Don’t Go

“I don’t want you to go,” I sobbed. We sat on his couch, surrounded by his packed boxes. We had only been together for a couple of months. We always knew he would be transferred away. This was expected. But knowing that didn’t make it easier. I cried and he held me and I could feel him sigh. I buried my face into his black sweater and my fingers clung to the soft fabric on his back. I could feel him beginning to cry. He hugged me tighter. He pulled away and holding my hand, he looked at me. His voice caught when he spoke.

“You’re one of the most special people I’ve ever met. You’re kind, generous, loyal, funny. You’re one in a million. No, one in a trillion. I’ve never met anyone like you. I don’t want to leave you.”

At this romantic moment, I pointed at his chest. “I left snot all over you.”

“I don’t give a fuck! Here!” He yanked his sleeve down and wiped all the tears off my face with his sweater. We both stopped crying for a moment and laughed.

Or something like that.

Five years later, almost to the day, we sit across from one another in a different room on the other side of the country. Tension reverberates between us. My packed boxes sit inbetween us. Belongings spill out of them and onto the floor. More empty boxes sit in the basement, still warm from the Uber ride home from work. He sits on the glorified futon with his shoulders at his ears and his hands clasped in front of him. He leans forward, his weight on his thighs. I sit in my desk chair, legs crossed and hands hidden under my knee. My posture could almost be mistaken for coquettish, except my shoulders are almost at my ears. I feel unease and wariness sitting across from him. He talks. I listen and ask tentative questions.

“I’m having a lot of anxiety.”

“About?”

“This.” A wave of his arm at my boxes.

And so it goes. He talks and I listen and I ask tentative questions. As he talks, I realize he doesn’t sound like him. He doesn’t sound genuine. He’s trying to be open, but his guard is up. It’s not so much that his answers are fragmented, and sometimes don’t really make sense, it’s his voice. His voice sounds stilted. There’s a wall, I realize as I listen. He’s trying to push bricks out of it rather than just kicking it down. Or fuck, opening a door and walking through it. I listen and I ask questions and I feel along the wall for a crack or a hinge.

After awhile, I talk.

“You know I love you, right?”

“Yes.”

“I do love you. A lot.” My voice breaks. “But I can’t be with you when you’re drinking. I told my brother about how you acted Saturday night and when I asked him who does that remind you of, he said, without hesitating, “Dad.” I love you so much, but I can’t be with you if you’re drinking. I just can’t.”

I’m crying, and in a second, his wall goes down. He pulls me towards him and grabs me in a hug. I bury my face into his green hoodie. I can feel him crying and my hands slide helplessly around his back. I grip onto the worn fabric. We’re holding one another tighter and tighter. Hope swells up into my chest. Maybe it’s not too late. My mind goes back to that time five years ago and, deep down, I’m afraid that this is the end. These two moments are the bookends of us.

Our relationship was marred with long distance and seperation. There were more good-byes than I can remember even though every one, at the time, always felt unforgettable. I cried every time even though I knew I would see him again, even though I knew it was temporary. With all the practice of saying good-bye and missing him, I thought it just made me stronger. One time I thought, “Years and years from now when we’re married and old and if I outlive him, with his chain smoking is probably likely, at least I know how terrible it’ll feel and I’ll be able to deal with it. ’cause this shit is horrible.”

How very naive of me.

Eventually, we let go and we end up downstairs on the couch. We talk, still tentatively, but it’s open and honest. I’m emotionally drained. I fall asleep leaning against the back of the couch, sitting up. I wake up to him taking my glasses off of my face. I mumble thanks. He places them on the coffee table and I close my eyes again, starting to fade back into sleep. He tiptoes away into the kitchen and then I hear it. The sound of a bottle sliding over the granite countertop. I open my eyes and watch him slide the bottle of whiskey towards himself. He turns and carries it outside, still tiptoeing.

This isn’t the first time or the second time or the third time I’ve sat on the couch and watched him sneak drinks when he thought I was sleeping. I never said anything, I just sat and watched and felt resentment, anger, disappointment and despair well up in me. Not this time. Not the time when it really mattered. Not this time, when just minutes early I told him I couldn’t be with him when he was drinking.

The hope I felt minutes earlier evaporated. I knew then. I simply thought, “Of course. He needs it.”

I didn’t feel anger, resentment, disappointment, despair – I let it go. And I knew that I had to go. That even though he was the one that was telling me to go, I knew I had to go. This was out of my hands. It always had been, but I was finally learning that.

So I got up and went upstairs. To sleep on the glorified futon. He came back in to an empty couch.

All of those good-byes, all of those “don’t gos”, I now know that was my heartbreaking. I now know that all those times didn’t lessen the pain. There is no practice for grief. I felt it the night he told me to leave, I felt it when I told him I couldn’t be with him if he was drinking, I felt it when I watched him tiptoe away with the bottle, and I’ve felt it so many times since then. I feel it when I remember something bad, good or funny that happened between us. I felt it the other night. When I literally pressed my hand against my heart and said out loud to no one, “My heart keeps fucking breaking! When is this shit going to stop!”

My breaking heart is all that’s left of us that was bad, good and funny.

Don’t go.

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Orange and Red

Scrap!

“What the fuck!”

It was always a jarring sound. No matter how quietly or not quietly the door was opened. The office door has always been slighly warped. Opening and closing it always made a scraping sound, a jarring sound. It was flung open that morning.

Scrap!

“What the fuck!”

I shoot up from a dead sleep, instinctively concerned and saying, “What’s wrong? What happened?” In my sleepy stupor all I see is orange and red. I’m facing the window and the sun is pouring in. It hasn’t been up long. That’s the orange. The curtains I hung over the window are red with white flowers. That’s the red. For a moment, before I’m aware of what’s happening, for a split second I notice the colors, orange and red, flooding into the room at dawn, and I think, “Oh, that’s so pretty.” That’s called aesthetic arrest. Seeing a work of art created by the world that makes you stop and admire it no matter what’s going on.

Scrap!

“What the fuck!”

I shoot up, saying, “What’s wrong? What happened?” Something’s wrong. Maybe the house is on fire. Maybe the cats ran away. I feel concern for him. For a moment, I think we’re still together, still on the same team, still a united front. Then I realize I’m the cause of the problem, I’m being yelled at, I’m being told to go fuck myself. I’m being told to go fuck myself while I’m asleep. So I wake up.

Scrap!

“What the fuck!”

“What’s wrong? What happened?”

“What’s this fucked up shit?”

He stands at the foot of my bed, which is a glorified futon. He’s pissed, red faced from fury and booze. He waves his phone in my face. “I have to wake up to this fucked up shit?! Fuck you, Katie!”

Scrap! Slam!

He’s gone. The entire exchange only lasts a few seconds. I’m still propped up on one arm, blinking into the orange and red. “I guess he saw my text,” I think. My head falls back to the pillow and I’m passed out cold. Anti-anxieties are a wonderful thing.

This wasn’t the first time I sent him a text he didn’t like while he was passed out. I did that often, afraid I would back down from confronting him in the morning. Pop off a text and it’s sure to be resolved in the morning, my warped logic told me. Instead, he would just ignore me or be angry that I said anything. He’d walk by me, ignoring me or tell me “I had to wake up to that. Thanks.” And I would back down. But this time, this text was sent for a different reason.

A couple of hours later and it’s 8am. My phone is ringing. I answer it. It’s my friend that I called during the night when I was “hysterical”. She’s with another friend that’s gone through recovery. They offer advice. They both tell me to leave as soon as possible. I’m so exhausted nothing really registers. I fall back asleep.

I wake up to the sound of bottles clinking downstairs. Now it’s ten to noon. I hear the back down open and close. A moment later, cigarette smoke floats in through the open window.

It’s Father’s Day. I text my oldest brother, wishing him a happy father’s day. “Should I tell him what happened?” I wonder. No. He’s too far away to do anything. And I don’t want my family’s help.

Scrap!

I open the door. I’m still groggy from the anti-anxiety pill I took last night. I got them for him months ago before our vacation. He’s scared to fly. But he was more scared to take them.

“What are these?” he had asked.

“Lexapro. A friend at work gave them to me. They’re anti-anxiety pills. I told her you were scared to fly.”

“Never heard of them.”

“Me neither. I’m googling it….oh, that’s weird.”

“What?”

“They’re also anti-depressants.”

He shoots up from the table. “I’m not taking that!”

“Okay. You don’t have to.”

His reaction was so abhorrent to hearing they were anti-depressants. He reacted like I handed him a straight jacket.

Scrap!

I open the door. The house is quiet. I took a Lexapro at 3:30am.

I knew I wouldn’t be able to sleep and I very much wanted to. I had gone into our, I guess now his, bedroom and got one out of my nightstand, unused and untouched since before our vacation. I took one and went back into the office. I texted my best friend while I looked for places to live. It was probably 5am when I finally fell asleep.

Now it’s noon and I’m creeping through our house. I go into the basement to try and work out. I end up just sitting there and go back upstairs. I hide in the office for the entire day until I have to get ready for work.

He sleeps most of the day. Whenever he walks past me, he ghosts me. Like I’m not even there. As I dress for work, he walks to the shower. He walks right past me in our, his, bedroom, our arms pratically touching and I’m nothing more than a piece of furniture. He looks straight ahead. I’m amazed that someone can just shut themselves off emotionally. Like a faucet. That’s what I get for finally asking for help, for speaking out.

Walking to work, I make a decision. I keep thinking, “I just want to go home.” I walk into work and I see my manager. I tell her, “This is my notice. I’m moving back to Chicago.” She’s almost as surprised as I am.

Scrap!

It’s after 3:30 in the morning. I open the door. Lights are still on everywhere in the house. Our, now his, bedroom door is closed. We rarely close the door. I walk across the hall and open the door quietly. The smell of alcohol fills the room. That’s not rare. He doesn’t drink in the bedroom. The smell of alcohol is only coming from his breath, from his sweat, from his body. The lights are on and the tv is blaring. He’s passed out on the bed. I go to my nightstand and get what I need. I look over at him and realize his eyes are open. He’s breathing and his eyes are almost shut, but they’re cracked open. I lean in to make sure I’m seeing it correctly. I am. I shake my head and think, “What the fuck.”

I go downstairs and every light is on. The white cat runs up to me meowing. I give him treats. He doesn’t care, which is unusual. He keeps running to the back door. I look outside onto the porch and see the orange cat meowing and scrapping at the door. I open the door and he scurries in. The white one calms down. He’s probably been locked out for over an hour.

I see that the full bottle of Jameson I slid over the counter to him hours before, saying, “I bet you’ve been wanting to drink this this whole time you’ve been breaking up with me,” and that he caught and instantly poured himself a drink, before I escaped to the office, has a significant amount missing. Remembering the restraining order threat, I think, “Everything that happens in this house is being documented.”

I text to him, “While you were passed out with the tv and lights on and your eyes cracked open, Amsterdam was locked outside.”

I hit send. I take the Lexapro, I text my best friend, I look for apartments and I fall asleep.

Scrap!

“What the fuck!”

“What’s wrong? What happened?”

“What’s this fucked up shit? I have to wake up to this fucked up shit? Fuck you, Katie!”

Scrap! Slam!

The fucked up shit I told him was the truth.

Orange and red. That light was so pretty.

Hysterical

Almost everything I own is new. This choice made sense both financially and from a sense of “Fuck everything that happened before this. Let’s start anew.” From moving back and forth across the country in the last ten years, I learned that shipping boxes via UPS and ditching furniture is cheaper than hiring a moving company. By the time I had everything packed and in a Uhaul van to take to the UPS store, I had 39 boxes and three suitcases. And a cat carrier with one cat.

“You ran away back to Chicago. That’s what you do,” he said to me over the phone weeks later. When every survival instinct inside of me is screaming, “Get as far away from this guy as you can.”, yes, that is what I do. I go back to the city I lived in and had a life in before I met him. I left, and I left quickly not because things ended, but because of how horribly they ended. Even 2,000 miles away, I still allowed myself to be dragged into his shit for a few months. Every time I catch myself doubting my decision to move back, I remind myself, “You would still be wrapped up in his shit if you stayed in Seattle.” Then I feel relief.

I moved back without a job and without an apartment. I nearly drained my savings account on moving costs, being unemployed for three weeks and rebuying everything I needed. I gave away as much furniture away to friends as I could before I left. Most of it I left behind, even though the thought of leaving his house furnished killed me. “He deserves nothing from me,” I’d tell myself. But getting out of there quickly was more important than taking a dining room table and office furniture.

Money flew out of my account for bills and rebuying household stuff as I looked for a job. I didn’t have basic shit. Most of it was jettisoned over the last two years because his was better. I had no bath towels because mine were thrown out after his parents bought us (or him) brand new set of towels. And I couldn’t take those because his parents bought them. Tiny stuff like that. But it didn’t matter. Since I believed he deserved nothing of mine, I wanted nothing of his. Every time I think about my dwindled savings, I remind myself, “There was no better way to spend my money. I literally bought happiness.”

Myself and my cat slept on my friends’ couch for almost a month with my 39 boxes and 3 suitcases stacked in their hallway. That first night back, I looked around and thought, “I’m in an apartment I lived in two years ago and I’m sleeping on a couch I bought with another ex-boyfriend seven years ago. Isn’t life fun.” The cat instantly recognized the couch and scratched happily on the arm. “That’s nice.”

Inbetween all the moments of planning and organizing and job hunting and spending, the reality of the situation would hit me. I would be walking to interviews and think, “Did that really fucking happen?” When I wasn’t distracting myself with minutiae, like buying fucking towels or “hmmm, memory foam bed or traditional spring?”, I would think, “Did that really fucking happen?” Did my five year relationship really go down in flames like that?

As time passes, I don’t think that anymore. I know it fucking happened and it’s not such a mystery that it ended the way it did. The signs were always there, but I never acknowledged them.

The first morning I woke up in Chicago, I woke up feeling like someone was crushing my chest. For once, I didn’t wake up with dread like I had on so many mornings while I was with him, but I woke up with grief instead. The relationship didn’t end because of a lack of love, although love has a way of eventually evaporating, but because of addiction and so many terrible things that come from that. I was grieving the end of a relationship, but also a person. I knew one version of him, the version that I had started out with, but that was eradicted because of his alcoholism. He was still out in the world, actively destroying himself. And I couldn’t do anything about it. He made sure of that.

That first morning in Chicago, I woke up not only with crushing grief, but with a Alice in Wonderland feeling. For a moment, I felt like I was shrinking but the room was getting bigger. I felt that way once before, weeks earlier.

I stand in the middle of our office, crying. The smoke from his cigarette wafts in through the open window from the balcony directly below. It’s late. I open the closet and yank out empty boxes. I throw them in the middle of the room. Is this fucking happening, I think? Is this really fucking happening? I reach in for another box and it jams itself against the door. “Aaaa! Fuck!” I scream. “Fuck!”

I slam my hand several times against the closet door. I basically slap the shit out of a door. The box pops out onto the floor. “Is this fucking happening?!” I slap a tiny shelf off the wall. I shove my desk chair into my bookcase. “Fuck!” I yell. I cover my face with my hands.

“What’s going on here?” I look up and he’s walking up the stairs. He’s fully dressed. At one in the morning, he had gotten fully dressed. Jeans, jacket, hat and even his watch. A half hour or so earlier, I emerged from the office and found him dressed. He was in his pajamas when he told me I had to move out as soon as possible at midnight – twenty minutes after I came home from the airport. “I don’t even know why you came back,” he had said.

“What, you going out now because you’re single?” I had snarked at him, throwing my clothes into the dryer before I disappeared back into the office and fought with boxes.

“What’s going on here?” he says, as he walks into the office. He looks at the flattened boxes on the ground.

“Don’t worry,” I say, facing away from him. I’m too furious and hurt to look at him. “Your house is fine. I threw my shit around. Leave. I don’t want to talk to you.”

“I’m outside and I hear all this noise,” he says, waving his hands. “What the fuck.” He doesn’t look like himself. He’s drunk, obviously, but his face is blank, lost and somewhat frantic. He doesn’t want to do this – kicking me out. But he thinks he has to.

“Please get away from me. I don’t want to talk to you.”

“What’s going on? You’re being hysterical.”

Incredulous, I look at him. “What’s going on is my boyfriend of five years is breaking up with me at midnight and telling me to leave our home.”

He looks at the ground, pursing his lips. “You talked about me.”

“I asked our friends for help! I don’t know what else to do!”

“You handled it the wrong way!” he says, angrily.

“How was I supposed to handle it!” I sob. He says nothing for a moment, my sniffling filling the room, then:

“When can you be out?”

I shake my head. I can’t believe this is fucking happening. I turn and face him. “We’ve been together for over five years and you’re kicking me out? Really? Why do you get to call all the shots? You think kicking me out is going to shut me up? You don’t think I’m going to tell your family?”

“My family knows.”

I step towards him, pointing at him. “Yeah? Your family knows you drink a bottle plus a day? And they’re fine with it? If they knew, they wouldn’t be fine with it. If they know, where are they? Why aren’t they out here?”

He looks at me. He pulls his phone out. “Well, I just talked to my dad. That’s why I’m dressed.”

“You got fully dressed to talk to your dad on the phone?”

He holds his phone out for me and shows me the screen: ‘Dad 12:46am’. “I called my dad and he said I should I get a restraining order against you and change the locks. Because you’re hysterical.”

Here’s the Alice in Wonderland feeling part. I feel myself shrink and I feel like he suddenly shot away from me. Like he and the room both grew wider and longer, but I stayed the same. What I felt was fear. My name wasn’t on the mortgage. I didn’t have family or close friends in Seattle. I moved there to be with him. The guy I trusted most in the world up to this point was irrevocably fucking me over.

“What?” I say. I instinctively take a step back.

“Yeah, you’re hysterical and you’re talking about me.” he says. “I have to protect myself. My dad said I should change the locks and get a restraining order.”

I cover my face with my hands, horrified. “Holy shit, you’re sicker than I thought.”

“What!” he says, insulted and pissed.

“You’re sick! You want to get a restraining order against me? Am I threat to you? Did I threaten you?” I ask, sincerely.

“No, but you’re talking about me. You’re hysterical,” he repeats. Apparently, the word hysterical is still used in 2016 to demean women’s emotions. In some circles.

For a moment, I’m speechless. My whole body feels like it’s on fire. My mouth is open, but I can’t form words. Until I can form words.

I throw my hands up, pretty much surrendering. He wins. After months, or years, keeping me at arm’s lenth, he has finally pushed me away for good. Jameson has KOed me.

“Okay, you got it. You’re sick. I’m out. But before you try to get a restraining order against me for talking about you, for asking our friends for help for your drinking, you should know that’s not how restraining orders work. I know because I’ve had to get one before. You know this,” I tell him.

I say, “I have to be a threat to you. A physical threat. You know when we were downstairs in the kitchen when you were screaming at me and pounding your hands on the counter in front of me? Technically, that’s physical abuse. And I have photos of what you’ve been drinking in the house for the last month. I have screenshots of the insanely angry messages you sent me while I was in Chicago this past week. That’s how restraining orders work. Not because someone is talking about you. And your phone says you talked to your dad at 12:46. It’s 1:30 right now. I didn’t get “hysterical” until just now. I didn’t know he could tell the future, that he would predict I would become hysterical and tell you to get a restraining order and change the locks. But it doesn’t matter, you’re sicker than I thought. You got it. I’m out.”

I pick up a box and start to tape the bottom with packaging tape, terrifed. He watches me for a moment. As I tape the box, from the corner of my eye, I watch his face crumple. He turns and rushes out of the room. The door closes. I’m shaking and sobbing. I call my friend in Chicago, waking her up, still full blown sobbing.

“How does someone do this to someone after five years together, after I moved, after everything…how does someone do this?” I sob into the phone, pacing with my hand holding my forehead.

Yes, this really fucking happened. And this is just the middle part.

A Shitty Poem

Writing is a right of free expression.

Posting in a blog isn’t a “viral attack”.

Telling the truth isn’t “malicious”.

Wanting people to know what happened isn’t “spiteful”.

Being asked to “stop writing about him” is a request, not a demand.

Refusing to be silent because “people is his life are starting to ask questions” isn’t crazy.

Believing that “personal relationships are meant to stay personal. Period.” is his belief, not the law.

Threatening to “get a lawyer involved” is intimadation.

Writing about a horrible experience is cathartic.

Changing the locks on me on the home we shared was illegal.

Keeping silent about his drinking was enabling.

Saying that I’m “out of control” and “gone nuts” is gaslighting.

Gaslighting is verbal abuse.

Manipulation is abuse.

Blocking him ends this.

Blocked.

Grasshopper

I was a young grasshopper.

On a May night, I hatch from my egg. I crawl on the wet soil. My ears adapt to the sounds of the world. People talking, grocery carts, dogs barking, cars driving past. I listen to the wind rustle the spring leaves. I flap my wings. I hop on the ground. I explore. I crawl and hop up a tree. I avoid a spider web. I land on a wooden balcony. Two humans stand in front of me. A girl and a guy. They look unhappy.

“This is not good. This is bad. This is serious,” the girl says to the guy. Her arms are crossed tightly across her chest. She stares at a bottle that’s almost as green as me. The guy sways like leaves on the tree. “You’ll die if you keep drinking like this.”

He shrugs. “So be it.” He blows smoke from his mouth. I flap my new wings.

“I’ll leave,” she says. “If you don’t go to rehab or counseling, now, tomorow, I’ll pack up my shit and I’ll leave. Please, please, don’t make me do that. I don’t want to do that, but I can’t keep doing this.”

I hop on the wooden railing. They argue back and forth like humans do. During a lull, he leans against the railing, arms spread and hanging over into the dark abyss. He hangs his head for a moment. With her arms still crossed, she leans against it, too. She faces him, her chin on her chest. I’m inbetween them. He looks at her with red eyes.

“Does your therapist have you on medication?” he asks her.

“What?” her head snaps up and her body stiffens. “No, don’t think so. Why would you ask me that?”

“You have mood swings. Intense mood swings. One second you’re happy go lucky Katie, and then the next, you’re angry and like this.”

She shakes her head. “No, I don’t have mood swings. And you’re the only one that’s ever said that to me. Everyone else who’s ever met me always thinks I’m the most even keeled person. But you’re right, I am angry. Living with an alcoholic makes me angry.”

“You get mad at me about laundry,” he says.

“Because when you screw up the laundry, you’re drunk. I’m not mad about the laundry. I’m mad that you’re drunk every single day and aren’t doing anything to help yourself.”

“This has nothing to do with me. You’re a negative person. You hate your family and you hate your job. That’s why you’re angry.”

“No. It has to do with you. I don’t know what else to do. If you don’t get help, I have to leave. And I’m going to call your family. I don’t know what else to do.”

“That’s fine. They know how much I drink,” he says.

“No, they don’t. They don’t see this, they don’t see you everyday. They see you twice a year. They don’t know how much you really drink. They don’t know what’s going on.”

He stands up, tense. I hop once. Then twice. “Fine. You call my parents, I’ll call your parents.”

She looks shocked. “Why would you do that? You’d only do that to be hurtful.”

Smugly, he says, “No, I’m helping. Just like what you’re doing to my parents. I’ll call your parents and explain A and B to them.”

“That makes no sense. You have no reason to call my parents. I would be calling your family so you don’t die,” she replies.

“And I’ll call your parents because I’m trying to help.”

“Great, you do that. Do you even have their phone numbers?”

“I’ll figure it out.”

She steps away from him. Tense, she says, “If you want help, if you want to be sober, I will do everything I can for you. I’ll pay the bills for the house while you’re in rehab. Anything. But if you do nothing, I have to go.”

“I drink to relive stress. What do you do when you’re stressed out?”

“Drinking a 2 liter bottle of whiskey plus whatever else in two days isn’t relieving stress.”

“What do you do when you’re stressed out,” he asks again.

“Jesus Christ, I work out.”

“See, you work out. How’s that working out for you?”

“What, because I ran yesterday and my legs are really sore today? Not even close to what you’re doing to yourself.”

He exhales angrily and turns from her. They stand still and silent for a few moments. I wiggle my antennas. The girl looks at me. She takes a step towards me and leans in. Her arms are still crossed. We look at each other.

“Whoa, it’s a baby grasshopper. I’ve never seen a baby one before.”

He doesn’t look. She keeps looking at me. “So cute,” she mumbles to herself.

He turns and faces her. He walks up to her. I’m inbetween them again. I flap my wings.

He says, “Kate, I love you. You know that? I love you. I drink to relive stress and I’m going to figure it out. I’ll control it. But you’re acting this way, not because of me, but because you’re stressed out. With your family and your job-”

She holds up a hand, interrupting his gaslighting. “Stop. Let me get this out of the way. We’re not going to do this thing where you pretend to stop drinking or drink less, but then you hide it from me and you minimize your drinking. My bottom line is you get someone else involved, now, or I’m gone.”

He becomes furious. His face turns red. “Goddammit!”, he yells. I hop once. I flap my wings. He looks down at me. He raises his thumb and smashes me with it. “Fuck you!” he screams at my crumpled body.

Eyes wide, the girl backs up towards the door. She looks at me. I flap my wings. They don’t flap. As I lay dying, she looks at him and sneers, “Yeah, it sucks I’m smart.”

“It’s not happening. It’s not happening,” he says, pacing.

“Goddammit. You’re the worst,” she says. She opens the doors and disappears.

I don’t hop. I don’t flap my wings. I don’t crawl up a tree. I don’t explore.

I die.

“I can’t go back to yesterday. I was a different person then.”

There were good things. There were many good things. Good things as simple as just standing in the kitchen and talking after sharing a cab home from work. Making one, or all, of the cats do something silly. There was just laughing together. There was always laughing.

Cheering at Game of Thrones when Daynres flew away on her dragon and realizing what massive nerds we were. Binge watching House of Cards on Netflix. Binge watching tons of shows.

If I was in bed when he came home, I’d wake up, briefly, to a kiss and a ‘I love you.’ Sometimes, he’d lay next to me and tell me about his day. When I would come home later than him, which was rare, I would lie in bed and talk to him. I miss those the most. Sometimes, we’d be up all night in bed. No, I miss those the most.

But like almost everything, where there was good, there was bad. And by bad, I mean unhealthy. A mess of codependency and addiction. A seperation was necessary.

Codependent behavior is pratically normal in many relationships, but just because it’s normal, doesn’t mean it’s healthy. Eating fast food while living a sedentary lifestyle is normal, but it sure as fuck isn’t healthy. And our relationship was killing me, maybe not physically, but emotionally and mentally. I’m sure for both of us.

I’m still learning what it means to be codependent and how to recover from it. Similar to alcoholism, once you’re a codependent, you’re always a codependent. To some this probably sounds like bullshit, but trust me, it’s no bullshit. It’s a pattern of behavior that’s existed since I was a kid and has been apparent not only in this last relationship, but in all the others as well. Codependency is learned behavior. How I learned it is a whole other post or two or twenty.

To that, I’m trying to allow myself to be the person I’ve always wanted to be. Years of shitty self-esteem and self-doubt that smashed this girl down are slowly being eradicted. And it’s happening, slowly, but it’s happening.

When I think of good things between him and me, I remind myself with the reality of the situation. I remind myself of the alcoholism and the constant pointless struggle that was involved. When I think of the good things, I become despondent and I ask myself, “Why does he have to be an alcoholic?” It’s a pointless question. He was one before I knew him and he always will be one, whether he goes into recovery or not. The question I should ask myself is, “Why can’t you give yourself closure?”

Sometimes, I imagine there’ll be a knock on my door. I’ll open to it to find him standing there. But we’re not the same people that we were when we were together. We’re better. He’s sober and I’m confident. We’re both happy. Even though we were seperate, we learned how to be happy. We learned how to be happy not for someone or with someone, but on our own. I like that moment. It has so many possibilities – like closure. Who knows after that moment. Maybe we’ll hang out. Or maybe nothing will happen. Maybe he’ll be like, “I like your new cat!” And I’ll be like, “Thanks! He’s awesome!” And then I’ll close the door and that’d be it. I don’t know.

I don’t know because I’m a different person now. The dynamic we once had is gone – and thank fucking God. There’s an opportunity for mutual respect instead of a complete lack of emotional honesty. I’m no longer the person that sat and watched the person I loved most in the world drink dangerous amounts daily and said nothing because I was too afraid to speak up. I’m not the person that made angry sarcastic comments about his drinking. That sat and fumed with resentment as he drank, but still did nothing. I regret my inaction not so much for his sake, but for my own. Very much my own.

Maybe good things can be created between us in the future. Maybe we’ll create good things with different people. I don’t know. It depends on one another’s recovery. But I do know, like Alice in Wonderland, I can’t go back to yesterday. I was a different person then.

Birthdays

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.

Happy birthday.