April 04, 2009

Red No. 5

By Betty Underground © 2008

We had been fighting for weeks. Finances, forgetting to put gas in the car, not hanging up a towel. You name it we were fighting about it. Years of togetherness and long extended separations had us uncertain about the future. I had a case of the "mean reds". Carcinogenic, like Red No.5. Tugging and pulling at our relationship.

It had been close to 6 years since he had pulled that custom made emerald ring of the pocket of his jeans, picked the lint off it and woke me from the dead of sleep to ask me if I would promise to spend a big piece of forever with him. A non conventional proposal but they were the exact words I wanted to hear. Forever was something neither of us believed in, but we both knew that we wanted to look at each other's faces over the newspaper for a ton of Sundays.

After so many years, his mother was getting squirrelly about us not finally marrying. Didn't make her look good at the country club to have her only son living in such sinful quarters. We had decided to make it official but dilly-dallied around getting plans in place. I bought a dress. He bought black socks. That was about it.

The coke trips no longer engaged us. They were driving me to fits of rage over him withdrawing during the trips. My left nasal passage so over used I couldn't snort air through it, let alone crystalized dust. My right passage was clear. The line slid up through my nose. The cold pain tightening around the bridge of my nose. My eyeball, then the front of my head. Like brain freeze, 7-11 slurpy style. By the time the drip started I was already high. A mix of clarity and creativity not matched by any other drug. The slide down stopped quickly in it's tracks with another snort. My head only slightly light. My thoughts grounded in conviction and conversation flowing uninhibited.

Words nailing his ego to the wall. Grinding his love for me down to a bloody stump. I was relentless. Trying to uncover a reason, any reason to end the relationship. It had run it's course. Nearly 10 years and I was ready to be free of it. His mother breathing down my neck. Pissing on my ideals and trying to morph me into the daughter-in-law she wanted. Not accepting me for who I am.

He hated it even more than me. Her judging him for being a writer rather than the lawyer she had asked for. For dating a woman in combat boots, rather than a priss in pearls. Tattoos on us both. Scratching our way out of her perfect vision of our life.

We could not fight her. We fought with one another. The anger infested our home. Cockroaches laying eggs and scattering around in the night. In the words on his pages. In the darkness in my mind. I was afraid. Afraid of being caught in this world that was not mine. We sucked the life out of each other towards the end. Our love wrung out. Dried stiff in the sun of the Southern California, like a Chamois Cloth.

The drugs covered up the inevitable. We needed help. We needed to find a way to talk to each other again. To resolve our fears, our pain, our anger. We were stuck. In quicksand. Slowly drowning in our own human shit.

One night I raised the catalyst for change high over my head. Gripped tightly in my fist as he sat silently at the kitchen table. Unresponsive to my ranting. I was literally out of my mind and body. My soul standing next to me on the Spanish tile floor watching my actions unfold. Not stopping me. Watching me. Allowing me to put an end to it.

He glanced up from the nothing on the paper in front of him. No thoughts. No words. Silence in the room and on that paper. I remember him raising to his feet in utter slow motion. His eyes fixed on mine, forcing me into stillness with his pure will. He pulled down on my left wrist and peeled my white fingers from the wooden handle. Laying the blade on the kitchen table. Then taking both my wrists and placing them at my sides. Wrapping his arms around me and flooding the room with his breath. Breathing warmth into my ear. Into my heart. Into my soul.

Breathing love back into us.

Betty Underground is a writer from Northern California.

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