Waking Up – N.B. Turner

I woke up on her couch, three months after we’d last spoken.

My mouth was dry as a bone. The right side of my face pulsated with pain. Felt like I had a black eye. It stung when my fingertips grazed it.

I glanced down to see if I’d pissed myself (No, thank God) and saw my wrist was exposed. I pulled down my sleeve to cover it.

How did I get here? I thought.

The couch was under a big bay window, showing the street. I scanned until I saw my car, askew on the curb. I didn’t remember driving here.

I rubbed my left eye and my sleeve exposed my wrist. I pulled it back down and buttoned the cuffs. I stumbled off the couch towards the kitchen.

The lights were out, but sunlight was starting to creep into the kitchen. Didn’t matter. Could find the sink with my eyes closed. Once did after she’d dared me. Found my way around the whole house, blindfolded. From the front door, to the bathrooms, to the kitchen, the basement, all the way up to the bedroom. The blindfold stayed on there, but I didn’t go anywhere else.

When I tried to open the cabinet, my hands were shaking. My fingers never worked right when I was like this. I’d broken more than one glass with an unsteady grip, and I didn’t want to risk her glassware. I just turned on the tap and turned my head sideways, touching my lips to the stream.

Her kitchen was small. It had seemed larger when I still lived here. But all things fade with time. I looked around: everything was clean, fresh. An improvement from when I was still stumbling around here. Back then, broken glass littered the floor, spilled beer marred the counter. I was a clumsy drunk. Used to think I could hide it, but my unsteadiness always gave it away. She was right to kick me out.

Why did she let me back in? I thought.

“You shouldn’t have come here,” she said, behind me.

“Forgive me?” I said.

She shook her head. “Christ, you don’t change. You do something and ask forgiveness. Rather than just not do it at all.”

“Why did you let me in?”

She shrugged. “Didn’t want the neighbors seeing you.”

That fits. She was always hiding me at the end. From the neighbors, from her family, her friends. I didn’t notice until things came crashing down. Until she told me to get out. Then it was too late to ask forgiveness.

“You need to leave before the neighbors see the car.”

“Where are my keys?”

She rifled through the drawers, then chucked the keys at me. “You had them in your hand when you stumbled to the door.”

“I don’t think I should drive now. Can I stay for a bit?”

“Are you still drunk?”

“Feels that way,” I said.

“Christ.” She was furious that I was here, but she had let me in. Typical. She hated when I was drunk but kept stocking the alcohol. I looked around to see if there was any still here. Nothing but an empty bottle of wine in the bin where we used to throw our recycling. She used to hate wine. She always drank beer.

“Did you have someone over recently?”


“Just curious when you got a taste for wine.”

“Please just fucking go.”

“I can’t drive and I live across town. You want me to wait outside?”

“You can’t stay here.”

“I just want to know if you’re happy.”

“I’m better.”

“Not the same.” I walked to the bin and picked up the bottle. Red wine. Romantic. I thought of her with someone else and tried to fight back tears. One slipped from my eye as the bottle slipped from my shaking fingers back into the bin.

“What’s on your wrist?” she asked.

The cuff had slipped up. I yanked it down. “Nothing.” I snorted and wiped my eye to keep her from seeing the tear.

“Tell me your secret and I’ll tell you mine.”

“I’ve got nothing to hide.”

“Clearly not.”

“Were you seeing someone else?”

“When? Last night?”

“Any time.”

“You should know.”

“I don’t. Memory’s fading. I don’t remember a lot of things.” I remembered enough.

“Then I’m not telling you.”

“What does it matter now?” I walked around the kitchen, her eyes following me from the entryway. There were two plates in the sink. Remnants of something recent. “Why would you still hide from me?”

“Why would you need to know?”

“Because I still care.”

“You have a funny way of showing it.”

“I don’t remember driving here. It shows that I’m still attached to you. You let me in, so it shows you’re still attached to me.” I was looking for any shred of proof that we still had business with each other.

“It shows you’re a drunk and that I feel bad for you. That’s it.”

“Really? Then tell me who was here last night.”

“No one.”

“The bottle. The plates. Someone was here.”

“Your bad parking job. Your drunk ass here. You’re still a piece of shit.”

“What did I do that made you hate me?”

“You…embarrassed me. You couldn’t be trusted. You made me regret loving you.”

I came close to her. Close enough to feel her breathing. I reached out and touched her finger. She didn’t pull away, but she turned her gaze from me. A trace of perfume wafted from her neck. My hand lingered on hers, resting like dust on a butterfly’s wing. I felt her scabbed knuckles. I wanted to grasp her hand, but I held back. My hands had done enough damage.

“You need ice for your eye?” she asked.

“It doesn’t hurt too bad,” I said. “Maybe I deserve it.”

She looked at me and moved her hand away. “You can’t stay here.”

“Does he know about me?”

“She doesn’t need to. Now, go.”

I unbuttoned my cuff and let her wedding ring dangle from my wrist. She’d thrown it at me when she kicked me out. I kept it on a chain as a keepsake, hoping it could be a reminder to make amends. But no more.

I dropped her ring on the pavement in front of my car. Crushed it as I drove away. Told myself I’d get sober and never come back here. But I told myself that three months ago and look what happened.