I had a pretty nasty relapse last week. I never much cared for that word. Lapse means “temporary failure of concentration, memory or judgement. “. So I guess relapse means to fail, once more, at those things. Seems sensible enough, but it so grossly understates what really occurs when I pick up a bottle. Bringing it to my lips (yeah, I’m that kind of drinker) feels at first like kissing the idealized woman I lost years ago – a woman whose taste, smell, sparkle and sex-appeal remain undiminished with time. The first taste is magical and she is as enticing as the day I met her. The seduction seems inevitable. Then I have a second drink, put some Rachmaninoff on the Victrola and return to offer her a cocktail. She declines. I forgot. She never touched the stuff. Someone has to be in control here.
As we settle back onto the settee, I notice that her lip-stick has smeared and her blush had been haphazardly applied -looking garish and doll-like. I also catch a better look at her once lithe thighs, now poking out through the runs in her fishnet stockings. I shake my head, take another long pull from the bottle and try to blink away the vision. She fires up a smoke. The voice I once recalled as so calming is suddenly shrill and her snaggle-tooth cackle sets my nerves on edge. The record skips. I cannot move save for bringing the vodka to my lips and drinking it dry. My last semi-conscious thought is of imagining her dragging two screaming brats through the Walmart checkout, shrieking at them while embarrassing the poor clerk.
After a lost day or two – more drinking, empties littering the floor and not one memory of the preceding 36 hours – I come to. Slowly I open my eyes, not fearing the hag I once coveted, but to do a full damage assessment. Dog, check. Four intact limbs, check. No major blood loss, check. No broken furniture, check. Ok, physical calamity has been averted. Whew!
But that’s the easy part. Because as I look in the darkened corner of my trailer I see them. Menacing, ever-present and over-shadowing. The hideous Four Horseman: Terror, Bewilderment, Frustration and Despair. They never miss the morning after and for the next week or so (provided I stop drinking), they will torment my soul. This is my punishment and it all happened because I traded the illusion of fleeting happiness for the reality of this nightmare.