Posted by: shelliejelly | October 30, 2008


When my daughter was barely one-month old, O. and I went to hear his favorite band play, along with his friend M. and another guy. My parents were in town and welcomed the time alone with Sabine and the opportunity we had to get out on our own.

The night started out well. We all met at a bar just down the street from where the band was playing. I hadn’t been out since Sabine was born, and my complete and utter failure with breastfeeding had taken it’s toll on my self esteem. It felt good to be able to sit down and have a beer; I found myself smiling and laughing, enjoying the company of these folks, two whom I knew, one who was a new acquaintance.

After a few beers, we left for the concert. Though the drinks were expensive, as they always are when you’re a captive audience, we continued to enjoy ourselves, buying one another rounds throughout the evening. Afterward, the band announced they were going down the street to unwind, and so a good portion of the audience followed, taking the opportunity to snap some pictures and talk to the musicians.

Here, in these moments that should have been light and happy, O. took a turn, as he sometimes did, into the dark. O. and alcohol have always had a fairly tricky relationship. Like a friend who pretends to be loyal only to subtly put you in positions that are less than ideal, alcohol almost always fueled O.’s demons.

Not uncommon; I’ve watched plenty of people change direction in what seems like the blink of an eye under the hazy, misguided influence of alcohol. Once friendly, now brutally dismissive and angry. As an onlooker, I could turn away in disgust, and, if they happened to be with someone, cluck in my head “Why would she be with him?” When it was O., when I was the subject, I turned inward, became quiet, stared aimlessly at nothing, waiting, hoping for the storm to be brief and leave as little destruction as possible.

On this particular evening, the storm raged on, into my home where my mother had to watch me carefully negotiate O.’s nonsensical, illogical anger. With a newborn, and a newfound shame, I talked softly, begged helplessly for him to find some small semblance of reason. I needed him to calm himself to sleep.

He always did. Always, at the end, he’d pass out and sleep the sleep of the dead while I lay beside him on edge, shrinking, unable to admit to myself this relationship was in need of repair. How easy we can make ourselves believe in the good, because there was a great deal of good. These moments happened so infrequently my mind could find some solace in the in-between.

But now I know the in-between, filled with hugs and kisses and secret-sharing, was always overcast with a nervous energy, a waiting for the storm clouds to roll in. I always knew, eventually, I’d have to endure another verbal downpour where finding shelter was complicated by my need to hide my unwillingness to walk away from the mess. To continue to find the good while bewildered wondering eyes clucked back at me “How could she be with him?”



  1. […] are days when remembering O. and I together leaves me confident that the decision to end our marriage is the only answer. And […]

  2. […] as abnormal, outside of his alcohol use, which could get, with the benefit of hindsight, downright abusive. As the years went by, I always silently thought to myself that O. was an alcoholic. From the […]

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