Achieving a dream
Once, it mattered most, being independent. Fulfilling a lifelong dream. All it took was education and hard work, the proverbial toss of the dice, and a little luck. Then one day you learn you can’t make it alone, no one ever does. The person who said they did it all by themselves is a liar. To say, “I walked down this road through the rain, sun, the good, and bad, you name it, I always had you by my side.” Those are the words of an achiever.
The house door slid open and closed with the ease of a firm grip. Evening flies hovered around the porch light. The sun was low but had not set.
Michael walked into the kitchen. Opening cabinets and searching everywhere, he came up empty.
“What are you looking for?” asked Alice. She’d slipped into the room without him noticing.
“I’ve had a long day. I wanted to get something to drink.”
“Then get a glass of water.”
“Yeah, I guess so.” He quit looking and sat at the table. Alice knew what he wanted and frustration built inside her.
“Why do you keep doing this to yourself?” she asked.
“What am I doing?”
“Don’t you see it? Three years ago you almost killed yourself. Look at you.”
“I’m fine, I’m just.” Michael couldn’t finish his sentence.
“Michael, you’ve changed. Don’t waste it.”
“Oh sure, I’ve changed. I haven’t changed, I’m just tired.”
“So, that’s it, you’re giving up? Is that what you want?”
“No, I don’t want to give up. I only need a minute.”
“I’m tired, I told you.”
“Everybody’s tired. You don’t succeed without getting tired.”
“OK, so right now I’m tired, I’m not giving up.”
“Here, drink this.” She thrust a glass of water onto the table.
“I don’t want it. I want something else. Something with flavor.” He didn’t make eye contact with her. He kept staring out the window. She stayed silent for a moment. Alice went to the cabinet and grabbed a glass.
“Michael, I’ll give you one glass that is it.”
He looked at her as she scowled at him from across the room. The glass remained empty on the counter. He stared at it.
“Well, go on.” He said. She left the room and didn’t return for some time. He knew she kept some in the house, but she didn’t tell him where. Of all the things to hide from a grown man. I guess I deserve it. He thought.
She stood at the doorway to the kitchen with a half bottle of Bourbon. Her chin held high, asking him to challenge her.
“Well, what are you waiting for?” Michael asked.
“I’m waiting on you to come to your senses. You don’t need it.”
“You’re right, I don’t need it. But today I’m tired and I want a drink.” His mood hadn’t improved. He stared at her defiantly. He wanted a drink.
“Are you going to throw everything away? Can you answer me?”
“Why, why would I throw it all away? I’ve worked hard, I will not throw it all away. It’s just been a long day.” Michael looked back out the window. His defiance began wavering. Could he hold on for one drink?
Alice moved into the room and leaned against the counter. She wasn’t angry anymore. She stood her ground. They had a lot to lose if she didn’t.
“I spoke to the kids today. I told them you were doing better, and you wanted to be successful. You want to know what they said,” she asked.
“I don’t know. They haven’t spoken to me. I can’t remember how long.”
“Alex said he was happy for you and he hoped all the best.”
“He’s a good kid, always had a soft heart.”
“You want to know what else he said,” she continued.
“I don’t know. He’s usually pretty direct.”
“Well, do you or don’t you?”
“Sure, lay it on me.”
“He asked if you could keep it once you started getting better.”
Michael’s head nodded in agreement. That’s a good question.
“So, what did you tell him?” She hesitated before she answered.
“I said, I don’t know. I hope you can. It’s all up to you.” Alice crossed her arms, bottle in hand. Her demeanor stiffened, she never took her eyes off Michael. She wanted him to think through his decision.
“I don’t want it to go this way anymore. You know that, don’t you?” said Michael.
“Then, try harder.”
“I know,” the words came out in a mumble. “I’m just tired.” Michael turned in the chair and crossed his arms over the table and leaned forward.
“We’re all tired, Michael.” She didn’t scream the words this time, not like the last argument. “You know you don’t have to do this alone. I’m here.”
Michael looked up at her and held her gaze. He ran his eyes over her body from top to bottom and back up again. She wasn’t petite anymore. She’d aged well, though. Her blonde hair was longer now. It looked as if she’d only recently started growing it out. It may have been the light, but he thought he saw some gray near the roots. He had to admit; she was still there, and she could have left a long time ago.
“I love you, Alice. You know that, and I’m so glad you are still here.” Michael looked down.
“I love you too, Michael. I want you to know I will always love you, but you can’t keep going on like this. It’s been almost three years.” She set the bottle on the counter behind her and re-crossed her arms.
“What did Melody say?” Asked Michael. There was a pause before she answered.
“She wasn’t as nice. She was afraid you’d throw it all away.”
“I won’t” said Michael
“You sure aren’t acting like it. Why do you need this?” Alice threw a gesture over her shoulder. “Isn’t this what Mel is saying. It takes one time to throw it all away.”
Michael closed his eyes and fought the demons inside. He knew Melody was right. He knew Alice was right. It was too easy to fall back into temptation. Michael stood up and walked over to her. Face to face with Alice. She didn’t cry anymore. Not when he was around, anyway.
“You’re right, you’re all right.” He reached behind her and grabbed the bottle. Opening the top, he poured it down the drain. His hand shook. He wanted a drink. He wanted something his mind remembered. He always wanted a drink when he felt tired.
“Michael, thank you.” said Alice. He set the empty bottle on the counter.
“I couldn’t have done it without you all. It’s part of the cure.” He snaked his arms around her, she put her arms on his shoulders.
“When I’m this close to you, I feel we’re united. Not just physically or sexually, but united in our souls. Have you ever felt like that?”
“Yes, I remember that feeling. I remember that on our wedding day. I remember that every time we dance. I’m feeling it again, right now.”
“Can a man be addicted to a woman?” asked Michael
“I guess there are worse things to be addicted too.” she said.
“I want to be addicted to you like nothing I’ve ever been addicted to before,” said Michael.
“You’ve had me for twenty years, aren’t you hooked yet?”
“I’ll be honest with you, I know I took you for granted.” Alice looked away. She’d known this, and she’d felt this for a long time.
“Please, don’t be angry. There’s a guilt there I’ll never overcome. I took too much for granted these last few years.” Alice looked back into his eyes.
“It takes trust, and we, I, have to learn to trust you. Tonight, you almost lost it.” She ran a hand over his chest. “I feel better and renewed.” she said.
“I will continue to work on earning trust,” Michael said.
“The more trust you earn from me, the more you will forgive yourself. Doesn’t that make sense?”
“I never thought about it that way.”
“Look, what we’ve been through has built so much guilt inside of you. Every time you fail or come close to failing, you feel more guilt. If you earn trust from me by your actions, those feelings of guilt will go away.” Michael’s eyes watered. He wasn’t a man of tears, but this time he felt pretty emotional.
“I hadn’t, I never understood.” A tear ran down his left cheek. He shrugged his shoulder to wipe it off.
“It’s like that with the entire family? I’m one. You have two children you need to build trust with and when you build it, you’ll feel better.”
Michael’s mind raced with the possibilities. There’s a trust to guilt ratio with everyone he’s ever known. Why not work on it with everyone? Tears rolled down his cheek faster and faster.
“I could use a drink, but not water. Do we have something with flavor?” he asked.
“There’s plenty of tea, would you like some?”
“I would, but I don’t want to let go. Can we do this without letting go of one another?” asked Michael.
Alice smiled. “I’m sure we can, but it won’t be graceful.” Michael kissed her on the lips. One kiss led to another, and another.
“OK, slow down.” Alice said. Michael buried his face in her neck and hair. Her arms wrapped around his shoulders to his back. He mumbled something that ended with “have too.”
“Michael, I love you.” Michael stood up straight with a few strands of blond hair stretching from his face.
“I love you.” He smiled his genuine smile. Then slid his hands down to her backside. The sunlight had all but gone and they stood in the kitchen, the light from over the sink was all that lit them now.
“Hold on, we haven’t eaten dinner.” said Alice.
“There’s only one thing I’m craving now.”
“Oh, well, you’ll have to wait.” Alice stood up straighter.
A moan of frustration came from Michael. He took a deep breath.
“I’ll set the table.”
“I’ll start dinner.” Alice looked at Michael a moment longer. You only keep what you fight for. And she was fighting for him. She thought.