The place itself a little scruffy and rundown. We sat out in the sudden warmth of the evening under old eucalyptus trees and were eaten alive by mosquitos. The woman next to me could have been in her early 30s but her face was scored and battered by alcohol abuse. She would sigh and apologise for her own self-loathing. The overweight black unionist talking about his sleepless nights. The gay guys teaching us killer bridge. Gentle men and women in recovery reaching for community and shared truths. Truths the hand can touch.
Sitting with a notebook and having nothing to write down. Nothing to say or offer. All my relationships when examined have the texture of cardboard. Alcoholism has made a travesty in me of what other people call ‘feelings’. I feel emotions but they are chimeras. The nightmare comes and goes, the remembered horror of long hot empty days and longing to drink myself to death. Not to wake up in the morning. That is the strongest feeling that comes to me from the last 15 or so years, the longing to die, to drown in oblivion.
Elizabeth Bishop writes somewhere to Robert Lowell, ‘You might say I was the loneliest person who ever lived’.
Alcoholism destroys the capacity to relate. That is how I felt. Unable to be more than present as a shadowy body, a willing listener, a would-be human being. But not there yet. Nowhere near.