Restart Again – Published in Wrong Way Go Back – Coming Soon
I knew it was over when my car skidded into the lake. I should never have had that first drink, but that payday cash itched in my pocket. Teased, taunted, dared me. I didn’t want to do it. Well, maybe I did. But I definitely should have accepted that ride home from the bar.
I pushed the door against the water fighting to keep me captive, squeezed my way out and swam a few short strokes to shore where I plopped myself on the soggy embankment and lay back thinking, now, I could use a drink.
I was fourteen when I started filling my parents’ vodka bottles with water. As the years passed I moved on to weed and pilfering cash from my mother’s purse. The weed grew to coke, and the coke to crack, but I never gave up on the vodka or stealing from Mom’s purse.
I hated being a disappointment to my parents, and convinced them if I could just get clean, I would make them proud. That was the first time they shelled out thousands to purge me of the demons.
Cleaned up, I got a job singing and playing my guitar in a local pub. Though frowned upon by my therapist, I was sure the alcohol would not disturb me. For the first few weeks, I showed up early every night and sang my heart out. I was a success. People loved me, and I was even developing a following. Mom and Dad came to see me perform. They smiled and applauded with the audience. They were proud.
It wasn’t long before the smell of the whiskey and weed became irresistible, and my meager income way shy of what I needed for my fledgling crack addiction.
After Mom’s diamond ring went missing, and the police searched the house for evidence of a burglar, I heard my parents arguing. Dad was convinced I had taken the ring and sold it for drugs. Mom defended me. And having lost all sense of responsibility for my actions, I raced to my room to make sure my guitars hadn’t been stolen.
Dad was soon shelling out more money for rehab. This time I was committed to leaving that ugly past behind, determined to make something of myself as I had promised.
Once again, I was singing at the club, the only job I could find. There I met Rhonda, and she clung to me like hot glue. She recognized my talent and spoke of my future success. We drank iced teas, and she talked about her life mission to find talent, to protect the abused and to lead the astray on the path to redemption, to success.
I can’t remember a fucking thing how it all came about, but one day we were standing barefoot on the sandy beach reciting vows under the bright white light of the sun, the Caribbean Sea lapping at the shoreline behind us. The heat was intense, my white linen shirt was soaked with sweat, and I couldn’t wait for the preacher to declare us joined in holy matrimony. I almost forgot to kiss the bride before I turned and ran into the sea. The thought of never returning crossed my mind, but somehow, I was back on shore in dry clothes spiking my iced teas with vodka.
Rhonda tried to help me, but my resistance grew and arguments became physical. She insisted she couldn’t do it alone. She wanted my parents’ help. So in lieu of another rehab, we moved to New Orleans where my Mom and Dad put a down payment on a “fixer-upper” house for us.
The work was supposed to keep me busy and out of trouble along with caring for our three dogs and attending daily AA meetings. It worked for a while, but the marriage was crumbling and Rhonda was soon finding comfort in the arms of another man. That’s when I never wanted her more. I wanted the dogs, I wanted the house, and I was willing to fight for it all.
And that’s what I was thinking when the flashing red lights drew near. “What happened, here, boy?” a deep voice said.
Boy? I thought. “Well, I was rounding this curve, I guess a bit too fast, and my car skidded off the road.” My speech must have been slurred because the next thing I knew, I was exhaling into a breathalyzer.
“How much you had to drink tonight, son?”
“Only one, maybe two drinks, that’s all. I mean I was definitely sober enough to drive.”
“Yeah, well that’s not what this test indicates. Ya got a license on ya?”
I grimaced peeling my expired license from my wet shirt pocket, rambling in my defense that it had been reinstated. “I just grabbed the wrong one when I left for work this morning.”
“Umhm,” the cop said.
I must have asked them to call Rhonda, because as EMTs were stowing me into the cargo bin of their vehicle, I could hear the cop saying, “She’s his wife.” Then the doors of the ambulance slammed shut.
My head was spinning. I couldn’t shut out the noise around me, bright lights shining in my eyes, scissors cutting through my wet clothes, when a warm hand wrapped around mine.
“Rhondie,” I whispered, fighting back tears. “Thanks for coming. I’m so sorry.” And then like a baby I sobbed in my mother’s arms as she broke the sad news. “She’s not coming, son. It’s over.”
Three days later Mom entered the detox ward. I laughed nervously and began singing, “Ho-omward bound, I wish I were…”
“But homeward bound you ain’t,” she interrupted shaking her head.
“I’m gonna make it this time, Mom. You’ll see.”
She was wearing a Tough Love t-shirt, just like the man behind her who stepped forward saying, “Yes, son, this time you will.”