Mary began to isolate herself after the rumor started. That sort of thing was easy for me to blow off, but Mary always internalized the gossip. She became preoccupied with what people were thinking, or what she thought people were thinking – about her and what she did. If there was some kind of device that could measure how much others actually thought about us, I think we’d be disappointed with how little they actually did. Five or six seconds a week at the most ~ hardly worth the emotional energy.
Hardly worth the self-loathing.
"They think I’m a quitter, a loser, selfish, a hypocrite, that I’m compromising my children’s future, that I want to cut and run, I want to escape, to be with someone else, that I only think about myself, that I’m being illogical, that I obviously don’t eat enough, and so I must be undisciplined in all areas of life, that I’m paralyzed by my fear, I’m doing this because I wish my mom had done it, that I’m projecting my hatred of my Dad onto Jake, that I’m harming the kids by taking this action, that I’m not nearly grateful enough, that I’ve broken the unwritten rules; that I’ve stopped all the adjusting that everyone’s been used to, that I’m no longer willing to adapt, to compromise, the find the “win-win,” that deep down I’m really unloving, unwilling to persevere, that I’m a loser ~ a two-time loser, that I’m a wimp, that I can’t stand a little pain, that I’m way, way too sensitive, and I’m way overreacting, that I’m giving up, that I’m full of hatred, that I’m seeking revenge, that I want my pound of flesh, that I want my mother to pay, pay, pay; that I’m doing this to spite her, that I’m not expressing my anger appropriately, that I’m losing my temper, my timing is terrible, I’m not tapping into my creativity, that I have not exhausted all my options.
You should be ashamed of yourself."
Mary started doing the grocery shopping at 2 or 3 in the morning, just to be sure that she wouldn’t run into anyone she knew. If she didn’t see anyone, then there wouldn’t be anyone to project thoughts on to. Just her and the turnips, cabbages and baby carrots. They didn’t think anything about her. No opinion, whatsoever. They just laid there, waiting for the simulated thunderstorm sounds that announced that they were about to get a refreshing spray. Mary would often wait for the veggies to get one more spritz before she picked the ones she wanted.
It was more compassionate that way.
Chuck was an obese cashier who preferred the graveyard shift for the same reasons Mary preferred to shop during this time. They never exchanged more than a polite smile with each other. Mary made it clear by her lack of eye contact that she had absolutely no interest in engaging with anyone at this time in the morning ~ or any other time of the day, for that matter.
Mary liked to walk out in the parking lot when it had only two cars in it – her Camry and Chuck’s Saturn. She’d often forget that the grocery store closed one of its entrances after midnight ~ perhaps to give would-be robbers fewer escape options. Every time she pulled on that locked door, Mary thought, that’s what I really want --more escape options. But each one she explored proved either unreliable or untenable as she played each scenario out in her mind. Picking up veggies in the wee hours was an escape of sorts ~ but it was only temporary, and very boring.
The liquor store next to the grocery still had its neon “open” sign on, but there was no way it was open for business this time of night. The owner was probably drunk again, and passed out behind the cash register. How sad is that? An alcoholic-owned liquor store. That’s like a casino owned by a compulsive gambler, or meth addict running a pharmacy. Maybe that’s why some of those T.V. chefs were so fat.
Mary thought about finding some relief through booze, and even tried a controlled experiment. Early one morning, when she was sure that a veggie run to the grocery store was not going to be necessary, she pulled out the two ingredients she needed for her experiment: 7-Up and Seagram’s. The liquor store owner recommended this combination to her ~ quickest way to a buzz and easy to maintain for long time.
So Mary quietly slipped the car keys under my pillow, while I was sleeping, just in case she lost total control and decided to go for an inebriated joy ride. On top of everything else, a DUI was not something she was ever going to be able to live down ~ not with her family’s history. She started mixing the pop and alcohol, experimenting with different ratios until she found the right combination that was at least palpable. Once she got the exact proportions, it didn’t taste too bad to her ~ that was going to be necessary if she was ever going to pull this off.
So she found one of her Dad’s old drinking glasses ~ a Waterford Double Old Fashioned, and started mixing and drinking. She tried not to linger too much between each belt ~ she really just wanted to get the experiment over with and be sober enough by 7:00 a.m. to take the kids to school.
By the fourth drink, around the 12-minute mark, Mary’s head began to spin ~ slowly at first. I expected this. This is not so bad. And then the first wave of nausea hit her. When she got up to head to the bathroom, she felt as if she had just placed the butt of a bat on her forehead, leaned over, and spun around 20 times . . . then started to run. Her first three steps to the bathroom started her on a trajectory that was going to be about 30 degrees off to the left, so she compensated, and started aiming for about 15 feet to the right of the bathroom door. Even in her inebriated state, she was quite pleased that she was able to pull of this rather complicated applied-physics problem. That’s when the second tsunami wave of nausea hit her, and she knew that the accuracy of her trajectory wasn’t going to make a bit of difference, because she wasn’t going to make it to the bathroom — although what she did project made it within six or seven inches of the bathroom door.
As she pulled herself along the Seagram/stomach acid trail she had just created, she said to herself, How could people do this to themselves? How could this be a way of life for my dad? How could this, in any way, be considered fun, pleasant, or mind-expanding? Do people actually get behind the wheel in this state, and attempt to drive? Thank God I’ve had this experience, and it’s been so horrible. I will never, ever do this again. It will never, ever happen to me.
And, once again, Mary was quite pleased with her moral superiority over those who did this for a hobby. And then she passed out.
That’s how I found her, before the kids woke up – about 3 feet from the bathroom door. I cleaned her up, put her to bed, and took the kids to school. It took Mary at three days to recover. Thank God for failed experiments ~ but Mary had still not discovered the way of escape she longed for. But why did she want to escape?
I couldn’t be any more of an escape for her either. I was more of the problem for her than the solution. I could tell she wanted to connect with me, but her shame prevented it. Whatever the rumor was, I sensed that if I “found out” ~ she’d collapse. And so she kept herself at arm’s distance from me so that if it did happen, the impact wouldn’t be so significant – on her or me. So of course, she would tell me nothing. Even the people who were supposedly spreading the rumor claimed to know nothing.
Were they just trying to protect me too . . . or were they as much in the dark as I was?