Camp Swanky, fall of 2007. That was my apartment in Chicago where I lived before I moved back in with my mom after my separation from Craig. I was a full-blown alcoholic, trying to keep up with Luke, insane and not working, bipolar and unmedicated, and just getting back into the dating scene after breaking up with my ex-boyfriend Art, another alcoholic, ending a toxic summer romance where we nearly drank ourselves to death and I behaved really badly.
Suffice it to say I was looking for love in ALL the wrong places, and ended up one, two, or three-night standing with a rogue's gallery of strange guys who took advantage of my perpetually inebriated state. There were a lot of them. I don't even remember all of their names. One I do remember, whose name escapes me, had a one-night stand with me during which I drove in blinding fog to meet him at a bar, then cracked the tail light of my car pulling out of his driveway and hitting a tree (drunkenly). He couldn't drive because he walked with a cane after some accident he'd been in, and was a general asshole, and thus another mark on the car of my adventures that to date, still hasn't been repaired. Never saw the guy again.
By December of 2007, I was settling down a little, and started dating two men at the same time, Martin and Chris. Martin was 47 at the time, the oldest gent I'd dated, just moved back to Chicago from out East and had no job. He was very tall and thin, looked older than he was, and had insulin-dependent diabetes. He was nuts about me from day one. I was not all that into him, though he was really a very, very nice guy. He'd take the train to the station near my house and walk to my apartment, as I was too lazy (or drunk usually) to go pick him up all the way in East Rogers Park, by the lake. We'd been on 3 or 4 dates and he thought we were "in a relationship," though I was seeing Chris at the same time. Martin liked to email me. A lot. I would typically email him back, more often and as opposed to seeing him in person. Martin continued to email me through early January, when he said that he was getting sick, unsure of what was wrong with him and too destitute to get himself to a doctor. And I sat idly by. I was wrapped up in Luke and frankly, Chris, and the last email he wrote me was him asking me if I could come take care of him around the time of my son's birthday, to which I said no. I remember a line in his email that said something to the effect of "Annie, I'm sick, really sick." I did respond, saying I was sorry he wasn't well but that I was busy with all things Luke and didn't have time to see him. About 2 weeks later, I checked in on him via email, only to hear from his sister a few days later, saying that Martin had died right around Luke's birthday in mid-January. So that's why he wasn't responding to my emails! He was DEAD. In hindsight, I feel enormously guilty about not having done something about his illness and letting him die alone in his apartment. This egocentric, free-wheelin' alcoholic had bigger fish to fry. Had Martin survived and I actually had given him a chance, I wonder what kind of relationship we'd have ultimately had. Maybe I would've ditched Chris. We'll never know.
Chris just seemed the more logical person to date. He was charming, intellectual, funny, successful and actually had a car he had a license to drive. At the beginning of our relationship, which would last 3 1/2 years and turn majorly abusive and ugly, we had a great time together. We chatted online for a few weeks before meeting in person, and our first "date" was right before Christmas of 2007. I was so comfortable with him that instead of meeting in a public place, I invited him over to my apartment to spend the night (we'd already negotiated that it was likely we would get busy upon meeting one another, so he came prepared). Not the smartest thing to do with a stranger in hindsight, but I trusted him right away. He was like the oldest, bestest friend I'd always had but just never met until that time. The night we got together, temperatures were in the 60's during that December day, turning violently colder with winds in excess of 80 mph by late night. Trees and power lines were falling down everywhere. Our meeting accompanied a literal force of nature. I remember not wanting him to leave the next day, him not wanting to overstay his welcome, and us pouring through my CD collection in the office and just generally having a great time in one another's company. Those days, I still have fond memories of, even today. It's a shame it had to get so ugly and sick in the end, seeing as this was the guy I finally thought I was destined to be with forever. The love of my life. My ultimate soulmate, though that would prove to be very wrong.
In his defense, Chris didn't know what he was getting himself involved with. My future looked, on paper, promising, at the time. Chris thought his new friend was a budding firefighter. I'd taken the Chicago Firefighter exam in 2006, aced the written and by fall of 2007,won the veritable lottery by being the first of the candidates called up to test further for the job. I had every intention of passing the physical agility test and the firefighters I knew were all confident I'd soon be among them on the job. Never mind that I quit working out months prior to that and was in shitty shape at best, and drinking all the time, and had put on 25 lbs. I told myself I wouldn't drink the day before the physical agility test. Promised myself that. But my nerves got the best of me, and I showed up to the test the following morning with a wicked hangover. Performed all the required tests, though too slowly to pass the test. Being female didn't work in my favor, either, and it was a HARD physical test. I'm still proud of myself for finishing the test as best I could, but it was not meant to be for me to be a firefighter, and I was notified a few weeks later that I'd failed the test and was no longer being considered for the job. Even if I *had* made it, I surely would've flunked out of the academy if I continued to drink at the pace I was feebly sustaining. God had other plans for me, just like he had for Martin.
I like to say I live my life with no regrets. Had all those experiences not happened to me, I wouldn't be where I am today, which is a stable, most-times good place, even with the residual mental and physical toll my relationship with Chris ultimately placed on me. Had that all not worked out, I wouldn't be in a safe, (usually) sane place, working a job I love (yesterday notwithstanding), studying for a doctorate in psychology, and a hell of a mom to my son. I wouldn't have all the positive influences in my life--friends and family, cheering me on and keeping me afloat. I might have died from alcoholism. Chris likes to take credit for having saved my life, though that's simply not true. *I* made the decision to get well and press forward. I'm fiercely proud of the progress I've made since the fall of 2007, when I was rotting away, inside and out.
Chris' favorite band is Steely Dan. All things considered, I'm never going back to my old school...