She hears the door. She hears the gas hiss under the pot as the outside air rushes in. She feels the cold. He shuts the door. She wipes her eyes.
Should she look for Leanne, or what? She needs to move. No. It would be a mistake.
I’m not an alcoholic, but I’ve known a few. They’ve described how it feels to be unsettled in your own body, thinking every moment about what should be done, what the next bad thing will be. How moving is sometimes a bad idea.
Paula Spencer by Roddy Doyle is the inner life of an alcoholic. In her first year of sobriety, Paula is walking and talking through her daughter’s alcoholism, her guilt and fear, her job, her husband’s death, her married life as a battered woman, her ex-addict son. Every day is a myriad of unsaid “I’m sorrys” and fear that her children hate her, and fear that she doesn’t love her children, and trying to be “grand”.
Doyle’s ear for the speech of real people never fails, but if you’ve never met a woman like Paula, you might find it easy to be dismissive of her character, or of the repeated internal questions, and of the fact that the characters don’t face each other, say what they think, fight, come to terms, whatever. But outside of American dramas and self-help books, I’m not sure that’s the way that most families get through these things. There so much more hidden than faced.
There’s a point at which Paula is pondering how she’d like to say to someone, That’s my child or That’s my son, but how none of her children would want to say That’s my Mom. Why would they? She was beat, she let herself get beat, and then she drank, and she neglected her family and she hit the children in turn.
There’s so much truth in this. That desire to name a connection out loud. Not so much to say look at the job I did, but to make the relationship real in the expression of it, made more poignant because of the fear that no one wants to claim a relationship in return.
It doesn’t make for comfortable reading, but I promise there’s the promise of a happy ending :)