Check-in


Image Source: Sonali Mangal

The bottle hit the floor with a thud, rather than a smash. Her hand had fallen off the side of the bed after she nodded off, long past giving up the charade of formalities and a glass, so the bottle had a short fall. But now a fine Argentine Malbec was spilling all over the floor. She got up, cleaned the mess, got back into bed and slugged back the rest, as the two hemispheres of her brain came together in hazy concentric circles. Diminishing circles, diminishing returns. It was over. All over. The last time…

A few hours later she dragged into work, dragging as always, made the call, got the reservation confirmed and left the office early. She got a ride and got dropped off. Paperwork, paperwork, more paperwork, interviews, questions, more interviews, more questions. Everything taken away, all possessions locked in storage. Hospital gown, hospital pants, hospital socks. Hospital bed with rubber mattress and ill-fitting sheets, a swing-out tray with a room temperature turkey sandwich and chips, a painting that was clearly done by a grade-school child and Jesus paraphernalia all around the room. No TV, no books. No clocks, no phone. Nothing but the sound of the ice machine across the hall and the beep of machines. Nothing but…

nothingness.

Nothing but fear and solitude. She tried to sleep, in spite of the late August afternoon sun streaming in. Then the first nurse arrived to check her vitals. And then she was strongly encouraged to go to her first optional meeting.

The room was full of kids. Not her. Kids kicking crystal meth and mainlining coke. Not her. She wasn’t that bad.

There was a woman, probably 40, who looked at least 60, with two shiners. Not her. She wasn’t that bad.

She teetered between indignant detachment and empathy.

I’m not THAT bad!

But I’m bad enough to be in…

The meeting began, two speakers, similar stories, common narratives weaving through both and connecting, touching where she was at and had been. More stories around the room, more connection, more empathy. And more indignant rage and snark since I’M NOT THAT BAD

There was an old commercial:

“Drinking made me lonely. Lonely, lonely, lonely!”

She used to laugh unmercifully at the overwrought off-off Broadway performance, but the sentiment was so true now that it was her life story, except I’m NOT that bad and the sentiment was there in all the stories being told…the same fuckin’ story over and over and OVER again and I’M NOT that bad she was able to plug her own life into the shared narratives…

not THAT bad…..

but bad enough…

Back to the rubber mattress which I’m not bad enough off to be sleeping in…(but I am), and back to the fear…loneliness…the woman with the shiners strolled in and took the next bed…she pretended to be asleep, not wanting to talk, not wanting to connect, to come to terms…nothing but silence, the silence of holding it all in and being terrified

and alone

and not that bad….right?

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22 comments
  1. What a stark and frightening telling of what it’s like to be in rehab and to live in denial and fear. Powerful stuff told from the heart. You know this experience.

    • *wink, nudge*

  2. fantastic.

    • I feel so robbed! I never got to try your sangria! :(

  3. You’ve done something magical here. This story? Lurve this story. The contrast between the physical reality of rehab and the repetition of self-denial of your main character creates a tonally-fraught sensation that you manage to carry all the way through to the last self-denying remark. Very, very nice. I am six kinds of impressed!

    • Write what you know, jah? ;O Thanks so much.

      • That really means a lot coming from somebody that has actually studied writing and knows what they’re doing.

      • I’m always a little skittish when I hear a writing teacher make that statement. Because all rules in any artistic discipline are meant to be learned to the point of internalization, and then, one by one, you break the rules with the determination and glee of a six-year old with access to a roll of cap gun caps and a hot weather sidewalk.

        So… that’s a wordy way of saying: As your reader, I don’t worry about what you know. I’m focused on what you do with ideas and words. That’s what counts as far as I’m concerned.

        And you’re doing an amazing job of working with ideas and words. That rocks.

  4. From somebody who finds it difficult to put ones thoughts into words….wow!

    • That will work, and thanks. ;)

  5. Kayla said:

    I love that there is such a disconnect of the character to her own life, but as the reader I feel so connected to her. Nice work.

    • Kayla, thanks so much! It’s definitely a struggle to rectify our inner conflicts, innit?

  6. Courtnay, I cheerfully redact the above, and thanks. ;)

  7. Powerful stuff.
    Well done!

    • Gracias, Senior.

  8. They looks like candies to me! :D
    Great shot!

  9. For me, the worst part of spilling the Argentine Malbec. Kidding aside, a powerful and profound post.

    • That was definitely the worst part for me as well. *grin*

  10. I can relate to her in many ways. When you are “in it” you think it isn’t that bad. It’s only years after being “out of it” you realize how bad it was. This was powerful. I’m also sad for the malbec lol.

    • They say that when you realize it’s bad, it’s been bad for a while. Too much Malbec, alas…

  11. Merilee Mitchell said:

    FABULOUS. Ok……..so you ARE working on a book……right?

    • …uh…possibly?….working on writing my way out of the Cube for sure…

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