Dear Lucy and Nick,
The last time I saw either of you was in Olympia, when I was living in a weird apartment downtown with no real windows, just a few skylights that didn’t open. That was seriously the quintessential Olympia bachelor pad: right downtown, neighbors that didn’t want to know you that well, and affordable rent. As depressing as the lack of windows was, I really miss that place, even now. It was the first time I could honestly say I lived alone. Entirely alone. Christ, that little bit of solitude was pretty fantastic for me, albeit a bit dangerous. It seems, left to my own devices, I tend to make poor decisions about many things. Ahhh, the folly of youth. Well, probably just folly. I wasn’t exactly a youth. Anyhow, I was living downtown, about a block from the Brotherhood Tavern.
I suppose here is where I should maybe back up a bit and fill you in on the circumstances that led to my tiny apartment. As I’m sure you’re both aware, (or at least to curb your head-shaking suspicions,) I’m a bit of a romantic at heart. Oh, ok, you’re right; I just like being in a relationship. I admit it. After Samantha and I broke up (Remember her? The older lady I dated that I worked with? Yeah, her.) After she and I split, I soon (immediately) hooked up with a girl named Gwen. She seemed pretty cool and—idiot me—she sprung the L-word within two weeks of dating. Now, as I’m sure you remember, this was just months after splitting up with Lucia, my ex-wife. Hearing Gwen tell me that felt pretty damned good. Even better, she was a bartender at the Capitol Tavern, a place run by a guy who didn’t give a shit what his employees did, so long as he had money for hookers and slot machines. Now, this relationship was sort of like communism—that is, it almost looked good on paper, but not quite. Just about the day after she told me she loved me, we had an argument and she hid my shoes on me so I couldn’t leave. Looking back, I really wish I had just walked home barefoot. Would’ve been a better story.
Gwen and I soon fell into a weirdly comfortable misery: she would emasculate me at the drop of a hat and I would drink at her bar for free. A win-win situation, right? She liked to control me and I really liked to drink. (Christ, I hope my liver will forgive me someday.) She would get angry about something I said, then I would get wasted, then she would get even angrier, then I would get more wasted, then we would go home, crash, wake up, and do it all over again the next day. Good times. Looking back, she very well may have been ok with me drinking so much because it was a way to control me. I don’t know. Dear God, why she would want a continuously drunk Keith is beyond me.
So naturally, I asked her to marry me. Ho-boy, that was friggin’ smart. Fucking Christ, me and my “Band-Aid-on-a-bullet-wound” logic. Right about the time that we got engaged I fell into a further depression: I was stuck at the Olive Garden (which I loathed,) I was in a toxic relationship that made me miserable, and I was drinking myself to death. Hell, it got bad enough that I even tried to stop drinking. I made it about two months before that went to shit for all the same reasons I was originally depressed in the first place. Loveless relationship, demeaning job, no positive outlook on life. Obviously, if I was going to be depressed, I might as well drink. After all, at least for a few hours I would have some sort of reprieve from the depression, and I wouldn’t have to face the reality that was my life. Apathy comes in mighty handy sometimes.
I eventually began to have suicidal thoughts. Those thoughts seemed really good when sober, and when I was drunk, sounded goddamned awesome. The final straw, the final push to make me say Fuck it, came after another smashingly great night of arguments and alcohol. She had gone to sleep and I went outside to smoke a cigarette. I began tying a rope with the idea that I was going to hang myself. Now, before I go any further—spoiler alert—I’m not dead, and I have a pretty rad life now, so this isn’t to elicit sympathy or any of that shit. Just telling you what happened, ok? So, like I said, I tied a slip knot in the rope and tried it out a little to see if I could go through with it. Mind you, I was rather drunk and emotional. So I tried pulling it tight, almost passed out, and did it a little more. I remember thinking, Really? It’s come to this? Fuck, this is nuts. I stopped trying to see if I had the balls to go through with it (thankfully, I don’t,) and decided that’s it: I needed help. So I dialed a suicide prevention hot line. It rang. And rang. And rang. And rang. It rang over twenty times and no one answered. (I’m still a little pissed off at God/the universe/the flying spaghetti monster over that one. I mean, come on.)
So I hung up and just sat there crying and laughing, realizing that, nope, this shit is done, something has to change. I figured that I would try to talk to Gwen about it later. Maybe see if that might make her realize that yes, things between us really were horrible, and that maybe we could work to fix things. After all, we had a wedding date picked out. Shit, she already had her frigging dress. So a few weeks later (of course with no real change in routine, remember, I really liked drinking,) we had an argument. I finally broke down and told her about the suicide attempt and that I couldn’t do it anymore. Her response? She rolled over and went to sleep. Now, look, I know I’m an asshole. I know this. In fact, I’m a pretty big prick most of the times. But fuck, this was supposed to be the woman that wanted to spend the rest of her life with me. I thought that was pretty damned cold. We broke up the next day. It was messy, to say the least.
Soon after the breakup (immediately,) I found myself with another woman. Lindsey. That woman was really, really hot, but Goddamn, she was as smart as a bag of doorknobs. I suppose for a pig like myself, it was a perfect rebound relationship. She helped me find the apartment downtown. I thought that was nice of her. But for all intents, she also held me at her house against my will two or three times—dare I say, kidnapped me. I thought that was not nice of her. That shit, as you can imagine, just wasn’t worth it. We split within a month. But! I had at least found a really kick-assingly-located apartment. I was finally single, had a decent amount of disposable income, and for some weird reason, women seem to like me. Dear God, heaven help me. To make a long story short, I decided to be a regular Lothario about town. (Imagine really crappy ‘70’s porn music here.) No relationships for this boy-o! No sir! That seemed to work for a while, until I realized, I really liked dysfunctional women, almost as much as I liked drinking. Fugggg. Now, unbalanced partners can be a bit fun for a short while, but they get shitty real quick. I figured I’d be brutally honest with these women, nothing would come of any of it, and it would end before the shithouse went up in flames. I mean, after all, I didn’t think they could really get hurt or mad at me if I was painfully straight with them, and some of them were actually pretty cool with the situation.
During this time, I knew I was pretty damned unbalanced. My diet consisted mostly of cheap whiskey and expensive cocaine. (Fabulous for your waist-line; not so much for your sanity.) Looking back, I really should’ve been in an institution. I know it now. I knew it then. But I suppose there’s a certain amount and type of “crazy” that everyone has, and a certain amount/type of that “crazy” that someone will put up with for the sake of whatever the hell it is they call love. I really think most “successful” relationships have that element. What’s more, infatuation is a nasty thing. It often doesn’t take long before reality starts wearing away the thin veneer and you see what lies beneath. In some cases, what’s underneath is breathtaking, like finding a priceless masterpiece underneath what you thought was just another halfway-decent Goodwill score. More often, you find only corrosion beneath that polished shiny surface.
Take a wild guess what I did next? Yep, I hooked up with another woman.
Now, this new girl, Rachel, really seemed to be just the right fit for me. She liked to go out to bars often enough, (but wasn’t overboard about it.) She liked the same books, (Rachel is one of the few people to have read some of my writing.) She liked the same music, (I actually bought her the Misfits Coffin Box for Christmas, lucky her!) She was smart, (not genius smart, but no bag of doorknobs.) And she was really pretty (that was nice.) I admit, I was sprung on her. She actually made me feel like Lucia had when we first got together. That was a very nice feeling indeed. We started seeing each other on a regular basis and even started talking about moving in with each other. A bit scary, but damn, it just felt right.
Ok, so I’ve always thought of Olympia as just one big alcoholic, incestuous family. A big alcoholic, incestuous family that really needed some better hobbies than just gossip. Someone told Gwen that I was seeing someone new, and (gasp!) was actually happy. Gwen. Was. Not. Pleased. I thought her indifference toward my suicide attempt was cold, but I figured the worst of it was over and she would forget me soon enough. Oh, how wrong I was. She began stalking me at bars. She opened a fake email account and sent cryptic messages to me. She started going a bit over the edge. It came to head one night when Rachel and I went out for drinks. Gwen found me at the bar we were at and confronted me about Rachel. I told her, yes, after we broke up I had in fact moved on, and yes, I was with someone new. She drank her drink, and left. Nothing to worry about, I thought.
Well, apparently there was plenty to worry about. As Rachel and I were walking to her car, out of nowhere Gwen came up and began punching Rachel in the head and face, trying to kick her. I got Gwen off of Rachel. Rachel got into her car and locked the doors. Gwen left, screaming at Rachel, (rather eloquently, I have to admit.) Ok, so that’s that, I thought. End of story. I felt pretty bad, because really, I suppose I should’ve been the one getting beat on, but then again, jealousy and hurt aren’t logical emotions. What I deserve and what I get are rarely the same thing, for better or worse. I figured that was it, and nothing more would come of it, so we went back to my place. After drinks and a bit of telly, Rachel and I went down to her car to get her overnight bag. And lo and behold! Gwen was at that very moment finishing an epic keying of Rachel’s car. She had keyed the word “whore” over the entire front of the hood, over the entire driver’s side, and was nearly finished with the passenger’s side when we happened upon her. Naturally, my first response was “What in the fuck?” Gwen yelled a bit and walked off. I followed her through the alley as I called 911. Now, I really hate calling the police, but there’s times when, dammit, that’s about the only thing to make shit stop. So that’s what I did. She was arrested and I went home for the rest of the night. Within two weeks I had moved into Rachel’s house and out of downtown. (Side note: driving around in the “Whore-mobile” got many an interesting reaction, lemme tell ya.)
Initially, living with Rachel was pretty much domestic bliss. It was the first time in about three or four years that I had felt that way, since before my divorce. I stopped going out except with Rachel. I even cut down, at least a little, on drinking. (Stop altogether? Surely you jest!) There certainly wasn’t anymore cocaine. That was definitely good. Over all, I really thought this was it: a decent relationship to build on. Fuck, I could even see myself being happily married to that woman. However, like I said earlier about the amount and type of crazy, my crazy didn’t mesh with what Rachel wanted to put up with. That infatuation that we had felt, well, I certainly still felt it towards her, but she didn’t reciprocate. Looking back, I honestly can’t say that I blame her. While I did cut back the drinking, that only meant that I wasn’t exactly drinking myself to death. I was just drinking like an alcoholic, which is to say, nice and tipsy every single night. I can only imagine how lame that must have been for her. And while I’m not an angry drunk, (more of a sarcastic wise-ass, really,) I was more easily irrationally irritated. That is not a good thing in any relationship. So, in grand Keith style, I quit drinking for her, in the hopes that being sober would make her feel towards me how I felt about her. Well, that didn’t work out as planned.
She ended up reconnecting with an old boyfriend on the internet and was invited to go to Ocean Shores for an afternoon and spend time with him. She asked me how I felt about it, and funny enough, I said I was fine with it. No prob. Trust is pretty important, right? Well, a few days later, she asked me how I would feel if she spent a few nights there with him. Now, I’m trusting, but I’m not a fucking idiot. I told her that I wouldn’t feel very comfortable at all with it. She told me she was going anyway, and that was that. Bad habits die hard, so when she left I scored some blow, and got some whiskey and got good and fucked up, because, why the hell not? I could see the end game, and I was done, I had lost. Why not try to forget? What she did hurt a lot; and I wanted to not hurt. Pretty simple math, as far as I was concerned. Now, before you get any bad ideas, I didn’t flip out and trash the place or get violent. I threw some flowers I had bought her on the floor and packed my shit. When she returned, she laid it down and broke up with me.
I had finally had enough. Enough of Olympia, enough of the endless cycle, enough of getting into “situations.” Enough. I missed the East Coast. I had been wanting to move back home for a few years at that point, so I called my brother in New Hampshire and he was in Olympia within two days. He brought two changes of clothes and an economy sized bottle of oxycontin. I scored an eight-ball of cocaine and we snorted speedballs for the next seven days as we drove. It took me three days to get rid of the shakes from drinking. In case you were wondering, we have a very beautiful country, livestock radio reports are just as thrilling as you can imagine, and no, I didn’t give the Olive Garden my two weeks’ notice.
I had no place to go except my father’s place. He and I have had a tenuous relationship at the best of times. He pretty much laid down the law about what was and wasn’t ok for me to do while I was there. Obviously, he wouldn’t allow me to drink. And obviously, I couldn’t wait to drink. I met up with a cousin of mine who invited me to visit for a weekend in the majestic hamlet that is Lewiston, Maine. I’ve stayed there since.
Did I quit drinking when I got to Maine? C’mon now, let’s be real. Instead of easing back into drinking, I hit it like a champ. In fact, I honestly remember very little of that first year. I remember throwing failed culinary attempts off the third floor balcony onto oncoming traffic. (Which, by the way, is even more cathartic than you’d ever imagine.) Another thing I recall, if for no other reason than it was one of the stranger experiences I’ve had, was a shitty warehouse job I held for about 6 months. The company I worked for basically reproduced telephone parts from companies like Cisco, and resold them as if they were the real deal. Kinda like the telephone version of cheap Gucci knock-offs. The pay was deplorable. At 40 hours a week, I was far below the poverty line. Now, being in poverty is something I’m used to. Do I like it? Oh hell no. But I’m used to it. What really got me about the place was the fact that every morning as a company we had to stand in a circle and talk about feelings, and then have a daily affirmation. Something along the lines of “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggone it, people like me!” Seriously. I shit you not. I only wish I were joking. To top it off, the owner was a recovering stroke victim with a bad temper who would yell at the employees during the morning meetings for not taking that shit seriously enough. Again, I only wish I were joking. One of the last days I was there, the owner yelled at me and told me that I didn’t have to work there, and proceeded to belittle me in front of the rest of the company. I just kept my mouth shut and got to work. Later that day he came to apologize to me. That was nice and all, but really, I don’t put up with that, especially for poverty wages. So I told him that I understood, and that it was no big deal. After all, I said, yelling was nothing compared to having guns pulled on me. I think he got the hint and left it at that. The next week I said Fuck it and just stopped going in.
The week after I stopped going to work I did nothing but drink. Starting when I woke up until I passed out. But a funny thing happened. (Ok, not funny, haha, more like a dead clown funny. Dead clowns are always funny, dammit.) The last night of that binge I happened to watch Leaving Las Vegas. I thought that someone had been videotaping me and I was watching myself. What really got me was watching the main character have the shakes, drink immediately after waking up, not being able to hold it down until the second or third shot, and inevitably die in the end. Who fucking knew a trashy Hollywood movie would get me sober? I haven’t had a drink since. That was January 30, 2012, two years ago this month. I suppose I should write Nicolas Cage a thank you letter, but he hasn’t put out a really good movie in years, so fuck it.
So, sobriety has been a fucking blast. I can without a doubt say that. Now, my sobriety isn’t typical. That is, I haven’t gone to AA once and I really can’t imagine that I will. (It always depressed the shit outta me and made me want to drink more, funny that.) I simply woke up the day after Leaving Las Vegas and said, I’m done. That’s it. It seems to work for me, I guess. Maybe being a drunk recluse actually paid off in some weird way. The handful of people I do know here now, don’t drink. For the first few months I was pretty damned restless. That kinda sucked, but I filled my time with daily trips to the library. Yep, my social life was the library. Ironic, since you’re really not supposed to talk in them, but what the hell, I don’t really want to talk to most people in the first place. Even reading a book a day (Chuck Palahniuk was pretty damned good reading during that time,) got tiresome, and let’s face it, a small library in Maine isn’t exactly stocked with everything I wanted to read. (Granted, they did have a copy of Marquis de Sade’s Juliette. Weird, I know.) So, I again said Fuck it, and enrolled in school. I’m now one semester away from graduating with a 4.0 GPA in electromechanical technology. The degree in and of itself doesn’t really matter, nor does even getting a job from it. What matters to me is the fact that I did this for myself for no other reason than to prove I can.
As far as work goes, I’m an online specialist for a bank. Jesus fucking Christ, I never thought I’d say that. Not sure how to take this, but they’ve asked me about four or five times to quit school and work full time. I kinda feel like they’re saying to me “You’re really hot for a fat chick.” But hey, an underhanded compliment is still a kind of compliment, right? This is the first time that I can say I have decent health insurance and a real amount of paid time off. Holy shit, right? They throw a pretty good amount of money at me just to set people up with checking accounts over the phone. Granted, phone work sucks ass, but apparently I’m pretty good at it. So, hot damn, I guess. There’s a leadership position that will be opening up and they’ve asked me to apply for it. I may or I may not; I don’t know. My biggest worry right now is what direction I want to go in after school; if it’s the bank, work in industry, or more school. If that’s my biggest problem right now, then I’ve got a pretty charmed life, no?
Relationships? Nah. I honestly don’t have time. Would I like to have one? Sure, but dude, this is Maine. These folks are banjo-playin’ scary around here. I think I deserve to have a decent relationship with someone who can deal with my crazy and I can deal with hers, functionally. I’m sure that will come in time. If not, solitude doesn’t necessarily equate to loneliness. We’ll see.
With all my love and piss and vinegar,
Wade Warman has a BA in film and video production, and will be completing his AAS in May. He has been previously published in the now defunct Buzz24. In his spare time he likes building art installations, writing, and volunteering around the community. He hopes to one day become a professional student.