You Didn’t Dress Properly – short story

Ide watched Fabian walking unsteadily down his driveway towards the builders in the backyard. He hadn’t dressed properly. He had no underwear on and his track pants were ripped so that anyone who looked, perhaps it was impossible not to look, could see Fabian’s backside. Somehow, it was still a good looking backside for all that Fabian had put his body through in recent years. There was no point telling Fabian that he hadn’t dressed properly. He was too sick. Along the way, things like dignity get lost.

The builders had been there for some weeks making a pool. Fabian wasn’t short of money. It would have been better if he was because the necessities of life would have pulled him back into some normality. The builders knew that Ide was Fabian’s ex-girlfriend. Fabian repeated himself a lot and reran stories in his own head and out loud to anyone in his vicinity.

When Fabian stumbled back into the house, the builder turned to Ide, “I don’t know why we are building this bloody pool. He’s only going to fall into it in a drunken stupor and drown himself!” Ide said nothing. They all knew that the possibility of that happening was all too real.

The young apprentice lifted his head as Ide headed for the house and said hopefully, “You’ve come to fix him up?”  He meant to sound light-hearted but the pity in his voice was obvious. Many people, even strangers, seemed to want to help Fabian. Ide always found that very heartwarming. She didn’t want to disillusion the young apprentice and so she smiled reassuringly and nodded as if that was what she had come to do.

Ide braced herself to enter the house. Any trace of smile left her face. It was worse than normal. Things were everywhere. The fridge door was left open. It was a pigsty. When she passed the bedroom, she was shocked to see that there was blood on the wall, a broken mirror on the ground, and a hole in the plaster. She couldn’t remember seeing any new injury on Fabian. Perhaps, it was someone else’s blood. That was even worse. It was pointless cleaning any of it up. She had done that many times. This time, it was just too dreadful. After a while, Fabian slumped on the lounge with his head in his hands, “I know I need help.” Ide had heard it before but he still wouldn’t go to rehab. The terrible thing about rehab is not so much the physical withdrawal from the alcohol or drug. That is its own special kind of drama. The real terror is what is inside us without any sedation – the pain, longing, hopelessness, memories, anger, and fear. Ide washed a mug, made Fabian a cup of tea, and left. What else could she do? He wasn’t a minor. He wasn’t mentally ill. He wasn’t sick enough for a hospital. He wasn’t dead, yet. It was his right as an adult to destroy himself. She left the house but he was never far from her thoughts.

Ide hated alcohol and drugs. They are the sly deceivers floating in like a party and then way outstaying their welcome. The longer they stay, the less their hosts can see them. For many, it becomes a dependency. The dependent always says that it has no adverse effect on them. Every medication has a side effect. For some, it becomes an addiction. Its deadly hold then becomes a very serious fight for survival. It will take everything. Ide wanted to shout to the world, Get out of here you foul destroyer. I see what you are doing. She couldn’t because the rest of the world had already embraced them like a trusted friend. To Ide, the thought of putting a poisonous substance into one’s body with the intention of losing one’s normal state of awareness seemed very foreign. Perhaps she came from a different place.

A few weeks later, Fabian changed his mind. He went to rehab. Further on, the time it took for him to start drinking after rehab visits became longer and the time it took to go back to rehab after relapses became shorter. He was not in the death zone for so long. He was getting better.

A year or so later, Fabian said to Ide with tears in his eyes, “I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry for all of it. I was very sick.”

Ide didn’t bother to hide the relief in her voice, “The only thing that matters is that you are getting better now.”

Fabian continued, “There are whole periods of time that I cannot even remember.”

Ide smiled as if it was of no consequence but thought, It’s probably just as well!

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