sober

Simple Truths

“I’ve always had this weird…” I pause, unsure of the phrasing and rolling the taste of something bitter and uncomfortable around in my mouth. It tastes like pebbles under my tongue before I sigh, tilting my head and pushing the smoke from my lungs like a blanket to hide the next words. “It’s like this story that flows under everything I do and it’s so simple. You’re not worthy.”

The air was a damp warm that meant the fog would roll in over the bay and obscure the drive home. The thick kind of night that felt wonderful on the skin by played havoc on the hair. It haloed around my head, the silver strands catching the light even as a few moths battered themselves against the over head lamps. Barb is a slim woman with thin blond hair that hangs neatly around her face. She’s Eastern European by way of American accent learned from years. It lingers around the tightness in her eyes when she smiles and moves around to sling strange dip-thongs onto her phrasing. She’s lovely as a siberian iris, trusting that the green shoots that knife through the snows will be allowed to bloom purple and lush. She nods once, taking the difficult statement and tucking it between her palms that are cradled in her lap just under the table between us.

My mouth smears to the side and I duck my head. Even this is weir. My truths don’t really deserve to see the light. Six years sober and six years of walking a path that leads me to an addiction to the truth and I can’t even look her in the eye around my odd self consciousness. People need to know that I’m okay, that I’m good, that everything is fine. They don’t need to know that there are days when I have to step over the pile of dirty clothes that sit like a wall on the left hand side of my bed. They don’t need to know that I’m so exhausted at the end of the day I can barely see straight as I answer the texts for help and slide one leg at a fumbling time under my sheets. They don’t know about how I fall asleep between breaths and wake up running.

I feel like I’ve been running my whole life because when I stop just long enough to look around I realize I’m so lost that I don’t know where to even start. It’s not true. I have moments of pause where I can gather up my clothes, my bills, my dignity, my heart, and fumble through the simple tasks of setting my life in order.

you don’t deserve nice things, you’ll just lose them. you don’t deserve a boyfriend who cares about you because you always think you’re in love but the moment it’s over that light switch flicks and you’re done with it all like it never existed. do you even know what love is? you can’t even love yourself most of the time. you’re disgusting and unworthy and –

And I’m running again. Reaching out a hand to help the next person behind me. Answering the phone at four in the morning to a girl in tears because she can’t imagine a life with or a life without. I can hear myself saying words of comfort. I can hear myself making the noise of hope, because it’s in those moments that I feel worthy. It’s in those moments that I have hope.

It blurs from one day to the next in little moments of exhaustion. I remember the way my best friend looked after nearly 27 hours of labor. She was limp with exhaustion, but her eyes glowed fierce under the glossy cut of her bangs. She was flushed, damp, and reaching with a single mindedness to find the next thing that made sense. The next thing that had captured her heart in a way that made little to no sense outside of that moment. That one moment when she caught her son so close and touched shaking fingers to his dark curls. He screamed and she knew she was forever going to love one thing more than anything else.

That’s the only way I can think to describe the moment someone asks me for help. That breathless enthusiasm for a chance to give something the best possible life I can manage. But it’s not me. It’s not me who’s managing anything but finding the energy to be present.

The light flickers and Barb blows out a breath and catches my eye. She has these pale blue gazes that catch the mind like fine china or the massive breadth of a glacier. “You know why you fight that?”

I shake my head.

“Because it’s not true. But-” She pauses and holds up a finger and I can feel myself quaking somewhere just behind my heart. “FIghting it makes it true. You need to be right about this one thing. You need to be right about the most basic truth about yourself you have.” She tips her head and the smile is beautific. “Because if you’re wrong, then everything you have ever though about yourself, everything you have ever believed about yourself is wrong. You *need* to be right about this one horrible thing so that everything else is right. Let it go. Be wrong.”

I laugh, nervous and welling. “You make it sound so easy.”

“You’re not worthy.” She cocks her head and I can almost taste my thrumming need for this next truth. “You have never been more wrong about anything in your whole life. Let it go.”

Advertisements

Yes or No questions.

I have had a lot of sex.

There, I said it.  I’ve banged my way around the country and left cities behind so I could walk into a grocery store without the heated “OH DEAR GOD! I vaguely remember telling him I’d call…”

I’ve had wild sex and group sex.  I’ve slept with best friends and complete strangers.  I’ve done the nervous STD check when it’s gotten to the point of oh man, I just don’t know.  I’ve let myself be used and used other people.

There is one moment that I want to talk about, because it is a time that I used to let shape who I was in the sack.  It affected my self esteem and ate away at me from the inside out.  It fed the little voice in my head that told me I was unworthy of real love. (Also, I’m going to write it as a story as a way of distancing myself a little bit from it so I can tell it.)

**

“You really want to sleep with a bald chick right now, don’t you?” She asked, elbow on the bar while a man tinkled away on a baby grand piano.  The bar was made of white marble.  The walls, smooth and cold against her shoulder blades, tilted upward to a graceful arch thirty feet above.  A chandelier glittered at the top- the crown of this aging princess.  There was a baby grand piano on a raised dias that was home to a little man with limber fingers and a soft velvety voice.  He was background music to the rich as they smiled and chatted pleasantly.

She was a wildflower in the center of this manicured garden of the drunk.  They whiled away their time in legal battles, high powered money pushing, and politics.  They were glossy like magazine pages and drove cars that purred.  Her car clattered.  It clanked and was held together with duct tape, a coke can, and sheer force of will.  She’d scrounged her shoes from next to a dumpster- black and white two tone doc martins with a magical message written inside.  Her jeans were ripped and didn’t fit like they cost more than ten dollars, which made them more honest than she was.  She grinned like she would eat them, suck the marrow from their bones and floss her teeth with their hundred dollar blowout hairstyles.  In her head she imagined them as pampered declawed house cats, while she ranged long boned and mangy.

He smiled, looked abashed, and waved for her drink to be refilled.  He was short, round, and wrapped in a designer suit.  He had dark greying hair and a credit card made of metal.  It clinked against the bar as he rolled his cigar between pale clammy fingers.  She liked that he wanted her, but was completely uninterested in him.  He ran the entire IT department for a big name company that owned most of Cincinnati.  She liked that he ordered her absinthe, bohemian and green.  It tasted like licorice and burned sweetly across her tongue.  The bartender, a sweet little blonde thing from kentucky, had brought it back with her from Prague after a fully financed whirlwind trip was tendered to her as a tip.  The girl- too young- played with the fire that melted the sugar cube and ran her fingers over her scalp.

“I do.” He replied as she took another drink.

“Good.  Maybe you’ll learn something.” She knocked back her drink.

She came to puking in a bathroom.  The seat was cold and hard against her forearm.  Everything was blurry. His voice sounded from outside the door.  She grumbled something about being cool while her stomach forced her body into painful convulsions.

Black.

She came to again with his tongue between her legs and tears smearing her makeup.  He grunted like a pig and humped against her leg. She whimpered and couldn’t remember saying no.

Black.

She woke up and he was sprawled across the bed.  Plush and round and naked.  He snored and she bit back a yell.  Pants.  Must find pants.  A scramble through an apartment she didn’t remember, just a vague impression of size, expensive swedish furniture and a huge glowing window.  She snatched up her shirt, threw on her jeans, snagged her shoes and fled.  Still drunk in the street, barefoot and clutching her shoes and purse she tried to get her bearings.  Big buildings, harsh daylight, grainy texture like an old movie.  Car, parking lot, and a stuttering run.

She didn’t realize she’d left her glasses until she’d gotten home.  She never saw them or him again.

The next night she switched bars, found a tall tattooed gum chewing freak and took him home.  She told herself it was better this way.  She told herself the only way to get over something was more of the dog that bit you.  She’d thought she was a sleek wild cat in the midst of tame housecats.  She’d never realized she was swimming with sharks and cats hate water.

**

I have too many stories like that one.  The ones where I never said yes, but I never said no either.  I have too many stories where I just throw something special away because I was sure I didn’t deserve it.

There were too many times I kissed someone because I felt sorry for them.  Too many times that I slept with someone because I thought it was what they wanted.  I never thought about me.  I never thought my opinion or my worth mattered.  There were exceptions, brilliant beautiful times that scared me, but mostly it was just sex.  That’s what I told myself.  Just sex.

Except now it’s not.  It’s not ever going to be just sex ever again.  I’m worth more than that.  I deserve to be cherished and loved.  I won’t let myself be used.

I haven’t slept with Jacob again.  I am not going to sleep with him again until I’m sure it’s just me in there.  I’m not going to let myself be used just because I feel like it is something he needs.

Love is a gift and sex should be the celebration, not the wrapping to tear and throw away.  And damnit.  I want those glasses back.

Bonfires and characters

I used to have people living in my head.  Supposedly, they were just characters, but they never just stayed on the page.  They used to talk to me when I was having breakfast.  They laugh with me at the bar.  They’d love so hard it broke my heart. I miss them.

It’s been quiet in my head for almost three years, hell maybe more.

Writing is really difficult for me now that I’ve quit drinking.  It was like the alcohol tapped directly into that part of my brain that was wild and poetic.  I know this isn’t true, but it feels that way a lot of the time.  I was insane and the characters were a vivid manifestation of my insanity.  They were where I told the truth- wrapped in layers of lies.  They were all little parts of me that I fleshed out and gave names.  My sex drive, my insecurity, my ability to love, my bitterness- each had a place in the apartment building in my head.  The weirdest days were when they talked to each other.  I’d be sitting somewhere, faraway look in my eye, and just listen to my head talk to itself and entertain me.

But now it’s just me and this empty building full of bits and peices I’ve slowly started to collect back into the whole.  It’s like picking up a deck of cards that has been flung around and slowly trying to get them to fit back into the box.  I worry that the best work of my life is behind me.  That I’ve already written it.  I want to drag it out and show it off, but that part of my life is over.

So now I just have zygotes of stories and quiet.

The scariest part of all of this is that I wonder ALL THE TIME if I need to be miserable, to hate myself, to make something visceral and beautiful with words.  When Jacob left me, I wrote.  When my friend needed to walk away from me because I was killing myself, I wrote.  The pain was impetus.  It’s hard to write when I’m happy.  It’s hard for me to explain the beauty I see in the world when I’m content because I feel so FULL now.  I’m not empty anymore and I’m not scribbling imaginary friends onto the page because I need something to make me feel complete.

**

I went to a bonfire last night.  Boys were tossing around a football and lounging against each other’s shoulders.  Two girls sat to my right, bickering in high laughing voices about whether or not the darker haired one was dating her ex.  Across the fire sat a guy whose face had been beaten over the years by wild irish rose and crack pipes.  He smiled crookedly at me and I wondered if his gums got cold.  I curled up onto the bench and just watched them float around me, sparking with the fire and breathing in smoke.  I kept my voice low, quiet, an unconscious ploy to make them lean in to hear me.  I was stealing moments of togetherness and laughter.

“This is Meagn, she’s new here.” I’d nodded my hellos and stood solidly in my Chuck Taylors as each person shook my hand.  I kept looking around for my friend Kate, but she’s in California now.  I didn’t have Johnny G and his moutainous shoulders and wide thick palms to pat me on the back while I struggled to find balance.  There was no Jacob to curl against and hum quiet nothings against his jaw in the firelight.

I grinned at the stories.  I walked to the store and talked to the new boy with his twitchy little walk.  I kept reminding myself that these people knew my story, without me even having to tell it.  Some of them went further into the dark hole of addiction and some got out much earlier.

I’d listened to a complete stranger tell me his story only a couple of hours before. “All I’d ever wanted was to be loved and understood.  AA gave me that.  You people love me.  You people understand.”

So sitting with my feet propped against the bricks circling the fire, feeling my toes grow toasty while my nose was cold.  I relaxed, just a little bit.

**

One day I’ll tell my story.  One day I’ll write it all down and I won’t be afraid.

Meet my muse.

I’m forcing myself to write tonight.

**

When I was in the eight grade I won a national writing competition.  They announced it over the intercom to the whole school and everyone congratulated me.  I felt like a cheat. What they didn’t know was the first line of the story was totally plagiarized from Dean Koontz.  Hell, I think the concept was too.  I’d just needed something to start from.

That’s one of the major problems with my relationship to writing.  I have trouble starting.  I over think it.

I imagine my audience bored.  I imagine them reading something I put down and cringing- wondering why the hell they bothered.  They scoff at my word choice while deconstructing my terrible grammar.  They pick out the comma splices.  They know what a gerund is and frown on my pacing.  But worse? Worse is: “Oh, this is nice.”

I think y’all get it.  So I’m terrified of being a failure.  I’m frozen in place most of the time with the thought of just being average.

**

Sometimes I imagine my muse is a drunk like me.  She shows up with grass stains on the knees of her jeans and Chuck Taylors that are held together with Duct tape and pure will power.  She hasn’t shaved and the dark dusting of hairs under her arms are visible when she yawns and lounges back on my couch.  She has a beer gut and dirty hair.  She’s always wearing a faded grey t-shirt that rolls along her collarbone from when she ripped out the neckline falling out of a tree.  It also explains the bruises on her biceps, but not the ones on her hip. Her mascara is slept in, flecks of it freckle the bags under her eyes.  She’s loud.  She’s crass.  She makes people think she’d fuck like a rockstar, but mostly she’s just bored with someone on top of her.  Of course, she’s slept with more people than I have.  Every guy I’ve looked twice at she’s had stretched out and whimpering.  Every girl that I’ve noticed has begged with a soft mewling “please” with their fingers locked tight in her hair.  She’s my id.  She’s fun, but trashy.  She’s witty, but not very nice.

She’s who I was when I drank and I haven’t seen her in a long time.  I think she’s been crankily sobering up with me.  She’s the one who imagines the whirlwind tours of the Cote du Rhone region in france.  She’s the one sipping gruner vetliner while licking the citrusy ceviche from some hot Argentinian’s fingers.  She’s been angry at me.

But screw her.  I can do this.

Each time I stop myself mid lie she stamps her foot like a two year old in the back of my head. (Which oddly enough looks like my kitchen.)  We argue all the time.  She wants the old routine:

Grab the bottle of Jameson, twist the cap, grip it tight and swig.  Then light the cigarette, inhale, exhale, and start to write.  Write vivid poetic things that taste like those sticky honey colored sunbeams that slink in through my window in the morning.  Write haunting heartbreaking things that catch in my throat like cat’s cradle.  Tear things apart, rend them limb from limb.  Bite, claw, chew!

She wants me to delicately eviscerate myself in my characters.  She wants me to bleed out, gasping at the power of words.

She has an angular walk, like she’s going to knife someone.  She has full red lips and one crooked tooth.  She sings and the world goes dim.  She makes the colors brighter, the focus grittier, and gives me a soundtrack.

She’s not satisfied that I’m just the girl on the couch.  She’s not happy that I’m not perfect.  She points out where my bra cuts into the flesh on my back and pokes me in the side right where she knows the skin will give the most.  She keeps me insecure, because that makes me vulnerable.  It makes my skin itch and my stomach turn when I hear someone laugh. They’re laughing at me.

She sits cross legged in the corner of my living room and thumbs through my books.  She laughs at my jokes and makes me coffee. She’s the boys that made fun of me in middle school and the boys that walked out of my life.  She’s the friend who grabbed my hand in high school and made me feel a part of something bigger than myself, and the one who closed the door in my face while I cried.

She’s the five year old girl inside of me that just wants to be loved.

**

My muse is a drunk like me.  She is me, and I’m working on getting better at knowing her without becoming her.

Jameson used to be the love of my life. Then we broke up.

Firstly, mad props to the mommy melee for the rockin’ header. Nailed it in one!  Also, my girl? She’s got posse, and they roll deep.  Thanks to all y’all who popped by for my fledgling run.  It was quite humbling to come home from work to such thoughtful comments.

***

The day I realized I needed to quit drinking I woke up in my neighbor’s bed and I couldn’t find my pants.  I think I tried to steal a boat.  One of those badass clipper ship sail boat things like in Romancing the Stone.  I’m pretty sure I’d been setting shots on fire at the bar and making a general douchebag of myself.  I’m pretty sure I puked and rallied.

Thing is, I’d gone out for one drink.  Just a beer with my boy (whose name I cannot remember now) to celebrate his birthday.  He drove a beautiful yellow and black ford falcon that I’d named Roxy Falcone.  Because it’s sacrilegious to own a bitchin’ car and not have a name for it.  The seats were black and the steering wheel stuck, but it was a convertible.  I wanted it, so I figured if I slept with him, I’d get it.  Jameson does weird things to my brain.

He was a nice guy with a face that was bland like mashed potatoes.  He had red hair that was fading in the florida sun and I’m pretty sure there were dimples.  He was sweet and owned a house and had plans.  He was exactly the kind of guy I liked to take out and mess up a bit.  Mostly because people shouldn’t just be so damn happy all the time.  Not when I was so miserable.  I just wanted to break things, all the time.

So I woke up, searched for my pants and tried to remember if I’d driven.  I scurried across the street and left him passed out in a sprawl of sheets.  My mouth tasted like I’d been licking the catbox.  I sat down on my carport- conveniently fleshed out with a futon, dart board, and a coffee table made out of a door I’d found that was littered from one end to the other with beer cans.  My lawn, I smirk to even call it that, was full of beer caps, and I’m pretty sure the youngsters I drank with pissed around the corner.  Oh yea, I was THAT neighbor.

My hands were shaking.  They’d been shaking for years.  A drunk tremble that only went away when I sampled the plethora of wines at work before my shift.  I couldn’t get my cigarette lit and suddenly I was crying.  I was disgusted with myself.  I was filthy.  My shower didn’t have hot water and I’m pretty sure the sink was full of cockroaches and dried macaroni.  Twenty nine year olds shouldn’t be living on macaroni and crying on their front porch at noon on a Tuesday.  Rockstars could always light their cigarettes.  Of course, rockstars also had musical talent.

So I did something I had never done before.  I asked for help.  Really asked.  I was tired of feeling like I didn’t fit in my own skin.  I was sick, that sort of sick that feels like I’d been gutted with a melon ball and filled with tacks and tar.  It’s like my life was that tooth that rotted from the inside; it still looked pretty on the outside, but every time I touched it- pain.

That was over two years ago.  I still haven’t had anything to drink, but that feeling still comes back.  I eat too much, wank too much (although I really wonder if that’s possible), and I’m still awkward in my own skin.

But today it rained and the ground was slick.  The lights of my neighbors porchlamp make the sidewalk glow.  There’s a gecko clinging to the ceiling and staring at me while I write.  The science of this ability still makes my heart hurt at the beauty of it.  There are atoms whirling chaotically and one plus one still equals two.

Today I’m just that girl who sits outside barefoot and inhales the wet air with a feeling close to happy.  I know I have to go inside at some point and vaccuum, put the laundry in the correct pile, do my dishes, and scoop the litter box.  Right now though?  I just want to listen to the rain.

And return those damn movies to blockbuster before they make me buy them.