To Love and To Fall

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TWENTY-THREE

I have come up with a new regimen to keep me away from booze. Even the pot was flushed down the toilet. Every waking minute is planned with something to do. My work schedule has ballooned to seventy hours and I am actually bringing in a significant check from K-Mart. The rest of the time I sit in the library reading, up to five books a week. One day as I am reading a Jonathan Kellerman novel I realize I haven’t drank for twelve days. It had been the most difficult twelve days in my life, but I had done it. I feel like a new man.

But I am lonely. No one has called me. I have even called Denise a few times but she hasn’t returned my calls—so much for being a forgiving loving sister. I feel strange calling Gary; I don’t really know him and maybe he is just trying to be polite in giving the invitation. The only person to see is Melissa. On my fourteenth day of sobriety I go to see her, strategically dodging Arbuckle by showing up while he had a ten-forty class. But when I get to his office, instead of Melissa there is an unfamiliar woman in her twenties sitting in her place. I hadn’t expected her not to be here. The loneliness that fills me is so painful that it is hard to be polite to this person.

“May I help you?” she queries.

“I was looking for Melissa Calhoun,” I reply.

“She’s off this week. On vacation in Aruba. Lucky wench, wish I were there,” I saw the warm humor of this woman. I wish I knew her better so I could pour my heart out to her. “But she’ll be back on Monday. Can I say who stopped by?”

I shake my head. The woman gives me a curious look before nodding and saying, “All right. Well you have a good weekend now,” before going back to her typing. I have been unceremoniously dismissed from a place that was my second home, and unrecognized stranger. It is all a bad dream that I can’t wake up from.

I go back outside. It is warm for early December at nearly sixty degrees. Everybody is out for the last gasp of warm air. Students walk past me in clusters. Some recognize me, I can tell by their hushed whispers and stares at me. At least someone remembers me

Then I finally relent and call Gary. Loni answers, says he’s out on the field, she’d have him call me, it was so nice meeting you the other day. I sigh in depression as I hang up the phone. Everyone is busy having a life except for me. Mel was busy sunning herself in the Caribbean, Gary was making a living, Denise and Nigel had too much class to deal with scum like me. And A.T. Buckingham, Artie for short, running around to book signings and whatnot. I don’t want to deal with him anyway with his smug attitude. I could see him giving me that smirk saying, “I told you so.” And of course, my Serena. She had always been my confidante, which I was missing now. Without her I was falling apart. I always thought she was the weak one. Were things different now, boy.

I want a drink to calm down. Just one. And no hard liquor, just beer. I had never gotten in trouble with just beer. Then I think of all the reasons why I shouldn’t drink. Fourteen days would be gone. My family, who was ashamed of me, the career that had been shattered because of who my drinking led me too. The ghost of Carla, who would never let me forget that last night. And Serena, the love of my life, who I threw away because drinking was more important than she was. It was like I had been afraid of her getting better because maybe then she’d wake up and realize what a jerk she’d been with all this time. So I jumped the gun and did it myself. She deserved better than a scumbag like me.

All these were reasons why I should not drink. But the counter-reasoning was just as strong. After fourteen days of sobriety, my family still wasn’t talking to me, Serena was just as gone, my career was just as over and Carla was just as dead as when I was drinking. So what was the use. Beer sounded fun. I don’t know why I got myself tied up with that other hard stuff to begin with. It always got me nuts.

The next thing I knew, it was dark and I wasn’t at the bar. A cop was dragging me off some guy, cuffing my hands behind my back. The guy was yelling obscenities at me and I was yelling back. And then as I was stuffed into the cop car I thought, I’m fucked. I was supposed to stay out of trouble for six months and I hadn’t even lasted three. Now I was to lose my freedom on top of everything else. I had become my father.

To my astonished relief, I was dropped off by my home. “You were lucky,” the cop in the passenger seat told me as he unshackled me, “the guy didn’t want to press charges. Neither did the owner. We just tied you up so you’d stay away from the guy.”

“I was involved in a fight?”

The cop gives me a blank look. “You mean you don’t remember? Boy you need help,” he shook his head. “Well, you didn’t kill anyone this time. Maybe you should lay off the Michelob. Doesn’t seem to agree with you.”

“Where was I?”

“You got to Binghamton somehow. I have no idea how.”

“What day is it?” disbelieving how much has happened without my awareness.

“Monday night.” The cop must really think I’m crazy now. “You started beating someone up after the game because he said the Giants sucked.” He smiled. “Lucky for you, you got two Giants fans here,” he indicated to the direction of his partner. “Well, night. Don’t drink too much Michelob.” With a cursory wave he is gone.

I am left to wonder where the days of my life went.

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