it away, but it was such a special hat, so I thought better of it. I decided to give it a spin in the washer just to see. I was lucky, it washed great and I hung it to dry.

Fast forward- weekend of sickness, crackers, whining, and a never ending Thomas the Tank song, and finally I make it to Monday and a new chance at preschool for the toddler.

It’s when I walk into his classroom and put his bag into his cubby that I realize something horrible. The Boston Red Sox hat. OUR Boston Red Sox hat had been in his cubby at school this whole time. I gasp internally.

The Boston Red Sox hat in my hand, the one that had been puked on, it’s some other kid’s hat.

Well, I’m sure you know what I did next. And if you’re thinking– nothing at all — you’d be absolutely right.