I groped in the dark for my cup. Reaching out from under the warm comforter, damp with sweat and tears, my shaking hand grazed the container holding my sweet relief, my liquid sanity. I heard a sickening thunk and a splash as the nearly full vessel fell to the floor, my salvation painting the walls and bedside table. I became instantly choked with an overwhelming dread as the familiar panic set in.
Fix-it mode was first to the scene. I left the mess on the floor, along with the sticky remains of past forgotten accidents, and hauled myself out from under the dank tangle of blankets. Launching forward, I navigated the darkness around the bed, side-swiping the door frame with my hip as I lurched toward the kitchen. I was single-minded. I opened the refrigerator, and the hole in my stomach widened in foreboding when I found it empty of my ultimate objective. Squinting, I searched with a rising desperation for anything there that might help ease the pounding terror trickling through every cell in my body. Gone. It was all gone.
I had dropped my last drink.
I made my way to the living room and sat on the couch in the pulsating silence, panting. I was exhausted. What little sleep I had won had been speckled with debilitating nightmares, and I had awoken several times in order to take small sips off the lamented lost cocktail, trying to keep the pain and terror away. I didn’t remember making it, but I knew it had been a well planned fail-safe for what was doomed from the start to be a hellish night.
What was not long ago a stiff 1:3 ratio of vodka to iced tea, my mixed drinks had more recently concentrated to a noxious firebrand of about 80% booze, and I had just sprayed the last of it all over my bedroom. It was supposed to get me through the night until I could get more when the store opened.
The anxiety was coming back. I couldn’t cry. It was too taxing. I was fully consumed with focusing on my breath to keep the vortex of hysterical thoughts from pulling me apart. I didn’t shift from my uncomfortable position, because any movement exacerbated the pain that was mounting within me with each passing second. As my vision swam, I stared at the clock on the DVR, the brightest stationary object in my unlit prison. 3:33. My breaths came and went, and I stayed with them.
The pounding was deafening, now. Every thought that spun through my head, no matter how mundane or trivial, heightened my panic. I didn’t dare expend the energy to moan, let alone do the screaming in agony that I yearned to do. I didn’t dare wake my sweet daughter.
Naia. The tsunami of guilt and shame washed up in a torrent, threatening to drown me, and my panic spiraled up to the heights of anguish that surpassed any human need for oxygen. Naia. Naia. She mustn’t see me like this. There was no way I was going to let her see this.
A frenzied search. The piggy bank was long ago pilfered, the coins spent. Debit card, useless: the checking account was in the negative again. Finally, a sign of hope: a maxed out credit card- surely there must be a few dollars left of the $500 limit. The others are surely over, but this one? This may just work.
I resumed my watch in front of the DVR clock, clutching the plastic card as the first grays of dawn began to lighten the walls of the living room. All that was left was to wait until the store opened, where I could finally touch my panacea. The remedy, the medicine. The cure.
I sat with my breaths.