Shame Falls Heavily
I first noticed them arrive
as the two women settled their kids and husbands in two rows
in front of us in the stands.
Then the men were gone.
I saw how they laughed playfully, sitting close.
One touching the back of her friend. Whispering
to one another. This was intimate familiar territory.
I thought it seemed to be an attraction
which was clearly more than friends.
Suddenly her husband appeared and she turned her back,
Completely forgetting the friend, to fall asleep
on his shoulder.
The game began.
After a long while the boy, her son, looked
back questioningly, eyebrows raised.
Then both children look again
at her and at the man. Not asking with words, but clearly wondering
what’s wrong? They needed to know what’s going on.
He shrugs again. And then again, when they glance back later.
His shrug is slow and heavy
as if to say: he doesn’t know why she’s asleep.
But he knows.
I don’t know. Not yet. At first, it seemed innocent, even to me.
The game was Hockey and I have to admit it held little interest. So
my curiosity with this hauntingly familiar scene grew. I couldn’t help
Staring. Wondering. A nagging sense of foreboding as the woman slept on.
And the kids are cheering. Knowing
but not wanting to know.
Startled I see that she has thrown up into her hand.
All over herself, and him. As he tries to comfort her,
and then to clean her up without anyone noticing she begins to weep.
He was so gentle as he whispered into her sticky hair
all the things I knew he didn’t believe.
It’s going to be alright. HUSH… It will be okay.
like a wool blanket
on her shoulders as she continues to weep
quietly into his shoulder. Wiping her own mouth again and again.
The smell of alcohol and the stench of puke finally reaches me. Then
without thinking I unwind my gray scarf from my neck to help.
Hesitantly at first. I thought
against it. These thoughts almost made me sit back again, as
I re-twisted my scarf back around my neck.
What would I have wanted?
How do you love like He would in a moment like this?
So, unwinding quickly I tap softly on his shoulder to hand to him the gray rayon scarf. Wordless
for there are no words. He knows.
The moment s l o w s in time when he won’t let go of my hand.
The hockey game fades.
I don’t hear the screaming fans or feel the cold air in the stadium.
All I feel is his warm hand on mine.
And his panic.
He does not know what to do.
It flows into me, his fear, his sorrow because this isn’t the first time.
His tears, welling deeply inside.
As he presses down on my hand it all flowed into me.
In that second, a moment of passing so briefly, I know again
the shame which falls so heavily.
As I remember my own.
Finally, pulling my hand away, I sat
through that game as if I were that woman, again.
The children mine. The friends and husband
all — unsure. Afraid. Watchful. Not knowing what to do.
This morning, I am grateful for my sobriety.
And wonder, of all the thousands of people in the stands last night, why did this woman sit in front of me?
I saw what it was like to be the sober ones. And hope I never forget
the frightened doe-like eyes of her children.
I will add this to my frayed two and a half year old,
yellow, 3 x 5 card of reasons I am gratefully sober today.
But I am no longer the Woman.
Some of the things I have written about my alcoholism:
I am not Ashamed
The Slow Crawl Of Healing
What Can I Say About Two Years of Sobriety?
For Everything There is A Season.
Eulogy to Life.
Letting Go. Thoughts on Being An Alcoholic
My First AA Meeting
My Crooked Heart
It’s Lonely Here on the Wagon
The Place of Nowhere
A New Way to be Human
Eulogy to Life
This Epic Grief
I Need a Filling