Ambivalence

By Bonnie Carlson

She sat in her car in the church parking lot watching people stroll in, one by one. All kinds of people. Men and women, some well-dressed, probably coming from work, others in jeans. Most were older than she, at least middle-age, and nobody in their twenties. Everyone looked . . . so . . . normal.

An internal argument buffeted her mind. Was she really that bad? Had it actually come down to this? This seemed awfully extreme. But what about the diagnosis? She sat across from the doctor this morning listening as those two words dropped with a thud in front of her: liver disease. What? She wasn’t even forty yet. She pulled the visor down and stared at herself in the mirror. She looked fine, blond hair in place, makeup good. Well, her eyes were a tad bloodshot, but other than that . . .

This morning, the doctor claimed she needed immediate treatment. Probably detox but definitely rehab. She scoffed. Not going to happen. Who was going to pay for that? Certainly not Tim.

She struggled to wrest up the courage to walk inside, headache building behind her eyes. She looked at her watch. 6:59 p.m.. Shit, Lisa just do it. Mobilize those legs. But her legs wouldn’t move. Maybe if she walked in there instead of buying that bottle Tim would let her move back in, let her see the kids again. She could get out of that dump she was squatting in. Every time she thought of those kids her heart broke. Devon’s words echoed in her head: “Why does Mommy keep falling down, Daddy?”

She placed a shaky hand on the door handle and looked out the window, heart pounding. A woman walked by and waved, flashing a friendly smile.

7:03 p.m. They must have already started. Too late. She’d almost made it through a whole day despite the devastating news.

With shaking hands she started the car, backed up and carefully pulled out of the church parking lot, ever vigilant for cops.

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Bonnie E. Carlson is a retired professor of social work who lives in Scottsdale, AZ with her husband, dog and three cats. She has published three short stories, “Boost Your T” in Down in the Dirt; “What to Do When You Lose the Love of Your Life” in Foliate Oak; and “Sylvester,” in Praxis and is completing a novel.

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