To Love and To Fall

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ONE

I awake to a noise, and the gleaming sun of dawn beams on me radiation poisoning. Every bone of my body aches, and I feel heartburn rising in me like it is Mt. Saint Helens revisited. My ears strain wearily to find the noise that has disturbed me, and I hear raspiness in the direction of the toilet bowl. Suddenly alert, my body responds automatically as it has many times before, rushing to the bathroom to find my sweetheart making love to the toilet bowl. I watch in disdain as she heaves, oblivious of my presence, as the stench of vomit fills the room. It does not smell much differently from the bar we visited last night.

When there is a lull during her attack, I go to her and embrace her. This is an unspoken ritual between us. In our early years, when the porcelain routine happened less frequently, I would watch her, unable even with all my experience with drunks to know what to do for her. She would cry and beg for me to hold her while I was busy of doing things like worrying about dehydration and replenishing fluids, unknowing of her physical need for me, forgetting until the next time. Eventually I got the pattern down. The increasing frequent of these episodes solidified it.

She is sleeping again, her body collapsed where she had been in her throes. I carry her slender body back to bed. She is like a feather, and I am startled to notice her ribs protruding through her shirt, ashamed for not having noticed this dramatic a weight loss sooner. As soon as I set her down, I go to the freezer to get some ice. I have the ice trays for the smaller ice cubes, specially for times like these. I take a handful of ice cubes and put it in Serena’s favorite glass from the time we went to Busch Gardens in Florida together. I remember hearing the kids screaming as they went down King Kong. I never had a chance to go down it myself. We spent out day with the free beer instead.

Six-ten. I need to be up by nine to get ready for my three-day trip to Albany. I am meeting my advisor for dinner at five, and I need to be spiffy and gauche for the occasion. I am being considered for a research grant for social history. If I receive this, it will procure me a position as an instructor at the university as well as full state benefits. The security of a real academic position and money seems like welcome relief after eleven years of odd jobs and intermittent unemployment. Eleven years is almost the entire length of my relationship with Serena.

I lie in bed and stare at the ceiling. Sleep evades me though every atom in my body feels like lead. My ears ring and my head wants to implode on itself. In my panic over Serena, I have overlooked my own coppermouth. I lean over her body to grab the remaining ice, which is just about all of it, wile Serena sleeps away. The instant I put the ice in my mouth, I feel a stab of guilt, so sharp that my mind wonders for an instant if I have been physically attacked. I feel like a thief stealing gold.

I look at Serena. My soul feels dark. A blonde bombshell at first meeting, now a pale ghost just a shade deeper than the white linens covering our bed. She seems to fade into the distance, soon to slip away, never to be seen again.

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