Monday, September 14, 2015

Unsympathetic Narrator (Excerpt)

Don't feel sorry for this guy. He's unlikable on purpose.

Revised from previous version.

Dry Drunk

A work of fiction

My last date was a disaster. She told me, prior to the arrival of the drinks at our table, that she'd caused herself an abortion by falling down the stairs. When I asked how old she was, she'd casually told she was 16. It wasn't long before I excused myself, claiming an unexpected emergency.

I puked, if you want to know, making it to the bathroom in time. I wasn’t sure it was the alcohol or the realization of yet another dead end. I’ve made my mistakes in my time.

You know you're out of control when everyone holds a combined sense of revulsion and pity around you. This could never be confused as genuine compassion. It is more fear than anything else, and a fervent prayer that the affliction does not someday affect them. That is how I was pushed out of a dentist's office a couple years later, or rather without much politeness, escorted to the hallway and dropped there. A week or so later I ended up here.

I used to give a few of my things out in the beginning, but not anymore, she said. Her diagnosis was psychoaffective disorder, a mild form of schizophrenia that never really got better for anyone. I only remember the horrible state of her teeth, as though she'd gone ten years solid without brushing a single one. They looked like corroded copper pennies. She was somewhat friendly, but guarded, and mostly kept to herself.

“Don’t even go there,” I said to myself.

Sometimes I have to admit I never wanted a conventional life. I wanted to lie down covered by a blanket, lying on a cot, viewing the grass and footpaths of an institution for hours, doing nothing. This had been true for my great-grandmother, but was no longer the case today. There were no more sanatoriums, just filthy bus people pushing shopping carts, in and out of jails and short-term facilities. I had nothing to do except try to live in this world and maybe not end up here again.

There were too many bad examples present. That's what I didn't like about rehab. Some people built connection bases for the illegal stuff, once discharge arrived. I took the process seriously, avoiding the harder stuff whenever possible, full of rationalizations. My temptations were far away and I'd stopped the narcotics and pills years before. And even if you didn't seek a pot dealer, you had to deal with the true believers in addiction, the ones who would never quit for any reason and saw this 28 day stint as a joke.

Some of them disguised their true intentions well, but I'd been around long enough to see who'd backslide within a few days to a week. The girl sitting next to me couldn't be anymore than one-hundred pounds and would not shock me if she was dealing with an eating disorder. I'd had a girlfriend about the same size who'd gotten beaten up after a conference, walking home nearby a deranged homeless man who physically attacked her. I saw the pictures and the paperwork of the legal proceedings. As for the boyfriends, they all looked like me. A full foot taller, big frames, broader shoulders, and big. Big guys.

Though I admit the idea sounds appealing at first, getting away means a four mile walk through dense forest and brambles. Following that comes figuring out how to get to civilization, to rent a car and head back into the city. In many ways, I am a very motivated person, but where this issue is concerned, I am lazy. And I haven't given up yet on treatment, though this is very tough medication.

I've been trying to make inroads with this little redhead. She is a million times too young for me, but she's smart and pretty. She is a full ten inches shorter than me. And she likes me. When I speak, she makes notes of my words and phrases on a sheet of paper. It's as if I'm playing the part of the charismatic college professor, and she the smitten student. Before I flatter myself further, I remind myself that everyone here has major problems, else they wouldn't be here, so treading lightly is my best course of action.

After I get to know her further, with every subsequent interaction, I see one red flag after another. She's what they call dual diagnosis. Psychiatric illness and substance abuse. Then I put it all together. Borderline. Borderline people routinely rip holes in relationships of every size and shape. She lashes out at me eventually because she says we have too much in common and she can't handle it. It's a mean, strange gesture, and I see a side of her that I don't like one bit. Here's for learning from one's mistakes.

I leave and consume four ounces of warm orange juice left on a tray in the day-room, not because I'm thirsty, but because it gives me something to do. I peel back the aluminum foil and chug the contents now at room temperature. I've made it through the worst part, the active detox. It's downhill from here, but I am nowhere near active recovery.

We always look for fault. Sometimes there is no fault. Sometimes it's a combination of lucky breaks and timing. I got tired of waiting for both. I begged God for the right combination, though my church-going days are long past. You have to give that shit up to someone. A friend said I was too needy. And she's right. But so were all of the other ones. Needy + needy rarely equals success. Someone's got to lay the foundation. So here I am again, laying the foundation, seeking to be less needy, less dependent. Seeking one of those nice girls people talk about all the time. They keep asking me my personal goal in therapy, and I think it but I never say it.

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