>She signaled the server and ordered him another double and a glass of Cabernet for herself.
“He started hitting me the second year of our marriage. It’s hard to explain to someone who hasn’t been there, but I always felt it was my fault. If only I’d done this better, or said that differently, he wouldn’t have gotten angry. Of course, he understood this and exploited it every day. I felt less than worthless and came to feel that I deserved the abuse.”
“That’s crazy,” he blurted. “Why didn’t you just get the hell out of there?”
The drinks arrived and he grabbed his and took a gulp.
“Why don’t you just stop drinking?” She replied.
She didn’t respond, but instead continued her account. “It was my pastor who figured out what was happening and approached me. I denied it at first, but later after my husband broke my arm, I took the chance. He was very understanding and had experience with other women in similar situations. He introduced me to a support group and they eventually helped me get away from my husband.”
“Why didn’t you report him to the police? Get a restraining order?”
She was quiet for a moment and sipped her wine. “I don’t expect you to understand. I just couldn’t. I didn’t have it in me.”
“I don’t understand.”
“So what about now? He just tried to kill you. Why did we run away instead of binding him and calling the cops?”
“And how long will they hold him? Will they believe me over him, with a drunk as my only witness?”
Her words stabbed him and he withered inside. He had almost forgotten his own situation for a moment, as he lost himself in her problems. He felt himself shutting down, pulling away from her.
She spoke softly. “I’m… I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean to hurt you. I just–”
“It’s fine. That’s what I am.” He stood up. “Thanks for the drinks. Good luck to you.” He shuffled out of the bar before she could protest.
He was halfway down the block, purposefully heading nowhere in particular. “Hey,” she said as she grabbed his shoulder. “Please stop. You saved my life. Maybe I can return the favor.”
He stopped and looked at her.
“I don’t want to be saved. I want to be dead. And I doubt you have that kind of power. You have no idea who I am or what I’ve done.”
“No, I don’t know you and I don’t personally have the power to help you. But I do understand alcoholism because I watched my father suffer from it and I watched him recover from it. If you want freedom and a chance at getting your life back, it’s possible. You’re not alone or unique. At least try to find help before giving up on yourself.”
He wanted to believe there was a glimmer of hope. Of course he had heard of people “recovering” but that wouldn’t work for him. How could it? He’d tried to quit with everything he had but he’d failed. What more could he do?
He wanted a drink and felt ashamed. People streamed past him on the busy sidewalk, but he only saw her. Her passion spoke softly to him in a way he hadn’t felt in a long time. In fact, he hadn’t felt anything in a long time. Something stirred in him that he didn’t understand, but couldn’t ignore.
“I’ll make you a deal,” he finally said. “You let me help you with your husband problem. I’ll let you help me with my living problem.”
She grinned. “I think we can work with that.”