When I was 22 Tim, a rock promoter I’d just met in a bar that night frantically hailed a cab and hauled me from the alley into the emergency room. I can almost conjure the hulking shadows of the trash bins and the streetlight reflected in the alley. It was May 5th and I was drinking tequila. And whiskey. And. And. I was a sweet girl then. I had only had one boyfriend other than the one I’d constantly tried to get away from in high school (two years older than I — the boy who was the same height as I was and who carried his own pool cue, listened to Pink Floyd and brought his one-hitter up the chair lifts during our nights at ski club.) In high school I was embedded in this fabric of friends that kept me from drowning. They protected me really, from my mother, from the darkness that I don’t even think I knew how to articulate then how it surrounded me– I never talked then, not to my mother nor to anyone else really about what I carried with me — a therapist when I was 17 after I came home drunk which scared my mother into action — and spurred a few years of her own sobriety. Years where she worked at a recovery bookstore and would send me positive affirmations in the shape of triangles that affixed to your mirror with tiny suction cups. Never Forget That You are Beautiful.
At 22 I was beautiful. I was probably beautiful that night — I remember the linen shirt I wore — it was a favorite of mine — with a pretty embroidered placket and tiny buttons all down the front, a tie at the back — sleeveless. My hair was sunshot from all those years in the mountain air but I never knew it. I’d left the boy who courted me at 18 — who I moved in with at 19 — who had proceeded to make our lives together intolerable — not talking to me, retreating into silence — leaving me alone nights with dinner I’d cooked — him out with other girls he worked with. In the years with him I drank only occasionally — I baked bread, taught myself to hand piece and stitch a quilt that I imagined would be for our bed someday. I would sit in the sun of the driveway on a chair and sew in the hours between shifts at the restaurant where I waited tables. He took me to mid-coast Maine, to the place where he was raised by his mother and his alcoholic step-father — to the shanty on the land behind the rusted and padlocked chain across the weedy, sandy road — to the bed soaked with cat piss and the drawers made out of an old cardboard bureau covered with vinyl. His father’s house with its hardwood floors and grandfather clocks and view of the bay, old men clamming the mudflats at low tide. His father was the one who helped him pay for Boulder. We, the two of us, were trying to fill a bottomless hole we didn’t even know we had. When I left him I moved into a converted dental office above a Deli across from the biggest theater venue in town — the red neon spilling into the two rooms and he moved in with a beautiful girl from an uncomplicated family who had a father who loved her. They married within the year and are still married. They have two children — a boy and a girl. The girl favors him, the boy her.
The night he told me that he was moving in with her set off a dark time in my life, and though it had its own share of miracles… that night I would start drinking and wouldn’t stop for eight years.
That night — May 5th of 1995, in Boulder — Tim the rock promoter rode with me to the emergency room. After the doctor sewed my irish chin back together and I verbally abused them all – – so much so they had to put me in wrist restraints — the police officer who was there to make sure I wasn’t a victim of abuse, the young doctor– someone took off the Cartier watch that my mother had given me for college graduation (don’t get me started about a woman who can’t pay her mortgage but buys that for her daughter) — how easy would it have been for that doctor to put that watch in a drawer — but someone put it back on my wrist and someone said “your boyfriend is waiting for you” and in my drunken haze I thought he’d come back — not unlike my sixth birthday in 1978 where everyone hid for my birthday and the voice of my uncle, my father’s identical twin, rose from beneath the fake french provincial table — and I thought for that moment that it had all been wrong, a big mistake — that he had come back after all. He had come back.
Neither had, of course. But poor Tim. He rode back in the cab with me. He called my answering machine numerous times that night while I walked along the creek back to the house my ex-boyfriend would soon share with his new girlfriend (who he was sleeping with in the apartment below) and he heard the crying and woke to come upstairs where I begged him to take me back but he didn’t, but rather drove me home to my apartment and left me there. On the voicemail Tim said “no man is worth that. No one.” He left me a mixed tape and my i.d. in a sucrets tin on the mailboxes in the entryway of my apartment. The mixed tape was called “Seven Stitches.” I had it for years — songs of heartbreak and I wish I’d kept it now.
There’s so many posts I’ve wanted to write on forgiving my mother (or not), about step-parenting, about writing (or not) about balance (or complete lack of it)– not in recent memory have I had so much in my drafts folder — I’m usually a write and post kind of girl but lately I have been stuck. I keep going back to the nasty comment that served to close my last blog which said, in so many words, just who do you think you are.
I know one part of who I am — and that’s a fatherless daughter – of a fatherless daughter.
I was prompted to write this by my heart’s friend, one of my oldest blogging friends Eden — and her post today. Sometimes I read a post that resonates with me on every line. This is one of those posts.
This is for all the Tims of the world. For the fathers who stay. For the mothers whether through hard work or some grace of accident or unasked favor bestow their children with hope and the promise of a light-filled life.