Jessie Goes Nuts
Every time I hear a Cat Stevens song I think of that year I laid in Jessie’s bed guzzling vodka and spinning her records. I drank around the clock then. Why Cat Stevens? I don’t know. Jessie had lots of records. I wasn’t a Cat Stevens fan . . . but at some point in my drunken revelries I’d put on Mona Bone Jakon.
Jessie . . . she was a sweet girl. Too sweet for me. There she was in that rough neighborhood (I got jumped 3 times), living on the 6 th floor of that low income housing unit. And I’d lay there . . . a 5 th of Vodka a day . . . beers through the night. I never slept. Jessie’d put in a 10 hour day down at Bed, Bath, and Beyond, and come home, and we’d lay around and cuddle and smooch and carry on until she drifted off.
Then I’d get up and kill the rest of the vodka . . . and in the dark I’d sit at the kitchen table and drink beer after beer . . . gazing out the window at the city night life. I’d gaze in other windows in the complex . . . watching the goings on in other apartments . . . the fights . . . the violence . . . low income housing stuff. I’d listen to Jessie snore . . . a hard working gal in love with a drunk.
They were heavy drunks . . . not like the drunks of my youth. So much wreckage! I’d done it up good! I was drinking to forget . . . forget countless memories . . . and I could forget . . . almost. No . . . the darkness would slip in through the cracks, and then I’d guzzle harder to lose myself . . . lose myself in fictions I played in my mind. Jessie . . . she truly was a sweet girl . . . with a lifetime of pain of her own. But she hadn’t spent it stumbling around drunk like I had. Her life had been hard in a different way. An abusive husband that had almost killed her on a number of occasions! The loss of her child. Many other tragedies. She had her little pleasures though. She loved having little cocktail parties . . . which she was very proud of. Make up hors d’oevures . . . dress up real cute . . . entertain a few friends. One time she splurged and bought a hundred dollar bottle of absinthe for a cocktail party! It put her back something fierce . . . her little savings . . . hard put by. She was at work and that bottle of absinthe was sitting there. I gave it a little look-see. It was the real deal . . . wormwood and all! I’ve seen bottles of absinthe over the years . . . but they were shams . . . mockeries of the real thing. I guess that’s why this bottle cost so much.
I’m a lover of the old French poets . . . Baudelaire . . . Nerval . . . Rimbaud. I read of their syphilis, their opium addictions, and their adoration of absinthe. The Green Faerie! I looked at that bottle. I was already half stoned on the cheap vodka . . . but I held that bottle and gazed on it for a long time. It’d been a long time a comin’! All those times I’d looked at the drawing of “The Absinthe Drinker.” It hung on my wall. No one ever claimed it was Baudelaire . . . but it was obvious. It was Baudelaire all right.
I didn’t have the equipment . . . the thing you sat the sugar cube on . . . hell I didn’t even have any sugar cubes. The stuff of those legendary paintings. But I thought I’d have a little taste just the same. It wouldn’t hurt. There’d still be plenty for the tipsy types that’d be coming to the cocktail party. I poured a little glass . . . took a sniff . . . and kicked it back. I liked it . . . that licorice sort of flavor . . . a different type of bite. I was tired of the taste of cheap vodka! Nice change . . . this absinthe.
I never did get to drink absinthe like my favorite old French poets . . . never got to flavor it with a sugar cube. And no one else got to taste from that bottle either! Because I took that bottle to the bed and guzzled it down like a 7 dollar bottle of Potters vodka. The kind that comes in a plastic bottle.
Poor Jessie. I could certainly see the disappointment in her face when she got home. But she was a cowered soul . . . beaten down by tragedy . . . the p.t.s.d she was left with from that husband that abused her so. She didn’t put up a fight. She said my name in a sad disappointed way and started to make herself supper . . . tired from a 10 hour day at the super-store. I was never mean to Jessie . . . I just wasn’t good for her. I laid back and worked on the vodka. I had some sorrow to kill. I felt bad . . . but I never knew how to say “sorry.” I only knew how to drink. Pour the vodka down.
The long days of vodka in Jessie’s bed came to an end though. Came to an end because Jessie had a bout of mental illness. I’d seen crazy in my time, but I’d never had to experience it for as long, and as closely, or as intense as I experienced it there in that small apartment with Jessie.
I’d been institutionalized many times in my life. I’d seen crazy . . . but this took the cake! The people I was locked up with were heavily medicated . . . bumbling around . . . Thorazine stoned . . . drooling. No! No! This was absolutely untreated insanity. Me and Jessie for 7 days in that apartment as she slipped deeper and deeper into insanity.
But reader . . . please oblige me? Let’s take a detour. Let’s go back to how I met this chick. Maybe it’s not important . . . but I want to tell it to you. I collect records. “What’s that got to do with anything?” The frustrated reader is going to shout! “What’s this clown going on about now?” Be patient my peruser . . . it’ll all come together. Tangents! That’s my specialty! Records! I collect them! Got thousands of them. And one night, in my lonely room, spinning records, I swallowed my pride and joined a dating site! Oh my! Only the lonely! I hear you say, “Yes . . . probably so.”
To go on though. Records! I skimmed through the pictures of the broads and I found one of a chick sitting in front of row after row of records. “She’s the one!” I thought. “That’s the girl I’m gonna catch.” I contacted her and we arranged a date. Another tangent! I’m sorry. I love a gal in a dress! I don’t like a gal in pants. And on me and Jessie’s first date she wore a dress . . . and fishnets too! And that was a plus! And boots! Yaba daba! I love boots! Oh lord! She never wore a dress again! But she already had me hooked! The she-devil. After she took me to her place and we spun records for hours and talked music . . . we were a unit! And I didn’t abuse Jessie’s money! I had my own. I always bought the vodka and beer. I always bought the groceries . . . no . . . I wasn’t good for her . . . I was a drunk . . . but I never used her . . . and I never abused her . . . and I never spoke a mean word to her. Still . . . I was a drunk . . . and drunks are not good boyfriends.
OK reader . . . you’ve been patient enough . . . I’m gonna move quickly to the end of the tale . . . to Jessie’s bout with mental illness. Ten years previously she’d had a bout of mania. It was the only such experience she had in her life. It was completely tragic because she was a new mother and she lost her child because of it. She went to a mental hospital and emerged on Lithium and stabilized. She’d had no bouts since . . . and she’d quit taking the Lithium years ago. She’d never had a depressive episode . . . just the mania.
She’d started getting nervous over Bumbershoot for some reason. Yeah . . . the music festival. She was a devoted goer! Hadn’t missed a Bumbershoot festival in years! But for some reason she wasn’t sleeping well at night and she was getting worried about the upcoming festival for some reason. I couldn’t figure it out. But night after night she couldn’t sleep . . . and she had this illogical fear of the festival for some reason. She’d never had it before.
Well after about 4 nights of no sleep . . . she went manic! Full on! We stayed in that apartment for 7 days together as she went insane. I drank and watched. I wanted to take her to the hospital . . . but she’d become very smart and very manipulative. This wasn’t the sweet Jessie I knew! I was usually the talker . . . but now she did the talking and she talked circles around me. She’d go into a full blown fit of lunacy and then when I’d say, “Ok . . . that’s it! We’re going to the hospital!” She get all calm and start playing these mind games with me. I wasn’t sleeping! Day after day . . . . but unlike her who had droves and reserves of energy I just got deathly tired and unable to communicate with her in my despair and exhaustion! I’d run across the street and get vodka . . . it was the only way I could survive this. She had me wrapped around her middle finger . . . she played evil mind games! What had happened to my sweet Jessie?! She’d start to shriek over the loss of her child! She’d scream and sob. The neighbors complained . . . but in low income apartments when fights and violence happen all the time . . . people just don’t call the police. But they started to threaten it.
I was cracking myself . . . I was losing it. I couldn’t keep up with her. I’d finally fall asleep and she’d shake me awake and want to talk about what seemed like reasonable subjects . . . politics for instance . . . but then the conspiracy theories started and it was obvious she was way far gone. Jessie didn’t smoke . . . but all of a sudden she was chain smoking. She’d head out to the store and I’d drag myself out of bed and follow her to make sure nothing happened to her. It also gave me an opportunity to pick up more vodka. It was the only thing keeping me sane. It just got weirder and weirder! There was no shutting her down! Day after day! Finally the police came . . . she went off on them! She went ballistic! Gentle Jessie! She attacked them! That was it . . . they hauled her away. They took her to Harborview and from there they transferred her to Fairfax mental hospital. She would not let me come see her there. So I stayed in her apartment and drank.
One evening she popped up. She had been released. It had been about 20 days. She was stable. But she was done with me. She said, “They told me at the hospital that you weren’t very good for me. And I think they are right.” I stumbled up from my 20 day drunken stupor and began to gather my things. I knew she was right. I left her place and went across the street and got me a pint of monarch vodka. I took it back to my parent’s house . . . I had nowhere else to go. I crawled into bed, put Gram Parsons on the record player, and started to drink. I’ve never seen Jessie again.