There's a new little book in the world that I'm very proud of. It's called The Roustabout Heart, Adventures in Recovery. It's currently available at Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com in both print and Kindle formats.
I hope you'll check it out and let me know what you think. I'd love to hear from you.
There was this red-headed boy named Daniel. Man, was I gone on him. I had no business pursuing Daniel or any other young men at the time. Technically, I was still married. But that didn't stop me from longing for love. The slot was open, and I desperately needed it filled.
I was attracted to Daniel because he looked my way. All I ever needed was an ounce of attention. He stared at me as if I were a train wreck that just kept happening, over and over. It wasn't a particularly nice feeling, but I took what I could get. Of course, I wanted him to be interested in who I was, so I pretended to be someone interesting. Looking back, I spent a great deal of time and effort trying to convince guys that I was a good idea.
Initially, Daniel was reluctant to sleep with me. He wasn't quite 21 when we met. I was a cradle-robbing hag of 24, nearly divorced with a toddler. I wouldn't say I forced myself on him, but I was persistent. And it was clear that he enjoyed getting laid. Even though I was never casual in my approach to sex, I was extremely accommodating.
Daniel was in the Air Force, and he worked second shift. He came over after midnight. I drank all evening and got high while I waited. When he finally showed up, we went at it like animals. We never ate supper together or rented movies. I don't recall any dates. We fucked, and he left.
Wait a minute, there was this one time we were at a restaurant. We ordered food and a bucket of beers. I ran a red light that night and broadsided another vehicle filled with teenage boys. They were stoned. I totaled my car. Daniel wasn't wearing a seatbelt. His face got busted up pretty badly when he hit the windshield. I took some bruises to the inside of my thighs from the steering column. I guess that would count as a date - albeit, a shitty one.
Daniel talked about this girl named Becky. She was still in high school, back home in Missouri. Becky this, and Becky that. Becky's shy. She babysits and helps out at church. Who gives a shit? Fuck Becky, I thought. "Fuck me," I begged.
Sometimes he'd call her, right after we had sex. I could hear her voice through the telephone. She sounded like a nitwit. Her whole boringly idiotic life still ahead of her.
"What's so great about Becky, anyway?" I asked as we lay there, tangled up in the stale sheets we'd pulled right off the mattress.
"Well, for one, she's smart enough to not have kids yet." Daniel smiled as he stated his position.
Right then and through no fault of his own, my child became a problem. I felt my heart drop, roll off the bed and break open, but I couldn't bring myself to check on its condition. My focus was on this arrogant young man who didn't love me and never would.
"I'm not gonna be your boyfriend," Daniel told me, many times.
"I just don't want to."
"How could you say that?" I cried. "I don't understand."
I sit in front of the typewriter at my job, with a seven page list of customers on my lap. A box of unaddressed envelopes on the side table to my left and a small stack of completed ones on the right. Clerical stuff is monotonous, but I enjoy it. Plus, I can type really fast - 95 words a minute, with hardly any errors. It's like a cool party trick.
Speed is the perfect drug for a young typist like myself. I can blast through documentation, labels, invoices and estimates. The work I do isn't particularly challenging, but I am precise and detail-oriented. I like neat piles and clean correspondence. And most of all, I adore compliments.
I also answer the phones at the main desk. I am friendly and conversational. I love talking to people, especially when I'm high. My boss doesn't really like when my co-workers hang around the reception area. He says it looks like we're having too good a time. Everybody scatters when they see him get off the elevator after lunch. They reassemble for conversation once he leaves for the day.
I tell stories about my family. My mother, especially. I miss her the most. I make the rough stuff sound funny. I prefer when my audience is laughing.
I know my mom is disappointed in me. What can I say? I am a disappointment. I keep fucking shit up. I'm sorta glad I live so far away. I am completely out of touch with everything back home. I can do what I want now. But I want her to love me. And I can't figure out how to make that happen.
I work with architects and interior designers. A few guys and a lovely group of women. Proper southern ladies. One is named Lynda. She gave me a bunch of clothes from when she was younger. Some pretty dresses and suits that don't fit her anymore. They're not necessarily what I'd pick for myself, but she gets so excited whenever she sees me in her outfits. I try to wear them often because she's so nice.
I keep a metal Sucrets tin in my purse. It's filled with Dextro-amphetamines. Dexies are my favorite kind of speed. I have other pills, as well. My less popular leftovers are stored in a small, black film canister. They're all different shapes and colors. I love having drugs in my bag.
I pinch out two and two, every twenty or thirty minutes. Sometimes more, sometimes less. I don't count how much I take. I just refill the containers each morning. I address them as I would vitamins. As a matter of fact, I don't even do vitamins. But I sure as shit do these.
My hangovers vary in severity, depending on how much I drank the night before and whether or not I've slept. I try to keep it together during the day as far as the speed goes. I hate getting too cranked up. But hey, I'm no scientist.
And like I said, I'm not counting. All I know is by the end of the day, I definitely need a drink.
Five o'clock, and I am out the door. I'm super wired and glad to walk. Heading toward the parking deck, my mind is spinning and unfocused. I count the steps as I go. I see my vehicle. It is gold. I bet I will reach the car in seventy steps. Closer, closer. Sixty, sixty one, sixty two - and I am there with eight steps to spare. What will I do with these extra eight steps?
I search my bag for the keys. They're not in here. Shit. I stop and dump the contents onto the pavement. I find them, unlock the door and get in. I start the engine and drive.
My teeth are clenched. My fists are clenched. My thumbs are tucked inside two sets of four fingers on each hand. For a second, I panic and think I only have eight fingers. I forget about the thumbs. But then, I remember. So I add those two to the other eight, which makes ten altogether and I feel better.
I squeeze my thumbs to remind myself they are still there. Both hands at the same time and then alternately, left and right. I squeeze until they start to hurt. I dig my nails into the center of my palms. I shake out my wrists because it feels like my hands might climb up inside my arms and disappear.
I've gotta get home. I have so much to do. I can't believe how much needs to get done. I make a list in my mind so I won't forget anything, but the list gets too long. And the longer it gets, the more I forget what's on the list. At the top or even in the middle.
All I know is as soon as I get everything done, everything will be okay. And everything will be okay as soon as I get home. Then I can get what I need to do done.
First, I will go get the baby. No, wait. First, I will go to the liquor store. But first, I need to stop and get gas. I am almost on empty. What was I just thinking? Oh, yes. Gas. And while I am there, I will buy beer. After that, I will go to the liquor store and get wine. Then I will go get the baby.
Jesus Christ, I am busy.
I get what I need. Only now, there is traffic. How will I ever collect my child? Suddenly, my reasonable commute is a stagnant death crawl with no end in sight. All cars are frozen, and the highway is a parking lot. I am trapped in a small cage on wheels. But hey, at least I have beer!
I pry one of the Millers from the six-pack I bought at the gas station. Good thing I am in the right lane. I turn my head away from the vehicle to my left and take a nice, long pull. I swallow and swallow and swallow until I need a breath. I tuck the can between my legs and wipe my mouth on the back of my hand.
I recalibrate my vision, staring straight ahead. Eyes on the road, I creep forward several inches. I shake the can to gauge its contents. Act natural, Mary. I angle myself accordingly and drain what's left.
There is no movement on the road, and my brain is upset. My body needs to go in order for this kind of high to work properly. I lick my index finger and press it into my lozenge box full of pills. Four is good, plus two more. I feel really tired.
I grab another beer and try to relax a bit. My eyelids begin to close. They are like heavy hotel drapes, hanging right beneath my forehead. Fuck. I may doze off if I'm not careful. Right here while I'm driving. All activity above my neck is powering down. My head tips back momentarily and jerks forward.
Double fuck. I'm pretty sure I'm asleep. I scrunch my eyes closed tightly and open them quick in efforts to shock my face. I do this a few times and slap my cheeks really hard, but nothing helps. I am sandbagged. I try to figure out how much I slept the night before. I went to bed at 4:30 and woke up at 6. That's not a whole lot of time.
And shit! I am right on top of the car ahead of me. Startled, I slam on the brakes. My nose hits the steering wheel and immediately starts to bleed. I have no tissues, so I tear off a small piece of the paper bag that holds my booze. I moisten it on my tongue to make it soft and jam it up my nostril.
There is blood on my pants. Goddammit, these are good pants. In my mind, I begin scrubbing the stain. I add 'wash pants' to the list of things I have to do once I get home. For Chrissake, I just have to get home! And get that baby.
When the congestion finally lets up, I pass a tow truck, two police cars and an ambulance. Several motorists exchange information. It doesn't appear as though anyone involved is seriously injured, but they do look upset and rightly so. Accidents are upsetting.
I wonder what would happen if I were in an accident. Who would even know? I have no husband, no boyfriend. I'm all alone down here in Little Rock, but I tell you what... I'm not going back to New York. No fucking way. It's bad enough my mother can't stand me long-distance.
All three lanes are wide open, so I hit the gas. What a relief to be moving again. I speed up faster than I should, agonizing over relationships I don't have and can't change.
Fuck it. I should just keep my eyes shut until I roll this piece of shit. Take it right up over the divider and keep going into that blanket of weeds. I don't wanna die or nothing, but I wouldn't mind the attention. Construction workers will see my crash and run toward the action. They'll rush me to the hospital, and I will sleep for three days straight.
When I wake up, my mom will be there. She'll tell me how much she loves me. Deep down, I know she does. I really like that idea.
I have no idea how to get a divorce. I kinda wish Jason would just go away and give me money every month - so I can pay for daycare, groceries and wine.
If he moves out, I know he's gonna want to take all the decent records with him. It's only fair - they were his to begin with. Practically the only albums I'll have left to listen to will be Quarterflash and Sammy Hagar. What was I thinking? That music really sucks.
Maybe he'll just leave without them, but it's unlikely. He loves Total Coelo too much.
When Jason's unit left on rotation for Europe, I went completely bananas. I'd already been unfaithful, so I decided it didn't matter anymore what I did and with whom. I thought by sleeping with every guy who seemed remotely interested, I'd be demonstrating just how sophisticated and self-sufficient I was.
I wouldn't exactly call myself a slut. But only because deep down, I felt like all I needed was a new relationship. A fresh start with somebody different. Sluts don't want boyfriends, do they?
By the time my unsuspecting husband returned to Little Rock, I barely gave him time to unpack before I insisted he move out. He arranged for a room in the dorms. It was like Jason never even knew what hit him. Probably because nothing I said made any sense.
He showed up one afternoon with a green canvas duffel bag. He emptied the top two drawers of the bureau and took his shoes from the closet. Kirin stood behind the end table in the living room, playing with his little cars and quietly taking a dump in his diaper.
"Don't make like you didn't know this was gonna happen," I yelled into the bedroom.
"Like what was gonna happen? I don't understand anything that's going on!"
"Maybe we can get back together. I don't know. But for right now, I just need some space."
He didn't look that enthused. I knew he didn't give a shit. And what did I tell you? He took all the good fucking records.
On Thursday evenings, my friends and I go to the dance club on base. Jason came with us the first few times we went, but it's not his thing. He doesn't like the music or the people. He usually has a few beers, then gets tired and starts yawning. Plus, we have to pay for a babysitter if we're out together. It's hardly worth the trouble.
I can't wait for this party every week. I start drinking as soon as I get home from work. I take a shower and change into some crazy shit clothes. I buy old blazers and polyester skirts from the Salvation Army. I match them with combat boots, leotards and beads. I like how I dress. I think it's edgy. Most people tell me I look strange, and I take that as a compliment.
The girls and I meet up at one of their apartments. We have a few glasses of wine. I bring some dope. They like to party, and I make a little money. This way, I can pay for more. I'm smart like that.
Almost all my pals are single, and they do not want to stay that way. These local ladies are on the hunt for military husbands. We are between the ripe ages of 19 and 24, and evidently, the clock is ticking. No uniform escapes close investigative scrutiny.
I can't help wishing I wasn't married. I want to be free like they are. My relationship is a drag. I'm glad I have my son. Kirin is a delightful child, and I love being his mother. I just don't want to be with Jason anymore. The only time I even try getting close to him is when I'm already plastered. The results are always a tragic mess. And after that, I'm embarrassed for days.
Jason seems like he can barely tolerate me, anyway. For the most part, we steer clear of one another without incident. We both have work and other stuff to do. We take turns being parents. I get the feeling he thinks everything will improve once his service commitment is completed, and he is released from the Air Force. Only two more years, and we can go back to New York. He talks about it all the time.
I don't want to wait that long for my life to mean something. I finish cutting slices of lime and arrange them on a paper plate for tequila shots. I stand at someone's kitchen counter, combining the remains of three near empty bottles of wine into one glass. I knock it down the back of my throat and twist open a beer. What's wrong with being happy right now?
It felt like I blinked, and somebody put a baby in my lap. When I blinked again, I was bored with the young man I had that baby with. By the time I blinked the third time, I found myself on the top bunk in some Army guy's dorm room.
"You're gonna need to get outta here. I have to wake up in an hour."
"Can you at least drive me back to my car?" I asked.
"No. I'm tired."
He rolled over and faced the wall, pulling the sheet up from the bottom of the bed. I looked out the window and tried to figure out what time it was.
"I mean it," he said. "You gotta leave."
And just like that, my first marriage was over.
I picked up the phone and called my mother one night, way too drunk to pretend I wasn't.
"I think I want a divorce."
"Why?" she asked.
"I'm just not happy, Mom." I started crying.
No argument there.
"Does he hit you?"
"Is he fooling around?"
"Then, what's the problem?"
"I feel sad."
"Jesus Christ, you need to straighten up and stop your complaining. The world doesn't give two goddamns how unhappy you are. I've been miserable since the moment I met your father. And guaranteed, I'll be sucking up a steady diet of his crap 'til the day I die."
This was my parents' love story. I'd heard it many times before. I did not want their torment for myself. I tried to have something different, but I didn't know what I was doing.
"Whatever this is, get over it," my mother said. "Sail your dumb ass to bed and sober the fuck up. Do you hear me?"
"You've got that baby to take care of. And for Christ sake, don't get pregnant again."
I can't remember what my response was when she was done with her advice. Probably more crying.
I'm not sleeping much anymore. I like to think the speed takes care of that. It gives me jolts of energy that keep me moving when I'm tired. Ordinarily, I try not to hit the pills too hard during the day when I'm at my job. It's different once I'm home — I can drink, and my high is perfect. But when I'm at work, it's hard to concentrate. It's so difficult to be still. My flesh has to work very hard just to stay inside my skin. I also get afraid I might be having a heart attack.
I make up little rules about the drugs and break them. No powder, just pills. No popping before 4:30. I change the time to 3 pm. Try to at least hold off until after lunch. I am hung over and exhausted most mornings, so that seems to work out. I can't keep anything in my stomach before noon anyway.
It's the same with the drinking in the evenings. Quit by midnight. 2 am. C'mon, get some sleep. But I won't lie down. I love this feeling so much that I can't bear to be away from it. I don't want to miss a minute.
This evening, I ran all the way to the parking deck — just to run. When I got to my car, my throat was burning. It was like I could eat my own heart. I think and know these extra thoughts in my brain now that make me feel more alive and interesting. Life is dangerous and exciting. I never want to not be doing this.
I cruise along for a little bit and blast the radio. I want the other drivers to hear the songs I play and admire my taste in music. I smile and wave at guys as we pass one another. It's a silly game, and I like the attention.
I pull off the highway and into the liquor store parking lot. I load up on my usual supplies - beer and wine. Plus, several ice cold tall boys. I have to pick up the baby and do a thousand things.
At the counter, an older gentleman stands to my right. He is dressed for the office, with his tie loosened and sleeves rolled up. Clearly, he is finished working for the day. He stares at me as if we know one another. I smile and pay for my booze.
"I love that smile," he says. "I followed it all the way here."
His comment makes me uneasy. I don't know who the fuck this guy is, but he's officially creeping me out. I slide my stuff across the counter and turn to leave. He grabs the bottle he's purchased, hustles to the door and holds it open.
"Where to?" he asks.
"I'm going home," I tell him.
"I'll come with you."
Shit, shit, shit.
I walk quickly toward my vehicle. He follows me, whistling through his teeth.
"Sweet girl, I like what you've got."
I open the passenger door and toss my packages onto the floor. He presses himself against me, holding my wrist with one hand and my waist with the other.
"You got me hard," he whispers into the side of my face. His breath smells like old gum.
I twist myself around and push past him. I can't even believe this is happening. I am embarrassed and scared. Plus, he is old. I hurry to the driver's side and slip the key into the ignition. I pull away with him still leaning inside the car.
"Fucking cocktease," he yells as I hit the gas, and the door slams shut.
I take the service road for almost a mile and pull back onto the expressway. I keep checking the rearview mirror to see if he is following me. It's hard to tell because the sun has gone down, and the only things visible are headlights. They all look the same. Everyone is back there.
I reach over the seat and fumble for one of those loose beers. I crack it open and raise the can to my lips. I swallow and swallow and swallow until I need to take a breath. Then, I drink the rest until it is empty.
I did not ask for that, I think to myself. I didn't do anything wrong. Then, how come it feels like I did?