Read Part One; Part Two...the editor is beginning to feel like the Pioneer Woman.
When the Tall One mentioned that he had lunch with “a friend,” alarms rang in Violet’s head. He told Violet that the woman – let’s call her Jezebel – was someone he met at an NA meeting the previous fall. She was a heroin addict who had been “away” (code for seeking recovery at a treatment center) for some time and had just returned to town. She was unemployed and had very little money and had rented an apartment in a bad neighborhood. She was, he said, afraid to stay there by herself. So he, gallant man, offered to sleep on Jezebel’s couch that night. He assured Violet that nothing untoward happened between him and Jezebel. Violet didn’t believe him for a second…and her world tilted off its axis.
The Tall One fell under Jezebel’s spell and she had him twisted around her twisted little finger in record time. By Thursday of that same week, he told Violet that their church/birthday plans were off because “I’m with her now.” Anytime he spoke with Violet, Jezebel was sitting right next to him, listening in on the conversations. Violet was devastated. She couldn’t believe that this compassionate, kind, loving man could change so drastically and quickly into the unfeeling, cavalier person on the other end of the phone. She didn’t argue with him so much as try to understand what was happening. How could he go from loving her to discarding her from his life like a used Kleenex? Violet told the Tall One that, while he may not have started drinking again, she felt like she was seeing him in active addiction. She began to think of the Tall One as two people: the Tall One, the sweet, fun, if troubled, man she had known for a year; and the Addict, the mean, selfish maniac he became the instant he met Jezebel.
Violet was devastated but she was also royally PISSED OFF. She had supported the Tall One during all those months of his recovery – taking his late night calls when he needed to talk, encouraging him to go to meetings and to talk with other recovering addicts, attending Al-Anon meetings (which was for herself, really), sending him cards to celebrate each month of sobriety, whatever she could do to cheer him on. She knew that she was his only reliable supporter and she knew that the Tall One truly appreciated that support. The Addict acted like he didn’t care about anything and that made Violet very, very angry.
She realized that her birthday celebration was not going to happen, but she felt she had a right to hear his testimony at church that Sunday. She told the Tall One that she was going to be there whether he (or, more importantly, Jezebel) liked it or not. He sputtered, he argued, he ranted…and then he conceded. He told Violet that since there were two church services, and since he was to speak at both, Jezebel would go to the early service and Violet could attend at 10:00. Fine, Violet agreed.
Sunday morning, just as Violet was leaving home, the Tall One sent her a text: “Jezebel will be there at 10.” After the insane conversations with the Tall One/Addict over the previous days, Violet knew that this was an attempt at manipulation by Jezebel and that the Tall One was clueless to that manipulation.
Violet’s head exploded off of her shoulders but she managed to reply: “Fine.” Her hands shook and her heart pounded as she drove to the church, but Violet was determined to be there to support the Tall One on this important day.
When she arrived, the vestibule was full of churchgoers but she easily found the Tall One because he was...tall. He was, thankfully, by himself, and they attempted to make incredibly awkward conversation, during which he told her that her presence was making everyone uncomfortable. Violet’s head exploded again but she knew it would be useless to point out that she was not the one who changed the plan. Soon Jezebel appeared at his side. Violet tried to be cordial but she knew that the sour look she gave Jezebel was full of loathing. Violet’s actual thought at the moment was, “THAT? He chose THAT over ME?” (Not exactly a spiritual or charitable moment, hmmm?) Jezebel was even lower-rent than Violet had expected.
They endured a moment of introductory, even more awkward, conversation. The Tall One escorted Violet and Jezebel into the sanctuary. He sat between them. During the service, he put his arm around Jezebel and she cuddled close. They held hands. They leaned into each other. They whispered to each other and batted their lashes. Violet could hardly imagine behavior more rude or unkind, not to mention inappropriate in church. Somehow Violet managed to keep from crying, probably because she was filled with rage and was too busy restraining herself from punching them both in the mouth.
The Tall One gave his testimony. Violet felt like he was lying to himself and to the congregation with every word out of his mouth, but even so, she was proud of him and hoped his own words would bring him back to sanity. When he returned to the pew, it seemed to her that he looked to her for approval but then he sat down next to Jezebel, who immediately twined herself around him again.
After church, Jezebel mumbled a goodbye to Violet and slunk off to some dark corner. The Tall One retrieved Violet’s coat and helped her into it. She hugged him, told him she loved him, and walked quickly out of the church. This was her poetic ending. She fully intended to push him from her heart and mind and to never speak to him again.
And yet, there is one chapter left…