The smell of the ocean lapping on the beach woke me from a dead-like sleep. I lay there for a few minutes just listening to the rhythmic pattern of the waves crashing just in front of me and the weakening crescendo as the wave rolled away from me down to the beach. The most natural of surround sound, I thought.
I opened one eye to see that sun must just be ready to crest over the horizon. Raising my head, I was able to feel the slight breeze on my face as the waves pushed the air forward ahead of them. With both eyes open now I saw the crimson of the rising sun blend into the blackness over my head. The stars were dimmer close to the horizon but still shining as they had at midnight overhead.
I sat feeling the breeze with the crashing and fading of the wave mixed with the sound of the palm tree leaves blowing behind me created a surreal feeling. The sun continued to rise into the sky and painted the low flying clouds a soft purple blending into pink on the opposite edge.
I leaned on my arms for as long as possible until my joints ached from the stiffness, but still I could not move. I was mesmerized by the magnificence of all that was happening. Just then, I heard footsteps coming from my right. I continued to stare at the beauty in front of me as the shadow approached. The crunching of the sand was the only way I knew someone was approaching.
Just as the sun made the full crest of the horizon and was a full circle of orange and white, I heard, “Where the hell were you last night?”
The shadow had materialized beside me. I turned and tilted my head to see the face of a highly irate woman.
“Sorry, do I know you?” I asked innocently.
“Do you know me? That’s your fucking question? Do you know me? Are you serious?” she blustered at meas though I had done something wrong.
“I have no recollection of you ma’am, I’m sorry.”
“Jesus Christ Chow, really? You don’t know me?” she said placing her hands on her hips.
“Let me give you a couple reminders. We’ve been sleeping together for three years, going out for four, and up until five minutes ago we were married. Just yesterday.” She screamed the last two words.
“Interesting. Even with those hints, I got nothing,” I replied as calmly as I could, it was obvious this woman was slightly touched.
“Chow McDuffin, I sat with you while you went through de-tox two years ago. I held cold wash clothes on your head to a make you feel better. I watched as you heaved until you bled from the ulcers.” She was speaking softly now, knowing without being told what had happened.
I turned from the woman and looked to see that I was wearing the pants from a tuxedo, the frilly shirt completely unbuttoned, no shoes, and one sock. Man I was a wreck from what I could see. I sat up and pulled my arms in front of me and saw that blood had run from my left inner elbow to my palm.
The last real thing I remember was seeing the sun rise from the horizon. There were no memories from before that instant when I was wakened from the deepest sleep of my life. It had been an all-consuming sleep as there was nothing before the moment I woke up. I looked back to the woman and saw the flash of a man in a collar standing in front of me holding a book with a view of the ocean behind him.
I shook my head to clear and saw the woman again, now with some feeling of familiarity. Blinking once more to focus, I felt as I looked at her that I was comfortable. I saw the image of her naked, standing before me as she brushed her teeth.
“Cassie. Is your name Cassie?”“Is my name Cassie, you’re brilliant Chow,” slivered from her lips with as much venom as a king cobra.
Oh shit, I do know her. But how did I get this blood on my arm, I thought.Looking back down to my elbow an image flashed in my mind of a needle being inserted into my arm.
“Chow, I told you when you sobered up last time that if you ever went back to using again that I was done. I wasn’t kidding,” she said flatly. “Good bye.” Cassie turned and walked off with the flowing gown buffeting in the breeze behind her.
As I watched her walk off, it all became clear, all the pieces fit.
We had just finished our wedding ceremony and one of my old crew came up and asked if I wanted a fix to get through the stress of all the family and people. Initially I resisted, but as the drinks flew so did my judgment. At around eleven I caved and we went to the mens room and shared a stall. He pulled the fixin’s from his sport coat and cooked me up a dose as I watched and waited.
“You want me to hit you,” Steven asked.
“Yeah, I’m rusty as shit.”
“Pull up your sleeve and tie off then.”
As soon as he finished the injection I knew it was too much. He had given me his normal dose and I had been clean for two years. I wretched from the instant nausea as the dragon consumed my blood supply, spreading its own reality into my brain.
I left the mens room and walked out to the beach to watch as the moon created traces across the sky. The stars created a backdrop of fourth of July spark columns. The colors seemed smooth and soft and I felt myself reach-out to touch the sky it felt so close.
Now here I am, twenty-four years old, with a pending divorce, and an addiction I have to kick all over again. It is the worst, most beautiful, day of my life.