I slept for two hours that night and thirty minutes the night before. I woke up out of a haze in class and realized I had sat halfway through the class after mine, and it would be a rush to get to therapy on time. I jumped to my feet, while the teacher was teaching God knows what, and I left. I was on foot that day.
I was walking a lot now that I was drinking all the time. I refused to get into my car if I had been drinking anything so there was little to no driving time. I ran home, making myself nauseous. I dashed in and into my room. I dropped to my knees and grabbed the broom that stayed in my room now. With the brush end I got the bottle rolling and rolled my whiskey out from under the bed where I hid it.
Two great swigs then I was heading out. I swooned at the front door and forgot to close it, letting out the air conditioning and leaving it open to any who would walk right in. Later, Johnson told me I had left the door open, but when he was telling me I was drunk and he knew what had caused it. He just hugged me, patted me on the back, and I would go on about my day.
My mental health clinic was about eight blocks away and I had about twelve minutes before I would be late, so I broke out into a run. I did not stop for traffic.
At the time, there was a restless cloud of death that surrounded me everywhere I went. I was looking for the thing that would kill me. Throwing myself into any situation that would endanger my life and bring about the end. Maybe some great injury would take me out of the game for a while. I looked for anything that would lay me up so I would not have to face the daily horror.
I ran five blocks and stopped at a dumpster to vomit. Ran the last three, and went behind a bush to vomit again, made it into the clinic gasping and panting and was shown to the room.
When I got there, they could see that I was upset. Roslyn sat across the room from me and looked at Branch and back to me and asked very politely. “Have you been drinking?”
“I had a few mouthfuls. I’m not drunk,” I said. If they threw me out, I didn’t know what I would do. I needed this session so badly.
“Our policy is that we do not allow a session to go on if the patient has been drinking. We will have to reschedule,” she said. “I’m sorry.”
“My brother is a child molester,” I said.
Silence. They looked at each other, then back at me. The leather folder she had closed, she opened again.
“How do you know?” she said.
Branch looked panicked. He looked as if he was in way over his head and he had no idea what to say. With one phrase, barely a sentence I had shut him down.
“He was accused and they took the kids in and examined them. It is fact,” I said.
“Okay,” Roslyn said. “Okay. Well, how are you?”
“I called the authorities on him,” I said. “It was stopped because of me.”
Branch’s mouth dropped open and Roslyn lowered her gaze.
“My family hates me. My mother knew he has been doing this for years. She let him work at her daycare. The rest of my family is trying to be supportive, but they have a look to them.”
“What kind of look?” Branch said.
“They are, afraid of me,” Shadow said. He closed his eyes and rubbed them. They burned terribly, and he felt the sudden urge to vomit and fought it back. “They look at me like they can’t trust me. They are careful around me and they seem to have a kind of fearful respect of me.”
“What do you mean?” Roslyn said.
I broke down crying. I knew the words I should use, but could not make myself use them.
“They think you are elemental,” Branch said.
“What do you mean by that?” I asked.
“Well, there are things in this world we can’t deny. Weather, gravity, and the elements. When someone is described as elemental, they are being called a thing that cannot be denied. Your family thinks you are elemental. They don’t know how to look at you. They don’t know how to explain you, and they can’t fight you. I would guess that your Uncles Wrath and Ball just stare at you when you are in the room. Your grandmother speaks carefully. No one knows how to handle the thing that you have done. It shows a kind of strength and righteousness that no one has a name for, and it sets them on edge and scares them a little.”
“Well, maybe some of them, but not my mother,” I said. I was crying now. The only reason I could tell was because I felt small droplets of tears falling onto my shirt. Roslyn handed me a box of tissues and I looked at it in that moment not really knowing what it was. I held it like it was a jack-in-the-box.
“I don’t know what to do with this,” I said to her. I looked at her face and saw deep signs of worry. Pity and pain. In the face of that pity, I burst into tears. Sobs shook my body and I lowered my head. I looked up, seeing deep emotion in both of their eyes. I set the box in my lap and hugged it to my chest.
“You seem to be having a kind of break,” Roslyn said. “It might be time to see about getting you some rest.”
Guardian came out and set the box aside. He looked at both of them suspiciously and wiped his eyes. “You want to put me somewhere?”
Roslyn stared at me for a few moments before she wrote something down. “I know of a place where you can regroup and put yourself back together again. Just for a few days get some rest. It is clear you are not sleeping. You are drinking in order to cope with what you are going through. It is time to think about your survival.”
“Are you ready to take this to court?” Guardian said.
Roslyn pulled back.
Branch looked at his instructor, then to me. He looked scared. He rubbed his hands on his pants and Guardian knew the man’s palms were sweaty.
“It’s nothing like that,” Roslyn said. “I am not trying to have you committed. I am just saying that a place to gather yourself might do you some good.”
“You see how I can’t let you do that, don’t you?”
“First of all, it would not be me doing it. It would be us agreeing to it,” Roslyn said. “But no, I don’t see why it would be a problem.”
“I can’t show weakness. I can’t let them see that this is breaking me. I have to be a solid rock for them to break upon. If this drives me crazy then they will start to say that I feel guilty, that I am regretting my decision. They can’t see any weakness from me.” Guardian shook his head. “This thing you suggest would hurt those kids.” He cut his hand through the air and Branch flinched. “It cannot happen.”
“Okay,” Roslyn said. “You might be right on that. Listen, it was just an idea.” She smiled at me. “This is not me becoming your enemy.”
Guardian nodded. But he had already decided that he could not use these people anymore. If they were suggesting putting him away, he needed to walk out. He could never come back to this room. Never step under this roof ever again. He looked at each of them and smiled the best smile he was still capable of.
“Listen, you have both helped me in the past. You have done amazing things for me and I appreciate it very much. Branch, you are going to be great at this one day. Keep chopping and learn not to be afraid or nervous about what is happening to your clients,” Guardian said. He looked at Roslyn. “Roslyn, I wish you were my mother. I wish you were with me all the time and I could call on you whenever I needed you.”
“You can,” she said. “I want you to take my card. Take it with you.” She handed me her card and pointed at it. “If I am in a class or a session, I will call you the second I get out, and we will see what you need.”
“I appreciate that, Roslyn.” I looked into her beautiful face and knew that I would never see it again. I was losing one of the greatest allies I had ever had.
“I gotta go,” Guardian said.
“We still have ten minutes,” she said.
“No, Roslyn, we are out of time.”
She nodded and looked at her pad. She looked back at me and seemed to possess all of the world’s sadness. She smiled a sad smile and we stood up.
I walked to the desk and waited in line. I paid my ten dollars with a balled-up check and they asked me when I needed to come back.
“I’ll let you know. I don’t have my schedule yet. I will have to call in,” Guardian said. When he turned around, he saw Roslyn standing before him.
She stood right in the center of the waiting room and she looked at Guardian and smiled. “Could you come with me for a moment?” she said. Guardian followed her to the door and she looked at him with caution on her face. “A few months ago, you looked at me and said that you never wanted to have kids because you were afraid you would hurt them and abuse them.” She looked around. She wanted to say more but would not do so even though we were several feet from everyone and no one could hear us. “Well if you ever have that thought again, I want you to think about what you did when you found out that children were being hurt.” She brushed a lock of hair out of her eye and looked up at me. “When you heard that children were being hurt, you instantly broke into action. Jesse please realize it is not in you to harm a child. You would make a great father.”
Guardian slipped away. He went somewhere to hurt but he hugged the words close to him.
Shadow came out, confused and dazed, standing in front of her and somehow knowing that he would never see her again. He nodded and turned for the door.
“Jesse, do you think it would be okay to give you a hug?”
Shadow grabbed her up and sobbed. He buried his face in her hair and wept. She held him swaying back and forth and muttering it would be okay over and over again. She told him that he had done the right thing. She told him she was proud of him.
Then she was gone. He walked out of the building and never came back.
Roslyn, if you are out there and you read this blog, I want you to know that you were right. I had kids. They are perfect and beautiful and they are loved. They live in a stable, loving home and they know how to interact with their father in a healthy way.
You helped me get through a hard time. That hug you gave me and those words you said to me healed me and I held on to them through the stuff that came after. In this next section, you were with me. In South Towers, you were with me. In every pain and in every heartache, I took you with me. I love you. Be well.
That night I knew I had lost a valuable ally. I knew that I was headed into hell without a guide or a life line. I grabbed a bottle of bourbon and headed out into the night.
It was raining and cold, and I drank as I walked. At first, it was just fueled by a need to feel something clean on my skin and numb the pain. But this would not be the last time that me and bourbon would walk the streets of Springfield alone at night. I sobbed and I screamed, and when people got close, I came at them babbling until they ran off. I stumbled and I cried and every now and then someone would hug me, but never stay. A few times, I felt people following me. I decided they were following me to make sure I was okay.
I was never hurt, never attacked. But I could tell every time I left the house to stumble out into the night that I was breaking someone’s heart. There was a place that I walked by often. I can’t tell you where it was, but someone there would see me. They would come to me and they would hold me. They would talk to me. They knew what was going on with me.
I could never remember anything about them, this phantom stranger that would hold me and encourage me. I would not be surprised if it was an angel. But part of the reason that I survived this part of my life was because of them. If they are out there, know that the restless impotence that gripped me and forced me out into the streets was staved off a bit by you. Thank you for your kind embrace. Thank you for the love you showed a broken warrior.