On my 29th birthday, we go to my favorite dive bar with two other friends. We leave wasted. We go back to his place and eat pizza. The next day, we go out for sushi, drink sake bombs and sleep till midnight. Later in the week, one of the friends and I demonstrate how he “walked” out of the bar. Careening forward, he tipped forward at an 45 degree angle and pinballed his way past people and tables. He learned he screwed up a pool player’s shot and our friend had to intervene on his behalf.
A few days later, we learn he was being transferred to Philly.
On his 28th birthday, a few months later, I eat Red Velvet cake with his family after meeting them for the first time. His birthday was a few days before. He flew in from Philly and it is the day before Thanksgiving. I buy him a watch. We take the train to the suburbs and he buys us 40s to drink on the train. I’m hung over and barely drink mine. He drinks them both. We drink lots more with his family and have a good time.
On my 30th birthday, I fly to Philly, hung over from my dinner party the night before. It was sushi again and he couldn’t make it. He said he had to work, so I decided to go see him instead of spending my birthday without him. I sit at his pub and wait for his meeting to be over. We go back to his apartment. He bought me tons of stuff. Everything on the list he told me to send him weeks before. I say, “You weren’t supposed to buy everything!” Then we go downstairs and have an awesome dinner.
On his 29th birthday, I buy him a bottle of champagne. We live together now. I moved to Philly a few weeks before. We sit around the living room and talk and he tells me stories about his life before he met me. He smokes, but I don’t. I had quit four months earlier. I take a photo of him hugging my cat and put it on Facebook. He insists I finish the champagne and he moves onto whiskey.
On my 31st birthday, I still live in Philly. I am still unemployed. It isn’t going very well. The day before he came home and called me into the living room. He bought a lavish chocolate cake, a pile of candy and a edible bouquet. I laugh and thank him. He seems a bit drunk and tells me the story behind the cake. He takes me out for drinks at a place I like. Then we go to a pub near our place. He seems really drunk now. I step outside to call my mom. When I come back in, he is quiet and distant. “What’s wrong?” “Nothing.” I talk and then I look at my phone and say, “It’s midnight! It’s my birthday!” He says, “I’m an alcoholic.” I burst into tears and run out of the bar.
I get home and throw my keys acoss the apartment. I sit down and cry. He comes in and we talk about it. He said he didn’t mean it. I ask him if he’s sure. I wake up the next day in bed and he’s on the couch. I wake up with a feeling of dread that would last in some small way until our relationship ends. Because I know what he said is true. Instead of dealing with it, we walk to the Italian market and buy food and wine for dinner. We stop at a bar to say hi to a friend and we stay longer than I want to. I’m hungover and I want to go home. But I wait for him to be done. I finally speak up and we go home. He makes dinner and we drink the wine.
On his 30th birthday, I no longer live in Philly. I moved back to Chicago the month before. Unable to find a decent job, I accepted my old boss’ offer to come back. I plan a trip to surprise him for his birthday. During a late night phone call arugment, he yells, “I don’t want to be in a long distance relationship!” I answer,”I wouldn’t have left! But what was I supposed to do? Sit there and watch you drink yourself to death? I won’t do that. What do you want?” “I don’t know…” “I’m planning to surprise you next week for your birthday!” “Don’t come! I have to work. Cancel it…”
He drinks at his work with co-workers and smokes weed in an alley with a chic who was a liquor rep. That’s what he tells me about his 30th birthday when I call him later that night.
On my 32nd birthday, I still live in Chicago. He can’t visit because he has to work. Things are more hectic and complicated because he’s being transferred to Seattle. I’m hung over from celebrating the night before with a friend at the pub we used to work at. I go to hot yoga to sweat it out. A friend takes me out to lunch and more friends take me out to dinner. We eat Peruvian food. I have a cocktail and a couple of glasses of wine. I’m home by 10. I think he calls me.
On his 31st birthday, we both live together in Seattle. I take him to dinner at my new job and we see a movie. It was nice.
On my 33rd birthday, he goes to the doctor for his soon to be diagnosed psoriasis. It began in Philly and came back in the last 8 months as his drinking increased. I have highlights done with the gift card he bought me and I meet him for a drink. We eat lunch and then a friend of mine meets us out. He leaves early. I take a cab home later and find him passed out. Later that night, he tells me he left because he had tunnel vision and basically a panic attack.
On his 32nd birthday, I take him to dinner two days early. We both have to work on his birthday. I take him to a Thai place. As we wait for the uber to go to dinner, I watch him take a few shots, nervously counting. I don’t want to deal with drunk him. At dinner, I have a glass of wine and he has a diet coke. He’s been drinking all day. We walk to a brew pub afterwards. They only serve beer and wine. I chatter away, sensing his anxiety rising, hoping to dispell it. After one drink, he wants to go home. He calls an uber and we leave. We pull up to the house. He tells me he’s running to the store. He returns with a bottle of Jameson. My heart sinks. He finished the other one before we left for dinner. It’s now 8:30. We settle on the couch to watch movies. I drink water.
At 1:30, the Jameson bottle is over half way gone. I’m silently furious. “Something wrong, Kate?”
“Yeah, you’re really sawing your way though that bottle.” He storms out.
After a few minutes, I decide to go upstairs to bed. He comes in from smoking in time to see me disappearing upstairs. Slamming his coat down, he says, “Where are you going? We just started the movie.”
“To bed. I don’t want to be around you when you’re drinking like that.”
He grabs the bottle and slams it down on the table. He grabs two glasses and slams them down on the table. He says, ““Let’s go! Me and you. Shot for shot.”
He’s angry. Mystified, I ask what that would solve. He repeats himself. “You and me. Shot for shot.” I’m speechless. Then “What. Tell me. What.”
I say, “You told me a few days ago you would do anything for me, that you would stop drinking so much. In 5 hours, you’ve drank almost an entire bottle.” “You’re being such a fucking….” “What? A bitch? Maybe I am. But three weeks ago, you told me you’d never drink again and now here we are.” We don’t talk for four days.
On my 34th birthday, we haven’t talked for almost a week. The week before I realized he had drank a 2 liter bottle of Jameson plus beers in only 2 days. Not including what he drank at work those same two days. He comes home that second day drunk. I feel a switch flip in me. I’m done. I tell him. I tell him he will die if he keeps drinking like this. He says, “So be it.” I tell him to get help now or I have leave. He shrugs. He doesn’t speak to me until two days before my birthday. “Do you still want to go out for dinner?” “I dunno, I guess so.” He rolls his eyes and storms off to bed. My stomach hurts from stress.
On my birthday, he meets me for dinner at 5. Our conversation starts off polite and towards the end, we are like ourselves. We walk to his pub afterwards to get his stuff from work. I sit down and have a glass of wine with one of his employees. He disappears for twenty or thirty minutes. He comes back. “Where’d you go?” “Oh, my stomach hurt.” I look at the beer and double shot of Jameson he ordered upon returning. “So, why are you drinking?” “Don’t start with that!” “I would ask anyone who tells me their stomach hurts why they’re ordering a double shot of whiskey.”
As we get into an uber, he starts an argument with a drunk girl. He looks at me and grins. I don’t. “You’re starting a fight with a stranger on my birthday? Awesome.”
We get home. We argue. “You got off work at 4:15. How many drinks did you have before you met me at 5?” “3.” “Were they doubles?” “Of course they were doubles.”
He pulls out a bottle of champagne from my meger collection and hands it to me. “What? What’s this for?” “It’s your birthday. You should be having fun.” “How can I have fun when this shit is going on?”
I hand him a 7 page essay I wrote the day before documenting his drunken exploits over the last year and a half. He reads it. “You’re a hell of a writer. This should be a movie.”
Later, we sit down and look for therapists for him. His brother calls. He goes outside. I look up and notice the bottle of rum is missing. He comes back in smelling like rum, even more drunk than before. “Were you drinking?” “I had one shot.” “The bottle is gone.” He passes out.
On his 33rd birthday, three weeks from now, we’ve been broken up for five months. I live in Chicago again. I don’t know what he’ll be doing. But I have an idea.