Monday, March 30, 2015

Stumbling Through The Dark

I left a bunch of empty beer cans behind in an upstairs closet when I left home. Maybe nine or ten.  I slid them into the pockets of my father's police coats and several winter jackets.  Some of them I tucked neatly inside shoes that my dad rarely wore.  Half a dozen more I dropped down the side of a large air conditioner that was stored in the alcove connecting my room to my mother's.  Three spent bottles of wine and a quart of vodka were stashed back there as well.

I did this on purpose.  So she could find them someday and get upset.  I wanted her to know something about me.  Something dark and worrisome.  I wanted her to acknowledge a portion of my pain.  As if she didn't have enough of her own.

Years later after I'd been sober for a while, I was changing somebody's diaper.  I can't remember whose.  I think it was Desmond's.  He was lying on my mother's bedroom rug, banging the television remote control against the air conditioner.  It sat on the floor next to the window, doubling as a plant stand in the winter months.

"Stop that," I told my son.  He looked at me boldly and continued with the noise.

Bang, bang, bang!

I took the device from his sweaty little hand and tossed it just beyond his reach, where it landed between the appliance and the wall.  When I finished refastening his trousers and sent him on his way, I leaned over to retrieve the remote.  I thought about all those bottles and cans.  I asked my mother whatever happened to them.

"Oh, Mary honey,  I blamed your father."

"That doesn't make sense, Mom.  He never hid shit from you."

"I realize that," she said, her eyes filling with tears.  "I just didn't want to think you were inside, drinking all by yourself.  It would have ripped my heart right out of my chest.  Besides, yelling at him has always been so easy."

Sunday, March 29, 2015

More is Less

She never mentioned him being gone.  I eavesdropped on phone conversations she shared with her sister, Joan and pieced together her side of the story.  Her version of his problem.  All tough talk and badass bullshit.  If my mother was scared or worried, she didn't let on.

She had no contingency plans in place for the times when things went south. Instead, she was swept up in the maelstrom of each catastrophe, riding the waves of chaos back to the shore.  Until everything went crashing against the dock.  The poor thing just picked up all the rubble, closed the blinds and stayed in the house for a couple of days.

She dumped whatever heartache my father caused her deep into the bottom of her well of unmet needs, where it echoed and called out to whoever would listen. That's how I knew something was down there.  I could hear it, and the sorrow drove me crazy.

He was hardly ever home to begin with, so it wasn't even like he was missing.  Nor was it clear where he actually went.  All I knew was that he'd gotten into trouble with the cops.  That's about it.

He wrote her two letters the whole time he was away, penned carefully in large print on PBA* stationery.  A handful of sentences.  Not a word about the drinking, the party - what exactly happened.  He didn't say he loved or missed us.  Just what they had him doing.  Exercises.  They barbecued.  He went fishing with some of the other men.  He sent a photograph of himself, standing in front of a lake.  He had no shirt on, and he was smiling.  He looked heavier and healthier than usual.

I wanted more.  More than what was in those letters.  More than what I was getting.  But there was nothing extra to have.  I started eating as an activity.  A distraction.  I could put food inside my body and change the way I felt.  I liked feeling full and safe.

I gained weight steadily.  My school uniform got snug, and I knew it wasn't gonna fit when the summer ended and I started sixth grade.  But I didn't say anything.  I thought about going on a diet, but I didn't know how.  I began every morning instructing myself not to eat so much.  And by lunchtime, I was starving.

I snuck things from the kitchen that I thought wouldn't be missed.  A can of Chef Boyardee ravioli, four slices of bread, a jar of brown gravy.  I squirreled these items away and ate them when no one was looking.  Without utensils or a dish.  Like an animal.

Sometimes, I got caught.  My mom found candy wrappers in my pants pockets. Empty bags of cookies and chips wedged behind the radiator.  A soggy cardboard container of ice cream under some clothes in my bedroom.

I flushed aluminum foil down the toilet and denied it.  Even when I sat on the edge of the bathtub and watched Uncle Mike pry the Reynolds' Wrap ball from the pipes, I acted surprised. He asked me if I did it.

"Your mother doesn't need to know," he suggested.

But I couldn't tell the truth.  I was too ashamed.

"It wasn't me."  I started crying.

He kneeled in front of the commode and looked at me over the top of his glasses, pushing them back up onto the bridge of his nose.  He wiped his sopping wet hands onto his shirt.

"Clean your face," he said.  "Then run downstairs and get me a beer."

I wished Uncle Mike was my father.  He always came when my mother needed him.  He drank, but he didn't fall apart.  And at least, he could fix stuff.

*Patrolman's Benevolent Association

Monday, March 23, 2015

Penetrating Insight

There was always booze in our home, growing up.  And everybody drank.  Beer, mostly.  The fridge was consistently lined with cold ones.  Two whole shelves dedicated to the cause.  Plus, additional cases piled high in the basement.  We had plenty at all times and never ran out.

As a kid, I saw very few bottles of wine.  There were delicate glasses kept on a high shelf over the stove, champagne flutes and a handful of goblets, but Mom and Dad never used them.  I'm pretty sure they were wedding gifts.  I got the impression that wine was way too fancy for our crew.  A luxury reserved specifically for ladies who weren't serious about their drinking.  And pussies.

Run-of-the-mill hard stuff was available, as well.  The inexpensive, yet effective kind.  Liquor was stored in one of two octagonal end tables in the living room.  My parents didn't tap these additional resources regularly.  Mixed drinks were generally reserved for company.  House parties.  I remember the first time I took a swig of something and tonic by accident.  I thought it was 7-Up.  I could not believe grown-ups drank that shit on purpose.  All the maraschino cherries in the world weren't gonna change my mind.

Although my folks approached alcohol with comparable zeal, they had very different styles and goals as far as drinking was concerned.  My mother wanted to mix it up and share a few laughs.  She could handle herself fairly well and ventured into most occasions, hoping to have a good time.  Unfortunately, her inability to control how her husband behaved prevented her from enjoying all that much.  As soon as she had a few beers, she became obsessed with his condition.  And rightly so.  He was our ride wherever we went.  And if he was wasted, we were screwed.

Dad was shy and uncomfortable in social settings.  He didn't know how to relax or make conversation.  He wasn't a gossip.  He did seem determined, however, to poison himself at every baby christening and First Holy Communion party we got invited to.  He either fell, shit his pants or both.

She might have been terrified, but Mom still chose these moments to pick fights with my dad.  She called him names and attempted to embarrass him.  It didn't do any good.  Most of the time, he was too far gone to be either combative or cooperative.  Besides, he was never a fighter anyway.  Like I said, he was a faller.

I hated coming home from school and seeing a bottle of gin or rye appear unceremoniously on the kitchen counter.  It didn't happen often, but it never ended pretty.  Hard liquor brought bigger problems than the usual Budweiser kind. My folks had a hard time gauging the effects of spirits.  Dad, in particular.  He's always been a glass half empty kind of guy.  And once that glass was emptied, it needed refilling.  Until he couldn't see straight.

I was always relieved when the dust settled.  When the vodka and whiskey were returned to the living room cabinet, and Mom and Dad went back to drinking just beer.

I think I was eleven when my father got drunk at a cop party and threatened to shoot somebody in the face.  The NYPD sent him to some facility in Virginia to dry out.  Several months of rehabilitative treatment.  When he came home, he was required to attend Alcoholics Anonymous meetings.  Every day for ninety days, so he could get his gun back and return to work.  But the cure didn't take.  He was drunk again by New Year's.

In the seventh grade, my teacher explained to the class what alcoholism was, and I decided both my parents had it.  My ears became highly tuned to the sound of the bottle opener.  I started counting all the empty cans in the garbage.

Eight beers is way too many for one person, I decided to myself.  And I told my mother so.

"You're drunk," I said.  This accusation did not go over well.

"Who the hell do you think you are?" she slurred.

Who did I think I was?  Nobody, really.
And what could I do about their drinking?  Not a damn thing.

I don't recall what happened to change the way I felt about alcohol, to make me come around to appreciating its appeal.  Nor do I remember exactly when I realized that I could have a go at whatever was in those bottles in the liquor cabinet if I wanted.  I may have been about fourteen.  I rinsed out a Prell shampoo bottle and loaded it up with a combination of booze so foul, my little girlfriends and I had to hold our noses to swallow it down.

Some of my them balked when I suggested we do it again.  The buzz was short-lived, the shit tasted nasty and the headache that came on its heels lasted for days. They didn't see the point, whereas I only saw the possibilities.  I'm a glass half-full kind of girl.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Spring Contest!

Here are the simple requirements for winning this month's awesome Spring Contest:

1.  Underneath the Spring Contest section on the website, look for Networked Blogs (Like on Facebook).
2.  Click the BLUE Follow This Blog button.
3.  When the next screen pops up, click Follow to add yourself to the directory.

That's it!  The drawing will be held this Monday evening.  There are lots of sweet prizes and river otter socks.  Two chances to win.  Good luck to everyone!

And thanks, as always, for reading and supporting High Wire Girl.

Monday, March 16, 2015


My mother saw me getting out of this guy's van on Castle Hill Avenue one Sunday morning.  She and my father were just leaving ten o'clock mass at St. Raymond's. I hadn't seen either of my parents since the day I moved out.  They looked older, even though it had only been a few months.  She walked behind him as they headed toward his car.

I don't remember whose party it was.  It's not important.  I was just getting a lift home.  We sat for a few minutes and listened to the radio.  I gathered my crap from the back seat.  Like I said, he was just some guy who was nice enough to drop me off close to where I lived.

I saw my mom right away as I opened the door and hopped out of the vehicle.  She paused in front of the rectory, one hand on her hip.  Boring holes right through me with her angry eyes, she said nothing.  I stood there, hungover and momentarily frozen in one spot.

My ride pulled away from the curb, executing a flashy u-turn in the middle of the road, complete with screeching tires.  When he stopped abruptly a few yards away, I ran toward the driver's side window.

"Hey, girl.  You forgot something!" Party Guy shouted.

He threw a jacket at my feet.  I picked it up and gave him the finger.  He sped away, beeping the horn twice and waving.

Had my mother not been a witness to this exchange, the whole thing probably would have been super funny.  But with her there, not so much.

It isn't what it looks like, I thought.  But what did it matter?  She was gonna think whatever the fuck she wanted anyway.

I turned on my heels toward Zerega Avenue and that dreary little apartment on Fuller Street.  I picked up the pace, hoping to put some distance between my mother and I before she had a chance to tear me to shreds.  She looked like she might.

"That's right, dummy.  Keep running!" she called out over the sound of cars whizzing past and the church bells marking my time.

My sandal strap broke as I crossed the street, and I nearly fell.  I hurried around the corner, carrying my shoe.

Friday, March 13, 2015


I really need to clean out my pocketbook.  It's disgusting in there.  I just haven't gotten to it.  Instead, I carry all this extra junk around with me, these little souvenirs from nowhere particularly noteworthy.

I probably should make a point of dumping most of the crap out into the trash. Start fresh.  I bet it'd be less work to simply remove all traces of my identification, douse the sack in lighter fluid and toss a match.  Walk away in slow motion as the fire ignites and sets off a chain reaction to the gasoline truck parked adjacent to the fuel pumps.  As the massive 'kaboom' lights up the sky, I can saunter calmly toward the Kangaroo in search of orange soda.  Gosh, I love a clean slate scenario. And soda.

This morning when I was in the Kangaroo securing my breakfast beverage, the gentleman standing in line behind me approached the front counter with a question.

"Would you happen to have a pen?" he inquired politely.

"I do," I volunteered.

I knew I had at least twenty five of them in my bag of useless keepsakes.  Quite frankly, I was thrilled for the opportunity to dispatch even the smallest portion of my garbage.  I gladly offered him one.

"Keep it," I insisted.

While swirling my hand around the bottom of this portable abyss, I also found some candy I forgot was in there.  I offered to share that, as well.

"What is it?" he asked.

"Nerd Rope.  It's a gummy licorice string with little pieces of sugar glued all over."

I should have quit while I was ahead.  As I was explaining the chemical composition of this tasty treat, it started to dawn on me that perhaps Nerd Rope might be a little too intimate a share with a complete stranger in line at the convenience store.  But I was so excited that this random individual had come into my life and asked for something I actually had.  How often does that happen?  A situation where one person requests a specific item and the other person is in a position to oblige.  It's a remarkable exchange.  So I hung onto the celebratory magic of the moment.  Too much coffee might very well have had something to do with that extra boost of generosity, but that's neither here nor there.

"No, thank you," he replied.

Suit yourself, I thought.

I completed my purchase and returned to my vehicle, unwrapping what was left of the candy I can't remember buying.  Had we been to the movies?  I guess so, but when?  How long have I been carrying this magnificent treasure around?  I wish I knew I had it with me last Tuesday.  I was so hungry coming back from the podiatrist with my dad.  I reached down under the driver's seat and fished around for some almonds or maybe a few pieces of cereal while I waited at the light. Nothing.

I guess it doesn't matter.  I'm just really glad I came across it when I did.  If I could make a wish for anything worth finding in my pocketbook, it would be delicious Nerd Rope.  It is inarguably the pinnacle of confectionary technology.

I wonder what else I've got in this bag.  Perhaps I'll take another look later.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Hands Off, She's Mine...

Parties!  God, I love them.  But they make me nervous.  I drink before I get there.  It helps me loosen up.  I have a few beers.  Maybe two or three glasses of wine.  I listen to music and get dressed.

I wonder who I'll meet and see.  I imagine conversations I might have.  I look forward to the laughter and energy that comes off a group of people all eager to do the same thing.  Mingle, kick back and have fun.  These are my favorite activities.

I pin all of my hopes and dreams on this particular occasion.  I prepare the most outlandish expectations.  I cannot see beyond the moment that's about to occur. Nor do I want to.  Right now is all that I require.  A little money, the clothes on my back and the pills in my pocket.  I am totally focused.  I am good at parties. Tonight will change my life.  I believe this.

I hook up with some friends, and we hop in a cab.  I'm not sure of the address, but I don't really care about the details.  Another girl knows.  I talk about whatever comes to the front of my brain.  Loose thoughts encouraged by the drinks I've already had, that joint we smoked.  I can feel myself leave the gate open in my mind.  All the plastic toy animals skip into the pasture and roll around on their backs.  They bask in the sunshine of an unconventional freedom.  Hey, man.  You have your high, and I have mine.

I can hear music from down the street, and I start to get excited.  The place is mobbed with guests.  The doorway is a sweaty gauntlet of barely moving bodies, all gripping bottles of Budweiser and red plastic cups.  I am groped by friendly strangers as I squeeze through.  It is thrilling.  I find my way to the keg in the kitchen and establish my lifeline to the evening's events.

I hardly know anybody here, and for a minute, I'm intimidated.  But as long as I have a drink in my hand, I feel better.  It gives me something to do while I assess the situation.  It seems like lots of kids are in college, and I don't know what the fuck they're talking about.  They rattle on, discussing their course loads and professors, subjects and lectures.  Yeah, yeah, whatever.  I feel like I want to just throw myself on the ground.

Look, I was smart in high school.  I got good grades.  But I chose to go to work and get my own place, make some money.  Even though I struggle and I'm clueless as far as saving anything I earn.  Studying is stupid.  Then why am I so jealous of something I don't want?

I'm in a grown-up world now, an employee in a huge company.  Joseph E. Seagram & Sons, distiller of fine wines and spirits!  This is my destiny, I tell myself.  But when I go to my job, I feel like a little kid.  No one takes me very seriously.  How can they?  I don't know that much about life or business.  I pretend I do.  It's exhausting, and I am bored.

I slept with my boss, and things got weird.  I transferred to one of the marketing companies in another building across town.  The guy I report to now is a nervous little man, the work is a snore and I'm just not into it.  Thank God there's alcohol. We get to take home booze all the time when the labels are stained or torn.  Plus, it's easy to steal bottles.  The shit's laying around everywhere, and nobody's counting.

I love drinking.  It's such a magical part of everything.

Now, where were we?  Oh, right.  The party.

So I'm talking with this guy, Chris.  He's a student at St. John's, I think.  He lives in the dorm with one of Jill's brothers.  Or maybe they have a lab together.  I don't know, actually.  I guess he's cute, and he seems interested in me.  He asked if I have a boyfriend.  I told him 'yes,' and that he's in the Air Force.  I started explaining my relationship with Jason, and then I realized he doesn't really care. It's not like I feel as though I belong to anybody, anyway.  I'm just floating around in the right now.

Hours pass, and I'm having a great time.  In case you're wondering, I am wasted. My friends want to go home, but I'm determined to stay.  I can't seem to find Chris, but I don't think I'm looking too diligently either.  There's another guy. Ernie.  Or Bernie, maybe.  He's got coke, and I have money.  We are a good match.

Here's when it always gets ugly, that moment when the rubber meets the road. The girls want to leave.  They have classes in the morning.  My heart's breaking for them.  They remind me that we came together.  I tell them I appreciate the ride, but I'm not going anywhere.  Don't worry, I'll find my way home.  We hug goodbye and I can tell that they're pissed, but I'm not currently concerned about their feelings.

I shrug it off and dash down the hallway, into the back bedroom where all the kids who don't have school tomorrow settle in for what's next.  Perhaps drugs are my area of study, a specialty to which I seem to be devoting more and more time and effort.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

The Weed in Her Garden

John was my mother's upstairs neighbor.  A nice enough guy, I suppose - friendly and outgoing.  He worked for the cable company.  Some kind of installation technician.  He could have benefited from a couple more showers a week, but that's just my personal preference regarding routine cleanliness.  Everybody's different.

John drove a small, red convertible.  A Chrysler Sebring, I think.

"Fancy wheels," I suggested to my dad one morning.  We carried garbage past his vehicle on our way to the dumpster.

"That car's for ladies," he replied.

"Are you kidding?  I was gonna get you one."

"Why?  I'm not a lady."

It didn't take much to turn Big Mare's head, however.  Butcher, doctor, priest, pizza guy - she didn't really have a type.  John carried the laundry basket down the stairs for her and unclogged my parents' toilet twice when Mom couldn't find the super.  He took a screwdriver and unearthed all the dandelions that grew in the cracks between the front steps so she could sweep them up.  She instantly developed a crush on him.

"John's divorced," she confided over coffee and Munchkins at the Dunkin Donuts.  "His ex-wife fooled around on him."

"Says who?"

"He told me.  I've seen her in the parking lot.  She's a dirty-looking bitch.  I wish I knew someone to fix him up with.  Too bad you're married."

"Yuck," I protested.

"He's such a nice guy."  Her voice trailed off.

"Well, maybe Daddy will die soon, and you can go out with him."

"That's never gonna happen," she said wistfully.  "They have a little girl, you know.  Kayla.  Kylie.  Carla.  Anyway, such a pretty face.  But the poor thing is heavyset.  She'll be a whale in no time."

"That's too bad."

Mom looked down at the diminishing container of treats.

"How many of these have I eaten?  Did you notice?" she asked.

"I'm not sure, but the box is half empty.  Maybe you should stop.  You don't wanna give yourself a bellyache.  What'd you have for breakfast, anyway?"

"Tums.  No, I'm wrong.  Metamucil."


John this and John that.  The John Lovefest went on for several months.  Until one day, my mother came across a joint in the hallway, right outside her front door.

"I have to show you something," Big Mare whispered.  She pointed to the apartment above us and put her finger to her lips.  She immediately returned to her customary loudness.  

"Gene, go get that thing I found yesterday.  It's in the ice box."

Dad shuffled into the kitchen with his vague instructions.  So we waited a few moments.

"Your father thinks I'm stupid.  He's out there sneaking jelly.  Gene!" she shouted.

"Why do you keep bringing jelly into the house if you don't want him eating it?"

"I couldn't pass up the sale, honey.  It was 'Buy one, Get one free Smuckers.  The good shit."

Dad returned, carrying a large ziploc that contained a rather meagerly assembled doobie.  She snatched Exhibit A from his hands and thrust it in my direction.

"Is this what I think it is?"

I looked at the sad little cigarette, all alone and half frozen at the bottom of the bag.

"It's probably weed," I told her without examining the contents too carefully.

"No," she insisted.


"I knew it.  Son of a bitch.  And I trusted him."

I'd seen my mother like this before.  Reprogrammed by half-assed information. Intimately insulted by casual conduct.  It was a miracle she ever forgave my roster of indiscretions.  I didn't have the strength to rescue John.  Plus, I don't think he really cared as much as she did.  Actually, I'm almost certain.

"Mary, honey.  Tell your father to put this back in the refrigerator, will ya?"

"I'm gonna throw it in the garbage, Mom."

Fom that moment on, everything was changed as far as Big Mare's new ex-boyfriend went.  Marijuana had knocked John from the pedestal upon which my mother personally placed him.  She always took great pride in professing that she understood the drink, but not the drugs.  Never the drugs.  So selectively philanthropic.

I couldn't see the difference, really.  They both got you fucked up.  But I guess she felt that drugs were illegal and, therefore, unacceptable.  Case closed. Unbeknownst to John, he'd been demoted to the depths of Mom's shittiest shit list.

That evening after dinner, the telephone rang.  It was her.

"Listen, kid.  I smell something.  I think he's up there, smoking his pots."

"So what, Mom.  What are you gonna do?  Call the cops?"

"I wouldn't give him the satisfaction."

"Did you ever think maybe the poor guy has cancer?"   It wasn't an unreasonable assumption.  John looked like hell.  "It could be part of his treatment."

"I wish."

"C'mon, now.  That's not nice."

"Oh, I'm disgusted, Mary.  More disgusted than usual," she said and hung up.

The following week, we ran into John at the pizzeria across the street from my folks' apartment.

"Mrs. Dall, hey!" he called out cheerfully, shaking my father's hand.  I said 'hi.'

He stood there for a moment as my mother deliberately ignored him, facing the wall to avoid eye contact.  The exchange was incredibly awkward, especially since Big Mare was the only one who seemed to appreciate the point she was trying to prove.  These points were generally so overwhelmingly pointless, the experience often left her hapless victims somewhat stunned as a result.

After a silent minute, John ventured toward the counter to retrieve his greasy bag of lunchtime cheese and sauce.

"Okay, then.  Better get back to work."

"See ya, John."  Save yourself, I thought.

After he left, Mom leaned across the table.

"There was always something about that creep that rubbed me the wrong way," she said.

I watched through the window as John's cable van pulled out onto the avenue.

"My conversation with Lori confirmed it," she continued.

Oh dear, there's more.  Another new boyfriend.  Only this time, a girl.

"Who's Lori?" I asked, merely going through the motions.

"You know Lori."  I did not, by the way.  "She's his ex.  I ran into her at the A&P yesterday."

Here we go.

"I feel so sorry for that woman.  No wonder she left him.  I just wish I knew somebody to fix her up with."

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Ignore The Chaos

I lived with my sister and her husband twice.  They're no longer together but at the time, they owned a home on Long Island.  When I stayed with them initially, I had my own room.  It was a decent set-up.  But after their son was born and I returned to darken their doorstep several years later, I slept on a twin bed in the basement. All things considered, the accommodations were very nice.

Judy and Andy were school teachers for a while.  They had books all over the house. Rows and rows of literature, anthologies, college text material.  I was glad for these books.  I could pull a couple of novels to the front of a shelf and tuck my wine glass behind them.  Just in case either of them thought I might be drinking too much.

During the week, we all went to our jobs.  I took the train into the city.  We ate dinner together most evenings and after everyone was asleep, I drank all the beer and wine in the fridge.  I syphoned booze from their liquor cabinet and replaced it with water.  I raided their medicine chest.  I stole money from Andy's wallet and Judy's pocketbook.

On Friday nights, I walked across Vets' Highway to the liquor store.  I went next door to the pharmacy and loaded up on nasal decongestants, so I could make my drugs last longer.  Most weekends, my sister and brother-in-law tended to errands consistent with the maintenance of their household.  They stopped at the supermarket, Home Depot and Blockbuster Video.  They also liked going to Barnes and Noble, and a few times, I joined them.

Chain bookstores were just getting popular in the early 1990's.  I'd never seen anything like them.  I didn't understand why folks would want to buy books when they could just borrow them from the library.   Everyone looked so relaxed, engrossed in their selections or chatting quietly with companions.  I felt very anxious in this quiet space.  I remember wishing they sold drinks, like at a bar.  I also recall wanting to be able to read something, anything.  But I couldn't.  I lingered in the self-help section, jacked up and agitated.

I managed a purchase of two books during one of these outings.  A biography on the band REM and another called Stop The Chaos:  How to Get Control of Your Life by Beating Drugs and Alcohol.  It almost looked like a coloring book for kids.  I didn't want my drinking and drugging to be a problem, and I guess I thought the little cartoon diagrams would set my mind at ease.  I made sure no one saw me at the register when I bought my things.

Once we arrived home, I proceeded to get wrecked, as usual.  I headed downstairs to pursue my "reading."  I started the REM book and bounced through the first chapter on Michael Stipe, retaining nothing of what I'd just learned.  Then, I turned to that workbook, completing several surveys as honestly as I could with half a load on.  I cried myself to sleep.  I did that all the time.

The next morning, I couldn't even understand my writing.  In my heart, I knew this wasn't a good sign.  I slid the manual between the mattress and box spring and kind of forgot about it.  When I moved out of my sister's house the second time, I stripped the bed and came across the book again.  I tore both covers off and tucked it into the bottom of the kitchen garbage, burying my suspicions underneath some wet paper towels and coffee grinds.

I moved out and got on with my mistakes.