It was January 20, 2012. About 5:30 AM, my wife and I woke my then 19 month old daughter, dressed her, and carried her outside into the frosty morning. She was back asleep on my wife’s shoulder before we got her into the car seat.
My little lady. I would do anything to protect her.
It was still dark, and there was little traffic. We headed North on I-65 towards Children’s Hospital in Birmingham. The sound of the wipers sweeping back and forth knocking sheets of rain off the windshield and the water parting beneath the tires dominated the otherwise silent interior of the vehicle. I glanced to my right pretending to check the side mirror, but stole a look at my darling wife. Her everything, waiting to be printed on some undeveloped film, helplessness embodied.
The trip was like a dream, a memory of a memory. The recollection of it is like trying to piece together a reflection in a broken glass. Pale purple light snuck over the mountain behind us as we walked toward the hospital. Personnel clambered about in the underpass, oblivious to the station of the sun, timeless creatures- worthless to me, how could they know my plight? A mumbled question to the front desk attendant, hasty directions muttered back, we staggered up the winding stairs, blur…scribble on some paper…blur… hospital room.
A squirrelly fuck hobbles in and gives his name, says he’s the anesthesiologist. I study him intently. He’s effeminate. He’s part cross-eyed, one leg is clearly longer than the other, and I can’t hear a word he’s saying. He’s the one who will put my little girl to sleep. He’s the one I seek out should anything go wrong. I seer his likeness into my mind, I gather my hate. I pre-focus it like a compound bow. It takes much to draw it, and nothing to hold or release. He offers his hand. I take it. I realize my vulnerability, my fear. I swallow the anger, release the focus. He’s here to help. I have to let go.
Step by step the hall seems to narrow, this endless thing, this path to fate. Sickness like I’ve never felt climbs my gut like lit kerosene. “Be strong you fuck” screams my mind. One shake from me would send my wife to pieces. In my pocket, I turn my key into the flesh and push as my wife hands our little girl over to a stranger, and they close the door. We turn and walk as she screams “Mommy! Mommy!” like we were leaving her forever. It echoes. I feel the blood trickle over my knee and down my shin. Just keep walking.
Back in the room, I reach for my can. One dip left. I dig it out and pack my lip like some kind of ape.
My security blanket, I’ll do anything to keep it.
18 years it has been by my side, since I was a kid, straight stealing it from the drug store. Good times, bad times, and everything in between, me and my dip. Fuck the world. She whispers,” I’m killing you.” Answering I say “I know. But you’re all I got.”
I slip into thought, worry, and angst. I think of the term “panic attack” and wonder if this is one.
Tunnel thought, hypnotic almost. Infinite sadness, or equal relief, which will it be?
I see myself, on bended knee, before my daughter. We are eye-to-eye. I tell her, “this will not be” as if I have some power over it. I wonder if she’ll ever know what she’s doing to me, no fault of her own, some twisted genetic joke. Then I think of the term “selfish.” And I gain new definition.
I imagine the scenario, on bended knee when I say “Honey, daddy’s not going to be here anymore because I won’t stop. I won’t sacrifice my security blanket for you, because “I CAN’T,” or “I WON’T.”
My little lady. I would do anything to protect her.
I walk to the trash can, I spit, and I say good-bye to my security blanket. I know it is forever this time. I know that was my last one.
Hours crept by, and then abruptly, the doctor opened the door. He walked in and spread the images out on the bed. That undeveloped film now matured and malevolent, lying casually on the bed, like it was nothing. His back expanded as he drew the breath that would carry fate to my ear, his tongue the executioner, or the redeemer, its intention unknown in the slowing time. My jaw clenched, my heart stopped, my adrenaline makes the decisions from this moment on
“It’s negative, everything looks good” he said.
Relief like I’ve never known. I wonder to myself, “is this divine forgiveness, is this… grace?”
I reached for my can. My hand races through the objects in my pocket, my eyes locked on the doctor, my mind, my focus, is in my hand. Knife, keys, change, no… left pocket, phone…fuck… back pocket, wallet… back left, empty…jacket, no… fuck. Then, like a GPS my mind starts plotting out the nearest C store. “2 cans of Skoal long cut wintergreen, please!” I say in my mind, like I need practice… wait… Fuck.
I think of the term “millstone” and see it lashed around my neck.
That was 102 days ago.
I carry the stone still, yet it will not weigh me to the bended knee from which I will not rise. I stand upright beneath the shared weight. And I owe much gratitude to those who bear it with me.
We don’t know you, but like the hospital staff, we wander the underpass in a timeless fashion, oblivious to the number of days passed by, because we just know today. But if you promise me you will let go, I will carry your stone, because so many carry mine. We will hold it until you are strong enough to share the weight.
But hand that infant quit over to a stranger you will, and promise you must. Endure the mindless wait, the unknown, you will. Because there are worse things out there than addiction, things you CAN’T beat. This you can. Hand it over.
Some thanks are in order. Dippshit, Coach Steve, Coach Doc, Gmann, Tex, SWJ, NOLAQ, Wastepanel, Colonel No Cope, Vadge, Cbird, Copehater, and ALL of April 12.