More than Exist(2)

By: Bethany Lopez

I’d finally come to the realization that I couldn’t live this way any longer, so I’d sold the house, had our stuff packed up and loaded on a truck, and was about to embark on my first adventure in years.

I think my mother suspected that I was drinking too much, and I knew she wanted to get me in person so she could confirm her fears, but I wasn’t ready to stop. Alcohol had become my friend. The one thing I could rely on to make me feel better, and I wasn’t willing to give it up.

Ricky and I loved road trips, and often used them as a way to break out of the mold of our everyday lives. Whenever we took a trip, we vowed to be open to trying new things, and took that vow very seriously.

I was driving cross-country, stopping to see his family, and then my own, before I decided what I wanted to do next with my life. Where I wanted to live. Where I wanted to work.

I was a cook. Not a chef, since I’d never been classically trained, but I’d been cooking since I was old enough to reach the counter in my mother’s kitchen. What had started as my mother teaching me what her mother had taught her, had turned into a passion, and I’d been working in kitchens since I was sixteen years old.

Over the last few years I’d been working at a diner. Working the early shift and mostly cooking breakfast and prepping lunch, before getting off and having my afternoons and evenings to myself. I wasn’t sure exactly where I wanted to go next, but I knew it would be in a kitchen somewhere. I needed at least that one semblance of normalcy in my life.

I took one last look at the shell of what had once been my home, slung my bag over my shoulder, and walked out without looking back.

It was time to move on.

Chapter 2

The one thing I hadn’t thought of was how different it would be to travel alone. I was bored after three hours.

My Nissan Altima was a smooth ride, so comfort wasn’t the problem; being alone with my thoughts was … I never realized how much my brain buzzed while I was driving, until I was flying down the highway, bound for Las Vegas, with Kenny Chesney blaring through my speakers. I couldn’t turn it off. My brain, that is. I just kept flashing back to my life with Ricky, and the last twelve months without him.

Alone in my car, I could admit that I’d been in a pretty bad place.

My parents, along with Ricky’s mom and sister, had come out for the funeral. They’d stayed with me, in our house, but I couldn’t remember anything from that time. They got themselves to our house from the airport, had kept my house clean, food in the fridge, and had helped with all of the funeral arrangements, then they’d gotten themselves back to the airport.

It was all a blur.

The drinking started once I was alone. They’d offered to come back out to visit since, but I’d always claimed to be too busy … which was a lie. I’m sure they all knew I was lying, but I didn’t want anyone to intrude on my sanctuary. My lair of depression. And I didn’t want them to tell me that I was beginning to have a problem. It was much easier to tell myself that it was okay, that I just needed a little something to get me through the day.

I’d quit my job soon after the funeral. I’m sure they would have given me all the time I needed, but I didn’t want to go back. Even then, I’d known that I couldn’t live the same life. Not anymore. Not without Ricky in it.

Even at the restaurant, memories of Ricky were everywhere. The days he would show up and sit in the corner booth, eating his breakfast and reading the paper. The time he’d shown up to surprise me on our anniversary, with a bouquet of flowers so big he had to crane his neck to be seen around them.

So I’d moped, eaten crap food, and basically took showering off my agenda. I’m ashamed to admit that this went on for months. That was when the drinking started to become a habit, rather than a once-in-a-while activity.

Eventually I began to come out of the fog, to see the color in the world again, and embrace the sun and wind as I strolled the parks by our house. Little by little, I began to get myself back. I started eating better, and remembered how much I loved a hot shower.

But I didn’t stop drinking. I couldn’t. I needed it too much.

When I realized it was time for me to leave, my heart broke all over again, but I knew, deep down, that it was for the best. I also knew, in that private part of my mind where I was honest with myself, that I needed help and wouldn’t be able to fix this on my own.

Now, as I watched the pavement fly by, I could feel the fear start to take hold. What was I going to do next? This trip was only going to take a week, maybe ten days if I stretched it out, then it would be time to face the music and get a life. That meant I only had ten days left of drinking. It felt like I’d be losing something else important to me, and the thought left me terrified.

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