Years ago, before I had JP, his mother and I lived in a college town while she was working on her doctorate, and I was writing a risibly bad novel. We fought a lot even in those days, which should have been a bad sign, but which we mistook for “passion.”
One particularly confrontational night, I decided I’d had enough, and in a pique of what I thought of then as “drama” (today I would call it avoidance) I stormed out of the apartment, telling my then-girlfriend to color my ass gone for good.
Sadly, I only made it to the bar next door, a cheesy, frat-boy-filled watering hole with a 2:1 person-to-television ratio. I took a seat at the bar and began drinking beers, enjoying my self-righteous indignation, not speaking to anyone, because who, among all of these irate hockey fans, would I want to speak to?
I did, however, eventually fall into conversation with a guy who turned out to be a visiting professor from Ireland, with a giant beard, a disdain for U.S. TV sports, and a willingness, for whatever reason, to hear me out and buy me drinks, on the condition that I switch to Jameson.
Hours later I ended up at home, on the tile floor of my bathroom, retching. JP’s mom listened to me polishing the floor for a while and came in to check on me. I should point out that I have no recollection of the source of our fight. But if it was anything like most of our battles, it probably had to do with her telling me how and when to do something, my responding that I would like to do it at a different time and in a different fashion, and neither of us being willing to agree to disagree in the hopes of getting said task done. In general, I lost most of our fights.
Anyway, there I was, lying on the floor, holding one puke-stained hand up to shield myself from the light that JP’s mother had just switched on. She was standing over me, angry from the fight, outraged that I had gotten drunk, and completely fucking incensed that clearly I was going to be in no condition the following morning to do whatever thing it was she had initially wanted me to do.
This, I imagine, could have been a turning point in the early stage of our relationship. We could have made up, committed to working together, and forged a better partnership. She could have left me because I was giving signs of nascent alcoholism. Or, we could do what we did: keep fighting.
“I win,” I said, not even strong enough to stand.
I have no idea what I meant by that, and I don’t think she did either. But we both knew it was true.
Morale of the story: I went out the other night for an informal 20th high school anniversary get together, at which I had a few too many drinks and not enough food. The next morning I woke up with a brain-rattling headache, severe enough to prevent me from helping out with Ellie.
And Tomoko got me aspirin.