by Kretka 

He calmly changes the batteries in the small breathalyzer and hands it to her. She, equally calmly and with a slight smirk on her face, shakes her head and refuses to take his test. They lock eyes for a few seconds. She knows the look in his eyes all too well by now: an unbalanced blend of uncertainty, worry and hope. She deepens her smile, now more genuine and relaxed, sends him a quick wink, takes the device and breathes out as much air out of her lungs as she can for the next ten seconds. First time that day.

She thinks about how she just made a joke out of the whole situation. Too soon? The words cross her mind in the exact moment he speaks them, without a hint of question in his voice. A quiet beep and 0.0% on the small screen put him at an immediate ease and let them carry on with the day.

A blurry image of what happened a few days ago is sinking in. She’s hesitantly coming to terms with it, when she promised again to not slip up and be honest with him, from now on. At least that’s what she remembers. It would help if he could fill in the blanks, but she won’t ask. He is chatting her up about the furniture layout of the room. She is trying to wrap her head around the fact that her evenings will include drinking only water or herbal tea or diet soda, from now on. He is making another round in the kitchen/living room area, discussing the plans for the next two days. It seems like he has moved on from the uncomfortable events, but she knows better. He never just moves on. The problem is eating him from the inside, slowly and steadily shrinking his feelings for her.

She continuously fills her head with false promises of eventually having a ‘reward’ in the form of a glass or two or three. Maybe when she’s been good for a while, when she’s earned it. When she is more deserving. Surely that moment will come; somewhere down the line she will be healthy and free of her dependencies, enough to treat herself once in a while. It’s easier for her to think this way. Much easier than facing the harsh reality of a very probable and quite inevitable ‘never again’.

The troubling thoughts creep in at the home decor store, when she sees some nice carafes in the corner of her eye. He appears in front of her, making it impossible to assess whether she would, at this point, actually need any carafes. For water maybe, but that would be a fancy waste. They get into a stupid argument, yet again, about what should still be bought and fixed in the apartment they just moved into. Would be nice to be buzzed right now, she drifts off, would be easier, definitely more fun.

As she’s forced to skip her favorite section of the supermarket when they go grocery shopping, an urgent and predictable idea emerges: a late night trip to a 24/7 store close to their place. For a small shop, it has quite a wide selection and will certainly do the trick. She can sneak out when he’s already asleep. She hates scheming behind his back. She hates herself for making promises and breaking them, time and time again. She hates that he will surely, sooner or later, give up on her.

Just quickly get in and out, no big deal. She enters the store, meanders nervously between the narrow aisles, trying to figure out how to best approach the situation. Heart pounding out of her chest, she knows she’s moments away from receiving a judgemental look from the cashier. Not the first time either. What could a person shopping at 3 a.m. possibly be looking for? Hours of talking, promising, committing to change, swearing even, are about to blow up in her face. She’s failing him and she’s failing herself. She closes her eyes for a fraction of a second and thinks of his disappointed face; a painful grimace louder than any loud fight they’ve had. It’s not any big epiphany, no lighting bolt stopping her hand. Just an overdue realization of what’s really at stake if she continues with this messy pattern. She hastily grabs a bottle of sparkling water, pays and leaves. Just the smallest, tiniest step, but there it is. Just repeat it forever. From now on.

By late afternoon the following day, she realizes the test has been overlooked thus far. He forgot, he’s overworked. He’s preoccupied with measuring the length of the carpet or picking out the new kitchen sink. He’s also unaware of her early morning escapade, the battle that followed, and the triumph. However big in her opinion, however small and insignificant in the long run. She chuckles softly and glances across the room at him, picks up the breathalyzer and waves it at him, signaling his oversight. At first her gesture confuses him, but after a short consideration he nods, inviting her to use it. She breathes out willingly and confidently. From now on.

Image by Jabbacake via Pixabay