“No, I’m not drinking,” I would protest or whine or insist or yell or mutter or slur or shout or maintain or report or say or mumble or sputter or whisper or hiss……. or belch or snicker. Depended on the day and who was doing the asking.
“I only had a couple…….” I would counter or insist or demand or swear sincerely or ask or state earnestly or attest or report or mumble or sputter or whisper or hiss…… or belch. Depended on the day and who was doing the asking.
No matter how I said it, one of two things would happen:
The person would call me out on my lie — this was verrrrrry occasionally.
OR (more likely):
Their lips would flat-line, their eyes would squint, their eyebrows would furrow, and – almost invariably – they would fold their arms. Sometimes there would be an additional gesture such as an impatient foot tapping or an irate eye-roll. But usually the lips would straighten into a thin line and the eyes would squint.
People just didn’t have the patience to play the “yes you did”/”no I didn’t” game. The alcoholic or addict always can hold out longer and pull out evidence that would never be admissible in a court of law, typically beginning with the sentence-starter: “Even ask _________ [so-and-so].”
Yes. We had proof positive. And reliable alibis. And charrrrrrrrrrrrm. And puppy eyes.
When I saw the lips flat-line and the eyes squint -or ……….. no, let me derail that train of thought. I would also insist on my abstinence to sometimes two people. Did you ever do that? And BOTH their lips flat-lined and they would make eye contact with one another? Silence that said SO much. That made me feel instantly ganged up on, outnumbered, pissed off, and willing to double my efforts to persuade them to believe me.
Sometimes I would see shoulders slouch back down, eyes soften, a smile ease into the flat-lined lips and warming them. I won them over. But this was rare and I knew it. But I fought that fight every time. Trying to win them over.
I’d take the proverbial piss on their feet and tell them it’s raining. I’d tell them to ignore the temperature – ignore the sunshine and there being NO clouds in the sky – and ask them to ignore the color yellow. It’s raining. It’s supposed to be happening. You’re supposed to have wet feet. Everyone has wet feet this time of year! And they would walk away with their wet feet ska-winching in their soaked sneakers, smiling and thinking this was normal. I persuaded them. Sometimes.
The squint. The flat-lining lips. I kept insisting.
Those empty bottles under the table cloth of the end table? They are someone else’s from before. My staggering? I stood up too fast and my blood pressure is low and how DARE you pick on me about a medical condition I can’t control. The smell on my breath? You’re imagining things.
Oh, yes. I’d boomerang any evidence so they would question their own judgment and sanity, and in the end they would feel guilty for having tinkered with such a nice lady like me.
“You’re as sick as your secrets,” they are wont to say in Al-anon. And they’re right. And I had a million secrets stacked on secrets shoved in drawers between secrets shoved in closets of secrets inside attics of secret basements…… I didn’t know where I kept them all and couldn’t keep them straight.
I realize just exactly how free I am today. I am relatively secret-free. Except the occasional appropriate secret such as what I got you for your birthday (you’re going to love it) and what I did the other night ……… ’cause nice girls don’t kiss and tell. And sometimes they do nothing, but they don’t need to advertise that either.
I am free. I can look people in the eye. I don’t have to hesitate before answering questions, trying to remember what I told them last time or what I told this person’s spouse because I need the lies to be consistent…………. I am not accused of anything. I don’t need a defense today. I’m free. I’m out of the prison of my own making.
They say to “live like someone left the gate open” (and the saying is superimposed over a spritely little puppy in running joyously in midair). I hope to do that. But for now, I’m just happy that I left the gate open and I’m out and about. Free.