I was born, raised, educated, married, raised kids, and divorced south of the Mason Dixon line — just a few thousand miles away on the the West Coast. At other times, I’ve lived in South Florida, partied in NOLA, been dumped in Atlanta, cried my way through Alabama, and all my exes live in Texas. The last part isn’t true, but I’m fond of George Strait songs.
Amor vincit omnia
Love conquers all. I believed it on that chilly August night in San Francisco when I met you four years ago. I have no proof of the redemptive power of love. If anything, the facts are against it. I was married when I met you, and love didn’t save the marriage. Like my belief that God doesn’t exist, it’s a matter of faithless faith. I’m not daring you to prove me wrong.
Not any run-of-the-mill love, mind you, but my rare and beautiful, hyper-caffeinated, boozy varietal should do the trick. I know, you didn’t ask to be conquered. You don’t ask for much in general. You’re a sweet, generous California girl. You stuck with me through the divorce and the ugly dating-everyone phase, though it’s premature to call it a phase since it shows no sign of abating. I learned a few things since we met. One, you struggle with addiction. Two, I struggle with loving addicts. Three, still, I believe.
I can’t bring myself to talk about you in the past tense, not yet. You’re just going through a rough patch. Your mother and grandmother died the same week. Lost your job, savings gone, facing eviction. My calls and texts go unanswered. I have visions of you lying in a puddle of vomit, eyes open in a death stare. The kitchen ceiling is the last thing you see. I drive to your house. Your car is out front. I can’t bring myself to knock. To my discredit, I get back in the car and drive home. Still, I believe.
You reappear one day with a text from a new number.
“Sorry. Lost my phone in Vegas. Miss u.”
You’ve always had a loose connection to the world of facts, but in a good way. That is part of your creativity, your spark. Sitting cross-legged on a blanket on the floor, naked, you cut meth on the coffee table while the turntable spins out the syncopated bossa nova strains of my Stan Getz/Joao Gilberto LP. At first, I don’t see it, don’t want to see it. Your tenuous tether to reality is holding with a single strand. The upstairs neighbors are messing with you, hiding your stuff, you say. You hear them laughing at you. One by one, the people who care for you die or peel away. Still, I believe.
The eye-opener comes the day after. My three-year-old Chihuahua rescue starts circling non-stop, as if chasing his tail, then runs to another part of the house, circling some more. I fear he’s having a doggie stroke or brain aneurism. Eighteen hours and $1,200 later at the vet hospital, he fails his pee test. I tell the vet I have no idea where he got into meth. Not sure if she believes me, but she offers me an out.
“In this city, we see a lot of dogs picking it up off the street.”
You drop off the grid again. When you reappear – God no, if you reappear? – will I tell you about the dog’s bad trip? That you need to quit meth? Probably not. I will offer you unconditional love. It isn’t enough. It never has been. Don’t you think I know that? Amor vincit omnia. I have no choice but to believe. I have nothing more in me.