Threadbare and Alone
by Charles C. Cole
Percy knows better than to abandon a woman, me, to the wilderness, but sometimes acidic emotions burst suddenly and unexpectedly to the surface like a roaring, foul-smelling belch and then force men’s hands, making them do the illogical, the polar opposite of what’s morally best. I’m the best thing that ever happened to him. He must know that.
All my life I’ve heard sermons of the ravages of alcoholism and drugs, how these self-inflicted assaults shepherded you, Papa, to the edge of madness, violence and jail, where you lost your remaining will to fight back. But, take it from me, there is no manmade poison as all-consuming, as insidious and inherently, Biblically, human as jealousy. Once this demon has found a vulnerable host to act out its malicious intent, there’s no going back. No easy 12-step road to recovery.
I write these words in my journal as I sit in my cold tent, staring at the last smoke from our dying fire. I have no matches, no cutting tool, no GPS, no phone, no food. No boots to stomp through the accumulating snow. No exit. Just a package of Nicorette gum and a survivor’s attitude. Men may be the death of me yet.
Percy and I arrived here twelve hours ago, I thought, to focus on healing our bruised relationship, to get away from the jagged cattiness of our pseudointellectual friends and intrusive family. In retrospect, maybe isolating ourselves was not the best choice. At home, we always seem like the sane and supportive ones, at least in contrast to the growling and spitting of our feral housemates. But alone, we can no longer benefit by generous comparisons; by a definition of our own making, we are now the most broken couple in the woods.
I pray that it isn’t true. I wish that his altruistic core, that glow that always seems to brighten every “active duty” photo I’ve seen of him from his days in uniform, has immunized Percy to our isolated little community’s longstanding history of chronic disfunction and disillusionment, our damaged colony’s bruised egos, our dreaded incurable “Crazy Brain.” But, I fear Percy has been infected, and I who loved him most am, therefore, the most susceptible and most convenient to his acts of casual violence. In our twisted world defined by police-blotter headlines, I have always been destined to be someone’s victim.
So why do I feel ashamed and apologetic, for somehow cornering him into a moment of fight-or-flight, with no good outcomes? Because I’m proud and judgmental.
In an unbearably optimistic future, he comes back with a calm, subtly penitent, mood and warm hands, rescuing me from the penetrating cold, and we move forward like this private event never happened; nobody will know how close our relationship came to being blasted on the front page of the Portland Press Herald. It will be our little secret, the threadbare truth.
Percy, I’m sorry for being transparently honest, for having bonded with more than one man in my colorful and rebellious life, especially during one crazy overlapping season of primal love, for acting with reckless abandon, as if the rules of cause and effect didn’t pertain to my indiscretions, for sleeping with M. while you were in the county lockup.
It may surprise you to know that I am more than the activity within my womb and the R-rated amusement park that leads adventurous men down there. I shall not be defined by my so-called “insatiable hunger,” by what entertains me, when I have always, teetering on self-sacrifice, given much more than my fair share to the bedridden and homeless and chemically dependent castoffs of our undernourished county. I am one of the good people, like my mother and her mother before her.
So what really happens now? Is this my last chance to forgive and ask for forgiveness? Dear diary, today I have been given a rare opportunity to account for every wrong of my brief existence with a sincere and contrite heart, an unwelcome deathbed confession.
To all who read this, you knew me. I hid nothing. There’s nothing new to add. I was coarse and genuine, loved laughing loud, hated crying ever, was riddled with idiosyncrasies and acted according to a few double-standards. I loved some and I hated some, probably equally, more than was polite.
I hope you’re glad to have known me. And I hope you’ll remember me. You were my people and my home, and I am no better or worse than you.
I’m going into the woods, maybe to find my way back to civilization. Maybe not. I have no map, just, some would say, an unrealistic faith in my own abilities.
Copyright © 2019 by Charles C. Cole