The Worm

Status: Ghostwritten
Style: Memoir
Client: Private

I’m a woman in my early 40’s. I don’t smoke, or drink and I have soya milk in my coffee. I wear glasses for reading, and I have a cat and a dog. I work from home, which means I spend a lot of time alone. Some days I don’t get dressed.

My old self would surely commiserate.

Thing is, old self was still in that shiny space where things just spring back into shape.

I’m not depressed.

Sure, all the symptoms are there, but this isn’t an illness. This crushing grief is love brutally transformed into an ache. My memories of us, previously so banal, are metamorphosing into new things, like rumination, stings, and discomfort. A soundwave stretched over many months; continual, low, and achingly delicate.

In the beginning, I did what I always did in a crisis - I turned to alcohol, self-satisfaction, and noise. This time though the booze wasn’t making it better; it was making me dangerous.

The morning after the third motorbike accident, I decided to temporarily quit the bottle. I concluded that I didn’t have a drink problem, and that I was simply taking some steps to look after myself. I quickly started to learn the truth.

“You could have killed us both.”

“I.. I don’t remember…” I say.

“What can you remember?”

“I remember us sitting by the side of the road. I think I was angry. Was I angry?”

Another blackout. At least the second that week.

The revolting truth about that night was told to me firmly. I felt like a worm wriggling around by his shoes.

“I love you, I’m sorry.” I say.

“You shouldn’t go using that word so flippantly. You don’t even know how to love yourself.”

My friend had been there through it all, for five months he’d been an emotional scarecrow, holding me up and fighting away the pecking birds. It was he who I called the night my Mum died so unexpectedly on the floor, and it was he who stayed on the phone with me for hours as I wailed. I have little recollection of what we said (I’d been drinking), but I remember the soul of the conversation. He had been present with me through it all, and now here he was, distant and cold.

“You said terrible things that made me look at myself differently Gena.”

I squirmed on the floor, my worm body flipping, and my five hearts breaking.

“I don’t remember - ”

“ - I need some time, some reflection.”

We said goodbye, I smiled - I’m awfully good at masks, and we said “see you soon”.

I drove away on my motorbike, shiny eyed until I was out of his sight. I then got off the motorbike and my worm body wriggled all the way home through the dirt.

Two people of the few people I dared bare my soul to had gone. One forever, and the other – well, I didn’t know. Why would he want to be friends with me now? I almost killed us both.

I looked around at the other people in my life, and I read back messages from other friends, and family. I discovered in these text exchanges a deep concern. They were worried about my drinking. About me. My cousin had said to me during the festive season, resolutely,

“The best Christmas present you can give me is to quit the booze. I don’t want a phone call saying we’ve lost you too.”

I was livid! “How dare she pick me up on my drinking!? I’m fucking grieving here, I deserve sympathy, not your inane judgement.”

I placed my cousin firmly on the shitlist.

Other people on the shitlist were those that had backed off when Mum died. The ones too fragile to let my grief intrude. Ever the hypocrite though, I’d always been one of those people in the past. No one leant on my ‘old self’ during their grief; I think grievers can smell fear a mile off.

I looked at my body. I was fat, bloated and dead behind the eyes. In the previous three months, I’d sustained a number of injuries, mostly motorbike related, and all alcohol induced. I live in a country where drink-driving is tolerated, and while most people do it, most people have the nous not to drive when they’re totally obliterated.

Not me.

Injuries since mum died:

  • A fractured cheekbone
  • Deep lacerations to my face, arms, hands, legs, feet, toes and hips
  • A suspected fractured femur
  • Serious bruising on my torso
  • Burns
  • A broken toe (to be fair to myself, I was somewhat sober for that one!)

The worst injuries were sustained during another blackout on the motorbike. This particular night, after a skull full of beer, vodka, and Valium, I decided I was going out at 1am with the usual rhetoric “to buy more booze’. My husband tried to stop me, and hid my motorbike keys, but relented when I’d told him I was simply going to walk to the shop.

I lied. Alcoholics are very good liars. I stole his motorbike keys instead.

The next thing I remember was waking up the next day, in intense pain, cuts everywhere, I could hardly open my mouth, my left side useless, and I was deeply hungover. My husband’s eyes were kind, but sad. I started shaking deeply with fear and pain.

“What happened?”

He held me lightly, as I cried, and he told me that I’d been found injured in the road by three young Australian travellers. They’d managed to extract where I lived, and had brought me home, along with the bent motorbike. To this day, I couldn’t tell you where I crashed, or how it came about. I assume I passed out and hit the kerb. How easily I could have hit a person.

I had broken a bone in my face, all my fingers, toes and knees were skinless, I had a huge wound on my hip, and my elbow had a deep laceration. Not to mention the cuts on, and under my nose, and on my chin. The pain was intense, and no one had much sympathy. I was quite honest about the circumstances to those who asked, apart from my brother. I lied to him. I said I’d misjudged a corner.

I laid in a codeine haze for three days, and eventually decided that I’d switch to paracetamol; you know, to clear my head.

You’d think this trauma would be enough to have a break from the booze. But less than a week later, my husband and I were hosting a BBQ, and I was tipsily telling all and sundry my ‘drunken accident’ anecdote, and we all laughed, and I used my facial injuries to weave into the dark humour and oh, how we laughed, and laughed, and laughed…

At least, I was laughing. My guests must have been categorically horrified.