Sometimes there is love, even when it is painful. The kind
of love that floats with pain, the kind of love that is simply there, suspended
in the air, and no matter how much that person hurts themselves, they are still
loved. Lindsey has the love of her life. She and Jesse have been destined for
forever since they were children but perceived shortfalls drive Jesse to an
addiction, and Lindsey is helpless as she watches him spiral downward.
Silently, I check the freezer and the cupboards,
reaching far into the back, even the drawer under the stove, which is hard to
open without making a sound. I don’t find the bottles, as I know I won't. I
don’t know where he hides his alcohol, and he'll never tell me. Jesse would
never lie to me, but he's very good at avoiding the truth. I suspect he keeps
it in the nightstand, or somewhere in his closet, but his bedroom is a place I
have not been invited to share in a very long time.
He's lounging on the couch when I wander back into
the other room. His robe has fallen open, and I see his thin skin stretched
over jutting rib bones. I watch his heart beat.
Slipping into the bathroom without a word, I soak a
washcloth in the sink. I carry it back to him and he wipes at his face,
scouring away his night sweats. Tapping the corner of my own mouth, I show him
the vomit he missed, and, embarrassed, he scrubs it away.
I kick off my shoes and finally sit beside him on
the couch. He folds the washcloth carefully and lays the square on the coffee
table, making sure that it is centred on a coaster. He'll shower when I leave, although
I know that sometimes it exhausts him to stand for so long. He will shower, and
brush out his beautiful curls, and dress in loose jeans and a worn t-shirt, so
if I come back after work, I'll almost be able to pretend nothing is wrong.
I reach out and gently take his hand. I hold his
palm without lacing our fingers.
"How is it today?" I ask him.
"It's okay." His voice is low and hoarse.
He always speaks quietly in the morning, because his throat still aches from
the vomiting he does at night. "It's not too bad."
I lift his arm and drape it over my shoulders,
laying my head on his shoulder. He is bonier every day it seems, but I can
always find a place that I am comfortable. He smells like himself, the soft
blend of Ivory soap and eucalyptus aftershave and an undertone of bitter sweet
sweat. The smells of my youth.
“Are you going to drink when I'm gone?”
He shifts uncomfortably. I know that while I’m at
work, he tries to drink lightly, just enough to get him through the day. Enough
that he can get dressed and do his laundry, clean the apartment, even go out if
he absolutely has to, without being plagued by his withdrawal. He keeps himself
on that edge, so when I come to see him after work, he is rarely drunk,
although I can always smell the alcohol on him.
The third [memory] was the night that we saw the moths from
his front porch. We were only children, fascinated by the insects' heavy,
bobbing paths. As we watched, they emerged from the darkness and were drawn to
the light; they flew into street lamps, bashing themselves over and over, until
they fell to the sidewalk, dead and still. We ran to the lights when we saw
them drop, horrified to discover their fate.
Taking matters into our own hands, we found a
butterfly net in my bedroom and then hurried back to the street. Very gently,
we netted the moths as they approached the lamps, carrying them into the
backyard, where we were sure they would be safe.
But every time, they would bob back to the street on
their feathery wings. They would return to the lamps. They would kill
themselves against the lights, and no matter how many times we tried to save
them, they always came back.
Please, he begged, we’re only trying to save you.
And there was nothing more frustrating than seeing
them coming back, over and over, killing themselves. No matter how many times
we tried. No matter how hard we fought for them.