One month in and my senses surround me. Not just sensibility, sensitivity. I am surrounded by the smells, the sounds, the sights present in the world that for so long I only experienced through rose-colored glasses:
Walking along a local business district block, looking for an ATM: At four o’clock, I pass three bars packed with people. Tall glasses of white wine, foaming beers, laughter spilling out onto the sidewalk from the too-warm January patio. And the loud-mouthed couple stumbling across the street.
“She su-ure got you good on that one, didn’t she?” he shouts to her, just two feet away, inside-voice distance.
“Just shut up and get in the car. It’s way too early for the cops to be making their rounds. I’ll take side streets till we get home.”
He struggles to open the door and she slams hers shut with a thunderous thud that breaks through the golden tinge of the setting sun.
Sitting beside my father’s fountain: endless free booze at my fingertips. My football-shaped empanadas being devoured with a nice cold glass of IPA. The smell of beer after beer wafts across the end table as I bear through the intolerable sounds of commercials and crowds that make up a football game. The team wins–another reason to throw back a cold one, to celebrate.
The Saturday night walk down Broadway with the two youngest girls. So much to look at, so much clarity. Pizza dough spun into the air, Uber cars double-parked while waiting for clients to crawl out from under their weekly pub crawl. A crowded ice cream shop where Denverites ignore the impending snowflakes and gorge themselves on wine-infused, beer-infused, whiskey-infused flavors that my girls reject as easily as Brussels sprouts. The chilly, bootless walk back to the car as the flakes increase, the rundown liquor store and, not five feet further, the ominous figure lying half-conscious on the sidewalk, unwilling or unable to move his legs to let us pass. The look in his half-slit shockingly blue eyes: rejection and fear and loathing. The look of someone without a choice.
The morning radio show cracking jokes about how their producer had a once-in-a-lifetime invite to the playoff football game and got so wasted at the tailgating party beforehand that he can’t recall one second of the glorious victory, the plays that make memories, the two-thousand-dollar view. Like it’s funny. Normal. Acceptable Sunday behavior.
The spousal budget discussion, the bill review, the savings goals, and the harsh admittance that easily $200 a month has filled our recycle bin for years. I can still hear the tinny clang of the bottles being dumped, wantonly echoing and overfilling the three-foot-tall bin. Biweekly collection could never quite gather up, or empty out fast enough, the waste found in those bottles.
The memories that flood my thoughts. That time when I said this, wrote that, did … That. The predictive nightmares that fill my nights with giving in, giving up, making the same stupid mistakes.
Did I see these things before? Taste them? Hear the sounds of sobriety, of drunkenness, with such clarity? In those early days of marriage when we scarcely drank, where a bottle of wine given to us as a gift would sit for so long on top of the fridge it would gather dust before we thought to open it? Did I notice the partying that surrounds everyday life for so many people? The weekly, sometimes three-times-weekly happy hours of my colleagues? The fountain of alcohol in my parents’ home? The casual remarks that begin so many stories–“I was lit/wasted/drunk when…”?
Did I have this sense and sensibility before we built up, day by day, a nearly-irreversible pattern? Did I hear, see, taste, smell, FEEL like I do now, one month in?
I can’t quite remember, or I don’t want to fully admit, that the time before and the time after won’t be similar. Like getting married or becoming a parent. There’s no going back. There’s no way I’ll ever be the same.
There’s only sense. Taste. Touch. Smell. Sight. Sound.
And sensibility. Sensitivity.
Sense. Sensibility. Sensitivity. Quite the elixir for a good Austen novel; or, better, the book that will carry me through parties and streets and football games and morning drives with a clarity I never want to lose again.