This latest entry to Dispatches from comes from Bradley D, a first time contributor. He was not available for a follow-up comment when I reached out to him.
“The time I saw Maggie and we had that big-ass fight, I thought that was the end of it, but it wasn’t–not by a long shot. The fuck-all of it was that I still cared about her, wanted to know how she was, and if someone was taking care of her. She was definitely someone who needed taking care of, and I didn’t think I cared who it was. I sure as shit knew it couldn’t be me, so I wanted someone who got it, understood what she’d been through. But when I found out it was Ray who stepped into her life in a shitty suit of rusted armor, pretending to be Prince Valiant or whatever the fuck, I lost it.
I fell off the wagon weeks before that went down. My so-called friends said they saw it coming a million miles away and wondered why I didn’t do shit to stop it. They asked why I quit calling my fucking sponsor months before and wondered why I stopped going to meetings. I told them my sponsor was a douche and meetings never did much for me anyway. It was all just a bunch of mumbo-jumbo horseshit dressed up to sound spiritual. I get the 12 Steps, and I know they work for some people, but they didn’t work for me. And before you start in with the sanctimonious harping about, “Well, Bradley, you didn’t finish the Steps, so you can’t judge their effectiveness,” just save us both the trouble and go fuck yourself quietly in a corner. I’m done with people telling me how to work a program of recovery, and if I never set foot in another AA meeting, all the better.
Once I picked up again, I was back to my old drinking habits within three days, getting shit-faced before ten in the morning. I kept my job for a few weeks, which still amazes me. I was just waiting for the right time anyway to tell my boss to go to hell. My boss turned all chickenshit and called 911, said I was threatening everyone and said I’d shoot the first person who got in my way. I’ve done a lot in my drinking career, and I’ve remember every fucked-up and every wonderful moment; I’ve never blacked out, so I know I didn’t say that shit. When the cops got there, no one backed up my boss, so he ended up getting ripped a new one for calling 911 for no good reason.
When I got up the next day, I drank my breakfast and went straight to Maggie’s. I could have called before, and maybe I should have. Maybe I’d be writing a different fucking story today if I had, but you can’t go back in time. I’ve tried, man, every time I got drunk and most days when I was sobering up. Life doesn’t work that way, which I guess is good, because who the fuck knows what damage I’d cause if I could reverse the hourglass.
So I showed up at Maggie’s and pounded on the door. I don’t know what I expected when she answered the door. More than anything, I wanted her to be happy to see me, but she wasn’t. She just kind of blinked and left the door open as she turned away. She was wearing blue panties and a ratty Sex Pistols t-shirt, which normally would have made me hard, but it didn’t. She was using again. If it wasn’t obvious by her dead stare and the way she wobbled back toward the sofa, it was plain as fucking day because Ray Willer was tying off on the sofa, the fucking needle in his hand, just itching to find a vein.
“Hey, man,” Ray said. God, I hated his voice. I hated everything about him, especially in that moment, because I knew he’d come to Maggie with that shit and got her back on the rollercoaster. I didn’t know when it happened and I didn’t fucking care, but it had been him. I knew it without him saying another word.
Not that he got the chance to. I leaped across the room like a goddamn tiger and first knocked the needle across the room, and then I knocked his head as far back on his shoulders as I could without decapitating the motherfucker. I wailed on him until I got tired and then I climbed off.
“What the fuck are you doing?” Maggie whispered slowly to me, the heroin making her function at half-speed. Her pinpoint eyes were all over the fucking place, landing on me for a second and then jumping away.
“Saving your sorry ass,” I said and cracked her across the face with the back of my hand. I’m not fucking proud of that, but it’s what happened. When she looked back at me, blood seeped from her lower lip, which had formed into a sloppy grin.
“Same old Bradley,” she said. “Do it again, baby.”
I took a deep breath and looked over at Ray, who was hunched over and groaning. I watched him spit out a few teeth, so I walked over and kicked him in the face so he could add to the collection on the coffee table. “Help me get him out of here,” I said.
“But I like him,” Maggie said.
“He’s a fucking piece of shit, Maggie, and you know that.”
“I’m just going to lie down,” Maggie said and flopped on the floor. So it was up to me to move fucking Ray Willer. He was a skinny little shit, so I dragged him out of Maggie’s place and across the street, leaving him moaning between two trash cans. I dug out his cell phone and stomped into pieces, and threw his fucking keys down a drain. I didn’t care if the fucker lived or died.
When I got back to Maggie’s, she was drifting in and out, talking about her sister who died when she was ten. I’d heard that story sober and drunk, and no matter my condition, it killed me every time. Maggie and her sister Laura were walking home from school when some drunk asshole swerved to miss a car and slammed right into Laura. Maggie was something like five inches away from her sister and didn’t get a scratch, but her sister ended up dead on the sidewalk. Maggie always talked about Laura’s new pink Converse she’d gotten the day before and how proud she was to wear them to school. Instead, she was buried in them.
I drove Maggie back to my place and I put her in my bed, and I drank the rest of the fucking day. When Maggie got up, I was too drunk to do much of anything, so she drank with me. Alcohol was never her first love, but it would do in a fucking pinch.
The next few weeks went pretty much the same way. I tried to get Maggie to quit shooting up and she tried to get me to quit drinking. It was like some fucking horrible Abbot and Costello act for drunks and junkies. Finally, we just stopped and focused on the fucking, at least when we were both able to.
We heard on the street that some good Samaritan took Ray Willer to a hospital. They had to wire his jaw shut and he had some broken ribs, a punctured lung, and a broken leg. Last I heard, he cleared out of town, which is in his best fucking interest.
One day, I came home, and Maggie was gone. Took what little she had–her purse, a backpack full of these old paperbacks she read over and over, and a pair of pink Converse–and just fucking left. She put a note that said Too bad we’re bad for each other. Love, Maggie.
So here I am, drunk as a fucking skunk on Christmas, and alone. It’s just me and these words and a bottle, just like in the old days. I have no fucking idea if I’ll try to get sober or just let this be what takes me down, and honestly, I’m sick to fucking death of trying to figure it out. I just wish Maggie would come back. High or not, I’d take her. I’d tuck her in and kiss her forehead and tell her tomorrow’s a new day, and she can start over.”