There was a feeling of normalcy to my life, my wife and I had just come through a tunnel of self destruction that was so fraught personal chaos it appeared for a moment that the world around us had collapsed like a shattered bottle on cracked pavement. There were moments in the preceding years where the skin on my body appeared to be a separate entity, slithering away from inner thoughts that bordered on frenzied imbalance. I had awoken from years of creating a world of the absurd to find myself without any idea of how to proceed from a strangulated sense of self based off a few years of my early twenties across the threshold of my mid-thirties. For a while I was the walking embodiment of “what-the-fuck.” We had purchased a beautiful old house between the duplexes of north campus and the middle-class pleasantries of Clintonville. We were giving in to the passiveness of normalcy but not without an air of liberal steadfastness; it was as if we were challenging ourselves to stay rooted in the urban confines of Columbus even if we had to live next to a plasma center.
My wife had moved back to Ohio, we both chased and embraced a sober lifestyle built around a need to make up for lost time, not only in our relationship but as adults. I decided to return to college, an endeavor that had scared me shitless in my twenties. The last time I had been in college was fifteen years prior, I had dropped out due to frustration, fear and finding a community that had a disregard for convention living. Soon, after buying and fixing up our house, she became pregnant with our first child. The fear of a domestic life was slowing ebbing away. Jenny soon arrived from Miami, she and Jim Williams had gotten into another fight and he sent her back to Ohio.
Jenny had a tough time that year in Miami; she had entered treatment for substance abuse and bi-polar disorder numerous times. She was picked up by the Miami police on multiple times on charges of public intoxication, disturbing the peace and for being a danger to herself. At one point she was always taken to the psych ward of Jackson County Hospital where she would spend anywhere from two days to several weeks as the doctors tried in vain to subdue the demons that danced in her head. It was not uncommon for me to receive up to twenty calls a week from Jim about Jenny’s behavior. Finally Jenny was arrested in on charges of petty theft; she had stolen a mango shake as a joke and spent ninety days in jail. This was the longest period that she had ever been sober since her early teenage years. At times she would phone me from jail and tell me horror stories of the abuse that went on in the Dade County women’s jail. Only her humor saved her, she was beat up several times and was once put in isolation for her own protection. In one completely lucid moment she confessed to me, “I’ve always drank because I’ve always been afraid. Even when we lived together, I put our bed in the closet because I was scared people would get me.” When she got out of jail, Jim picked her up and soon enough the jail detox didn’t set and they were off to the maniacal races, filled with shouting, bruises and tears wrapped around epic bouts of laughter and love making.
She arrived in Columbus and quickly returned to her mothers, this last roughly a week before her mother shipped her back to Columbus where her bridges had been torched in the past few years by her unbalanced behavior. She quickly found refuge in the kindness of Wil Foster who used to play in her band. Wil tried to help her the best he could but soon even the bottomless kindness of friendship finds its basement regardless of how much the idea of love will inhibit reality. Soon, Jenny was on the streets. I awoke one morning to find her asleep in front of my car, a heap of booze soaked personhood nestled underneath a few articles of clothing and twigs.
She quickly got her wits about her, if anything Jenny is a survivor, one who can determine the safest in not most implausible way to safety through a burnished life of unrequited mistakes. Jenny was soon residing in another’s former band mate’s kindness; she had met Sean Woosley in 1990 during our final break-up. She had renamed Sean, Robin and for nearly the first five years I knew him I had assumed his name was Robin. She and Robin both had an affinity towards bourbon, beer and quick wits. The two of them, at times could have matched the best dialogue of MASH and or Mel Brooks movie.
I went to Sean’s house one night to check on her, Jim Williams had called me and said he wanted to bring her back to Miami, that if I couldn’t help her he could. Jenny didn’t open the door and I wasn’t sure what to do, trying the door knob the door opened directly into Sean’s bedroom. I could see directly into the living room, the stereo was playing “Bee Thousand” by Guided by Voices. Shouting out Jenny’s name, I proceeded with a sense of trepidation and doom. On the floor, surrounded by stacks of CDs was an empty bottle of vodka, moving towards the kitchen there were several empty 40 ounce bottles of beer and another half empty bottle of vodka. I yelled her name again, fearing that there would be no answer. A painful grown came from the bathroom, and against the corner was a tattered woman whom I had thought I once knew. She smiled a smile that was broken and carved with years to twisted decisions and suffering, “hey, baby” she murmured. I called my wife who instructed me to call 911. Within a few minutes an ambulance arrived and all I could do was show them what she drank. A voice slurred with tears, snot and vodka she protested about going to the hospital. “I ain’t that fucked up, I’ve been worse.” I nodded that this was probably true.
The ambulance had a small window that separated the cab from the rear, I tried to supply enough information that I knew about her. She doesn’t live here, she lives in Miami, she is 34 years old, and she has no money or ID. She has bi-polar disorder. She doesn’t work. Suddenly Jenny became lucid and started flirting with one of the EMT’s, “that is a sexy mustache you have there young man, you can call me mama.” Soon there was laughter from the rear of the ambulance. In another moment Jenny crossed to another side, “Hey, don’t you try to fuck me!” she screamed. I looked back and she was trying to sit up, the mustached EMT looked at me baffled. “Get your fucking hands off my tits!” He instructed his partner to stop the ambulance. “I am warning you to settle down or I will put you in restraints” he said. “What so you can fuck me? Go ahead a try it.” This went on for the next two minutes before we arrived at the hospital.
In the emergency room she was talking, laughing again and then she went back into a slurred stupor. She had a BAC test and the doctor, a small Lebanese man with a gentle disposition was shaking his head. He said she has a BAC over .40, “I have never seen one this high and I can’t believe she is even talking let alone alive.” She was dehydrated and I spent the next fourteen hours next to her in the emergency room, at times filled with disgust, horror and disbelief. On the late afternoon of the next day after hours of IV’s she was discharged. I went home and she went back to Sean’s, she phoned me later that night offering me thanks. Her voice was a bit off. “Are you drinking?” A pause, “um, just a little to tide me over.”