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DEATH BED by Dóra Grőber

You’re sitting in your bed, legs pulled up to your chest, black, unkempt hair in an unusual ponytail and you don’t talk, not because he’s not home but because you have nothing to say. Just a few hours ago you were standing on your desk and painting on the wall, first with a brush and then with your hands, listening to the song Rolling by Soul Coughing, not on repeat. You didn’t feel like an artist but you didn’t feel fake. You felt like this was recovery or at least some level or element of it, something he could see and think “he’s getting better” and he would smile but he didn’t come home and the half-done portrait feels more crazy than healthy now.

This woman in the group told you the other day you don’t have to be happy, you just have to stay sober because realistic goals are key if you really want to reach them.

3 days ago J. came over and bought cola instead of booze and you wanted to tell him not to bother, to feel free to drink a beer or ten because you won’t sway. It’s been 4 months. You wanted to say if I want to get fucked up, I will, just like James Frey wrote in his book, and it doesn’t matter whether you have a case of beer with you or not. You didn’t drink because you felt like it would’ve been embarrassing, like losing a fight not against yourself but against J., which is stupid. You felt like it would make you look ridiculous and weak which you believe you are anyway even though you’re trying hard to bring something home from all those sessions you sit through. Most of the time you just stare at your hands and listen and occasionally you offer a made-up story about yourself – you don’t particularly need to fabricate stories, you just want to check if they can detect lies. They can’t or they stick to their rule of respecting everybody’s words equally. It makes them seem absolutely useless to you but you go every time anyway because you promised him you will and you don’t feel like you’ve been trying enough yet. You think they can’t or shouldn’t be too soft or permissive if they want to help addicts, they have to be brutal because that’s the only thing they understand or at least this seems to be true when you think about yourself. J.’s cheerful and forgiving and his forgiveness kills everything natural between you, you desperately hope only temporarily.

Self-forgiveness is the hardest part and you don’t know what to do with the things you don’t think you should forgive yourself for.

He’s not home and he won’t be for another 3 months and he said bad timing and he didn’t want to go but you made him, you told him you needed to do this alone because he can’t always be there to save you and you’ve always learned everything the hard way anyway, pushed right in the deepest of waters, but you miss him so much and you wish he were here and you remember how the leader of the group said you need to do this for yourself not for anybody else but sometimes you think it’s bullshit and sometimes you think you’d be able to put up with anything, literally anything, ’til the end of times, to make him feel loved because words are cheap and you only use them to make a living. If he were here you wouldn’t sit in your bed, you would be lying down.

You talk on Skype. You call each other. That means you call him too and not only when you’re in need or trouble. You call him to tell him you made eggs for lunch and you call him to tell him nothing in particular. He always sounds calm and you can hear his smile and it makes your chest tighten with something elemental but you don’t ask him to come home because you promised yourself not to be selfish, at the very least when it comes to him.

You deliberately don’t tell him when you’re in a bad mood – particularly bad because you almost always feel either numb or very anxious – because you don’t want him to worry. He’s worried anyway and you know it and you hate it because it makes you feel like some kind of a recurring illness instead of a partner. Cancer, cured for the moment, but you can never be entirely sure or relaxed. You jump at every sign, real or imagined.

Now the paint is slowly drying on the wall and you feel old and sad. This is not that blinding, heavy, sticky sadness that makes you sigh and make resigned gestures. This is sudden and not connected to him or his absence. As far as you can tell it’s not connected to anything, maybe other than your whole life, your existence which simply narrows down to you sitting in your bed at this very moment. You don’t feel pathetic, or that’s not a dominant feeling. You feel small and you laugh at yourself for all the cliché thoughts that come to your mind about everything being meaningless and people not being more significant than mere specks of dust in the universe.

Most of the time you’re bored out of your skull.

It’s dark outside and the music stopped god knows when and you’re getting hungry which is another newish feature or ability of yours, or at least newly discovered as O. reminded you once, and you tell yourself maybe something sweet or you think that and you say this is unreal. You want a drink to make the beginning of this unstable feeling go away. You want fifteen drinks and you want to be unconscious, preferably for a few hours or the whole night, and you want to pick a fight with someone stronger than you. He’s never willing to hurt you even when you ask him to. The paint is slowly drying on the wall and you decide to paint something over that stupid face tomorrow. You want a drink. You want fifteen drinks. It’s been 4 months.

You’re slowly lying down.

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