The door is locked. Dead-bolted. The one lock I don’t have a key for. FUCK!!! He’s in there, catatonic I’m sure, and I’m out here in the cold, exhausted from working long hours to pay the rent for the apartment to which I have no key for the dead bolt. The apartment that was to be a new start: his first home, our love nest. The apartment that will certainly have the pungent smell of an irritable bowel mixed with sweat and other chemical compounds.
Rage and fear grapple my intestines and brain at once. Soon I am pounding on the door like a scorned lover or a mentally insane person. It rattles in the door jam with a hollow sound reminding me of the fragility of everything around here: the walls, my heart, his sobriety. Why punish the neighbors with a soliloquy of curses and tears? I shakily reach into my pocket and pull out my cell phone knowing that this, as well, will be an exercise in futility. But I do it anyway like so many things that we do, that he does. Do it anyway. I call the home phone.
Composing myself is difficult as the influence of the drug is over me now as well. Like secondary smoke I swear this stuff could kill me without me ever touching it. This stuff that I’m naive enough to not know what it really is. This stuff that causes repeatedly higher doses of cortisol to be released in my brain—just by smelling it. Yes, like any good airport security dog, I can smell traces of it coming out of his pores. Or is it remnants of dust on his face? Is it speed or meth or are they the same? One eye closed and one eye open I don’t really want to know. I know that I won’t sleep tonight.
The phone rings. The message plays. Then I hear my voice echoing in the apartment as I’m speaking. I plead gently, not pathetically, hoping to release his rational self from the trance of his paranoid self. Hoping that I will be released from my sentinel post at the doorway. Hoping that I won’t have to curl up in a pool of shame on my welcome mat on the cement doorstep until his state changes. Hoping.
A faint sound of movement comes from inside and then the grating of metal against metal as the deadbolt slides and suddenly all resistance has disappeared. The door swings open gently as if a ghost has passed by but there is no evidence of a person inside. The computer screen flickers in the distance from the desk which was recently abandoned. I know the pattern. He would have been sitting there frenetically clicking the mouse moving from porn site to porn site so fast that the message was almost subliminal; the tight shots showing anatomy undistinguishable and grotesque in its scale. But he’s gone into hiding. Moved to the bedroom.
I walk in shedding my bags but feeling my baggage getting heavier by the second. There he is: not quite settled and hovering around the doorway in the bedroom. The pungent smell is much stronger now and I feel at once disgusted and sad. He looks at me with wide, black, lemur eyes that are all pupil. His lip curls up and he’s breathing through his mouth; staring like a cornered animal wondering what his fate will be but ready to fight. Maybe he smells it too. Of course he does. His legs are wrapped in a towel acting as a sarong. He has undoubtedly removed his soiled clothes and attempted to hide them in some back corner of some cabinet which I will discover later along with my favorite lingerie that served some bizarre purpose. He stuffs his shame into the cabinet as well.
I sigh and a tear meanders down my cheek but I am as numb as he is by now and I cannot dissect my emotions. “Sorry, sorry, sorry, sorry, sorry, sorry, sorry,” starts pouring out of his mouth like a waterfall. It crashes into my consciousness like blows to the head. Don’t listen. Don’t help. It keeps happening. It will kill you. I want to kill myself but I don’t want him to win. “I need help,” he says like so many times before. “Help yourself,” I say coarsely as only an addict could understand. He cries like a baby. I hold him and cry too. I don’t have faith. I don’t have religion. I will survive.
Tomorrow it will be different. The self pity will disappear and the shouting will begin. Confidence comes quickly in the form of fists and sharp words. Broken door hinges, broken skin, broken glassware and holes in the plaster walls will revisit our world as the chemical alchemy goes for another romp in his brain. I will retreat in pain and shame. Never again. But I will do it again… and again…and again…and again and so will he. Then one day I won’t.