Drinking Alone

I was sitting alone, on the sofa that Thursday night in November.  It was quiet save for the sound of the television in front of me and the occasional clink of my wine glass on the table as I lifted it and placed it back down.  I hadn’t eaten dinner, but the plate of chocolate chip cookies my friend Julie had made for me for the election was nearly empty.

I’d lost.  I still couldn’t quite absorb the concept.  I had lost my bid for election to the board of education.

Not only had I lost, but three of my four girlfriends had lost.  We had all been running together, and somewhere in the back of our heads we knew that probably one of us might not make it.  In my darkest, most conservative imaginings I worried that two of us might not be elected.  But as we stood in our campaign headquarters that night, poised for celebration, giddy with the closure of a last final push of campaigning at the polls all day, the writing literally started to appear on the wall.

A big posterboard was taped to the wall in the center of the gathering space, with a grid laid out for all of the polling places and all of the candidates.  We included our opponents too so we could count how many seats we’d won on each board; the town council and the board of education had nine seats, the board of finance had five.  The party was running hard until the phone rang with the results from the first precinct; our numbers were low compared to the other party’s.  I looked nervously at my girlfriends and the room suddenly had grown quieter, less celebratory.  And one by one, as the precincts called in to us the vote tallies, the vote went from being blurry to very clear.

We weren’t just defeated.  We were absolutely trounced, killed, mutilated.  Kelly, my one girlfriend who’d actually won her seat, sat in the corner and cried.  “This is a nightmare,” she sobbed.  “I only wanted to do this if I had at least one other friendly face on the board.  Now I’m going to be there without any of you.  This is a disaster,” she repeated.

It hadn’t just been us reeling from the results.  Our beloved first selectman and friend, Tom, had lost his bid by a less than two hundred votes.  “Perhaps it is a blessing in disguise,” he’d said in a short speech to the gathered masses.  “I can now completely focus on my treatment and getting healthy,” he said, in his first real public acknowledgement that he was still indeed battling his cancer recurrence.

R had been out of town not only on election night, but the whole week; his parents had stayed on to help me with the children on election day.  They left the day after, full of hugs and sympathy.  I went through the motions of smiling and waving goodbye to them as they left, but I knew I was descending.  After they were gone, there was no reason to pretend, to fake it, to come up with the reasons why everything happens for a reason.

I felt unwanted, bruised, battered and hated.  I remembered the nasty ad that mentioned me by name in the paper; I remembered the complaint filed against us, I remembered the little old man at the senior center that had been asking for me by name to give me a piece of his mind.  I was tired.  The phone started ringing and I didn’t answer; I didn’t want to talk to anyone about it.  I just wanted the sharp edges to blur and world to not seem like such a hard place.  So after the kids went to bed, I opened a bottle of red wine and started drinking.  I poured glass after glass, cutting the alcohol with chocolate chip cookies, and waited for sense and reason to find me.

A whole bottle later, and it still hadn’t.

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