I had no idea that Nellie was an alcoholic. One night I woke up and noticed she wasn't in the bed; I went downstairs and found her in the kitchen with a cup in her hand.
“What are you doing?” I asked.
“Well I've got a little cold so I'm drinking tequila,” she said.
“Would your doctor think that was a good treatment for a cold?” I asked.
Another time she was drinking and, usually a very modest person, she took off her clothes and dragged me to the floor. I started to respond but then thought this is annoying, when she was like that I just wanted to get her into bed and to sleep so I could peacefully read my newspaper. ( Later she told me that when she envisioned me I was always sitting on the end of the couch with my newspaper, ouch.)
We had been having trouble with her ex; he refused to leave her house. This had been going on for three months. Nellie decided to meet Joe one more time, in a public place, to try to resolve the issues, then we would go to a movie. I called our friend’s house where Nellie had been last and she told me that Nellie had met Joe in a bar and he had taken her home. I drove to the friend’s house where we found an empty tequila bottle in Nellie’s purse. Ok, I’m covering up--it was three bottles.
The last thing I wanted to do was even see her ex. In fact, when we first got together if she had told me that she had a jealous violent coke-freak boyfriend who refused to move out of her house and that she was a serious alcoholic I probably would have said, “That's interesting. I’ll look you up in six months or so and see how you’re doing.” (For our first date she invited me to help her chaperone a non-existent teen dance; when I kissed her for the first time under the street lights I had said, “Are those implants?”
“No,” she had lied.
I called her house and told her that I was coming to get her but I wanted her to meet me at a nearby store. She talked very slowly, slurring her words. It was Super Bowl Eve--she had already stood me up for Thanksgiving and I knew if I didn’t get her out of that house tonight I’d be watching the last event of the holiday season alone. When I got to the rendez-vous she wasn’t there; I called her up and told her if she wasn’t down to the store in five minutes I was going to come up to the house and get her. I called up my best friend in a nearby town, gave him the address, and told him if he didn’t hear from me in twenty minutes to call the police.
I parked near the house and walked the last quarter mile in the light raining mist. Usually I am quite the chickenshit, avoiding conflict wherever I can, but I was in love, I had to get Nellie; I was about to do the bravest and most foolish thing I’d ever done.
I knocked on the door of the house, this big burly guy opened it and I told him I wanted to see Nellie; he said she’d come there of her own free will. I said that’s fine but I think she wants to leave now. He went back in where I could hear sounds of shouting; I retreated back up the driveway a few feet. The door flung open again and he bounded out this time, a dynamo of rage. He came up to me and knocked my glasses off my face and into the weeds. Only then did I really start to perceive the danger; he looked like he could rip me apart.
I tensed up into a defensive posture; my fists rose slightly.
“Don’t fuck with me man!” he said. “Don’t fuck with me!” His hand was reaching into his pocket in a threatening way. I told him I wanted to take Nellie and that the police would be there soon; he went back into the house and slammed the door.
I looked for my glasses but couldn’t find them, then backed away from the lights of the house and stood in the rain wondering what to do. I certainly didn’t want to be shot as an unwanted intruder on a drizzly Saturday night; I’d done all I could. The door opened again and Joe walked the barefoot Nellie out of the house across the wet grass.
He said, “I don’t know if you can deal with her like this, man.”
“Its okay, yeah I can,” I said
I guided her down the narrow lane; she had that great fluid drunken body motion, her face like rubber, grinning, her body just incredibly pliable--we had to get to the phone before the cops came.
Valentines Day came and I still didn’t get it; we were at the Mateel Cafe and I was ordering a bottle of wine. A few days later she went into town ending up drunk with her “ex” and watching movies. Finally I told her she had to see a therapist; I sent her up to mine who had been seeing me through bouts of anxiety and depression for years. Carmen recommended the St.Joseph Family Recovery program and just like that Nellie was going to detox.
On Thursday she went up for her first intake interview at St.Joes and another session with Carmen She called home around six saying she’d be an hour late; by nine I was calling all the hospitals in the area--I guess I should have been calling the bars. By midnight I was out in the front yard raving to the stars and cats that I couldn’t live this way.
“Why? Why? Why?” I whined .I called my friend and ranted some more; he said he’d drive around town looking for my car at the bar parking lots.
Around 1am I heard a noise outside; my next door neighbor brought Nellie up the walk to the house, she embodied that alcohol fluidity again. She had found her a few miles away by the side of the road with my car in the ditch and she was very drunk.
“This is really sad,” I said, “because it looks like we’re probably going to have to break up.”
“Don’t say anything now,” my neighbor said. “It doesn’t do any good, she won’t remember.”
“I’ve got to say it. I’ve got to say it for you to hear. I don’t want any more secrets.”
“Just shut up! This isn’t the right time.”
“Yes it is. She starts detox Monday. I’ve got to say it for me and for you to hear. I can’t live like this. I’m not going to live with an alcoholic!”
“Oh I love you, I love you,” Nellie said in a slurred voice.
On Monday she headed back up to Eureka for the detox program; when I arrived at 5:30pm for the family group I took one look at those rubbery features across the room and instantly knew that she was very drunk. She had bought a bottle at Shop Smart in Redway and drunk it on the highway to Eureka; that was the last drink she ever had.
(Names changed to protect the guilty.)