Chapter 1- Lies That Held Us Up

Your breath targets my neck. Your lips cover my earlobes, so my diamond pears fall loose onto your tongue. You baptize them and me a fixer.  You hand them back to me, apologetic. I re-pierce them into my lobe and remember this all started on New Year’s Day when you asked me to hang out. I had just buried my grandmother, who passed on the 23rd. I thought it was our usual 10-year special of driving around, laughing and talking. I had been in love with you since I was 19.

We met on my first movie set: in the dead of winter, at an abandoned hospital location without heat for 14-hour days. We would run around like kids, getting spooked by unknown noises and decaying medical equipment left to rot. It was hard for me to move on from what we had built in those months together, quasi-best friend who inspired my creative soul, someone who just could see my weak spots with laser focus and accept me anyway. We could always lick each other’s wounds clean, then go home and tear our separate scabs off.

I wrote this for you, when I realized you were not over your exes or your substance abuse problems. I put it in an envelope and to this day, I regret it. I asked you at the time nearing the end of the blog if you remembered that letter. You did. “I just remember not feeling right about it.” Also, you were taken aback that I regretted giving it to you. It was mostly because so much had changed, namely my confidence. I didn’t feel like you were too good for me anymore, that I was unworthy like I did back then, with nothing to compare to you: seven years older with beautiful crazy complicated actresses hanging off of you. I was awkward, behind the scenes, unsure, with a bad haircut.  A power house in the making back then.

To my Derrick of the lover sort,

You will always continue to complicate and uncomplicate my life. At least I should know better than to become involved in your gears or shifting of gears. I have the feeling I will soon fall victim to your round-robin cycle of heartfelt awakenings.

But nothing sparks me better than embraces and near kisses. At least he dangles something beautiful in front of me, even if it is cruel. It’s still something. I feel I will always be the friend: the friend you kiss and touch, sometimes fuck, but only the friend. I’m a fool and you already know that. It’s too bad that none of you can see I’m the biggest-hearted girl you’ll ever know. I’m the most forgiving woman you’ll ever meet, and I hurt myself for all your sakes. It’s too bad after all, since all I’ve done is made a splash before you leave again; rings in water at best.

Everybody is selling out for pensions and security. I’m going to explore and adventure myself, travel. You all smell like ribbons around ankles, ropes around chairs, and bindings around breasts. And to be honest, I’m afraid of how you taste. You won’t feel bad that I’m sensible, sensitive and selfish to my own desires now that I’ve insulted your choices. I know you care for me but how much of that is cruelty, brought upon me with silver platters of pity? I’ve had my tumbles, and you have seen and heard about my fails and falls. You have heard about the bruises under sleeves but never held me while I cried. You only know that I feel bad. You never experienced it, cornered and sheltered away.

There is no point to this, to writing it all out. I already know I was a stepping stone back to loving none. It was “care” and “like” …all those technical terms, always technical terms. You carefully curved your tongue deep into your cheek tasking metallic blood instead of my metallic love.

I love your hands and your nose. Even if you really did get a nose job just like your lady’s man friend, the one I would fall in love with instantly, you said. The way you sound when you sort of laugh and talk at the same time. Your insensible nature, when you place your hand on my thigh when you think I’m sad or upset. How you recite Shakespeare to me. You can cry and tell me all your darkest secrets. Sit in silence and be comfortable. Eat Taco Bell at 4 am in a parking lot talking about documentaries. Make up silly songs and call yourself daddy. Your vulnerability scares me. That and I’m jealous of Drew Barrymore because you love her so much.

I wrote on my window ‘What lies in your purest intentions? Love. Beautiful, glorious love. It might just be all that we are…”

I wonder almost every day, when I look out onto the world that is the houses and street outside my slanted window, hoping that one night you would feel such an urge to come speeding down and park a slanted job, sneak into my room and kiss me on the cheek.

Present day (10 years later):

I’m at a withdrawal centre waiting for you to saunter out. You look better than two days ago, a little worn but your smile stands alone. Two other couples on the couch across the way are crying and hugging in hushed tones, one girl’s hand on her hard belly encasing our undelivered sympathy for unhappy circumstances. I feel like I’ve joined a club before finding out it existed. I probably judged from afar, but I couldn’t give you up. I welcomed this urge to love each other under any circumstance, at least that’s what my underdeveloped amygdala whispers in my dreams to me.

I’m at my first comedy show I’ve signed up to perform at, the same day you come out of detox. I wrote and rewrote, I stood in my bedroom timing myself night after night. I say, “Don’t come, you can’t be in a bar right now”. I don’t say “I’m a bit sad I found someone who can’t share this with me”. Ten minutes before I go up, you call. You sound funny. I know from your voice alone that you are drunk. You say you are on your way and hang up. The bartender fills your glass as you walk over with a friend, a friend who knows nothing of all of this. You ask me if I want a drink. A rush of blood with over the limit fear, sweeps my body. I don’t say “I wish you didn’t come.” I snatch your drink before your lips have even graced the rim, and charge over to the ladies’ room and forcibly throw the golden liquid down the drain. I feel defeat. I feel bad for making these rash calls and even pay for the drink. I just want to keep what I’m going to have to deal with to a minimum. Five more minutes and I’m up. What if I forget everything? What if I’m not funny? What if my heads not in this like it was before you showed up? I’m just trying to keep pace with this night.

Somehow the show goes well, great even, for a first time. I hear your laugh mix with the other laughs I haven’t memorized, and I am happy you are here to witness my life. Such a love of instant fluctuations, you keep me on the edge of my seat and that, I do like.

I am in your van. I have driven at night only twice and never in the snow. Here we are in the dark, with snow kissing the dashboard white-knuckling your directions. I almost kill us once and somehow you instantly make me laugh about it.

I am in bed. I have a headache from keeping you safe. You cup my face lying next to me, run your fingerprints over my closed eyelids. “You are strong, you are beautiful, you are calm.” You say over and over, and I wonder when you will get tired of it, but you don’t. You find a pace and it becomes a chant. “You are strong, you are beautiful, you are calm.” My headache dulls but I’m fighting back tiny hopeful tears that this is what I always wanted but didn’t know until now. “Better than Advil” you whisper. Feeling me soothed, you pull away. Having hypnotized me, you say you have to go to the bathroom a few feet away. You take too long. I don’t know why I’m timing you, but something feels off. This is not something I normally think about. I get up to see you not there and head to the stairs. I find you in the basement shoving bottles of wine into a big winter coat, you face away from me. I just barely put it all together. You are two steps above me as I pry it from your hands and hidden pocket, the grip between us is so strong I trip over a stair to win. You seem unmoved, stoic statue. Both of us feel betrayed at different things.

You mouthwash stalker, a few hours into this night and my optimism starts counting lucky stars backwards. A blessing wrapped in both our generational curses. Locking you outside in inside out coats and backwards slippers for fear you will get back to the drink while I run grab your smokes. I slam the door a bit too hard and think about just leaving you and going back to bed.

It is 2am dark outside now, and I know I will call into work tomorrow already. You exhale smoke mixing with the frosty air, towards glittery street lit flecks. You start some poetry in the direction of a tree. I’m hugging my knees, leaning my body into the brick wall hood over my heavy eyes. I start telling him I’ve had enough, and I want to go back in. Your dark night of the soul has become my own. “You don’t want to hear poetry of all people?” He is left marveling at the misunderstanding. I pull him back upstairs again.

He is silent for the first time.  I think he has finally drifted to dream and I hear him whimper, moan and stutter words. Of course a nightmare should incite! Peace was a wildcard in playing out traumas that we didn’t pull. I unfold your curled-up hands from tight balls and place my hand in the created space. Piercing silence prevails until what is eating your soul from the inside out pops like a Mentos dropped in coke. He drops his bombs, they hit his target. I absorb wounds, I take pain and one day I try to unlearn this but not this night. He blurts out how he was molested, sitting up, sobbing uncontrollable I feel like Alice swallowed up by the wetness of his tears splashing over me. He has all the details and paints me a terrible photo and that I’m the first person he has ever told. I say what anyone shocked but decent hearted would say. “It’s ok, you are believed. It’s not your fault”. I mean it as I continue to listen. We had talked about why he had to keep repeating this recovery cycle and some people didn’t and what was stopping him? I just thought, this is it. He is finally going to unleash his limitation, his road block and then he will be able to free himself and it work for him this time. I felt relief that there was a reason and he had let someone in. A week later you confessed this to be all lies, which was devastating but I will get into it later.

We are outside again. It’s 3 am. Puffy jackets, puffy eyes. I have given up on sleep and we name our kids against bracing winds. I want to name my son Oliver, so I can call him Ollie. You name the kids and I’ll name the dogs, he smiles that smile at me. Let me handle this how I’ve always handled this: one last time, a bottle of wine. After all of this you line crosser, I’ve got chalk in my pocket I keep drawing and you keep walking one toe over. I pass it to you tears in my eyes. You tell me to look away, but I can’t. One day you will see the worst of me too, I watch your throat open to supernatural chugs and grab back at my bargained amount.  His shoulders drop, his eyes half-moons, like a milk-drunk child full and sleepy. Something my love and protection and fight couldn’t give. I’ve studied his face when we crossed paths randomly many times over years, we intersect in many forms.

 I’m half adrenaline and half asleep, a buzz of my own.

Still he won’t sleep, he did all day. While I come in to only check he is alive, turned on his side. To ask if he wants to get pie. I had wanted pie for a week. What kind of life could we have? I’m a woman who wants a lot of things.

I’m in a wet spot, your bladder beside me has relaxed. I couldn’t be mad, I had given it to you. It was just too late and leaving you to shower would have been leaving you to sneak. I changed, slipped up the covers and you slide to the floor sleeping with your drink, cuddling your demons so tight I grew jealous and just left you there.  Eventually the sun found its way to my window and my eyesight level. You again, found yourself next to my limp, drained body. The little silence you gave me soon interrupted by repeated mumbling that “Mary was actually the 13th apostle”. “Good for her!” I taste bitterness in my tone and close my eyes.

Do you hate me? This wasn’t the first time in the 48 hours straight we have spent together that you have asked. I politely decline the sentiment, I don’t hate you. I just don’t like you very much right now.

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Chapter 2- Creature Of More

You forgot I had called your mother and mentor during the night to arrange getting you into the recovery home. “Meet me at 8,” Will said, adjusting his hearing aid and lowering his voice through the receiver. I passed the phone to you and you breathe heavy sobbing that you “wanted to go to god.” So much pain, you didn’t want to inhabit this earth anymore. I left you two alone to talk it out. When I came back your eyes were lowered, and you didn’t know where you were, but you knew you were safe with me, at least. We both could rest easy in that notion. Getting you up I knew you were hung over, that the shakes would soon creep to your bones and that I didn’t have much time to beat them on the road to your new home. I sort of filled you in, but you didn’t understand that I had set a time to get you there. You thought I just wanted you gone, I just needed to recharge alone. I reached my limit hours ago and I was running on fries you find on the bottom of the bag hours after the food was eaten. My hands drag over my body looking for excess energy to pull from. We fought about who would drive. I felt my control shift to high gear. You see the invisible cuff I put on each of our hands but not where I hid the key.

“Can we not fight about everything right now?” You demanded. I had never had you use that tone with me. I was off-put and stood still and pressed deep into the passenger seat. How drunk could he be still be? With the guessing game my mind spun like a roulette wheel. Panic set in and he could see my shallow chest rise up and down, my eyes trying to leave the sockets to not see what came next in my worst-case scenario mental play-by-plays, the stories I tell myself.

 Eventually after some silence and smooth driving on his end, we eased into the humming atmosphere. We stopped to get gas and he came back with a huge milk jug and again I watched him drown himself in liquid. I only had almond milk which you begrudgingly took. I was a bit lost…does he really like milk? “It’s the triglycerides,” he read my mind and spoke. He had it all down to a perfect science. To this day I can’t pass that store without thinking about why milk helps hangovers. It’s not information I can use, but there it sticks out like a sore thumb. The amount of effort that people take, I think to myself. You are not going to poop for a week, is all I manage to say. Now you seem lost and I fill you in about large amounts of dairy causing a bowel blockage. I guess we both learned something new we didn’t want to that day.

  The snow is fresh, and you turn down the radio as you swerve into a parking lot that overlooks the river. We’ve been to this place before, years ago, to just sit and talk on one of many of our wandering heart to hearts over the years we have seen each other, sometimes sparsely through all the stages, jobs and loves, always end up driving around making sense of it all.  I know with your memory that you don’t even register this, its only mine to hold, for now. Creatures of habit and creatures of more like you. You jump out like you are in an action movie leaving the door ajar. You stomp through fresh snow and gaze into the river with ice chunks on the surface drifting by. I leave you alone for a bit. I for once can’t even speculate where your thoughts are. I reluctantly get out of the car, leaving my side wide open too. I feel the coldness climb my limbs as I try to find you with my touch. I grab your arm and lean my head into you. I say nothing. We stare for a bit longer. We find our way back and turn around. We are almost late; the rabbit hole awaits.

We step out onto what can only be described as the set for Twin Peaks. Something old and musty, out of no particular time, beige, worn. We follow men into a trailer. I’m thrown between the rooms and the people in them, with you talking. Being asked in and out of personal conversations. Steven asked how long I had known Derrick as he toured us to the trailers. “Ten years,” I shrug but think sometimes I don’t even know if I know him at all. They both see this thought flash across my face. “Do you have reservations about being with me?” He accuses gently. I do. I say, “no of course not” and smile. What’s another thing like that on his list of worries right now. I will save it. A month later Derrick recalled this moment to me and said it felt good that someone could say ten years. I agreed.

I sit with a nice gentleman while Derrick is in one of the conversations I had been excused from. He tells me his story. I’m half listening to him, and to their whispers across the room while looking at the creators in his face.  I amuse myself and thank him for sharing his story of hope with me. I’m innocent enough at this point to think my struggles were over, ours were. “Well ok that’s that then, we are set here to take Derrick into the recovery home now. Someone will contact you from the Women’s side sooner or later, so you don’t feel alone.”

It doesn’t feel real. “Take my car home if you want”, Derrick softly encourages me. “No, I’m okay, I’ll cab home.” We hug but admittedly it feels emptier than I imagined. But I do feel relief, maybe for the wrong reasons. I can go home and sleep and find myself again in all this, feel my own heartbeat, know I’m okay too.  We part ways after he walks me to the front.

I had left his phone in his car on my way out. A few hours later I get a call from his number. It’s mid-day, tree branch shadows dance on my walls while I am passed out. I awake to it, confused as cell phones are banned. “They told me I couldn’t stay, that I had the shakes. That I wasn’t detoxed. I have to go to detox then come back”. He had had something to drink as late as 3am last night, we tried to hide it for the common good of just getting him there. He had just come out of detox two days before all this. He NEEDED to be there. I felt gutted. “What are you going to do? Where are you going to go”? My thoughts spiral, my sense of self a laundry load overflowing and sudsing over. He didn’t have answers and I sure didn’t know what to do.

In my opinion, the answer wasn’t drink, his was. The next few days were hell on earth for me. I paid $45 dollars for him to stay for a week at the Salvation Army. He had asked me for the money. I couldn’t be sure it was the truth or would be used for something else, but it was the last thing I could do. Will had let him stay a few days before this at his house. Now this seemed unsurprisingly off limits as an option, the welcome had worn off. I had come to visit him there a few days prior. It was a lovely house filled with lots of light from big windows with books everywhere, a piano and the boys laughing with Will’s daughter over FaceTime. “I like the way you talk to him, so positive” Will said hugging me as I hugged him back. “So nice to meet you.” He then went to the gym leaving us to talk.

Derrick lowered himself to his knees in a strange kitchen and hugged his dusky light brown hair into my waist. I smelled the sweetness of sweat waft as he raised his head to me. “Actually, look at me in the eyes I’m waiting for you to talk to me for real”. I reluctantly met his pupils with mine and felt a shock rock climb down my spine and fall off of a cliff. I guess I didn’t realize how often I avoid eye contact. It used to unnerve me how I could see through people without looking at them. I could always read between the lines of their existence, so I never wanted to finish them off with eye contact. “Do you want to spend the rest of my life with me”? Down on two knees wasn’t a proposal, but he was so soft and matter of fact. I paused as the thoughts on tumble dry dropped into my mouth.  “I don’t know, maybe, not yes but not no”. Not the profound answer, but it was honest. I was hoping to get a yes out. Wouldn’t it be romantic to just know?  My intuition is tugging at my pearl covered collar to think this over. “Why?” my eyebrow raised, throwing a chip into this pile. “I don’t know, I just wanted to know”, he shrugged it off and bolted downstairs to change laundry loads. Singing on his way down. I chased down after him, the smell of clean clothes hitting my nose. “You can’t just ask something like THAT and then run away!!!!!”

 Derrick made me an omelet, half drunk, thinking I didn’t know he was.  He didn’t make one for himself and took joy watching me eat what he could give me, adoringly. So, I split half with him. We lay on the couch, vertically, him gathering my legs like a human blanket to throw over him. We played an annoying game of him telling me he loves me and me saying “I love you too.” Many times into it, I sigh look him in the eye and softly say it for real. No inflection at the end, no half smirk on my face to indicate that you know this already so don’t make me say it. “I love you too”. I say it differently than all the other times and he says excitedly “That’s the first time you said it. Right there”. He smiles and peers into me with his deep blue eyes.  I start blushing because it is true, and I am unsure of how he knew that because I thought I was doing a good job at being authentic the times before. I thought I was, before searching my gut to really pull up the words. Derrick, my talented actor had rehearsed me into true love.

After we lay in another smaller room, half Will’s office, half halfway house. Papers strewn on desks, bed unmade from Derricks sleep the night before.  The conversation becomes real for me. I feel this heaviness clamp down on my lungs and I break down crying while spooning. Turned into a cold wall I press my hot hand against, telling him I am afraid to love him, of a future with him. As my tears fall he wipes them away over and over, his fingers meeting some before they drop. They keep coming, he keeps wiping. Again, he isn’t reassuring me, there is just stillness. It’s only 7pm, cold, dark, dead of winter.  In that room, even though he was drunk, and I was scared, and I thought about how none of my “stable” exes would have ever wiped my tears like that, others just ignored me for 2 days and let me cry alone. Like when I was a kid crying, I never got hugged, just told to stop or I’d have more to cry about if I didn’t. I can cry in the dark, alone, or on the bus for some really inconvenient reason. Barely in front of people I actually trust, whoever they are by this point.

Derrick leaves the room again singing and calling me to follow him. I start to feel like I’m on a happy scavenger hunt through this house ending at these happy little moments I’m collecting, and I’m actually enjoying it even if I shouldn’t be. On the cold porch we sit apart on thin wicker chairs and talk about chakras, while a song sounding like it is straight out of Django Unchained plays he says “Shhhh look Django!” I say, “Unchained right?” He smiles big, “See this is why I gravitate towards you.” Turning his slender but hard body towards me “We don’t have to have sex to make love.” My eyes bulge and I choke back an amused laugh to wonder where that came from.  He exhales deeply and inhales dramatically. Opens his eyes again after his long breath.

“What do you want”?

I want a house where its open to friends, family, anyone who needs us. I want a dog and a 9-to-5, and on my free time I want to do my creative projects and come home to you, and a kid. I want someone who will dance with me at a wedding.

I get up to hug him “Will you dance with me at weddings”?

“I’m a great dancer,” he says, looking down on my face wrapping his arms back around me. I’m finally so happy to have someone say that to me. I knew I could have put a song on then and grabbed him and he would have danced with me on the spot. I can’t because he keeps excusing himself, going around the back of the house to “smoke” which isn’t necessarily a lie. The truth is somewhere between that and a bottle in a planter, I presume. He comes back to me more off-kilter every time. I feel so fucked up, part of me feels like I lose him a bit and part of me likes how open and loving he becomes with the upping of his BAC. I secretly called an Uber to come get me as I was only intending to check up on him after my shift had ended. When I mention this to him he starts acting like a hurt child, vulnerable and guilty. “You can’t leave me, please don’t leave me.”

I tell him its ok and he accepts it for about 20 seconds before reverting back to begging me to stay. “You are better than this” I demand.  “I have to go. I have to work tomorrow”. How fast he has forgotten the real world’s working class and time tables it seems. My beautiful creature of more begrudgingly lets me go.

 

Chapter 3. You Cannot Tell a Sinister Enchantment from a Divine Light

Between catching up on the 2 days of missing sleep and cursing myself for being a caring introvert, I had transferred all my energy to just get him there and for what? More pain, thinking of him alone at the Salvation Army. I had never been there before, so I’m sure my movie mind was making it worse. I knelt on the hardwood holding my bed up, choking back tears, and clasped my hands. For the first time in a long time, I prayed.

He was truly a sweet good-looking man, so Irish and classic. It felt like we were two separate puzzles colliding to fit into my perception. Detox wouldn’t give an answer except it would be a week before a bed was available again, MAYBE.

“’Can I stay with you, Nicole?” his words, melting popsicle droplets, were sweet to my ears but bad for the teeth. They stained my lips. Something in me that I had never experienced with any other human had happened, including years of childhood trauma and bullying.  I had reached a plateau where even though I could give, and I could accommodate, I knew for my own wellbeing that I would not. My gut felt like a soaked dishtowel being wrung out saying no; I felt so cruel. What must he think of me in this moment? What kind of lover would leave him in a shelter? “There is too much alcohol here,” I referred to my parents’ collection of homemade wine in generous batches lining the walls: a feast for his eyes, a killer of his liver. “If I lived alone it would be different,” I mumble. He accepted it and moved on so quickly I was relieved but also confused about the lack of fireworks.

Over the next few days, I was a computer pouring over his many open tabs, regardless that he was not around me at all. I was awakened at all hours of the night by calls from him. Calling him back to receive his now familiar answering machine; him to mine as well with long strings of accidental voicemails. Snow crunching under his running shoes, muffled laughing with unknown people in the dark city streets. I sat hunched trying to make out words for clues. Police giving me ultimatums: to bring him to me or the drunk tank, my call. His mom and friends calling me for updates as if I was his personal tracking number, or a DPT (drunk person tracker). I was the only one he was letting in, crying into the receiver that he is supposed to die in the streets just like a poet he was named after. The first few times, I sympathized until I became angry. “You DON’T have the same fate as anyone else.”  I said in a mom voice. I was a potted plant turned over of its contents by the time my alarms went off to get up for work. I used the time I usually used to put on make up to visualize and pray to imagine St Michael’s sword puncturing a bed in what looked like some institutionally bare room I had never seen. “Please just keep him there, keep him safe for a few more days until a bed opens up.” I spoke aloud in hushed tones. My days were suffering. I was tired, especially since there was never any sun and I was digitally chasing someone around. Winter was hard for the best of us, let alone the unwell. My breaks were spent talking to him, barely eating. He was driving people he met there around the city, drunk. “Pass the phone to them” I said. Confused he did. “He is drunk make him pull over and walk, he can’t be driving”. This stranger with some Spanish like accent brushed me off because his will to get around to appointments through this drunk man was an important asset he was not giving up, even if it cost lives. This sort of selfish ignorance made my teeth grind and ground my gears.

Some friends and family made a plan. They took his van away to some other location after that.

Our conversation was sparse some days, but I poured out my heart in appeal to him. You are like a ray of sunshine that has forgotten you are part of the sun. You are your mother’s heart walking the streets causing havoc. I kept praying, saging the items he had left with me. He kept drinking. Detox kept coming up with no empty beds daily. Every time he would call, it ended in disappointment and an excuse to continue, a justification. The calls became frequent and his slurring tethered me to the line with concern. I grew up with a parent who abused substances and was a “rager” but I had suppressed it so much, I couldn’t remember it feeling this way. Maybe the difference was as a kid I had no choice, and now I was choosing this and him so willingly that it hurt. I was choosing bondage. However, I would say telling the police to send him to the tank and risk arrest instead of coming to my house was hard, but it proved I tried my best to not enable him. I think, at the time, I just had to take my hand off the hot stove. It was more about that than not wanting to help someone.

Between the Salvation Army, the drunk tank, and the hospital twice (a faked heart attack to get out of the drunk tank and a suicide threat) within about 2 days, it was madness. He was the eye of the storm, the calm around his own created chaos. Oblivious to the destruction, to the resources being used, to the tears embroidered onto others’ pillows at night. My badges of the war were the dark circles pronounced in pale skin, and my life force sucked. I had not seen him in days and yet here I was chugging along probably emptier than he. I tried to sympathize, what must he actually be going though? What kind of pain, especially considering the sexual abuse he had opened up about? I had gotten some numbers and resources and texted them to him in case he wanted to use them before we could get him where he needed to be. I could not force him to act, but I could lend him the tools to use and they could be by his side if he needed them.

It was Saturday. I was at work. He called detox again, and they said, “Maybe Monday”. My face grew hot with anger. I didn’t know if I was angry with him for already having the help and walking away to only want it again immediately and expect it to happen effortlessly like a toddler. Was I upset with my city’s resources? Both? It was a perfect storm and for the first time, I realized for Derrick, it might be life or death this time. I might actually lose him.

 

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Ch. 4 “Snowed In”

“The wind shows us how close to the edge we are.” – Joan Didion

We have these big windows at work. I felt like I was in a tiny square globe watching giant flakes of snow pour from the angry sky. A massive storm had blown in from New York. I am conflicted with these bigger snowfalls. Watching it happen is slow, peaceful and beautiful. I feel like a child who wants to wander through it and feel the stillness, the crunch under my feet the insulation of all other sound. The other half of me surges with adrenaline of not being able to get home peacefully, or being holed up at home with limited supplies, wondering when it will stop and what the damage will be. It was this kind of day, the day I had a call from Derrick saying detox said Monday, so he just going to drink. Like a petulant hurt child, I thought in one breath, but then also the come off could cause huge damage if he did not stop properly. I had never thought of nor walked that big top circus tightrope before. He had no vehicle, his money whittling down like wood. Homeless, with no immediate family living here, and no good friends around him. Only others stuck in the same limbo he was. I felt desperate for him. I felt an invisible clock tick and trickle over me with the snowfall.

I had plans to go to an art show, and had bought the tickets before my life had derailed into this current existence. I fought wanting to go until we decided it was too unsafe to drive in Detroit in this weather. After that was settled, the chunk of time cleared before me. Nothing to do, nowhere to be until Monday morning. I started calling the mental health emergency lines, gathering more information. I stated how dire the situation was and that now my God-given mission, one a snow storm had given me was to get Derrick into detox or admitted to a psychiatric ward within the next 24 hours. It was ending in one or two of the ways, and I was not hearing otherwise. His mother backed that wish up as well. It is funny that I had to call this girl to get information about these resources. Detox is like a secret club… even those that go don’t know the tricks. You have to call every hour on the hour to get someone in; basically, annoy them for help. Also, you can’t just wander in, you have to go through the ER rooms to get to detox. So, go the ER, and while there you or the doctors and nurses can call them all the time and that should do the trick. Seems so ass-backwards that this is the minefield I have to navigate to make it happen. Instead of being respectful of resources and waiting and calling when they told us to, “the squeaky wheel gets the grease” is what I took from that call. Ok, I thought, I will be really squeaky even if I have to lie, to get what I need because playing nice has brought this person I love with all my heart so close to death.

I texted Derrick “Stop drinking NOW, I’m coming to get you.” He had a meeting absolutely wasted with a case worker who was giving him other options, none including going to detox. It was just informational “you can live here and attend this program” type things. He called me about it. I just thought, how could someone make these decisions when they were so out of their mind. “Forget that meeting hun, I’m coming to get you. Stay there I’m on my way. Do not leave”. The slur had worsened to a level I hadn’t heard yet. I worried he would pass out cold and go into a coma before I even got there.

I called Uber, wondering about wait times, or if people deciding to stay home would hurt my mission. I must have had angels by my side because I had a nice guy drive me right away and wait for me to collect him, which was akin to getting a toddler ready for school in the morning.

I had never stepped foot in this place. I knew about it. I work at a pawn shop, so I’m not oblivious to what it is and who is there and am not that judgmental about it. It is different though when you see someone on one track and then look over and within weeks this is where it has escalated too. I remember going to the dry house with you before we went to my place to have dinner, just weeks before. You left me with your roommates as you blared and sang Childish Gambino while showering. I could hear the echo of you off the beaded tile walls. One guy playing Call of Duty in front of me, semi paying attention and being haphazardly nice, the other guy sitting on the opposite couch and having a really nice conversation between strangers that left me feeling positive about this space. Now, I walk into the Salvation Army. It smells like a grade school gym, musty and worn. There are employees behind glass and I lean into the speaker hole to ask where you are. “Relation?” The young tired boy robotically states. I don’t want to say I’m your girlfriend. I haven’t even seen you and I’m embarrassed, but I say it anyway. Its the easiest way to explain. He glides from behind the counter and I follow him. You are right behind me though, sitting on a small bench, sunk into the wall, drowsily eating a sandwich. I hear you smack your food as it rolls around. White bread, mustard, bologna. The second smell of grade school.

The employee stands next to me and we talk about you like you are not there. Like I am a parent, like I even know what’s going on. Where is he getting the drink? Where is he hiding it? “He is sober in the morning, goes on a walk and comes back in a state.” the kid says, eyebrows raised. “I check him, nothing”. Derrick has been at this so long, I think back to him guzzling soft white milk to ease his hangover.  It’s a bunch of magicians who never reveal to anyone but their own kind how to do it unnoticed. The kid explains that if he checks his room and finds anything he can’t stay.  Alluding to the fact now is the time to go chuck away anything before he looks, a get out of jail free card. He must like Derrick on a level to do this. I try my best to reason with him to go throw it out now if he has anything. Up and down, he swears there is nothing. I ask if I can go do a pre-search but am told I can’t go into his room. “We have been calling detox with him” he explains the same stuff Derrick told me about no beds. The employee thinks what I’m doing is pointless. Derrick got out of the hospital last night, they sent him back after he threatened suicide to Carla, a friend of his that I met the night of my comedy show. I’ve stayed in contact with her and she has been helping too. She called the ambulance here to get him last night. He came home after what seemed to be a good show that he was fine, and didn’t need to be there. He doesn’t want to die when he sobers up, he wants more then. Why take him back there?

I can’t put into words the force of manifestation that was upon me. I just knew I was the person to get the job done. I was going to make it happen no matter what. I wasn’t going to tell him or Derrick that I had talked to his mom, a retired nurse that had been worried sick and wanted me to form him if that was my last option. With the suicidal tendencies while drinking, being in and out of fights, police custody and the hospital in the last 72 hours, Derrick sitting there slouched, kicking his feet while eating his sandwich, mustard spreading above his lip, bags under his eyes. Thin and almost see-through now. It was as though he was two separate people colliding to make one person that didn’t add up to a clear picture of anything. He was so happy to have me there though. It was incredibly flattering, how his smile spread, and his demeanor instantly improved having me there.

I made sure he had his wallet and health card before trying to get him out, I checked his pockets for booze too and came up empty, thankfully. His wallet was dirty and torn, I had mud on my hands I brushed off after looking inside it. He didn’t want to go, he made that clear, especially after his last few days pinballing around the system and ending up worse off. I validated him, but I knew he loved me so much that if I was there he would go anywhere with me. He wasn’t even sure where he was or where we were going really. So, I didn’t feel too bad to take him out again.

The Uber driver spotted us coming out, Derrick’s weight was slung over me so I could steady his wobble to the car. It was apparent, and my stress went up seeing his raised eyebrows on his friendly face. No Uber or cab wants the drunk in their car who will puke and cause problems. Sometimes I thank god that I’m cute.

I got us in and adjusted, strapping the seatbelts over slippery sunken dead weight. I slammed the door, rested my head on the cool leather and sighed, seeing my frost bitten breath appear as a cloud in front of me. Having him next to me, in that moment was the best I had felt for days, I felt like swiss cheese that found the missing holes. He crashed in a heap into my lap, straining the seat belt. The ball formerly known to me as Derrick started shaking and crying “You were the only one to come get me, to care.” The only one he managed between breathy gulps. I knew different, an actor usually doesn’t see the running around behind the curtain. Before we could talk more, he passed out cold on me. The driver not realizing he was no longer mentally there half-yelled “She really loves you.” to Derrick. I just nodded my head watching the snow fall to the sides of the moving car.

 


Chapter 5. The pain of the same and the pain of a change.

   I’m not really an expert in any of this… My Dad never went for help, so I assume the emergency room I go to is the same hospital as the actual detox building. I only know enough to not go directly to Drug Rehabilitation Services. We pull up to the looming brown building, If I look to my left there is an empty space. The place where we spent hours shooting a movie when we met has been knocked down, and so have we. Derrick has enough in him for me to gather him up and limp to a black leather couch. He slumps downwards towards the couch, and the mere touch of his skin on anything comfortable renders him incoherent and asleep again. I turn my back and walk a few feet up to Admitting as my damp shoes squeak on the shiny floor. I survey my surroundings as I always do, craning my head around, gathering information and reactions. I explain my situation to the clerk, a pretty brunette, and she tells me I have come to the wrong hospital emergency room. To get him into the building directly next door I have to go back across town, then come back here when that process is done. I don’t argue. I am screaming inside. I swallow the hard pill and thank her. I look behind me; Derrick peacefully sprawled, eyes closed. I pace the length of a window pane to regroup. I call a friend in a panic. I’m not one to ask for help so I knew some people who would take me seriously. Everyone that would and could help me was snowed in.

I call another Uber and it is on its way. I sit next to Derrick and tenderly stroke his arm, trying to softly talk to him to wake him up. My heart rate skyrockets, as if my heart was a carnival game and a strongman with a huge hammer had a mission. I begin to panic because I could pull his eye lids up with my fingertips and he wouldn’t respond. Otherwise his eyes would flutter, and eyeballs roll into the back of his head. He was speechless, pupil-less, unresponsive. I again look around the room and everyone was watching me out of the corners of their eye, like a plot twist to their own day. I can feel their baited breath enclosing us in our own inescapable snow globe. Their glares darting in and out of their preferred distraction and then right back to us.

The woman I spoke to comes from behind the counter as the Uber driver pulls up. She asks if I want someone to help carry him. “Yes please, if you can!” She gets a security guard, and I learn that no one in this hospital will help me carry him. They offer me a wheel chair. The Uber driver is probably standing there wondering why I didn’t get an ambulance at this point. I do feel silly for not realizing this is where he was before I had called as I pace through the building. However, he still is cheaper than an ambulance bill, the poor fella, driving in a storm to greet this hot mess. I’m having a day, and now I’ve invited him along for it.  I just have to get him in and out of the chair a few times which breaks up the goal, my inner thoughts giving me a pep talk. I try and struggle with his monolithic limbs. Once or twice more, I then tighten my core, squeeze my whole body tight and shot put him into the chair. Thank you, deadlifting at the gym. As I wheel him, his head hangs into his chest, his feet drag on the floor. There are no footrests. Bump. I try again to push forward. Bump, bump, the carpet under us starts to drag along with us increasing the weight I push. The staff shout to maybe turn the chair around backward, so I don’t drag the rug with me as I already have. I try it and it works but it is just one more thing to make this spectacle the highest rated show in the ER that day. I look at the small driver and just say, “I’m so sorry, I will tip you.”

He helps me get Derrick into the back seat as we rearrange his feet to fit vertically, like a human Jenga block. The driver is worried he is dead or going to die. I ponder that for a bit too, but I just think he is really stupidly so drunk he is almost in a coma. It’s dead silence again with the tires treading snow, the radio a soft murmur of ads and bass and Top 40 tunes. Derricks breathing is so shallow it is barely existent. I cup my hand over his hot chest to feel his heart’s faint flutter, like overworked butterfly wings. We pull up to the entrance of the correct ER at the further-away hospital. Again, I give myself a pep talk mentally: I just have to get him into a chair one more time. I run inside and hurriedly collect a chair. Thankfully, it has footrests. The cab driver is a bit pushier with me in trying to help, bless him. I let him help hold up the weight of Derrick for me, but the chair is on too much of an angle, too picky. I muster my dwindling strength and grip him on my own, and eventually get him situated. He stirs and wakes up a bit once upright, but incoherent still. I gently guide his feet to meet the rests and almost gag at how bad his shoes reek as I come up for chilled air. I pull up my phone and tip the driver on the spot electronically. I thank him and apologize one last time, always disliking the role of burden.

I search his pockets for his wallet and decide to do one more “Warden Nicole” pat down before we sit for many more hours, I predict. I would hate to have him finding a way to stay like this when I am trying to help him go in the opposite direction. I stick my hand in his blue sweater hood for good measure and fish around like I’m picking a winning ticket out of a bowl. My lucky day! Winning a small whiskey bottle, 3 quarters downed. I can’t find his wallet even though I made sure it was there before we left. I manage with some heavy shaking to get him awaken and hand me his torn muddy wallet. I extract the ID and take inventory of everything else my eyes see, even though I feel a bit wrong doing so, like I’m taking his privacy away. I check him in and usher us to the waiting room. I leave him in the chair, facing it toward a window and away from everyone else as much as I can, for his own dignity. He is directly facing me though, so I can keep a close eye. Derrick’s defined jaw is littered with GQ quality stubble somehow, as his chin meets his chest. That’s going to hurt tomorrow, but I think it is the least of what will hurt tomorrow.

I charge his phone with one I keep at work and thought ahead to pack, then mine, as I text Carla, who moved the van and called an ambulance for him earlier this week. I also text his mom and Will about where I am and what is happening. I text my family too. I have nowhere else to be in a snowstorm and I have a mission. Even though I estimate being here about 7 hours before I’m seen, I’m peaceful, and I’m ok with it. I’m in the right spot now. I have Derrick safe in my sights and sobering up during that time. His friend, a beautiful lady inside and out pops by with coffee. I graciously sip while we chat, and both steal glances of him sleeping. She stays for a bit then leaves. How grateful I was to her.

A bit later, and unexpectedly I see Will saunter down the hall. A robust, friendly, calming presence. As soon as he sits down next to me, Derrick, like clockwork wakes up for the first time to see us both looking back at him. Will grabs his hand in his own and they both cry and exchange nice words. Derrick keeps looking at me sheepishly and turning towards Will saying, “Do you know how much I love her?” He takes turn switching whose hand he is holding and saying who he is loving. It was a nice moment until he tried spitting everywhere, so I grab one of our Tim Hortons cups for him to spit in.  Some stays on his chin. He is still in and out of sleep for a while as he does this.

As Will and I chat some more, he awakens again and does a whole Shakespearean monologue. He is born for the stage and the ER is but a platform to perform, he decides. He is projecting decently well, looking around and engaging onlookers as audience. At first, even though I am just super impressed that I had to carry this asshole in here and he is able to recite world class literature still, and loudly. I’m turning slightly red but, in my mind, I am telling myself who cares? If I was someone else in this room, I would probably like it. It’s still better than what is already going on here. I let that shame go and let him finish. Will, beside me, his light grey hair poking in different directions is smiling from ear to ear. It becomes contagious and I adopt his smile as my own and laugh, clapping briefly. Will goes to the gym and promises to come back later to relieve me, so I can eat.

Another guy heads down the waiting room corridor an hour later, flanked by two paramedics on either side. He comes in, eyes full of sadness, he plops down and stares at Derrick as his head bobs up and downwards like he is on a ship. He sits next to me but leaves two seats of space.  He remembers Derrick and talks to me about him. His name is also Derrick. We chat for a minute and I offer him my name. He said Derrick is a good-looking guy and gives me a handful of cigarettes for him as we are being called inside. I shove them in my bag and shudder at the residual smell.

 We are called into the small nurses’ assessment area. It has been a handful of hours and he is alert, but nonsensical. Probably has no idea where he is, but once we go into that room he will. I’m worried, because he was there yesterday and the day before. Neither he nor the staff will be impressed with me somehow. I wheel him in dotingly and I answer the questions as best as I can. I change his emergency contact to me because his mom lives hours away, and I can get to him quicker and simply call her myself a soon as I know anything. Even if we were not close after this, I would still maintain that.

Derrick interrupts her flowchart checkmark questions, asking me to make out with him a few times. I have a good sense of humour because between his wheel chair, her chair, the equipment, two other chairs and him now moving around like a restless zombie who wants to make out, I’m constantly having to move things and myself around to what she has to do like a sardine can dance. We change him into a blue gown over his jeans while he fights me a bit. She asks about what he drinks. ‘Beer’ he says proudly. I take the whiskey out of my bag and land it in front of her, “Found this.” She picks it up to eyeball it, then looks at him. She tells me her dad is an alcoholic and sympathizes, “What an ugly disease it can be.” Derrick agrees and my heart aches for him. Seeing him like this, so far from the guy I met that fateful winter day. We were both so different though, then and now. I have grown so much, in confidence and in experiences of life and love. Though love was always a struggle with me, and time and experience never seemed to up my game. I had asked him, laying in bed a few days ago, if I was different now. He kept into saying yes, agreeing, but in a good way. I didn’t need him to tell me this, I just wanted to know how apparent it was. That it wasn’t something I was making up. In my gut, I felt this gap where insecurity used to call home in my bones being filled. But I still felt so empty and alone, rejected in other moments.

Another ER nurse poked her head in and derailed my memory train. Her eyes went wide with annoyance. “This one again? He has been in here twice already, Shannon.” As if to say, don’t waste your breath. If only I could shoot lasers from my eyes to make her heart to explode to make her feel the way she made me feel in that moment. My plan, and she is shooting it down, just like everyone else around me all day. I’ve seen this man shine though, and when he shows his light, it is like that of the sun. He has inspired me, humbled me, told me what I needed to hear just as much. I lowered my eyes to the spotted white floor and let them finish. I keep my eyes fixed and just say “I know he is taking up resources…” I choke back “…but he needs help, real help this time. He is not okay, but he will be.”

I sling his arm over my shoulder and lower him into the chair. Enough time has passed now, and he will be able to walk again soon. But his withdrawals will also kick into gear. The tug of war will lengthen the hold of this rope that secures us, to what is the pain of staying the same and the pain of change.

 

Chapter 6 -“The Beast reveals the Beauty”

We are sent back out into the stagnant waiting room.  It won’t be long before we have  a room now at least, they are just assessing his BAC levels. Annoying to me he keeps yanking the blue gown so hard, I fear the string suffocating him.  I try to settle him down and he wants a cigarette. I slide over the handful that I had gotten from that friendly stranger. Derrick knows how much I dislike smoke too, I have been no stranger to spraying him down with my own perfume and lotions after he would go outside those few days we spent as warden and cell mate. I know being annoyed and it not always being about me are battles, I will always fight.  Something in me from my very deepest core pulled me under like I was drowning to let him go, clawing at my ankles as I swam hard in one spot. I wanted to stay here incase his name got called up. Him not so much. Part of me was used to Derrick pretending to do something than booking it at this point. I would of been devastated spending all this time and money for him to run out now.  I felt quicksand rise at the lack of control I had. As hard as it was, I had to accept that if he ran, he did and this would all be a bad dream I looked back on,  it probably will be regardless. He was gone for a long time and I just sat and waited trying to calm my anxiety. He came back in good spirits with a funny story about some human interaction like he always does. Something about the way he tells a story makes me fall in love, like he had written the words with his tongue on the roof of his mouth, only for me to hear in just the right way. I was always a sucker for a sweet talker.

We are escorted not to a room but something even prisoners might baulk at. One small examination type bed with the rolled cookie sheet paper lining the middle. One beige Charlie Brown Christmas tree looking chair, and one IV stand. The nurse leads us in, he sits on a small corner of the bed and I sit on the edge of the chair, dropping my belongings. Im told his level at time of assessment was 100, this was hours after we had gotten there. This is too high to let him back out into the world and he must stay here. I could cry, at least It was one night sober I could get out of this, a start.  I tell them I want to form him, that either detox finds a bed or the psych ward does but I have proof that he is of harm to himself and others and using up too many resources. I have his mom on standby who also wishes to form him. Im told that if when he is drunk and suicidal and fighting is different than when he is sober and is not self harming and wants to go home, I can’t do anything about it. They will send the psychologist in the morning when he is sober to assess this distinction. “Ok”,  I swallow a lump knowing what I promised his mom and am trying to hold that up for her. Its better than nothing and even if detox doesn’t open maybe Derrick will accept that he needs to be formed and help me when the time comes. If I can get him to accept the lesser of two evils.

I look over where he had asked for a sandwich and juice and water first thing  in and is shovelling it down. I didn’t even know we could even ask for these things and he just knows the drill.

The male nurse with a Russian accent and sea foam green scrubs puts an IV drip into Derrick’s vein. Derrick is unsteady with needles. The same as me (except I’m full of tattoos and still look away). Erik explains this will help hydrate, sober up, and deter bad withdraws that are headed this way. The forecast.

Within minutes Derrick is pulling at it. I don’t understand so I keep explaining and helping him to leave it in but in an instant blood is everywhere  and the pick line needle on the ground and his skin ripped open. I gasp and after a second of shock, I clean up the blood and collect the needle, I wrap it in tissue and put it in my purse as there isn’t a proper place to throw it away. The ER nurses are so busy and with way more fatal life threatening things than him sobering up at this point, I get it. I know he will back and I address it then. Derrick is tiring on about not liking needles. Eventually the nurse comes in and once I tell him he gets irate. “ You are just not comfortable in a safe place”. He hits the head on the nail and doesn’t attempt to put a second line in. He stalks off to the next crazy thing he has to go tend to.  Great, now his come down will be worse, and it’s his own doing.

We sit for a bit chatting about nothing really, the tiredness starts to hit me. Will comes back from the gym and him and Derrick smile and talk in their own language, I can’t always translate them even though they both appear to speak english but I’m happy to witness they have this connection. I walk a few blocks in the street lit swirls of the storm, large flakes still falling, its hard to get anywhere and a work out to get to some food a few blocks away. I get snacks, a sub and a coffee, knowing I will be there all night because Derrick thought I was going to leave and his eyes blew up wide like a puppy up at me. He made sure I would stay with him. ‘ Of course, you would do the same for me.”

I come back and Derrick is telling Will about being molested (and to be fair I wouldn’t write about this part if It had been true as I feel that it is something for victims discretion to pick and choose who knows their story. Since it’s not true…)he is crying out like he was that night in my bed. He grabs his phone and scrambles to talk to his mom who I have been on and off calling myself to update. I can only imagine her coffee cups hitting the kitchen table as she sits at home hours away worrying and waiting. He tells her the story too then once in the hall, I somehow have his phone and talk to her about it. She understands but also doesn’t know why he never could come say this before. I get off the phone eventually and Will leaves for the night, wrapping his big arms around me as he hugs goodbye. I thank him for letting me get food. I split my sub and candy before I crawl onto the examination table that barely fits just him as we agree you can’t have a sandwich without pickles. We make room by being so close, and spooning. I pull the thin blanket up over my body, the room smells likes snow mixed car fumes and his dirty smelly feet and sweaty hair. I’m so drained I can’t be bothered by it though. The lights don’t even shut off in this holding tank, so I pull my coat over my head while me and him drift off to sleep for a bit, not a real sleep, because of equipment beeping, lights, scuffs of running shoes, adrenaline, no room cramped exhaustion. I relaxed into it as much as I could. Maybe he felt my heart breaking and falling in love at the same time. He started his chant again to me “You are strong, you are beautiful, you are calm”. He was tracing his hands up and down my body and it drowned out some noise and soothed me to where I rested. I felt like we were in the last scene of the notebook, holding onto each other in a hospital bed, in and out of this world to the next one and back.

I woke up disheveled and disoriented to him out cold. I moved into the chair facing him, eating candy, on my dying phone, no outlets either in Alcatraz.  Eventually he stirs awake and pats the space where I had been. Holding the blanket up as a sign for me to crawl in. Our heads so close our pupils lined up with one another, “you have such beautiful eyes”. Like it was the first time he noticed they were not just light brown (they look like that at first) but in the sun or up close you can see the navy blue outline, the yellow and green flecks mixing with the light brown. Its something I always did like about myself.

The topic becomes romantic, and I say something about him being my boyfriend. A few days ago in the yellow light of my mom’s cramped kitchen he looked at me and said “what a fool I have been all this time, to not see you, I want to ask you to be my girl, please be my girl”. I felt like I was standing in front of him 19 all over again. All I ever wanted from him was for him to finally see me.  “Yes I will be-“ I barely got the words out and he scooped me from the small of my back and deeply hugged me, nestling his stubbly face into my neck and breathing. We stayed like this for a few minutes before letting go to face each other as a couple for the first time. I was so happy but also so scared that we were starting off on such shaky ground, love didn’t seem like it could be enough sometimes.

“Don’t call me your boyfriend Nicole” he sounded fake angered, ‘I’m your man, and you are my girl. Call me your man”. I did not want to, I did not feel that way. Maybe the boy was adamant about being a man but it doesn’t make it true just because you want it to be. “I want to be your husband, I am your husband. I want to say vows to you”.  I had wanted to hear a few men I had once loved say this to me. I had been feeling like something was wrong with me, I was amazing but no man wanted to say this to me up until this moment and here it finally was. I was enough for someone to see their whole lives with.

Over a week ago we had pruned in the hot tub, sipping from our green Vernor’s cans.  “Marriage it’s a nice thought that someone would pick you everyday no matter what”, I say unsure of it. “Yeah, it is nice thought but thats why love songs are 5 minutes long!”, he mused, slicking his hands through his dampened hair. We giggled to each other.

The nurse comes in for rounds and I learn his name is Eric. He was the only one to look at the situation and address it for what it was. I had told him that either he was going to detox or I would make sure he was formed. He seen through what I was struggling with as I filled him in. He came an hour later saying he would keep calling them until a bed was free tonight. No therapist evaluation, no forming, no waiting. All 3 of us exhaled and lightened. I know you have been through some stuff he said looking us up and down. We were both a sight to be seen by this time of night, this far into the game. “You have to dig deep and address the underlying issues of what keeps bringing you here”. I spoke saying he had finally opened up about some trauma and hopefully he had the courage, and support coming to him to deal with it and move on into a more enriched healthy life. Eric’s back slid down the concrete wall his bum landing on the shiny linoleum flooring, he looked up at both of us and told us a story about forgiveness.

The gist was a girl who had been put in camps in the holocaust and watched her family be murdered in front of her. She survived a long time and made it out. She became a public speaker on forgiveness among many topics. One day while giving a talk she looks down at the rows and rows of faceless people and sees the person who had killed her family just peering back up at her, listening, smiling, unknowing. There were so many options and reactions this person could of had and she went through all of them in her head in seconds, while still being composed and finishing. When she was done as people stopped her to shake her hand, hug her, smile and talk so did this man. What did she do? Nothing, she shook his hand. This second lasted lifetimes and was not easy. That was it. They both moved on into the next moment with their different perceptions. Forgiveness.

I was so moved that this nurse had taken these moments to tell us this story, made even better by his thick accent and thick beard. What a true healer to have the perfect thing to say at the perfect time. I just sat there quiet for a minute after his white running shoes turned out of the room. What if she had confronted this man? Went full savage on him? Unleashed all her grief and pain and missing and lack, what would of happened? Would either of them been better off? I think they both knew what had happened was not ok by this point, especially by the man going to these talks of holocaust survivors when he had played a role himself.

He came back with cab voucher and we packed up the room and left, it was much quicker and easier with Derrick able bodied this time.

Ch. 7 Double The Detox, Double The Lies.

   The phone clock flashes blue orange from my screen to my eyes as we cruise down the town seeming like a giant neon vacancy sign.  2 AM glares back at me. Stopping at the store for Derrick to get cigarettes, I’m feeling impatient that nicotine is a never ending errand. We ring the buzzer and wait for the emerald city detox doors to buzz open and ask “who is there?”. My legs clapping against each other shivering. A nice Irish man with a stereotypical Irish name collects us into the warm and dim building. We sit on the same torn with leather veined couch we had just over week ago. How many lives had we lived in that short period? How many small deaths had knocked on both our doors in 7 days?  I politely sip a soda that was offered while we wait. Waiting had become way of life that day. Waiting at the ER, waiting for him to sober up, waiting for a cab and now waiting for paperwork. I can stay with him until he is signed up which is about an hour from now. We stand outside  alone while he smokes at a distance. “ You know I’ve never done what you just did for anyone, you will be responsible for my sobriety”.  He doesn’t mean it in a way of I am the one to do the hard work but I am the one who brought him from one state to the next to do the work. “You would do the same for me”, I keep saying this in response hoping it would be the truth but it never is. He thanks me, and I accept. It does feel great.

  Back inside, we talk about past relationships, of his ex I had liked a lot, even sleeping on their high rise apartment floor when I came to their city to visit.  We talk openly about a few things like this. He asks me about the guy at the Salvation Army who I had praised but long since forgotten about.  “Do you like him or find him attractive?” I pause taken a back with a slight humoured smile, “I liked the way he was with you, silly”. I guess always having a friendship I never saw the insecure jealous side of him. We talk about that, how he was jealous but equally with a few controlling women who would get into arguments if he had a nice time with his hairdresser while getting a hair cut. I felt pity for anyone stifled like that. My kind of control issues with people were different than jealousy. Mine were making sure everyone was ok, so I could feel safe and loved and needed.

  Derrick parting his lips wide “With you…I want you to go out into the world and live your life and have good people and friendships with guys and girls”. I felt the same way, I  also expressed. “Usually, I don’t feel like I’m enough but I don’t feel that way when I’m with you. I feel enough, I feel like you won’t hurt me”. I see the first semblance of a smile in hours on him. I wouldn’t. I cuddle into him, inter-locking our hands as we both face forward and not look back.  Pat now comes back in with paperwork and we sit across from him as he jots his notes, crosses I’s, dots his T’s or however you do  important paperwork at this forsaken hour. When the question of what do you abuse comes up, I want to crawl into a hole by myself and not hear if its anything else. After alcohol is mentioned and confirmed, pills is asked about. He is adamant that its just drinking. I ignore my gut that there has to be more, and with that, even in recovery the lies keep rolling, right out of my line of sight. However casual the use is, it should still be addressed in my personal opinion. However, the file was made, signed and filed. He was once again ready to disappear to the other side of that building that I, to this day, will never know what it looks like or feels like to be on that end.

  I stand in the vestibule waiting for my last cab alone. I press my head into the clear cold glass and close my eyes feel my hot face cool. I feel my thoughts whirling with no direction and wonder if I will even sleep. His phone beeps in my pocket, these things are not allowed where he finds himself it seems. The last moments of this mission was something I hadn’t thought about. Leaving alone, and empty handed, feeling so in love and it so out of my reach to have it fully and truthfully.

  He had yelled the passcode of his phone at me when he was drunk in my bed the night I had stayed up with him before going to the recovery home the first time. ” I want you to know who I am exactly. Nothing to hide” he announced with a fake pride. I was stunned. I don’t want to go through a phone. Im trustworthy but I still wouldn’t want to get to the point where someone else is going through mine. It was “the devil playing cards with the pastor”. Flattered but pensive, I punched in the numbers while he watched me and scanned with my built in female robot retinas, we love to gather information. Nothing really bad to see but eventually I had found some stuff I would of rather not seen between him and some girls he was talking to right around New Years when this all began. When he drove us around to where his dad grew up and kissed me in a quiet parking lot because everything was closed. I wasn’t special to him like I had thought. I days before held my Grandma’s dainty see through hand until the end. I on one of my many hospital overnights whispered to her (after she couldn’t talk anymore) that I was ready for the one to put in a good word for me. While I held my grandmother in a ball of white light and told her it was ok to go, he was at the same time holding conversations of black useless noise reaching for any Women’s attention that would engage. I do believe he was the boat on a river I had to sail to bring me to the next place.  These girls were all a technicality at this point though before us officially getting together in his drunken heart felt stupor, so what could I say? I brought up one girls name to him and we talked and then I changed my mind and put the phone by the side. Flowers for Algernon came to mind. What you learn and unlearn can sometimes never be reversed, ignorance is bliss.

   My ride pulled up and I climbed inside my body disjointed like a barbie that had been played with too hard but my heart feeling a short victory hard won. For everyone who doubted that miracles can’t be saught after. Sleep well Derrick, I say under my breath as I climb into the horse drawn carriage that had turned back into a giant gass guzzling pumpkin hours ago.

   Last time it was all about how fast he could get out to act. Once out he parked outside my work meeting me with a smile and watermelon air heads as I rushed out the door excited to just be next to him. He didn’t want to talk about anything serious instead tossed a creased playbook in my direction and asked me to read all the parts around his. We did this a few times while Riverside Dr. tracked under the car, underneath our loud expressive readings, windows down, it was a shockingly beautiful warm February day. My house slid into view and I got out and thanked him for the ride. He was drunk hours later, at my comedy show.

  This time he stayed 4 days waiting for the recovery home to claim him like lost luggage at an airport, that just kept circling and circling unnoticed, destination postponed. I would, like an impeccably timed machine go to work then head to the hospital to spend an hour with him before visiting hours were done. The days blurred, it was the day before Valentine’s day, and even though Im not huge into the day, I made a card and printed it off, had an extra cupcake that I left on the radiator of the entrance when I read the NO FOOD sign. So many rules and regulations around our interactions and those only intensified from here on out. I wore a black keyhole shirt that hugged me in the right places and my usual red lip. Even though I had come bearing gifts I had also come bearing questions I needed to have answered or I was done. This having someone’s phone, missing them and big gaps in their actions was a deadly combination for me. I had poured through it like a hound dog on a scent. I had found bad things he thought I might come to see, maybe. It was following a vortex lined with quick inserting daggers through my emotions. Maybe he thought I wouldn’t of done that, I hoped I wouldn’t of either.

   Right after sleeping together for the first time in over 9 years, and it being an all around perfect experience, he went cold on me immediately after. A typical romance that might of just begun, ending because sex was had too soon was something I would of expected, but from him? Our history? I was blind sided. As the days lengthened with scraps of contact chucked my way so did my rage widen. I was a red marker, circling the facts and venting to a co worker. “If you just wanted a one off, why not pick any other person, ANY OTHER in the world, so many strangers to choose from, over 6 billion you don’t have a serious friendship and past with?”.  I tried a few times to nudge the answers from him gently but ended up knocking him right off the edge of a emotional shelf, blasting him a new one, reacting. It felt good to say the truth but I received some of the most unsympathetic cold texts I had gotten since over a year ago when I went through the equivalent of a common law divorce.  So indifferent. Thats my kryponite. Indifference is my nemesis, I am a polarizing force.

  He told me in an exact quote to “fuck off”. Why would he be with someone blasting him with long messages? He was going through so much. (At this point I didn’t know he had relapsed). He was drunk at this moment little did I know. I said I would of been there for you but you didn’t let me in. I wrote it all off and him, started grieving a friendship with hopes. I left it for a few days before forgiving him before he even apologized (which he did do afterwords).  He was so happy “Thanks so much Nicole for forgiving me where I wasn’t able to even apologize”.  I felt like a good person, the bigger person. I was just as mentally sick, I see now. I bet he was happy at what a big hearted adorable idiot who would take the work out of it for him, he had found.

  There was another girl he flipped out on that night as well. In the few weeks he had shrivelled like a shrinking spine from my life he began dating another woman. Another complicated actress, young, sad, and beautiful. I seen the screen shots of her asking “Derrick boy, what are we?” The only difference was she got it worse it appears and she was healthy enough to never look back. He had tried to smooth it over, my eyes, racing over the insides of this other world. “I won’t try and contact you again, I’m so sorry”. Thats for the best she said. “It would never work you don’t say that sort of stuff to someone you love”. She may have been fucked up, like me, younger and falling into his same laugh and eyes like me but she closed a door where I blindly stepped through. The way we go down our own paths is so amazing to me sometimes.

 Flash forward to the present- after we had been all giddy by my funny half finished valentine, my face dropped ready to ask. “Whats wrong?” as he always asked, even when nothing was wrong. I said I needed answers about this other girl, about those few weeks and why? He thoughtfully paused, his Adam’s apple stabilizing as he landed his pupils to line up into mine and mostly lie. I hadn’t slept with someone for 3 years (true he had said that before we even had went there). He said that the taste of sex and lust made him a bit crazy.  He was unsure if he wanted me to be the last person he slept with after 3 years to just be with the one forever after that was a scary thought. He had needed time to come to terms with Him and I.  “I have now, I can’t talk to Bianca like I do you. She won’t open up to me, she wants to remain sad and closed off and once she found out about my drinking problem she ran for the hills, un-accepting of alcoholism, she’s too young. You are the one I want.  The one that understands”. A spoonful of sugar… you know the rest.

  He consoled my confidence in us like a wounded insect in the palm of his hand, careful to not move too much. Two of his friends came through the door and I put that on hold and we had a really good time. We found out he was leaving for the program right in the morning tomorrow. His mom on a call to me told me she had to write a letter on his behalf they were not going to let him ever back in since he ran from admitting last time. I missed a beat thinking it was the time before he was with me. A year or two ago, it must be. It slowly crept in through the cracks of my thick skull that they hadn’t turned him away for drinking and having the shakes. He had left, he had ran, he had lied to me. This whole week of me getting calls from the cops at 4 am, from paying for him to stay at the salvation army(also not something you have to pay for), to carrying him unconscious through this hospital. IT WAS ALL AVOIDABLE. It was his choice because he wasn’t done, he wasn’t ready to stop. I can’t beat myself up at this point for not having that information to base my actions on. Here we stood, him leaving in the morning for another chance at all this. I never addressed it. Since it had all come together now and that week did show him this was indeed life or death and not something he had under control to balance while acting. I pushed it under my rug, the pile so big under it, instead of exploding I could sit on my throne of denial. I was sitting pretty high up by now, enjoying the view from up in the clouds while destroying my health with repressing resentments from many areas of my life. I would eventually take a magic carpet ride to a whole new world, but it would not be a something to sing a long with happily.