Bad Choices (Fiction)

09-29 Eldon Pueblo1

Most days, I can find the happiness tucked behind the prominent list of things that serve the sole purpose of bringing me down. Most days, my prayers for internal rest are at least partially answered. Most days, I can believe with the greater portion of my heart that tomorrow will be better.

But this isn’t most days.

Today, the muck of life seems to have suctioned onto my wading boots. It’s as if I try to fight it, I’ll wind up flat on my face, completely submerged. So I do nothing.

Well, not exactly “nothing.” The fuse of my resentment is burning fast. It turns out that stewing about what I can’t change is like blowing on a fire. Eventually, the pressure will release and I worry about what my world will look like after that happens.

He groans and rolls over, nearly falling off the couch.

I place the crinkled receipt between the pages and close my book. I walk over to the wall of windows and open all of the blinds.

He buries his face between the cushions and mumbles something unintelligible.

“Feeling under the weather?” As I smile, I’m disturbed by the fact I derive pleasure from his agony. But he brought it on himself. The justification seems brittle even as I attempt to defend myself with it.

He rises to what he might think is a sitting position, but he’s propped on one elbow at a forty-five degree angle. “Head hurts.”

“Could be the six vodka gimlets you drank last night.”

He frowns. “I only had a couple. They were strong.”

I open my book and check the receipt. “Nope. There were six.” I hold the receipt up. “I had to settle the tab after they kicked you out of the restaurant.”

“I don’t know why they would do that. I wasn’t even drunk.”

I raise my eyebrows. I find the denial maddening and struggle to keep my cool. “Ah, I guess sober people often stand on chairs and offer nonsensical monologues about the pleasing aesthetic attributes of TV weather women.”

“I did not.”

“Did.”

He rubs his forehead and falls back onto the couch.

I know it won’t be long now, so I retrieve the mop bucket from the closet and set it next to him. “And I’m sure everyone is talking about the spectacle you made of yourself.”

Another groan escapes and he rolls over and heaves his bad choices into the bucket.

I cringe and turn away. Twenty-four years ago, he would’ve offered a flimsy apology. I would’ve brought a cool wash cloth for his face. I would’ve patted his back and told him he’d feel better soon. He would’ve promised it wouldn’t happen again.

We both know better now. I know he won’t change and he knows I’ll be angry for a few days. A growing part of me wants to break the cycle and leave. A shrinking part of me clings to most days of the year when he is not a drunken fool. Fool. Is that what I am?

He moans again. “Can you help me, Nita?”

“First, you have to help yourself,” I whisper. Unbidden, tears steam down my cheeks. His physical misery blinds him to my emotional turmoil.

“Baby, I need you.” He presses his palms against his temples.

I can’t take it anymore. I leave the room, but my self-hatred follows me. I wonder if that’s what keeps me here. Indecision closes around me like an executioner’s noose. Maybe I stay as punishment for my own bad choices. The realization tastes bitter in my throat.

~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-

Inspiration: life.  To fully explain the inspiration and the nuances of truth vs. fiction would take another post (or series of posts.)  The frustration of repetition depicted in this story is quite real to me!  My mother-in-law went back home on Saturday after twelve days of staying in our house and stirring up a fair amount of drama. I imagine things will settle down, but I’m not there yet.

I hope to write another post this week, if life will oblige and allow me the time. May we all experience joy and serenity in the coming days.

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28 thoughts on “Bad Choices (Fiction)

  1. Timothy Price September 29, 2014 / 10:54 AM

    This seems sadly true. I hope your drama settles down.

    • jannatwrites September 30, 2014 / 10:07 PM

      Thanks for taking time to read it, Timothy! Things are getting back into a routine now (thankfully). I would’ve thought that after this many years it would be easier to handle, but instead, my patience (if I ever had any) is wearing down faster and it takes longer to recover 🙂

  2. raalbertarts September 29, 2014 / 12:11 PM

    If this piece is autobiographical then it is a tragedy for you. I am sorry. Either way, I gain some pleasure at his suffering. I am the first to enjoy a glass of wine or a beer after playing golf, but for reasons unknown to me am not addicted. For that I am glad. For him, I wish, for his sake, he could change. His track record seems to indicate he will not change.

    Either way, this was well written, and effective.

    • jannatwrites September 30, 2014 / 10:09 PM

      Thanks for your thoughtful comment, Raalbertarts! Though there is some reality woven into it, this isn’t a true autobiographical account (fiction is much more interesting than my real life.) I tend to have little sympathy when someone suffers due to their own carelessness 🙂

  3. Emilio Pasquale September 29, 2014 / 1:02 PM

    You keep setting that bar (oops, no pun intended) higher and higher. I expect no less than excellence from you now and so far have not been disappointed. I can’t tell you how I look forward to reading what you’ve come up with every time I see a new post from you. I just picture so many married people like this, full of resentment yet afraid to leave. So far my wife and I have avoided that. But then, we’ve only been married two and a half years! 🙂

    • jannatwrites September 30, 2014 / 10:14 PM

      Haha, between your “Saw” photo and this bar remark, I’d say you’re on a roll, Emilio! I appreciate you reading and sharing your thoughtful comment. Well, the odds are against me… I’m bound to post a disappointing story soon 🙂 I found the first few years of marriage relatively easy. After over seventeen years, I’ve had to learn to let some irritations go. Sometimes I succeed, other times I grit my teeth 😯

      • Emilio Pasquale October 2, 2014 / 12:10 PM

        Hey, that’s marriage! We’re only two years in after being together for 5 and even this early there are some days you just have to grit your teeth. We all do it. My wife did it this morning, then was still able to kiss me as I went off to work!

        • jannatwrites October 2, 2014 / 11:40 PM

          The kiss is a good sign, Emilio. When we can move past annoyances in favor of the niceties, it’s a good thing 🙂

  4. joannesisco September 29, 2014 / 1:50 PM

    There is a serious amount of angst in this story …. with inspiration credited to mother-in-law’s visit! Wowzer!
    You can pack so much power into a short story. **Maybe I stay as punishment for my own bad choices**. Amazing.

    • jannatwrites September 30, 2014 / 10:15 PM

      Her visits are never easy, but this one was waaaaaay too long. Thanks for reading this one, Joanne. I’ll see if I can write something less ‘angsty’ next time 🙂

      • joannesisco October 1, 2014 / 4:44 AM

        Angsty away!! It makes for great stories 😉

        • jannatwrites October 2, 2014 / 9:18 PM

          Aw, thanks, Joanne 🙂

  5. suzicate September 29, 2014 / 2:36 PM

    The drama from a MIL visit…I can so relate. Hope things settle and you can reclaim your peace.

    • jannatwrites September 30, 2014 / 10:17 PM

      Thanks, Suzicate. It’s getting better now. It takes me longer to calm down than it used to. (And I get mad at my husband because he’s an extension of her, haha!)

  6. Polysyllabic Profundities September 29, 2014 / 3:13 PM

    Wow….your story sums up my marriage and subsequent divorce. I was able to get out of that roller coaster of loving and hating. It was his battle, not mine. xx

    • jannatwrites September 30, 2014 / 10:17 PM

      I’m sorry to hear that- but I’m glad you are off that ride now, Susan!

  7. pattisj September 29, 2014 / 8:18 PM

    I remember those visits. Some things do change with time, some do not. It’s hard to separate fact from fiction sometimes–but something sure inspires the writer in you. 🙂

    • jannatwrites September 30, 2014 / 10:19 PM

      Thanks for reading the story, Patti! I work from home most of the time, so I really didn’t have much of a break from her for twelve days. Too much…

  8. nrhatch September 30, 2014 / 9:13 AM

    Fantastic share, Janna. One of your best. Love how it raises the question, “why stay?’ ~ a query with which many (no doubt) struggle.

    • jannatwrites September 30, 2014 / 10:21 PM

      Thanks, Nancy – I’m glad you liked the story! I’ll be honest, there have been times over the years where I’ve been close to saying, “I’m done” so I’ve spent time thinking about why to stay 🙂

  9. Debbie September 30, 2014 / 11:20 AM

    You’ve posed another interesting dilemma, Janna. “To stay, or not to stay” — the choices we make aren’t easy, and sadly, no one can make them for us. I wish peace for you!

    • jannatwrites September 30, 2014 / 10:23 PM

      Life is full of choices, Debbie. I think I may choose to remove myself from our usual Thanksgiving visit to see my MIL this year. We’ll see how I feel in November!

  10. diannegray September 30, 2014 / 3:04 PM

    Great story, Janna and one that will resonate with a lot of people. I’m so sorry about your MiL drama. I don’t have that with my MiL, but my husband does with his MiL (my mother – yikes!) 😉

    • jannatwrites September 30, 2014 / 10:26 PM

      Haha, so your mom’s the culprit? That’s funny! That makes me wonder if my husband thinks my parents are a nightmare… I’ve never asked! He acknowledges his mom is a pain in the @*&^ (his words) but it still doesn’t help me 🙂

  11. Sarah Ann October 1, 2014 / 12:44 PM

    This is such a strong piece – the inner-conflict, the repeated patterns, the hope of change and almost certain knowledge that it never will. Sad and strong and so recognisable. ‘Maybe I stay as punishment for my own bad choices.’ is such a painful line too, and maybe too harsh.
    Great piece and I hope your routines and dramas settle down soon, although if they drive you to write like this then, from a purely selfish point of view, maybe I don’t. 😉

    • jannatwrites October 2, 2014 / 11:00 PM

      Haha, thanks for the comment/compliment, Sarah Ann! I started this story in a dark state of mind, so that would explain the tone. The staying as punishment for herself is harsh, but I’ve been there before, so to me, it’s real. So much easier to forgive others…

  12. Imelda October 3, 2014 / 8:55 PM

    I hope you have your equanimity now. It is easy to fray in that kind of situation.

    Your story is fine as always, there is no need for an apology. I like the subtlety in the way you wrote the conflicts and the inner turmoil. 🙂

    I will be back to catch up. 🙂

    • jannatwrites October 3, 2014 / 9:27 PM

      Thanks for reading, Imelda! Things have settled down and my writing is not quote so heavy these days 🙂

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