Pure Slush

flash ... without the wank

FOUR Notes to Myself

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Sickness and a Shipwreck  >

by Gary Percesepe 


Gary Percesepe was first published online by Pure Slush in September 2011, and again in October that year. Pure Slush print published his flash collection itch and his poetry collection falling (both November 2013), and Gary was also one of the 31 writers who took part in 2014 A Year in Stories.


It appears that I’m headed to Colorado. I broke up with the girl. Don’t want to risk seeing her again. Turns out, she is an alcoholic. She hid it well. I found out by accident. I’m annoyed that I got hooked, because I thought I had progressed from the “find the hot, ruined girl and save her” routine, but we can’t save anyone, least of all ourselves. These days I pray and fast and walk the labyrinth -- and I leave. I’ve become skilled at leaving. Leaving here, leaving her are the same, only one letter different, and that a silent one. God I loved her, but maybe Freud was right, that all romantic love is just another form of narcissism. I’m trying to be gentle with myself. It took me three months to disentangle from her but I did it. Some never do. I feel bad only because I continually gave her a pass on the drinking, skillfully avoided noticing it at the start, then willfully minimized it in the middle, because of lust, because of fear, because of my own emptiness, because her face reminded me of Garbo, perfectly composed and calm beneath me as we made love, a mask, contorted in pleasure, a beautiful disguise hiding her pain, which I discounted because I wanted more time at the fun house. That doesn’t sound like real love to me, and I am working at forgiving myself. I stayed because I was afraid to let go, a recurring pattern from my long marriage. I failed her, but who knows, in time she may get help for herself, and I did teach her the Serenity Prayer. I did what I could at the end, gave her a blessing, and inscribed the sign of the cross on her forehead. She kissed me three times in return, seated there on the steps of the stairs to her bedroom, stairs we once climbed together hand in hand. But on that last night in June we sat quietly on the steps watching the rain fall. After I blessed her she kissed me. The trinity of kisses was a nice touch on her part. She was blind drunk and may or may not remember. But I left. I am always leaving women. And places that I love. Comings and goings. Four times I have been in love, four times I have left.

One night in March I was downstairs, gathering my clothes (we had moved upstairs to her bedroom after making love on the sofa downstairs). I saw a glass of water on the coffee table, and I was thirsty, so I grabbed it and took a big drink. It was vodka, neat. In an 8 ounce glass, full. I flashed on our beginnings, the wine on every occasion, her request on our first date to “bring wine,” how after a month of texting and trying to schedule a time to meet when her two young girls were not around, we were meeting at last. And she insisted I stop for wine. And hurry! How she texted me the wrong address, off by one digit, so that I arrived at a neighbor’s house, and had to text her for the correct address. When I finally arrived at the front door we kissed, me holding the wine in one hand and her in the other. We moved into the kitchen where she pulled me into a long kiss that never seemed to stop, as we moved from there to the living room sofa, and eventually to bed. Unprotected sex. Stayed over first night. Boundaries, I wondered. My reptile mind approved, but questioned, doubted. But she texted the next day that she wanted a relationship. I said me too. Yay, she said. Yippee. 

I was unconscious. I ran through every flag. I SAW them. And rationalized them away. So on the night of the tall vodka I asked her, are you an alcoholic? Without missing a beat she said yes. I never judged her. We cried. I taught her the prayer. She asked me to repeat it. We prayed it together, and talked of the difficulties ahead. She cried. I had never seen her cry. I told her I would need to detach from her, that we could not be in a relationship until she was sober one year. She couldn’t feature all the meetings, with her full time job and full time mothering and the big house to keep up. She had had an alcohol related car accident, but was never charged. About a year ago. Lucky. But her ex was on to her drinking. I told her if she lost custody of her girls because of her drinking then no agency on earth, no treatment facility, no program would be able to save her. She never entered the program. We drifted apart. She wanted to get drunk for the Kentucky Derby. That was easy to do. One last yahoo, she said.  I saw her one more time.  I brought Chinese takeout. We watched Breaking Bad one last time, the closing episode. By now, every time I left her I wondered if that was the last time I would see her.

Every time I see her street exit on the 290 I feel a stab of pain. Every time I pull a debit or credit card. Every time I look at the empty seat in the car beside me – it’s awful. The ragged way we fall out of love.  


published 17 January 2015