December 1990. Driving home from work. Listening to music. The Righteous Brothers, Unchained Melody starts playing. “re-popularized” from the movie star-making movie for Patrick Swayze, “Ghost” which has been released a few months earlier. Seems like its repeating every other song. I now know the words by heart. I start quietly singing along.
And time goes by so slowly
And time can do so much
Are you still mine?
I need your love
I need your love
God speed your love to me
Tears. Bawling. I have to pull over. Screaming at the top of my lungs. “I am sorry!” I am so sorry!” “Don’t Leave!”
It does no matter. She is gone. We are still in the same house but she is gone. I have never known so much pain. I have never known such intense grief. The grief of failure. The grief of loss. I had never told anyone I had loved them before. No one had ever told me they loved me as part of a romantic relationship. “I love you”. Magic words to me. The words of acceptance. The words that told me someone saw more than I saw in myself. The most important words in the world to me. As I release primal screams of pain in my car, those words seemed like ages ago. Like they never happened.
We had met at a bar. My favorite hangout, Fast and Cool. I was drunk and high. Cocaine had become part of my survival routine. Wearing a fake diamond earring. I can’t stand out for you I really am. It’s easier to stand out as someone I am not. She told me I looked like Bruce Springsteen.
I loved her southern West Texas accent. A sharp contrast to my “Yankee” Pittsburgh accent. The lies of alcohol and cocaine right from the get-go. Lies designed to make someone interested me because no one attractive could possible love what I saw every time I looked in the mirror. She liked that I walked her to her car and asked permission to kiss her. When I gave her an alcohol and cocaine aided goodnight kiss, she was only the third woman I had kissed in my life.
February 1991. The last time we be together as a married couple. The Blue Goose Cantina in Dallas. We are separated but I still hold out hope. I have moved in with my brother Mark. He is always there for me. Rescuing me. I love him. She lives in our house. Our dream as young lovers contemplating our future. The dreams of many young couples. A house. Children. Dog. Till death do us part. She pulls out a list.
“Brian, I’ve made a list of the pros and cons of our marriage” I miss the comfort. I miss the security. I however don’t miss you. I want a divorce.
Less than two years in, and now its over. It was over less than a year in. We just didn’t know it. Or maybe we did and didn’t care. Girls night out. Guys night out. Bars. Drinking. Her girls night out was the country bars. Mine was doing blow. She didn’t know. Easy to hide when we are not together. It was more important to me to live that life. I was a child in a young mans body. I had never learned how to allow myself to be loved.
There was an impenetrable wall around me to protect myself from the thoughts I knew she was thinking. At least that’s what I thought. I never asked her. In my mind, asking meant hearing the truth of who I was. A fat, ugly little boy. A cocaine user. A bulimic. An alcoholic. Running, was my only solace. Running from myself. I ran.
The moment I have been dreading. She is coming to my office at Transport Insurance with the papers. The office phone rings. It rings again. I almost let it go to voicemail. It doesn’t matter anymore. Avoidance wont bring her back. She is at the reception desk front with her mother. The fifty feet of walking to the reception area seems like three football fields. My legs feel like they are encased in lead. They don’t want to move. Look at the floor. One foot in front of the other.
I don’t want to do it in the lobby. I don’t want to cry in the lobby. I don’t want my failure to be in the lobby. It’s always been my failure. We walk out to the car. I sign the papers. She is crying. In sixty days, its over. I walk back to my office I shut my door. I think of the Righteous Brothers. I start to cry. No one will ever love me again. Relationships are hard enough but when substance use is added to the mix, and recovery is not a part of the picture, not many survive. I was no exception.