Emma's Awakening: An Alcoholic's Tale
She wakes in the usual way, nothing on her mind but the tall glass of ice cubes she left waiting in the fridge last night, ready to go at any time. Another dandy day in store, she is sure. Richard stirs as Emma crawls out of the bed, grunting his usual greeting, “What time is it?”
“Six forty-five, give or take,” she answers, stubbing her toe on the snoring dog, “Damn dog! Always in the way.” There are far too many animals in this house...
Emma's morning drink isn't too far away, only she's not absolutely sure of her supply. Who knows what would be left of her stash on any given morning? She is pretty sure Richard wouldn’t dare drink it without asking, but she's never certain. Not these days. Nobody trusts her anymore, and she trusts no one in return.
She drags her 50 year old bones down the hall to the kitchen, anxiety growing now to get a glimpse her alcohol supply. Truth be known, she hasn't been able to stomach much of the old Seagrams as of late. She needs to drink just a bit to ‘get steady’ but her belly is in rebellion mode. Up it comes, as soon as she tastes it. Well, today is new, she is probably all over that. A contrary stomach, that’s all it is.
Her slippers squish softly over the kitchen tile, coming to rest in front of her favored cupboard for the whiskey, and reaching for the bottle, she finds an unnervingly light vessel. Emma brings it up to the dawning light in the nook, squinting her eyes at the disappointing reality. “Christ,” she curses, "Shit!"
Now for a plan, quickly before they wake and come into the kitchen. They have one vehicle in this household, only one, which can be a logistical pain in the ass when she is out of liquor. She stays home daily, tending to herself the best she knows how. And occasionally she tries to care for the others who live here, 7 animals, her hubby Richard and their 17 year old son, Michael. Since she still has about 20 minutes before they get up, Emma makes her first drink of the day. The trembling is still there, though not as bad as it was yesterday. What she really needs now is one little sip.
“Hey Mom,” mumbles Mike as he reaches for the opened carton of milk, “What’s that?” she tries to hide the empty scotch bottle behind her robe, but is unsuccessful.
“Damn it Mother…Have a cup of COFFEE for God’s sake, fuck!” and disappears around the hall corner. That went well, didn’t it? Teenagers, she thinks to herself, what on earth do they know? Soon, too soon, his father. Gratefully, she sips.
Shambling to her purse on the dining room table, she coaxes out her hairbrush and drags it through her tangles. Richard appears from down the hall grumbling and searching for something to drink. “Thirsty?” she asks as he downs a large bottle of chilled water, trying to charm him in some pitiful and desperate fashion.
“Hey, is it all right if I drop you off at work this morning?"
“Why, what do you need, more booze?” asks Richard with only a hint of sarcasm in his voice.
“Well, as a matter of fact…” she replies.
“Emma, are you serious?”
“Well, what the hell happened to it last night? I did not drink all that on my own!”
“So you’re saying that I drank it? Why would I drink your whiskey?”
“Are you saying that I did?” she asks, appalled.
“Christ, Emma, do we have to do this every time?”
Emma lets the tears fall. She is caught once again. Weak with the guilt of it all, she collapses into a kitchen chair.
Why is she so damned surprised at all of this? And she nurses her scotch, ice cubes tinkle their familiar tune.
“Go wash your face, hon, I’ll get the booze before work, just get cleaned up, won’t you? I'll be right back.”
Relieved, Emma goes to take care of her face, feeling defeated yet victorious as an alcoholic can possibly be.
The Last Day
Relieved that she doesn't need to dress to take Richard to work, Emma makes Michael his lunch-a hurriedly put-together PBJ and a bag of chips. She needs to sit down to keep the scotch from coming up again. Michael enters the kitchen, gives her a dutiful peck on the cheek, then leaves for school without a word. She is comforted to think that he has his own life now, and does not have to worry so about his mother.
When Richard returns, he finds Emma in her usual place on the couch, watching the morning news. He hands her the fresh bottle with cautious words, "Emma, now you know you're drinking too much, but hey, I love you, so just be careful, Okay?" "I will, babe, thanks," she says, literally snatching the bottle from his hands. She follows him to the front door, gives him a short kiss, and watches sadly as he leaves her alone.
But alone is what Emma wants, who is she kidding? Now for a real drink.
No....not now! She rushes to the bathroom to vomit once again. This is beginning to get tedious. Emma regards herself in the mirror, and disgusted at the woman she has become, returns to make her drink. Still clad in her pajamas and robe, she settles in for another day with the television and fifth-at least. Her mind wanders to the man who married her so many years ago, the man who has watched her deterioration with silent love. Richard, though wary of her drinking, is not one to criticize or call her what she knows she is.
Her loving thoughts can no longer keep her stomach from its protests, and she returns to the toilet time and time again. Each trip weakens her, her body now wracked with the pain of the efforts. She tries to keep the liquor down, but it rebels. Exhausted, she collapses on the bathroom floor.
Emma opens her eyes groggily to a collage of unfamiliar faces. Focusing now, she seeks out Richard and Michael, but these are not family, these are doctors and nurses. As she tries to rise, a nurse calms her, asking "Would you like to see your family now? They're just outside." She relaxes, then notes the various tubes inserted into her veins. Both Richard and Michael are allowed to enter the ICU, and they greet her with looks of concern.
"Emma, you almost died," Richard began, "your Pancreas is simply shot. The doctors claim that you must have been drinking far more than I thought." Guilty as charged. Now for Michael's two cents. "Mama, please, please don't die."
Michael's words were all it took this horribly ill woman to give up alcohol. Out of the mouth of babes, as they say.