I Knew the task of setteling my now ex partner into his new appartment and new life would not be an easy one but I honestly had no idea how difficult it would be. He had always been a very proud and very stuborn man and although most of his pride had been conquored by his need for alcohol his stuborness grew with gathering strength and determination. He made up his mind that he was not going to like or be happy in the place I had made ready for him even before he saw it.
When he got out of rehab he was taken back to the hospital for a day or two to get his medication sorted out but he signed his own release form and I got the call to come and collect him. Meggie and I went by cab to pick up his belongings and take him home. The appartment was small but very well appointed and compact. He was unable to cope with stairs and it was situated on the ground floor of a large house shared by four other people. I had stocked the cupboards and refridgerator with food that I imagined he would be able to cook. I had brought his belongings from our old house and the walls were decorated with mirrors and pictures which i hoped would give it a friendly homely atmosphere. He hated it.
"So this is where I am condemned to end my days" he snarled looking around
"Of course not" I told him reasonably "But since you were uanble to, I had to find you somewhere until you are well enough to choose something better for yourself"
I offered to make him some tea but he said he was going out if he could figure out "where the hell" he was. In fact the appartment was ten minutes away from where he had worked for twenty five years and close to the pub where he had spent most of his days while I cried myself to sleep most of my nights. We left together and Meggie begged him to keep his mobile phone switched on so she could call and see that he was alright. We both cried as we walked home. Jim was there when we reached the house and he did his best to comfort us but as people tend to do both Meggie and I blamed him for what he had nothing to do with and no control over.
We tried to phone him but no reply. Over the course of the evening we tried his mobile more than fifty times but he never once replied. Meggie was out of her mind with worry and I was close to breaking point. Jim offered to drive us over to the appartment which was in darkness. There was nothing we could do except wait. None of us slept well that night and first thing next morning we tried his phone again. Still nothing. We got a cab over this time and banged on the door. After what seemed like an eternity he pressed the buzzer and we rushed inside
"Where were you" I cried "We have been out of our minds with worry"
He was still dressed in the same clothes that we had left him in but the appartment was now littered with empty bottles and cans and smelled strongly of stale alcohol and vomit.
"I got lost" he mumbled falling onto the bed
"How did you manage that" I asked
"I couldnt remember the address"
Meggie tried to talk to him while I set about cleaning the place but after a few minutes she came to me
"He is asleep" she said dejectedly
"He is drunk love" I sighed
We cleaned the rooms and disposed of the empty bottles and cans. Meggie deleted all the unanswered calls from his mobile phone and put it on to charge. I made up some sandwiches covered them with foil and left them in the fridge. We tried one more time to wake him but failed so we let ourselves out and started for home.
We were terribly unhappy Meggie and me and I could see the black cloud decending around Jim as he tried to battle with our doom and gloom. Meggie became used to him not answering the phone though she continued to leave message after message time after time. We tried to visit him almost every day, sometimes he was there and let us in, sometimes he was there and too drunk to let us in and sometimes he was god knows where and we would either walk away or if Jim brought us travel home in silent dispair.
This pattern formed and as in life even the worst of times become habit forming. We got used to visiting him and when I asked if I could get a key cut and he agreed. He was drinking very heavily, this was evident from the number of empties I took to the dump each time we visited. One Saturday morning probably a couple of months into this arrangement my phone rang very early and I struggled to answer in the darkness.
"This is Jason Kelly, you rented an appartment from me"
My blood turned to ice and I sat bold upright in bed
"Whats happened" I asked
Jim woke, immediately lighted a cigarette and waited for the bad news
"The front door was left open last night" I was told in an icy voice "I was asked to call by another tennant and the appartment door was open. Your "friend" is lying on the floor. There is god knows what all over the walls, the cooker was on and the whole place is in total chaos"
"I'll be right over" I said leaping out of bed
"I wont have this behavious in my property" I was told in no uncertain terms "If this happens again he is out"
There was a click and silence.
I tried not to let Meggie know but she had heard the phone and appeared in my room rubbing her eyes
"Whats happened" she asked and I told her as little as possible yet stucking to the truth which she demanded "I'll sort it out love, you go back to bed"
"I'm coming with you"
Jason had not lied. The place was filthy. He had made it into bed by then fully dressed but that was about the only progress. We spent hours scrubbing the walls and the floor and as usual throwing away the empties. We went to the hardware store and bought a hinge that attached to the back of the front door so that it would close automatically. Even if he neglected to close it behind him it would be taken care of. We waited for him to sober up and tried to talk with him. We told him of the phone call and how close he was to being evicted and begged him to try to get himself together. We talked about all the things he could do if he got some help knowing in our hearts they would never happen.
It was late afternoon when we eventually got home again and Jim was not there. I tried his phone and it was his turn not to pick up. My heart was heavy as I began to prepare some dinner. It was dark when he appeared and I knew by the look on his face things were not good
"I have to get away" he told me in a flat voice "I cant take anymore of this. I am falling apart"
"Please Jim" I begged him "We need you here with us. It will get easier"
He shook his head
"You may have moved out, but you will never move on and I cannot cope seeing you and Meggie being pulled apart like this. It's killing me"
"You're a coward" I spat "What happened to good and bad"
"Its all bad" he sighed "What happened to the good"
He turned and walked to the front door
"Where will you be" I cried hanging on to his sleeve trying to keep him with me.
"I will be with my daughter. I need peace and quiet. Its not just you or this" he tried to explain "Its the depression. It has my head fried again. Im sorry"
I finished making the dinner but only fixed one plate and took it to Meggie
"Is Jim gone" she asked and i nodded
"You ok" she asked and I nodded again but I was a long way from being ok
Day followed endless day. We made the pilgrimage to the appartment on a regular basis always holding our breath as we opened the door never knowing quite what to expect. After a few days Jim telephoned and after a cuople of weeks he came back as he had done so many times before and so very many times after. It was a distructive relationship. We were distroying each other but like some kind of fatal attraction the force that kept driving us apart also kept pulling us back together.
Summer had drawn to a close and the evenings became dark early. I would meet Meggie from school race up to the appartment pay our visit and try to get home before dark. I tried to keep Jim out of the situation as much as possible but he did offer lifts if the weather was bad or if he was in an exceptionally good mood. Thankfully he offered a life on one of the worst visits that I remember.
We collected Meggie after school and drove to the appartment. Jim stopped on the way bought a newspaper and said he would wait around the corner for us. We let ourselves in through the front door and went to the appartment. We tried to turn the key in the door but it was locked. Fear coursed through our bodies as Meggie dialed his number on her phone. There was no sound from inside the appartment.
"Where can he be" she whispered
"I dont know love" I told her quietly
"He never locks the door from the outside"
"What if he is in there sick or something"
The same thought was racing through my mind.
The light was on inside. We could see that through they key hole and we could hear sounds from the television. She kept dialing the phone and I kept knocking at the door to no avail
"Get Jim" I told her
He climbed over the back wall and peered through the window but could not see anybody in the appartment. Just then I heard Meggie shout into her phone
"Dad where are you"
She shoved the phone into my hand with a look of horror on her face
"Where are you" I asked
"I dont know"
"What do you mean you dont know"
"I am walking but I dont know where I am" he said "Find me"
"Give me an idea of where you are"
"Ok stay there. I will find you and dont turn your phone off"
Meggie stayed at the appartment in case he got back while Jim and I set off in the car to try to search for him. We drove the length of the canal in the heavy evening traffic before we eventually spotted him walking aimlessly carrying a six pack of cans. I burst into tears.
"What am I going to do" I sobbed
"There is a cab in front of us" Jim said soberly "Jump out bang the window and explain to the driver whats happening. Pick him up and take him home"
Thats what I did.
I cried the whole way back in the cab while he vented his frustrated anger blaming me for his situation and his sore feet and the fact that he had been lost and was wet and cold and hungry and anything else that he could think of. We got back to the appartment and he let us in. I offered to make him something to eat but he popped a can and grunted that he didnt need my charity. Meggie was very quiet. When we left several minutes later Jim was waiting outside for us.
"Thanks Jim" Meggie whispered
"Thats ok love" he smiled at her.
I cant help asking how their relationship grew stronger that day while we began to drift even further apart.