by Lauri Fraser
One of the greatest and most painful adventures in my life was being married to Johnny. The fact that I can say that with a smile on my face and a song in my heart leaves me happy and baffled. Happy because the ride was wild and we were in love, and baffled that I, a somewhat conscious human being totally missed, on that fateful day we met at Waimea Bay, the ripple that would soon enough, become a tidal wave. We were both injected with a dose of “careful what you ask for, you might just get it” serum. . Regardless, I can honestly say that I have never laughed (or cried) as hard or as much as I did in those nine years. When one of us was dying on the inside, the other was trying to make it okay on the outside. I thought that was a good thing, but looking back on it, we were like the mother innocently watering her sons pot plants while she tended her garden. We were growing bamboo in our living room. Bamboo can take over, strangling everything around it. You just can’t kill it. I liken it to the addict/enabler dynamic. You can live with it, or you can move, but you just can’t kill it. Addicts/enablers. If you’re not one, you probably know one. And if you don’t, look around. We’re everywhere.
We were in love, and in an effort to never take our relationship for granted, we… decided that every anniversary we would spend the night someplace different. That way we would wake up in a different space. This would help to keep things fresh and remind us that everyday is new and never to take each other for granted. Once we put up a tent in the back yard. One year we headed up the Coast Highway and figured we’d stop at the first decent looking hotel. “How about that one?” says Johnny “Nah.” “Okay, what about that one?” “Looks kinda shady.” “Yeah. Well it’s getting dark Lauri, so we’d better find one pretty soon.” “Okay there’s a Holiday Inn. At least we know what we’re getting there”. “You got it Laur, Ventura Holiday Inn, and it’s right on the beach. Johnny looked like the beach. Blonde, Surfer, but when he opened his mouth, out popped New York. Hells kitchen, where he was born. 100%Irish. My type. AND he had the big “P”. No…. POTENTIAL Oh how we enablers love potential. It gives us something to obsess on, beside ourselves. We get a room on the eighth floor with an ocean view for under $200 dollars on a Saturday night. That in its self should’ve have been cause for suspicion. Along with seeing the last four digits of my social security number written on the inside of Johnny’s palm. This confirming that either love is blind or that Love plus potential equal trouble.
We were exhausted so we jumped into the sack and ravaged each other and drifted into dreamland. Johnny dreaming of pulling heists, surfing pipeline, and never running out of percocet, and me of Johnny living up to his potential and thanking me in front of a large audience as he celebrates 25 years of sobriety. Suddenly there’s a bang on the door. BAM BAM BAM “Police Open up?!” I sit up in bed, BAM BAM BAM “Open up, Police” Awoken from a dead sleep I immediately go to that place of “Oh shit Johnny. What did you do?” (I know you didn’t mean it, whatever it was. I’ll get you out, but this is the last time!) At the exact same time Johnny goes to that place of “What? I didn’t do nothing!” He leaps up and throws on his Bruce Springsteen boxers. I cover myself with the sheet. He opens the door and the cops come in full force, guns drawn, first Johnny then me, then with a quick look around, surmising that they have made, a mistake, they take a beat, before the one cop says “ SORRY, WRONG ROOM” Johnny, ever so cool says “Whoosh. What I wouldn’t have given to hear those words back in ’87 before I had MY little welcome in the system there.” The cops leave. I should have followed them. But then who would help Johnny live up to his potential?
We both just stare at each other taking in what just happened. We finally got to sleep about 4:00 am. At 5:00 am we are awakened by the loudest sound I’ve heard since the cops came in. That and the sound I made at the bank when he had a party with the emergency credit card. It sounded again. A loud train ENGINE, followed by a long train whistle. Wooo wooo you’ll be sorry you’ll be sorry you’ll be sorry you’ll be sorry He’s not thrroooo. (. Woo woo. You had your chance we told you so you had your chance we told you so. Woo woo yea he’s funny take your money, yes he’s funny take your money, woo wooo clickety clack don’t look back “What the…..” by this time the sun is coming up and I glance at the side of the bed to find a plastic little stand up note card that cheerfully reads, “Ventura Holiday Inn is a train whistle stop!” “A what says Johnny?” “A train whistle stop Johnny, that means that every twenty minutes the train goes by and” “I got it Lauri, I got it. I’ll tell you what it means, It means that I can go into that bathroom there and make a little shitty pot of coffee and after I put powdered fake creamer and the two sugars they graciously provide, and go to the door with a ridiculous glinter of hope, of finding the New York Times on the other side that maybe, just maybe I might get to sit down and read a headline or two, before that fuckin’ train goes by reminding me that we are spending our anniversary at a train whistle stop. “
Four whistles later, we get dressed and head down to pay our bill. Now I’m ready to pay and go home, but not Johnny. No way. This was one of those times when he WASN”T the one they were looking for, and he was going to make the most of it. He saunters up to the counter rolling his tongue along his bottom teeth on the right side, and leans on the counter, waiting for the girl to ask us how everything was and if we enjoyed our stay. She asked for our last name and when she saw what room we were in she immediately apologized for any inconvenience and explained “We had a little problem on the 7th floor.” A domestic dispute. Apparently a man was threatening to throw his wife over the balcony and the police were called. This reminds me of the times that Johnny says “Lauri I could tell you some stories,. I just gotta wait until a few more people are dead first. “.“Well,” says Johnny,” Let me share something witch ya. While you were having a problem on the seventh floor, there was a bigger problem brewing on the eighth floor. “Sorry sir, let me see what we can do”. “Well before you go have a talk with your boss, or whoever, ---OH and how about that alarm clock that goes off every twenty minutes, thanks to the Amtrak and that if that isn’t a shock enough, try drinking that stuff you call coffee with only two sugars in it. Talk about your bad day. I tell yaw if you’re looking for a lousy nights sleep and a heart attack then I highly recommend the Ventura Holiday Inn. Now I can see that there’s a brain behind that pretty face of yours, and I know that this isn’t YOUR fault. I don’t know how long you been hear but your lucky to still have your hearing. Now you take your time.” Then he gave her a smile and a wink and. By the time we left, Johnny had charmed the woman into two free nights and a dinner on the house. The guy could charm: the pants off of Castro. Phillip Morris out of its last cigarette. Kirsty Alley out her last Jenny Craig Desert. That weekend they were having a beach fair on the boardwalk so we opt to take our time and check it out before we drove back down the coast. There were booths filled with crafts and musicians, and we passed a woman who waved for us to come over. She was reading palms. I said ”Oh come on Johnny, just for fun.” What was I thinking! She read Johnny first. After about ten minutes she quietly closed his hand and gave a half- smile. As we walked away, she waved for me to come back. I walked over and she handed me a card, looked me right in the eye and said you should call me. I saw some things. Shhh. I can’t talk right now. You should call me.”
Something in my gut said that she probably new something. Something else in my gut said not to call. I tossed the card and never gave it another thought. Well, almost never.
The journey of the addict enabler relationship can go either way. They say you have to want sobriety more than anything else in the world in order to stay clean. The enabler, in this case, me, has to stay on her side of the page 100% and both have to learn a new way of living or the chances are little to nil. Two trips to the bail bondsman and a car crash later, I filled a dumpster full of Bamboo and filed for divorce. They say that we draw people into our lives so that we can see ourselves. I don’t know which is tougher. Being the addict or the enabler. Sometimes it’s seems that they are one and the same. Life is bitter sweet for the most part but every time I think of our anniversary I break out in a big smile, as I often do when I think about my time with Johnny, and I’ve never been back to the Ventura Holiday Inn since…. Although if we meet and you have potential, the thought may cross my mind…