His brother arrived the next day and that helped with my wish to keep my distance from the stranger who had returned. They spent most of their days and all of their nights getting high with one drug or another. His brother (another aspiring coke addict) approached me before his departure and told me I had no right to be upset with the bartender’s actions while he was away. I smiled sweetly and silently prayed he would fall down the steps when he left.
With the apartment to ourselves, the bartender decided it was time to get some action again and suggested I get into my lingerie and lie on the bed. I ran through all my options and realized that this was the best one. If I agreed, he’d be easier to deal with if he was happy. He tied me to the bed and threw a sheet over me and left the apartment. When he came back, he came into the bedroom and pulled the sheet off me and stood staring at me before leaving again. I could hear him at the other end of the apartment and I almost jumped out of my skin when the phone rang. He chatted for almost an hour before he came back into the room. After he had his way with me, he put on his housecoat and went into the next room and watched tv. I was cold and wet and needed to pee, but the scarf he had tied around my mouth kept me quiet. He made something to eat and afterwards I could smell the pungent aroma of marijuana. Then he was back. I kept my eyes focused on his chain as it swung back and forth over my head and tried not to imagine his month in Amsterdam. Afterwards he put on his jeans and stood looking at me before sneering and leaving the room.
I squealed into the gag when the knock sounded on the front door and my eyes widened with disbelief when he half-closed the bedroom door before letting in his best friend. They sat and talked in the living room for half an hour before the door was pushed open and his friend came into the room. He looked at me for a long time before he sat down beside me and removed the gag.
“Everything okay?” he asked as he stroked my hair and looked at the straps that tied me to the bed.
“Ya – right,” I croaked.
“He says you’re a little upset with his trip to Amsterdam.”
All I could do was close my eyes and wait. I didn’t know if I was on offer to anyone who wanted to drop by, but it felt like it. His eyes burned my skin as they traveled back and forth over my body and I trembled with the tension in the apartment. When he rose and wished me luck, I thanked God that this guy loved his wife. He took the bartender off to the kitchen for another long talk and called a good-bye when he finally left. Sometime in the early morning, after a couple more rounds, the bartender finally untied me so I could visit the bathroom. When I returned he was asleep and I didn’t have the energy to do anything else but join him.
I had made $20,000 on the sale of my house. I felt like I had a little nest-egg and didn’t have to make any decisions about life for a while. He lived in a spacious ramshackle apartment on main street that cost $200.00 a month. Life roared by three floors below us as we struggled with time and each other. Our closest neighbor was an eighty year old man who was almost deaf and lived on the second floor. He shared that floor with a driving school, while below that was a shoe store. The first flight of stairs consisted of 22 steps until you reached the first landing. The next 18 steps deposited you at our front door. It was a far cry from my little house in the suburbs.
The bartender didn’t like to haul groceries up all those stairs regularly and much preferred catching a meal in one of the restaurants on the main street. I never commented on how quickly his memory was failing when he never had his wallet with him - he didn’t like to hear about his age. We fought constantly and he never held back with his fists or his tongue, but there was no one to hear us. Once a week I lugged the laundry to a Laundromat and sat for a couple of hours and enjoyed my solitude. His sister would drop in when she was home from her travels around the world and they would get high together and sneer in my direction. When his father bought him a new car for his birthday, he complained that now he had to pay the insurance on it.
Life came to a screeching halt for me when I started peeing chunks of blood. The pain was agonizing and I at first thought it was a result of all the beatings. When it became imperative that I go to emergency, he dropped me off at the front door and told me to call him when I was ready to come home. I lay on a gurney in a hallway for several hours while I waited for some relief. One nurse thought I should pee into a meshed cone in case I was passing a kidney stone, and another laid my chart on my chest before she hurried off. A passing doctor took one look at me and I was suddenly being prepped for surgery, and I was relieved when they injected those drugs that wipe out the pain and the world. When I awoke, the doctor told me he had done a bladder scrape. They sent me home the next day and I was sitting having a cigarette when the telephone rang.
“You need to come to the hospital. We have you booked for surgery in the morning. You have bladder cancer.”
When I heard the word ‘cancer’ – I stubbed out the cigarette and I’ve never had another. I didn’t see much of the bartender during the week I spent in the hospital. He claimed to be busy as he was running to Toronto nearly every day. They let me go home on Christmas Eve with my little bag of drugs.The bartender was more interested in my Percodan than in me, and he kept insisting that I share it with him so that he could get high. I was still recovering when I found out he had been in Toronto with another man’s wife during this entire time. He only mentioned the fact when she kept calling to see if I was well enough to engage in a three-some. I was so sick and so scared of the cancer that my mind never even boggled or warped when he covered the mouthpiece of the phone to ask me that question. I just turned my face away and shut down.
The pain took a long time to go away and during my recovery I often passed globs of blood when I urinated. This not only was incredibly painful, but it had me convinced that they hadn’t got all the cancer cells, even with two operations. The bartender, in his infinite wisdom thought that all I needed to get over this was to get high. I reminded him that I had quit when I gave up the cocaine, but he refused to listen. He wanted me to smoke some hashish with him, and when I pointed out that I had quit smoking, he decided I would eat it instead. I fought him, but I was too weak and he forced the chunk into my mouth and made me swallow. I came back to reality three days later. I also came back to one very scared bartender. He was convinced that he had fried my brains with his little stunt. But it didn’t change anything.