I'm starting to post a series of vignettes over on Medium that are about relationships and booze. I've been working on these essays for a little over a year now, reading them aloud in my writing workshop and then stacking them in a pile in the corner. So I decided I may as well collect them on a public platform, right?? I'm going to try and post one every other week, so I'd love it if y'all come and check me out over there from time to time. I'm sharing the latest one here, but I won't every time. So in the meantime, Write On!
It was supposed to work. This trip was supposed to fix us. I do remember this. But the rest of that year? It's like trying to remember the year I turned ten. I remember how I felt about turning double digits. I remember how I felt about flying down that hill on my bike, banana seat between my legs, going so fast that I didn't have to hold the handlebars but only feel the streamers flutter in my face. I remember I felt strong and in control of that particular moment, Queen of the Banana Seats, joyfully reigning on that one wild ride of my tenth year. I don't remember if I had a birthday party or who my teacher was that year. I don't remember who my best friend was or if I could even count the number of people who I knew loved me. That's how I remember all of 2004 and particularly that trip to the Catskills for a wedding that was supposed to fix my broken marriage.
There are other feelings I remember from 2004: anger, so much anger and vitriol, which always bubbled right below the surface just dying to be poked. It never matter who started it, who hated who more, who was the bigger victim or martyr, it was always there and reeking. There was no sequence of events like clues in a Scooby-Do episode where you can review and say, YES, obviously it was that guy who would have gotten away with it if it wasn't for those meddling kids. There was just always a low-level rumbling of wrongness and the gallons of booze poured over that made the land far too murky to find the source.
I also remember laughter, so much laughter everyday until my stomach hurt. Funny how the anger and the laughter caused the same pain, two sides of the same coin that I didn't even want in my pocket, much less tell you how it landed there. But somehow all of that laughter and all of the Lonestar-fueled Jackass antics felt like we were doing something very important. It entitled us to mock and ridicule life and society and anything that remotely resembled being a grown-up, even though being married and having a house and a kid would attempt to argue otherwise.
I remember always feeling anxious over my toddler and particularly over him never wanting to fall asleep, in spite of the near-nightly loud adult noises and wafts of food and booze going on in other rooms that I had always imagined toddlers should be able to sleep through. I was always anxious over loud thumps in the night that forever will be the sound that is made when a toddler falls out of his bed and hits the hardwood floor. I remember how a cabin in the Catskills sounded like sweet relief from having to manage a chaotic environment of toddler tantrums and biting hangovers, even if only for five days and four nights.
I remember I packed too much for a cabin in the woods built for two, but where only one would actually stay. I remember feeling nervous about attending a wedding where I would be mingling with the New York indie scene and I thought someone might actually see me. The days leading up to the wedding, I remember drinking lots of wine alone. I remember there was never enough wine in this beautiful cabin in the woods built for two, while my husband was surely out there in another part of the woods doing things that involved lots of beer and did not involve wearing shirts. I took a lot of walks on the wooded path that led up to the cabin and I remember wishing I would see a bear. I imagined a bear would wander out onto the path, too far ahead that she couldn't outrun me if I had to run but we would both stop and look at each other, or rather, she would notice me. And then we would resume walking. The morning of the wedding, my husband came by to put on his suit and I remember putting on the darkest purple eyeshadow that I had. I remember I felt dizzy and hot and I that I couldn't to talk to him. I remember it took a long time for him to tie his tie.
I remember missing my toddler because I knew he was the one person in the world that would wake up that morning and notice I wasn't there. And he would still miss me even though in the short time we had known each other I had not really been there because I was always checked out, fallen down, dead drunk or just not noticing. The need to be seen yet not seeing, that is what I remember.
One morning back in Texas, I was up watching Good Morning America and the scene still plays in my head as clear as anything from that year. "Up next we talk to a couple that is celebrating their 70th wedding anniversary!" The gray-haired couple smiled at the camera, perfectly nestled into each other, knob into crevasse, as if they were one being. After commercial, the jolly reporter asked, "So what is the secret to staying married for so long?" They looked into each other's milky-glassed eyes, and he said, "We just never fell out of love at the same time." My mind screen-shotted that moment and filed it away, methodically without one single produced feeling.
Our marriage was over two months later.