Jan

 

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Jan looked at the trail of vomit on the floor that ended at the comatose body of her husband, Will, lying on the floor. He had tripped and fallen on the way to the bathroom and puked hard, long, then lay face down in it, and passed out. This is the night of their fourth anniversary and Jan couldn’t see another year going by and enduring this. When things were good they were very good, but when things were bad they were worse than bad. Will had begun the disintegration publically tonight, and hadn’t made it home before slipping into a lizard minded quest for more alcohol. This was the first time he had really humiliated her in public, in the way that mattered, even if most people already knew the truth about him, and even if she refused to.

 

 

The television was a nice one, and Jan wondered if looking around a house and seeing nice things was worth it, really, but Will’s parents had left him with money, and he never spent it on anything but booze and her. He didn’t hunt or fish, he didn’t immerse himself in sports, and Will never raised his hand or his voice to her. She idly flipped through the channels and wondered how there could be thousands of programs and none worth watching. Her father had told her stories about there being two or three channels when he was a kid, and he saw cable arrive with thirteen channels, and who could imagine there being more than thirteen? Jan knew she was trying to find a way to forget her husband was passed out on the floor again, this time in his own puke, the stitches torn out and his body bleeding from diving into a patch of yucca plants to win a bet for a half gallon of cheap whiskey. The video of the event had gotten over one hundred thousand views on the internet and the comments were brutal; “moron”, “stupid”, and “Darwin Award nominee of the year”.

 

 

Jan stopped at the news and they were talking about a man in Russia who was killed and eaten by some creature no one had ever seen before. The video on that was grainy and unclear, and Jan wondered why, with all the cameras that were on earth now, when something truly amazing was supposed to be happening, the feed was always fuzzy. There was a time when Bigfoot and the Loch Ness Monster, and UFO’s could be believed in, but now… Mythical creatures, like the unicorn and the good marriage, were largely being dispelled. Jan could feel herself leaving now. She could see it in her mind, clearly, for the very first time. Until now it had been something to wish for or to wonder about, like someone sitting on top of a house during a flood. The water had now risen to a point she felt compelled, driven away, to leave.

 

There was a program on where two well-dressed people, a man and a woman were trying to sell vacuum cleaner to an enthusiastic audience. With the demonstration of each attachment the crowd cheered wildly and Jan smiled at this. Wasn’t this how life was lived, that people praised their kids for anything they did, expected to be supported by the people around them, and in the end was sold whatever was being offered? She realized the poison in her own cynicism and she hated Will for making her this way. She got up and went over to where he lay face down in his own puke. It was beginning to smell, and she would smell that smell for the rest of her life, she knew, because it smelled faintly of fried fish, which Will had eaten too much off, and they had paid too much for, at a restaurant that served too much alcohol to him, and they knew it. Jan kicked Will in the face, violently, viciously, hard, once, twice, three times, and then she stomped her foot hard down on his left hand. Her breath came in ragged gulps now, and she realized in horror what she had done, and was terrified at the pleasure she was feeling from it. She backed away from Will’s body as he moaned, his legs moved him forward a few inches across the floor, lubricated by the vomit, and he turned over, and from his mouth blood and vomit issued in a thin geyser. He rolled over again and make snorting sounds out of his mouth.

 

 

His phone was on the floor and Jan picked it up and wiped it off. She took photos of Will lying in his own puke and posted them to his Facebook page. She knew it would do no good, she wasn’t hoping for some sort of shaming to dry him out, no, she knew better than that now, but this was her way of burning bridges, and she didn’t realize it until Will’s son tried to call. But it was too late, far too late, in so many ways it was too late. Jan made a video of her pushing Will’s face with the tip of her shoes, rubbing him into the puke while he blew bubbles in it with his nose, and Jan let the video run for about a minute before she posted it.

 

Will’s phone began to light up now. His friends were calling, what few he had left, his son was calling and sending text messages, and someone would eventually come over. Jan packed a few things, just enough to last a couple of days, and she turned the heat on in the house, even though it was warm outside. The smell would be terrible when she returned, she knew that, but she wanted it to smell like that. She wanted it to linger, to infest the house, possess it like a demon so she would never forget it, and never come back for good. She locked the dead bolts so no one could get in and threw Will’s phone into the back of the closet so he would have a hard time finding it when he finally sobered up.

 

 

After ten minutes of driving Jan pulled over and wondered where she was going and what she would do when she got there. The good wife would go back, repair the damage as best she could, and try to help him, again and again and again. She pulled back into traffic and started calling people she knew that lived out of town, to find a place to land.

 

 

End

Imaginary Friends.

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It’s odd that I know people who do not exist at all. My dream of an old friend who had committed murder sticks with me. The friend doesn’t exist, of course, but he did for a handful of minutes. My mind created him, a fifty something man with thinning hair and three ex-wives. He was athletic as a younger man, but a back disability and a drinking problem ate away at his vigor as time eroded his body. His third wife, the one I remember best, stayed the shortest about of time. Jan stuck with him for just shy of five years and then relinquished him to the bottle again. She called me one night, to tell me he had taken a dare, for a half gallon of whiskey, to jump naked into patch of Yucca plants. He went back first, but struggled to remove himself from the plants, and was horribly cut up by the sharp blades that Yucca leaves are. He got his half gallon of whiskey and he also spent a couple of hours in the ER and lost three days of work because his foot was cut badly.

 

 

After the divorce, he rented a room down at the beach and stayed drunk for a week, drinking himself out of a job in the process. Six months later, Jan called me to go down and bail him out of jail, after his third DUI in less than five years, and I told her I was done with that sort of thing, and I still am. She told me she couldn’t do it, she couldn’t see him like that again, and so we both agreed not to do anything about it anymore. A year or so later, I saw Jan at a friend’s house, and we wound up going out, just as friends, and after I took her home, she asked me to come in, and we sat on her sofa and talked for hours about why men drank the way they did, and if they knew the women who loved them felt like it was their fault the men drank like that. The night crept away from us, and I held her when she started crying. I never realized how much it hurt her to see him drunk, how it affected her at her core as a wife, as a woman, and how she doubted herself for it, and how hard it was for her to be the wife of a man who people could tempt into doing stupid things for whiskey.

 

You knew he was this way when you met him. You knew he would never change. You knew he would only get better at hiding what he did, until it spilled out into the open, you knew he lost to wives to it, and you knew that when you married him. Yes, but I thought I would be enough to fix him. She wipes her eyes as she says this, and laughs, the sound she would make when a female friend of hers said that same thing out loud, and she would laugh at how ridiculous it sounded. Once you reach a certain age, a woman ten years young than I tells me, it’s harder to believe you’re attractive to anyone, and your husband hides in the woods behind the house to drink himself into a state where he doesn’t see you. The space of a few heartbeats go by and I realize what’s she’s said and what she means.

 

 

There is no real love here, no future, no promises or intent. There’s only damage done and more damage perhaps, maybe some healing, maybe something shared that will tie two people together in a friendship that might last, but it doesn’t matter, at the time, at the moment, at the point of need, and small hours ticking away. It’s like an emotional stone soup, where everything everyone has is thrown together and then cooked over a fire, and whatever it is, it is better than the stone at the bottom of the pot.

 

 

 

Jan isn’t real and none of this has ever happened. I had a nightmare Friday night, and left lingering in my mind was the life of a person in the dream, Jan’s ex-husband, whose name never showed up, and from there my mind cooked up the rest. It’s very likely I could put them both into a story about a marriage gone wrong, and maybe even use the murder in the dream. If Jan’s ex-husband went to prison for murder, she would have a double curse upon her; the woman whose husband loved alcohol, and the woman whose husband went to prison. It’s hard in the South for a woman to escape the shadow of her husband, she’s a reflection of his worth, and who he is, rather than who she is. Might Jan be written into a story where she finds a place to stand on her own, and take charge of a life she wants to live?

 

 

The dream has stuck with me all day today, until I had to sit down and write it out, define it, breathe life into the people I know so well who do not exist. But that too, is part of life, to imagine, to dream, to look beyond the blackness of night and interpret the shadows cast by starlight in the woods. So little there is to see, if your eyes are the only tools you trust, and to me there is more, there has to be, so into the darkness I peer, hoping…

 

 

Now, it is clear to me where Jan will arrive. I think she will be a part of a story I’ve been working on, where she’s a survivor among survivors, and she is known to the locals as the woman who lost a man to drink and to prison. Yet, like me, Jan looks into the shadows and see not the darkness, but the light that created the shadows, the forms from which the shadows grow, and at nearly fifty years old, Jan decides to begin anew, and alone.

 

Take Care,

Mike