Through the Keyhole:
Drowning in OKC
By Rob Kaniuk
Murph caught the red-eye to Phoenix clutching a blue duffel bag stuffed with 25,000 dollars of drug money provided by my employer in California. I was supposed to be on my honeymoon but the 308 grams of hash I had been transporting had caused a problem. Murph’s duffel bag held a temporary solution to that problem.
The guards called me over the intercom in my cell and informed that my bond had been secured. I gave my cellmate a stamped envelope and single sheet of paper -- my only possessions. Then I rolled up my piss-proof, plastic mattress into my blanket made of recycled tires and left cell block D.
Leaving jail is just intake in reverse, minus the squat/ cough/ lift your sack routine. I returned my mattress and blanket, stripped naked under the watch of a guard, returned the orange jumpsuit and slipped into the dirty undies that had been packed into a ziplock bag 14 days beforehand. The last piece of property returned to me was the wedding ring that had only been on my finger for one day. I had been so obsessed with trying to get out of jail to get rid of the dopesick that I hadn’t really thought about how bad I’d fucked up. I hadn't thought much about my new bride, Betty. The ring brought it all home. I wanted to go back to my cell rather than deal with the reality. Instead, I forced myself to call Betty. I told her I was out, that I was proud of her for learning how to drive a manual gearbox, alone, in the desert.
“I didn’t have much of a choice, hon,”
“Yeah, I guess you’re right. I’m sorry to put you through all of this. I’ll make it up to you, somehow. I love you.”
“I know you didn’t mean to.”
She started crying.
“I love you, too,” she said.
Even after all of the bullshit I’d just put her through, I had to ask about my mistress.
“Before I let you go, did you leave that script for me or did the cops take ‘em?”
She had a script of 5mg Percocet from previous dental work that she’d brought with her at my request.
“No. They asked me about them, but I had a prescription so they couldn’t. I left them in the glove-box.”
“Oh, thank God. You’re the best, babe. I’ll see you in a few days.”
As I made my way across the parking lot to the blue Toyota and saw Murph looking at the door where he’d dropped off my bail. Murph was a skinny, nervous Polack with thinning hair and glasses. You could knock him over with a dirty look. He drank Nikolai vodka, took Xanax for his nerves, and smoked generic, full-flavor 100s. His friends either called him Gilligan or Shakes. To me, he was Murph or Dad, depending on how the relationship was going at the time. Most of the time I called him Murph.
I guess my father thought the prisoners were released through the waiting room of the visitor’s section because I startled him when I called out from behind.
“Well, I see the truck started.’”
“Jesus Christ, Robby! You scared the shit out of me.”
“Come here,” I said, and we hugged. “Thank you, Dad. I love you.”
“I love you too, son.” He patted my back in a failed attempt at affection. “Fucking truck had me worried the whole flight. I landed, got a ride to the house, and it was the first thing I did. That damn engine started on the first crank. Ain’t much to look at, but it’s a fine machine.”
“It really is, Dad. I never had a doubt.”
“Amazing, that truck. I slept like a baby after I got it to start. I know it’ll make it.”
We got in the truck. I ate a bunch of Percs for breakfast and washed them down with a shitty Croissant and some thick, black, gas station coffee.
“Listen Robby, don't get mad at me, I didn't pack the truck because there is way too much shit and I know you want it packed a certain way. I'm sorry but it was too much. I had one mission this morning -- get my boy out of jail.”
I hated it when he called me his boy. I was my mom’s boy, she raised me. Murph was a drunk who would ruin holidays and every other weekend, per the custody agreement. He was right, though. I would've yelled at him for packing the truck wrong. Still, it pissed me off. Now we had to backtrack 90 miles to Phoenix where Betty’s brother in law just so happened to be flipping a house he bought when the wave of foreclosures hit. When I got popped, the truck had been parked in the driveway and all of my possessions were locked in the garage. Oh well, what’s another 180 miles on top of the 2500 we already had ahead of us?
When we made it to the house, Murph went in to use the bathroom. I rummaged in the 50 cal. ammo box that I had mounted to the floor as an armrest/ center console. I noticed on the police report that, among the charges and the list of contraband that had been confiscated, there was something missing. There were over thirty 80mg Oxycontin that I had purchased in San Fran and put into an Advil Pm bottle, a rather big miss for the police. Each pill would have carried its own felony charge.
The truck had gotten torn apart after I was pulled over but the Oxys were still there -- all of them -- right where I left them. The officer must’ve opened the bottle and saw that they all looked the same size and shape, and their blue-green hue could be mistaken for the over-the-counter nighttime med. Whatever the case, it was on.
I didn’t have the privacy to crush and snort one, so I chewed one up right away. To anyone else, the taste would be enough to want to throw up. I had a Pavlovian response. I felt something in my skull release when the bitterness hit my tongue, the disgusting taste a reliable prelude to oblivion. It was no different than when the Nikolai touched Murph’s lips. A familiar comfort always followed.
We packed up and rolled out of Phoenix. Murph drove until we made it over the line to New Mexico. We stopped in Gallup for the night.
My ‘89 Toyota was the model that they simply named “Pickup,” or “Pup” for short. The model was short on luxury but long on reliability -- that’s probably why it is the truck of choice for revolutions the world over. It may have been reliable, but it was lousy with little idiosyncrasies. A leaky exhaust manifold and a hole in the floor let noxious fumes into the cab. So, the window remained cracked for fresh air, creating perpetual white-noise. 31 inch knobby tires hummed along the asphalt with higher pitch as the speed increased. The busted manifold, cracked window, and knobby tires combined with steady-tapping valves to form a grotesque symphony that proved effective for quashing any small-talk whatsoever at highway speeds.
An hour into the new day and it already felt like forever. No radio, no conversation, just the sucking void between us, the kind of silence that reeks of resentment. The hugs and high-fives from him bailing me out the day before had been quickly exhausted, leaving only the dreary reality of our troubled relationship. We each knew there was much about the past we had to discuss. We also knew it may never be addressed, certainly not on this trip. There was some dark shit behind that door. Neither of us wanted to open it with over 2000 miles to go.
All I wanted was to get home, the same home I’d fled just a year ago for California. I had been chasing my tail from coast to coast.
We had the Toyota so loaded down that it struggled to maintain a decent cruising speed. I worked it into the slipstream of a beat up refrigerated tractor-trailer that looked like it had backed into a loading dock at 30 mph. I relaxed a bit. We’d settle deep into a groove and the miles would tick by, the draft from the 18-wheeler drawing us along behind it.
But the grimey reefer in front kept dripping water on the windshield. One drop directly in my line of sight every five seconds or so. Not enough to hit the wipers without smearing more filth across the glass, but enough to drive me mad. An addict like me never had fluid in the reservoir. On a good day, I’d have the ass-end of a water bottle I could shake across the windshield. Not today.
I tried to pass, but the Toyota didn't have the power to make it around the big-rig. I’d struggle around the source of my torment only to lose speed in the headwind and get passed again. This went on countless times before I finally surrendered to the tractor-trailer’s inconvenient leakage.
The steady drops felt like they were hitting me square between the eyes with every “thwap.” It lulled me into a trance like the end of CCR’s “Grapevine” -- locked so deep in the pocket it felt like it would go on forever.
My cell rang. It was Red. He’d gotten back to the farm in Mendocino, CA to the news that I got locked up.
“You’re out, I take it?”
“I am, and I want to thank you–”
“Stop it right there, bro.”
He didn't want the thanks and he always thought someone was listening. Paranoia is a valid state of mind when growing and selling hundreds of pounds of pot.
“Red, I’m serious -- you have to know how much this means. Those other fucks won't even answer the phone for me or Betty.”
Red explained that when he got word from our employer of my arrest, he liquidated my marijuana-holdings in California and set out driving from one town to the next with a bundle of cash. Money orders are limited to $999 before the purchaser had to show ID and sign their name. Red had to hit three separate Post Offices, several grocery stores, and a couple Western Union locations in order to secure the $9,000 balance I owed my lawyer.
My employer gave Murph the $25,000 cash for bail, but he did that out of fear of being implicated. Red did what he did out of loyalty to an old friend. We spoke on the phone in a vague, non-incriminating, broken sort of code, but one thing was crystal clear: Red had my back.
Cross-eyed and tired from a combination of the road, long hours of overthinking, and the Oxy’s I’d been shoveling into my system, I decided to stop for the night at a shitty, no-name motel in Oklahoma City.
“I hope you don’t mind stopping this early. I hardly slept at all last night.”
“Don't worry, Robby. We’ll just hit it hard tomorrow.”
“You know, Dad, if the charges stick, I’m looking at nine years.”
Never one to discuss feelings, Murph pulled out the pharmacy he called his shaving kit and tossed me a bottle of Xanax.
“Here,” he said, “have a nerve pill. That should do the trick.”
I tossed two of the powder blue, football-shaped pills into my mouth and chased them down with a 22 oz Heineken. When Murph dozed off, I went to the bathroom, peeled the green time-release coating off an Oxy 80, and chopped up a dose that would knock King Kong Bundy on his ass.
The leading killer of addicts, before the practice of cutting heroin with fentanyl, was the piss-poor idea of mixing benzodiazepines with opiates. The level of oblivion one could reach with this combination was unparalleled, but the dose needed to be precise. Benzos slow the heart; opiates slow the breathing. Combined, they provided a euphoric exit from all reality -- and if you weren't careful, this world. It is the addict’s gamble, one many have lost. I had a suit jacket at home with a deck of cards in the pocket, edges frayed, each inked with the name of a friend, their expiration date, and a prayer.
As the finely mulled opioid spread throughout my sinuses and filled my lungs, I moved from the bathroom and crawled into bed, awaiting the freefall I knew was to come. My dosing calculations must have been off because within minutes I had trouble breathing. I fell into a useless, immovable panic, trapped in a body that was winding down.
Was I going to die in a shitty motel next to a Speedway gas station in Oklahoma City? Was this really how it would end? How forgettable. Dylan Thomas drank himself to death in the Chelsea Hotel -- tragic, but romantic. Shit, I would’ve settled for the Best Western in The San Francisco Wharf. God knows there were plenty of nights I gave it my best shot there. But here? I couldn't die here. Not in this piddling, tumbleweed of a motel.
Betty’s last memory of me couldn't be the grey-faced man she hardly knew anymore being hauled away by the police. I needed to make it up to her. I had to stay awake if I wanted to make it home.
Murph had fallen asleep by now. My diaphragm struggled to keep moving and I had to concentrate on working it so my body could reclaim some of the oxygen it had been denied.
I moved from under the prison-grade sheets and sat in the grease-stained chair next to the window. Sitting upright aided the breathing, but not enough. My eyes rolled uncontrollably. I nodded in and out of consciousness for the next few hours. Each time I woke from the void, I gasped for air like I had been underwater too long and barely made the surface. A dry, self-induced waterboarding.
I didn't dare wake Murph or call for an ambulance. I tried to calm myself down and control my breathing. Finally, I hit the sweet spot. In that place between startled awake and the deep nod, I was Ahab, harpoon buried, and riding that fucking whale.
Once I started breathing without conscious effort, I left a note on top of the toilet for Murph to wake me. It said something about wanting to get on the road early, but that was a lie. I knew he would get up to use the bathroom, he always did. I went to sleep, counting on his tired old prostate to save my life.
Murph’s BPH woke him, he saw the note in the bathroom and shook me back to life before the sun had risen. I got behind the wheel and balled that blue Toyota east on I-40 with roughly 1,300 miles between us and home.
I don't remember much about the ride coming out of Oklahoma for the fog of Benzos benzos that still held dominance over me. I drove first and gave it my best try. Shortly after, Murph took over and I nodded in and out of a stupor.
Did Murph know, or did he just chalk it up to me having spent the past fourteen sleepless days, kicking in jail instead of on my honeymoon? However I felt about Murph as a father, he was kicking ass with the driving. I have no clue what I would’ve done without him; I had been nearly useless for the whole ride. But the long hours behind the wheel were taking their toll on him. After a few hundred miles and some sleep to clear the cobwebs, I had another go.
I felt myself crumpling after only an hour or two of driving but I knew I couldn't ask Murph to carry me again. We were both tired of driving, and of each other. I needed a decent shower, a home-cooked meal, a drink, and a real sleep between some clean sheets.
Mileage signs began to advertise Memphis attractions. I’d enjoyed Memphis the last time I was through. Why not have one good night on this trip? Although Murph and I had only done about 450 miles from Oklahoma City to Memphis, we had been on the road for nearly 1500 miles. Stopping now would add an extra day but I asked Murph how he felt about taking a night off.
“Shit, Robby. I’m beat. I haven’t slept since I met Sluggo for the bail money.”
That was his nickname for my California employer.
“Besides, I’ve been driving since I got to Phoenix. So... yeah, I’d like to take a break and relax for a while.”
For the frequency of my visits to San Francisco, I’d been awarded member status to Best Western. I called their downtown Memphis location and booked a room for the night.
“Okay, Pops, we are all booked.”
“Just like that? That would’ve taken me three days to book a hotel and you did it on the phone in five minutes. How did you know where to call?”
“It’s called the internet, Dad. It’s like the Yellow Pages for anything, anywhere.” Although it was 2008, Murph still didn’t know how to set the digital alarm clock at home.
“No kidding? Shit, beats me.”
He shook his head the way old people do at youth.
We approached the front desk looking like we were on the last leg of a seedy adult version of a Make-A-Wish weekend. I was off my tit on drugs and Murph looked like a leukemia patient that just grew his hair back, both of us wholly unkempt in greasy sweat pants and matching hoodies I stole from the farm in Cali.
The hotel took their membership seriously. Despite our appearance, they treated us like VIPs. Murph couldn't believe it. I knew to play it in stride, like we were owed something.
We got to our room, tipped the porter and, after he closed the door behind him, exploded with laughter.
“Jesus Christ, Robby! How much did you pay for this room-- sorry, suite? And how the fuck does an asshole like you become a preferred customer of a hotel like this?”
“What can I say, Murph? Stay at the same spot all the time, let them know you’re loyal. Besides, we kinda have an agreement: I like to smoke pot and they like to jerk me off with bullshit charges. Do you know these assholes charge me $300 to go into my room after I check out and spray air freshener to cover up the weed smell? Never once did I dispute the charges. Do that a dozen times, you can become a preferred customer, too.”
“Two queen beds! And what the hell are we gonna do with all these damn pillows? Look in here -- robes! Two white robes in the bathroom! High on the hog, Robby. I’ll bet this beats sleeping in the pokey!”
“Wait til you see what I have in mind for dinner, Murph. High on the hog, my man. High on the hog.”
I showered the road-filth off and, as soon as I climbed under the sheets, I was out for hours.
Washed and rested, I was finally clear enough to have a real conversation with Betty while Murph was still asleep. I’d just been touching base with her from the road and hadn’t faced the reality of how this affected her. While I was spending my part of our honeymoon trying to get out of jail, she was with her family in Illinois for Thanksgiving, explaining my charges and reliving the whole experience for a furious, disappointed audience. I had the same old story: “sorry” and “you deserve better” and “I promise.” I meant it, but it had started sounding hollow a long time ago. She was a prisoner of the drug war, bound to her own captivity by love, and I was MIA. I hung up the phone and went directly to the bathroom and measured out a “bury the guilt” sized dose. It worked instantly.
When he woke, Murph dug through his shaving kit for the only thing ‘ol Grams left him in the will -- two airplane bottles of Seagram's Seven. He made a toast before we left for dinner.
“Here’s to freedom, the road home, and that goddamned truck of yours.”
“Here’s to you, Dad, for springing me from jail, that damned truck, and to Memphis. I hope you have fun.”
He still didn't know where we were headed for dinner. I wanted it to be a surprise. I’d only heard about the place. The address was obscure -- down an alley across from The Peabody -- but it was supposed to be the best in the city.
I called a cab and had it drop us at the entrance of the alley.
“Do you know where the hell you're going, Robby? This can't be right.”
A sign ahead of us read, “Charles Vergo’s Rendezvous - charcoal ribs - in Downtown Alley Since 1948.”
“Trust me. This is definitely the spot.”
We entered a doorway through a wrought-iron gate and descended a flight of stairs into the basement, and into 1948. Family-owned and operated since inception, this joint looked like it hadn’t changed one bit. The all-male wait staff were dressed head to toe in kitchen whites with black bow ties and aprons.
The food was exactly what we needed -- ribs, coleslaw, macaroni and cheese, cornbread and collards. We’d both recognized that a night out would do us good, but neither of us had any clue how bad we needed it. After dinner, we went to Beale Street for a nightcap. Delta blues and a few drinks cured whatever ills the food couldn’t.
I felt closer to Murph on that night than ever before. We were able to laugh about the bizarre quest we found ourselves on. In our lubricated state, we decided that we didn’t need to hurry back home. We finished our drinks, settled our tab, and headed back to the hotel for a fade to black. No alarm was set for the morning. We officially surrendered to time.
On our way out of Memphis the next day, we stopped at the Lorraine Motel. I'm not sure I planned on driving past it. But, by chance or by design, that's where we found ourselves.
I could see the iconic black and white photo in my mind: men standing on a balcony over the lifeless body of a giant, fingers pointing toward a window across the lot. It felt unreal to see the whole picture in person. It didn't look much nicer than the joint I’d almost died in a couple nights before.
To Murph, it was merely a second floor railing where a wreath had been hung. When I told him the importance of this simple looking motel, he looked shattered in an instant. Murph remembered when King got shot.
“After King, the bastards got Bobby Kennedy, too. Such a shame. Especially after what happened to his brother. They never had a chance. It was a terrible time, Robby -- just terrible.”
Murph spoke in a tone I’d never heard before. It sounded like his real, true voice-- no emotional inflections, no mask. He was calm, almost at peace, deadly serious. It was the only time I remember my father talk about something other than good times in the past.
Murph’s memory revolved around alcohol. He drank to suppress a youth where he lost his biological father at a young age. The only family member to ever show Murph how to love, and be loved, gone forever. His mother, Dolores, never had that capacity. He was adopted shortly after by Dolores’ third husband, a Teamsters’ enforcer named Fred. Fred and Dolores would send Murph to his aunt’s house for weeks at a time while they drank and entertained neighbors and union members.
Though he said only a few simple words about Dr. King, he didn't have to explain. I could tell that recalling those murders triggered memories of a very difficult time, memories he had packed away into a cheap bottle of Nikolai Vodka for years.
I drove away from the Lorraine Motel into the morning rush with a deeper understanding of who my father was, why he was a drunk, why we didn't see eye to eye. It had been the first time I ever felt bad for him; the first time I wanted to forgive him for the childhood I’d endured.
Murph got back behind the wheel near Nashville and I pulled out the map to see if we could save any time. I suggested we divert from I-40 northeast into Kentucky. He agreed that it would be nice to get off the Interstate system for a bit and actually see some of this country beyond the guardrails.
Kentucky welcomed us with a howling downpour. This was indeed God’s country, and we heathens were not welcome. But the backroads were empty so we forged ahead through the torrent.
Even with the rains coming down like we were driving through Bushkill Falls, it was a great experience. We had traded the silent siege from a few days back for a quiet contentment. We left Kentucky and the deluge immediately ended.
The sun glanced below a clouded sky as we rode deeper into the hills of West Virginia. Our night in Memphis let me forget the darkness for a little, but the sky ahead reminded me of what I was heading back into. It was going to get much darker if I stayed on this route but it was all I knew. I found comfort in darkness.
I’d often find myself thinking of my own funeral. How many would attend? Would they say nice things? Everyone is a saint in death no matter how fucked up they were in life. My loved ones would be better off without me -- sign me up for martyrdom. I didn't want to die, but living had become more than I could handle. An early death was romantic to me in the most selfish way possible.
I circled for years in a holding pattern, looking for a soft landing. Was it better to crash? To be rid of all pretense and get on with life. Or death. But how? I was afraid so I had continued to circle until I spiraled out of control.
With new life from our respite the night before, I took on more of the driving. We were still well short of the Pennsylvania border. I told Murph to check the map, and do the numbers on mileage to the cabin.
“Just do it, Murph. You're not exactly busy at the moment… If we can make it there, we would save money on another night at a hotel. And you won't miss out on the hunting trip for the first time in almost forty years.”
Captain Chaos and the boys were at the cabin in central PA on their yearly hunting trip. The Captain was one of a rotating cast of maybe ten of Murph’s friends from his childhood who’d been going to the same hunting cabin every year since the ‘70s. Murph was supposed to be there with them instead of dealing with my dumb ass. I had been invited to the cabin for the last few years because I had good drug connections and they had a strict tradition of depravity to maintain.
After about a half hour of estimations and very intense deliberation, Murph looked at me with disbelief.
”Shit, Robby, we can make those miles tonight! I mean -- it's a hike. But we could actually make it.”
“Fuckin-A Murph. Call the Captain. Tell him we’re on our way.’’
With an attainable destination, I drove on, renewed. We would see our friends before we slept.
Approaching Charleston, WV, the highway sat on a cliff which snaked alongside the Kanawha River below. I noticed an occasional light floating in the sky across the valley. Then I saw more and more of them, scattered everywhere, low in the sky and stationary. I couldn't wrap my head around it. It was the only thing visible from our vantage point. There were no stars, no moon, only darkness above these little specks of light. They appeared in more frequency before I finally realized what it was.
“Robby?” said Murph with an innocent curiosity.
“What is that over there?”
“Those lights in the sky, across the river there.”
In my state of half dreaming, half driving; I hadn't noticed Murph staring at these lights in the distance as well. Apparently, we were both having the same conversation in our heads.
“That's not the sky, Dad. You're looking at a town perched on the side of a mountain. We are coming into Charleston now. That's gotta be the outskirts.”
“Those are houses over there? I can't believe it. That's a town I'm seeing? On a mountain? I’ve never seen anything more beautiful in all of my life.”
“It's gorgeous, ain’t it? Like forgotten stars at the edge of a galaxy.”
So simple, so striking, and for some reason, very emotional for both of us. I believed Murph that it was the most beautiful thing he’d ever seen. I believed him because I’d been there and saw it too.
Maybe it was an outside look at how insignificant we all are. Each little bulb across the river represented a family. And there were thousands of them, held fast to the foothills. From this distance, it was just a little sparkle. We couldn't see inside the homes, at the disappointment and regret. All we saw was the light.
The cabin was on a hundred acres of land in Rothrock State Park. Built for hunting and fishing, and used as such for decades. One group of misfits however, had been using it to party the week after Thanksgiving for almost 40 years.
Murph and I rolled into the park after seventeen hours and approximately 900 miles. It was after midnight when we pulled off the gravel road and into the drive.
I pushed down on the makeshift horn button mounted to the top of the steering column. It sounded every bit as tired as we were. Lights came on in the cabin, one by one. Captain Chaos greeted us on the porch with a deep, guttural laughter which echoed to every corner of Roth Rock State Park.
The guys all woke up and we sat at the dining room table while I recounted the tales of misfortune which led to my arrest. The guys told me how happy they were that I made it out, then quickly went back to bed. They didn't have the stamina they used to. Captain stayed up to keep us company while we settled in.
Murph made his bed on the bench next to the fireplace. That left me and The Captain, always the last one up at the cabin. He chopped up three large lines of cocaine and ripped one of the lines immediately.
“After what you just went through, you get two,” he barked as he pinched the bridge of his nose.
Murph popped his head up from the bench at that statement and gave me a look like: after what you've been through (and put us all through) you fucking better not!
“No thanks, Cap’n,” I said.
But I held my finger in the air, and spoke with my eyes: wait for Murph to fall asleep, it won't be long.
I didn't want to do the coke. Beyond exhausted, I didn't want to stay awake for another minute. But I didn't know how to say no. I felt zero pressure from The Captain, but the drug was there for one purpose. I didn't want to feel, and drugs never failed to deliver on that.
The Captain went up to bed and I blasted both rails and chain smoked a half pack of cigarettes next to the fire. I sat there, ashamed I couldn't resist. I wanted to be a better person, but didn't have the first clue where to start. In that moment, I’d never felt more alone.
It was like throwing a party at your house that you regret before the end of the night. One that sounded like a good idea at the time, but ended up becoming an all-star list of assholes you wish you’d never had in your home. You just want to leave, but you can’t: it's your house. So burn the fucking house down? No, I’d tried that. The party was over. I had invited trouble in, and now I would have to fight tooth and nail to throw it out.
We bounced early the next morning. In a few hours, we’d be home. I’d have to face Betty. I was terrified at what she’d say, terrified of which way my addiction would drag me, would drag us.
It's a funny thing, being from Philadelphia. Growing up, it always seemed like there was somewhere else I’d rather be. Every time I left, all I wanted was to be home again. Home with all the aggravated locals who resented being stuck between the elite of D.C. and the cool older brother that is NYC. It's us against the world, and fuck em for thinking we can't take em all on at once. Philly is where I belonged, where I’d have to face my demons, head on.
I dropped Murph at his house and drove the five blocks to where Betty had been waiting for her wayward husband to come home.
I pulled into the alley behind our house just before noon. Pink Floyd’s Time played on the radio. Right at the end of the song -- the Breathe verse. Over 2,500 miles in five days, and this is the serendipity that meets me as I pull into the alley:
“Home, home again
I like to be here when I can
And when I come home cold and tired
It’s good to warm my bones beside the fire.”
I walked in through the door, the same door I’d walked out of over a year before on my way to California, and there was Betty. She stood like a weeping willow, her sullen frame thinned by the worries of living with an addict. She saw the shame and regret in my road-weary eyes and knew I never meant to hurt her. I saw in her eyes the pain that only unconditional love can bring, and knew I would only hurt her again. I took her in my arms.
“Please don't leave me,” I stuttered into her ear.
“I’m not leaving you. You're my husband.”
We cradled the broken pieces of each other in an embrace and cried.
About the Author: Rob Kaniuk has worked in the trades for the past 15 years, jotting notes and writing short poems on his lunch break. A criminal past of drug use and poor decisions provided Rob with plenty of hard times, but has also given him a unique perspective. Since his first publication in the SVJ, Rob was accepted to the Yale Writers Workshop which he attended in June 2018.