For Part II, click here.
Three and a half years later
Particularly during the summer, western Washington is a very, very lovely place to be. Henry was taking it all in, the invigorating blend of ocean and mountain air, a vivid, lush rain forest backdrop, doing so from the driver’s seat of an unsuitably flashy convertible (albeit not his….it was a bright yellow Corvette rented at the airport).
His vantage point was a parking lot which felt barren despite being full of vehicles that were full of passengers, none of whom wanted to be seen outside of said vehicles — or seen at all, it’s probably safe to say. Everyone sat silently, gazing with intent anticipation at the ornate electric gates, willing them to part and bring forth whomever they were there to retrieve so as to briskly hit the fucking road.
Some of these people were close friends, others partners or spouses, a few of them sons and daughters. It was a strange scene, even for Henry’s standards. His mind likened it to one of those dreadful after school carpool lanes where tired, frenzied parents fidget impatiently behind the wheels of assorted domestic means of transport to pick up the offspring.
Only in this scenario, school is, in fact, rehab.
Victoria had done well in the twelve step program. While not exactly the religious experience that many claim (or will) it to be, she found the process cathartic and redemptive enough to keep on keeping after 72 hard earned days without using (more than enough of which were spent in withdrawal). Besides, you’ll find the more sanctimonious zealots of sobriety are often the most prone to relapse; it’s the truth.
Located in Aberdeen, WA, Mount Rainier Recovery Center was one of the more reputable and luxurious substance rehabilitation clinics on the Western seaboard. That made it expensive, prohibitively so, and thus beyond Victoria’s ability to pay for on her own, seeing as dropping out of college had limited viable job opportunities, and cocaine had dispatched with what petty cash she’d saved from working in retail.
In swooped Henry to the rescue, only in a gaudy sports car rather than on a white horse. As a matter of fact, he couldn’t really afford Rainier Recovery, either, but that didn’t stop him from eagerly footing the bill. This was Vicky, after all, who would forever leave him powerless to resist the impulse to save her any and every time she needed saving.
Far more than slim waists or bright eyes, Henry was a sucker for angels nursing broken wings.
Out came Victoria in need of rescuing. She’d put on a little weight over the ten weeks of treatment, and really did look much better for it, but Henry knew to keep quiet, nonetheless. Her skin, which had always been virtually flawless prior to substance abuse, also regained its former splendor as a result of laying off the blow.
Vicky even managed not to smoke for the latter 22 days of her subsidized stay at Rainier; so for the moment, at least, things were looking up. After stepping into Henry’s shiny yellow codpiece, not knowing what to say or how to behave, she resorted to addressing her former flame and newfound sponsor with playful abuse.
“Nice car — sorry about your cock”, she remarked, just brazenly enough to get a laugh out of him.
“Good to have you back, kid. How’s that coke habit working out for you?”.
“Shut up and take me home, dick.”
Home for him would forever be wherever he could be alone with her. That night, it was one of the well sullied smoker’s rooms at a shitty chain hotel by Sea-Tac International Airport, which is in the city of Sea-Tac, WA (your guess as to why there’s a city named after an airport is as good as any). They could hear planes fly deafeningly overhead every few minutes, which wasn’t all bad, because it saved them the trouble of having to hold a conversation.
The vaguely patterned wallpaper was heinous but somehow even more forgettable. A couple stock landscape and still life paintings hung weakly over the bed frame like a pair of wilted flowers, only bearing far less life or color. The bathroom closely resembled one you’d be subject to at a government hospital, complete with antiseptic lighting, third world water pressure, towels possessing exactly the same texture as old tube socks, and toilet paper you could probably trace with.
Home it still was.
Like most dysfunctional couples, Vicky and Henry found it came much more naturally to fuck than to talk about things, especially when those things were of gravity or consequence. In spite of not having slept together for the years she’d been away at school or in drug dens, the two had no trouble picking up where they left off.
Henry could only imagine the things his wounded angel had gotten up to during their time apart — and did, with foolish regularity — but generally tried his best not to let that bother him, or at least not to let it show. Needless to say, that was less challenging a feat to achieve when he was inside of her, as were most of the emotional acrobatics necessary to keep their relationship alive.
There is some kind of heaven to be found in the hell that is loving some people.
As you’d expect, the room seemed much more pleasant in a post-coital state, then again, that meant they had to fill the space between planes departing with something other than moaning and dirty talk. Henry waited for his heart rate to slow before breaking the silence, but that wasn’t happening, so he went ahead and took the leap.
“Well, how’re you feeling, kid?”
“You know, I’ve been worse.”
“Do you wanna talk about it?”
“Really, I don’t, baby.”
“I know, but we should talk about it.”
Doing so was quite an ordeal, getting it all out of her. They say you’re not supposed to do that, to pry, make people talk; and they might be right, but they’ve also likely never dated a coke head. An addict’s brain functions differently from that of a sober person’s, and so too does the way one must communicate with the mind inhabiting it.
But talk they did, for many hours and spanning many topics. There are some conversations which are simply not meant for the light of day, and this certainly qualified as such. It’s to do with a feeling of safety, anonymity provided by the night which, once attained, allows for all manner of darkness to be explored.
Of course, periodic breaks for sex help facilitate these endeavors.
And yet, the sun always rises, often to dismay. Vicky felt gross and Henry really was. The room reeked of stale smoke and sex, also shouldering the not inconsiderable weight of their lengthy soul searching. It was time to get some sleep, so they showered together and went about their respective routines before going to bed.
For him, that consisted of little more than seeing to bodily functions. For her, though, it consisted of the standard teeth brushing and face washing, but far more important things besides. Vicky had very good skin, you see, and maintaining the vitality of said called for the nightly application of moisturizing lotion. She was very meticulous about this, and while he never figured out just why, Henry fucking loved to watch.
In all the years the two had known each other, Henry knew Vicky to follow this protocol without fail. No matter how drunk, high or depressed she got, that girl took care of her face. And every time, he’d lay there on the edge of the bed, utterly entranced by the way her fingers moved in tight, concentric circles, drunk on the smell of overpriced skin care product and the immaculate canvas it was preserving.
She smelled like better days to him, like a sense of finally belonging.
Then he started to doze off, and the last thing he saw was her (the only thing, in truth). When they woke up, it was to a rapid, incomprehensible scolding from the Latina woman working in room service, who was trying in vain to break the language barrier so they’d check the fuck out and she could clean the room already. Minutes later, downstairs at hotel reception, Vicky brought up a valid point.
“Baby, where are we going?”
“Airport — we have to return the car.”
“That’s not your car?”
“Nah, sold the Dodge to pay for Rainier.”
“I’d do it again….prefer not to, though.”
Once having turned over the keys to the Vette, the two rode a shuttle bus back to the airport, where Vicky assumed they would catch a cab back to Seattle. When they got to the drop off area, however, Henry began walking towards the ticket counters. Vicky followed instinctively, until he got in line — absent any semblance of luggage or hesitation — at which point she was compelled to ask once more.
“Baby, what are we doing?”
“We’re taking a trip, kid.”
“Where are we going?”
“Actually, I was hoping you’d tell me.”