Friday, March 14, 2014

Maria is scurrying around rearranging random décor with nervous energy.  She hasn’t had a drink in about a week.  She also hasn’t been outside her apartment since that incident at the fundraiser.  Too embarrassed to face the other tenants.  There have been a few knocks at the door and some phone calls.  She’s dodged them all.  She hasn’t even talked to Gabe.  Any updates he’s been getting have been through Valissa.  She listens closely to make sure that he isn’t planning to spring any surprises on her.  This would be the perfect opportunity for Valissa to move back with Gabe.  She knows exactly how that girl is thinking.  As silly as she is, she doesn’t realize that if her dad really wanted custody of her he would’ve taken initiative to do just that.  She loves her dad so much.  Idolizes her dad.  But doesn’t realize the business side of Gabe.  Being a single parent has no place in his world.  Had she and Valissa been that important to Gabe, he would’ve made them more of a priority instead of working and being away from home so much.  And then with her getting into trouble so much at school… he definitely doesn’t want to take on single parenthood with a problem child.  But Valissa can’t see that because in her mind Maria is the only problem.  She’s too immature to assess how her behavior plays a part in the entire predicament.  But right now, she’s desperately trying to come up with a way to appeal to Gabe for money to relocate.  If there’s any way she could become one of the investors in the purchase of the building, that’d be good too.  Or if they manage to pull off buying the place it’d be much easier for her to continue to rent than to have to move. But after that incident she doesn’t have the slightest idea how she could ever persuade Gabe to help.  She sighs and takes a seat on the couch.  Her head and palms are sweating.  She has so much nervous energy.  She sits there staring at the phone, wondering whether or not she should go ahead and make the call.   Just as she is about to reach for the phone, she hears the door unlock. 

Valissa slides inside the door and drops her backpack on the floor chanting with whatever is blaring on her iPod.  Maria notices she’s carrying something.  Valissa shuts the door then turns around.  She’s slightly startled to see her mother seated on the couch in the dimly lit room and draws a hard breath.

“What the crap you sittin’ in here in the dark for!”  She unplugs her right earbud.  “Them folks have sent another basket of crap,” she scoffs referring to the neatly wrapped package in her arms.  She places the basket on the table.  “You gonna have to say somethin’ to them folks ‘cause I’m tired of them stopping me everyday asking about you.”  She walks over to the window and opens the blinds.  “Did daddy call?”

Maria picks up the basket and examines the contents.  The card reads “The Epicurean” with “hope you’re feeling better” scribbled on the opposite side.  “Gabe hasn’t phoned yet,” she replies.  “I was just about to call.  Has he mentioned anything to you about –“

“ I won’t be doin’ your dirty work for you, Maria.  Ask daddy yourself.”  Valissa sits on the ottoman to the left of the coffee table and starts digging through the basket.  There are several neatly packaged baked goodies.  She begins unwrapping and sampling.

“Wait a second, you don’t cut me off!  You have no idea what I was about to ask!”  Maria scoffs.

Valissa looks startled for a second, then folds in the corners of her mouth.  “Ok then.  Has he mentioned what?”

Maria looks lost for a second but doesn’t want Valissa to know she’s caught off guard.  “Never mind since you have such a stank attitude.  I’ll do just that.  I’ll ask myself.”
“Mmm Hmm.”  Valissa resumes rummaging through the basket and sampling the contents. 
She notices Maria’s sweating and trembling.  “I don’t believe it.  You really haven’t been sipping.”

Maria looks at Valissa with a frown.  “Mind your own business, Lissa.”

“Ha!  I’m all up in this.  Can’t help not to be if I wanted to.”  She laughs and takes another bite of some knick knack.  “You know, I read somewhere that when you’re used to drinking you can’t just quit cold turkey.  You s’posed to decrease the amount you drink or you’ll like go into shock or something.  So…”  Valissa gets up from the ottoman and goes toward the “secret place” where she knows her mother stashes her liquor.  She takes out a bottle and turns to go to the kitchen, peeping at her mom from the corner of her eye.  Maria watches her wide-eyed.  She emerges from the kitchen with a glass.  “I bet you ain’t know I knew about that, did you?”  Valissa  laughs referring to the hiding place.  She returns to her seat and sits the glass on the table.  She watches her mom’s reaction as she opens the bottle and pours some of the liquor into the glass.

Maria’s mouth moistens almost instinctively.  She watches the liquid as it spills from the bottle and fills the glass, trying not to appear too anxious.  She doesn’t realize just how much her body is responding to the knowledge that she’s about to take a drink.  She’s trying to suppress the flood of emotions that have awakened within her at the thought that in a few seconds the glass with meet her lips. 

Valissa stops pouring, recaps the bottle and places it on the table.  The glass isn’t even a third of the way full.  She scoots the glass toward Maria.

“I … don’t want anything to drink,” Maria looks away.  She can’t even believe what she’s saying.

“Oh, please.  If you hadn’t intended on having another drink you’d’ve gotten rid of that stash.  Besides, it’s like I told you.  You have to or you’ll like pass out or something.  They call it DTs.  Detox.  That’s what’s making you sweat and shake and stuff.”

Maria continues to look away, trying to deny her impulses.  Valissa is almost impressed.

“Look, the last thing I need to do is to come in here and find you passed out or something.  So, drink up.  I mean, I’m proud of you for refusing and all.  But… you can look it up for yourself.”  Valissa grabs the bag she’s been nibbling from and gets up from the ottoman.  “I’ll get started on dinner.”  She stops and picks up the mail before going toward the kitchen.

Once Valissa is out of sight, Maria turns and looks back at the drink.  She wants it.  Every fiber of her being wants that drink.  What’s kept her from taking a drink since that incident has mostly been embarrassment and pride.  Too proud to expose her vulnerability in front of her daughter.  Too embarrassed to risk being caught drinking among the other tenants.  But right now, there’s nobody here.  And she’s done seven consecutive days without taking a drink.  That’s proof.  She can quit whenever she wants to.  She has control, not the alcohol.  That thought is all the reassurance Maria needs.  She’s talked herself into believing that she can take that drink.  She retrieves the glass from the table and tosses it back quick as lightning.  The taste .  Smooth.  Not nearly enough to warm her soul as a full sized drink.  Yet that small quantity of liquid is like the essence of life as it trickles through her body.  “My old friend,” Maria whispers.  She  feels slightly relaxed, but not nearly as at ease as a full drink would make her.  This seems like just a taste.  Hardly takes the edge off.  Slowly she sits the glass back on the table, staring at the bottle, and stretches herself out on the couch.  She takes a couple of deep breaths and within seconds she falls asleep.

“Maria, how do you want –?”  Valissa enters the room to ask about dinner then realizes Maria is sleeping peacefully.   She looks at the empty glass then the bottle, realizing that Maria only drank what she poured for her. “I guess sometimes a drink helps.”  Valissa grabs the phone and checks the missed calls.  No missed calls.  She looks back at Maria and wonders if she’ll sleep long like she does after she’s been on a binge or if she’ll only take a nap.  Doesn’t matter.  She grabs her purse and eases out of the front door.