How to Fall

by Tamuira Reid

Duck into the nearest bar, grab a stool, roll-up your sleeves. Get down to business. Take a shot. Take another. Take a third. Drink a glass of wine, a glass of beer, a glass of vodka. Rinse. Repeat. You remember how to do this. A pro never forgets.

You should call your sponsor but you won't. You should probably feel guilty but you don't.

Drink with the ones who have nothing to lose because they've lost everything already. Or maybe they never had anything to begin with. Some people are dealt a shit hand in life. You are not one of them. You had it all and fucked-it up.

It doesn't matter if you have seven hours or seven months or seven years. IT is always there, waiting. Disguised as a good time. A giant Band-Aid. The best lay of your life. Up the five flights of stairs to your studio in Harlem, or your loft in Soho, or in the family room of your green-shuttered craftsmen in Stamford. Right behind you.

The anticipation is over. The “what if” becomes the “what now”. You drink and drink and drink until body and mind unravel and you want nothing and feel nothing and coming undone like this is better than air. It's better than life. It's better.

Across town your family is getting ready for the party. Pink balloons hang from streamers stretched across doorways. Bowls of M & M's and potato chips are placed on a table next to the Dora the Explorer sheet cake you ordered, a massive number “5” candle jetting out of its middle.

Remember when she was born. All conehead and piercing scream. How she spread across your chest and fell asleep. How you felt your dark heart open up for a split second, then close again.

Let the man next to you buy another round. Don't stop him when he puts his hand on your thigh. Don't stop him when he leans over and breathes into your neck, face buried in your hair. Remember when your husband used to do this. Remember when he stopped.

You met him at a coffee shop on Bleeker Street five days into your sobriety. Talked about books and shitty local poets and how no one writes anything worth a damn anymore. Six months later you married. You wore a black dress and wrote your own vows and watched as your aging parents held hands and cried, relieved you'd finally found someone who could put up with your shit.

Let the man kiss you now. Hard. Let it remind you of how wild you were back then. How all of that crazy has been replaced by a certain brand of peace others mistake for weakness. But addicts are never truly peaceful. Not down in the soul where it matters.

The jukebox spits out some music and everything in you moves, shifts. The mute button on your life suddenly lifted.

Go home.

Ignore the half-eaten pieces of cake and empty juice boxes and dollar store party hats. Ignore the opened presents and the shiny red bike leaning against a wall. Your husband is awake in the back bedroom. Keep your distance. Crawl into bed next to your sleeping daughter and let her breath remind you of what is at stake. It's just a matter of time, before she wakes up. Before you have some explaining to do.

It shocks you how truly easy tonight was, how uneventful, mundane. Just a blip on the radar of a normal workday. How utterly unnoticed it all went down. When your life went down.

There was no build-up, no Oh-My-God moment. No sweat running down your back. No racing pulse, speed dialing to find someone to talk you out of it. You didn't want to be talked out of it.

You felt like drinking and so you did, is what you will tell people.

Five years, nine months, four days down the drain, they will think but not say.

Maybe you ignored the warning signs: looking too long at that woman in the bar sipping on her third glass of white wine; walking the long way home on a freezing day just to pass by the liquor store and stare at those pretty, wet bottles in the window; stayed up later, slept in longer, paced the apartment, reorganized your kitchen.

You are not the first person to fall off the wagon and won't be the last. It happened to Joe the firefighter, eight years. Lana the cellist, two years. Mr. Rumford, the Sunday school teacher, twenty-two years. Couldn't take the passing of his wife so passed the time emptying bottles of scotch from the back pew. Your brother. Cousin. Aunt. Best friend. Two. Twelve. Eighteen. Four.

There is nothing remarkable about your drinking and nothing remarkable about your recovery. Alcoholics are a dime a dozen. The sooner you understand this, the better off you will be.

When morning comes, peel yourself from the bed, make a pot of coffee. Don't waste time feeling sorry about what you've done. They'll be plenty of time for that later.

Go to an AA meeting. Fess up. You'll be hugged and consoled and they will take you back in like the good, loving people that they are. Alcoholics hold grudges but never against each other.

Leave quickly. Walk slowly along the river. It's bright out and everyone is talking, their faces bleached out by the sun.

The past comes back in still frames: smiling for the camera, cigarette in hand, breasts spilling out of your top; the bar car en route to Rome on your first of many Spring Breaks that were more benders than a break from anything; the one-night stands and happy hours and hours that were supposed to be happy but weren't; late-night calls to your family, to your friends, the ones who weren't tired of your crap yet and would still listen to your rambling. When they'd ask what's wrong you'd say everything. As dramatic as it sounded, it was true.

Remember the day you got sober, for real sober, not the dry day between days when you were too sick tor too scared of yourself to put anything in your system, when you slammed Gatorade and vowed to get control of the uncontrollable. Not those days. But the one when it all stopped because you needed it to, because you knew you cared just enough to give it a go.

A week after rehab your roommate and only real friend in the world drank himself to death in a Bronx motel room, Sunday morning cartoons on the television. The paramedics found him lying fetal position on the bed, head to chest, cradling his arm like a busted wing.

He wasn't famous. Maybe in dive bars and on street corners but not in places that count. His death wouldn't be plastered across The New York Times or talked about at a film premiere with actors shuffling across the red carpet in evening gowns and tuxedos lamenting about the sadness of his fall from grace, what a talent, what a loss.

Instead he would join the others who go out quietly, without the sexy fanfare. Untold stories tucked away inside of them, a message in a bottle.

When you get back to the house, join your husband and daughter at the kitchen table. Pour yourself a bowl of cereal. A real bike! No training wheels, she'll say. Take the newspaper from him when he offers it. Flip through the Travel section. Dream about all the places you would go if you weren't you.