Originally written in August of 2010…
Caleb’s hand trembled as he put the bottle to his lips. He was shaking so much that a part of him was scared he would drop the bottle. Another part of him didn’t care. That part would be just as content with watching the glass shatter as with drinking himself into oblivion.
He sat on the bare, hardwood floor of what had once been the living room. His legs were stretched out in front of him and he stared at his feet. There was nothing else in the room to look at. He sold off everything that he could. He had to get rid of anything that reminded him of her. And so, the rest of the house was just as empty as the living room. All of his worldly possessions could be found in the three boxes and two suitcases that sat next to the front door.
Those things sat there waiting. For what, or for whom, Caleb couldn’t be sure. He didn’t know whose turn it was to “take care” of him this week. He tried to be grateful for the steady stream of friends and family that had been there for him over the course of the last month. But they couldn’t possibly understand everything that he was going through. How could they know? None of them had been there when it happened. Even if they had, it hadn’t been their wife who had died. They couldn’t possibly know the miserable feeling of helplessness as he watched her beautiful life slip away.
He turned the bottle up and swallowed the last of the vodka. He set the bottle on the floor and tried to stand, but he knew that was a stupid thing to do. Caleb had never been much of a drinker. Tonight he was probably more drunk than he’d ever been in his life. Yet, even in this state, he understood the irony of the situation.
Headlights flooded the room as a car pulled into the driveway. Somehow, he managed to make his way over to the window and saw that the car belonged to Dave, his best friend since their medical school days. He and his wife got out of the car and slowly made their way to Caleb’s doorstep.
When the doorbell rang, it sounded far away in Caleb’s head. Then he heard Dave’s voice, “Caleb, open up!” He stumbled toward the door. “Come on, buddy, we know you’re in there!”
Under his breath, Caleb said, “I know I’m in here too.” He swung the door wide and leaned heavily against it. “Dave, your timing is impeccable. I just ran out of vodka, so I’m gonna need a ride to the liquor store.” His speech was slurred and Dave thought for a moment that he would have to reach out to keep his friend from collapsing.
Dave turned to his wife. “Why don’t you go on back home. We’ll follow you in Caleb’s car.” Not knowing how to respond or what to say, Barbra just nodded and took the keys.
“Bye bye, Barbra!” Caleb yelled louder than he intended to.
As Barbra backed out of the driveway, Dave turned back to Caleb. “You been doin’ some drinkin’, huh?”
“You figure that out all by yourself Doctor Dave?”
Dave shook his head. “You think this is what she would want?”
Caleb’s anger, so close to the surface these days anyway, boiled over and he got in Dave’s face. “You don’t get to tell me what she would want! She’s not here! And you don’t have to be here either!”
Dave stayed calm. He put his hand on Caleb’s shoulder, but Caleb immediately shook it off. “I know I don’t have to be here, but I’m glad I am. I won’t let you keep doing this to yourself.”
Caleb’s tears came so suddenly that they took him completely by surprise. He dropped back to the hard floor and sat with his back against the wall. Dave stepped inside and joined him. “I know things look miserable right now. You think I can’t see that, but I do. We all do. But you have to have faith that God will see you through this.”
“Faith?” Caleb turned to look at his friend. He wiped the tears away from his eyes so he could see clearly. “Faith was something that she had plenty of. It was inspiring how much faith she had. But when she died senselessly, so did my faith.”
“I think you’re wrong. You just want to think you’ve lost your faith because it’s the easiest thing to do right now. You have people who love you and who are going to help you get along. Eventually, you’ll find that faith again. I’d put money on it.”
“I need another drink,” Caleb said, clearly not listening to Dave’s pep talk.
“No, you need to sober up. Doctor’s orders.” Dave stood up. “Let’s get this stuff loaded into your piece of crap car.”
“The boxes go to storage, the luggage goes with me to the hotel.” Caleb said as he tried to stand.
“Well, tonight, it’s all going to my place.” Dave put his hand back on Caleb’s shoulder, this time making it stick. “You’re staying with us tonight.” Caleb opened his mouth to protest, but Dave cut him off, “Not a request.”
With that, they loaded up Caleb’s piece of crap car with all that he owned. Caleb climbed awkwardly into the passenger seat and handed his keys over to Dave. As they backed out of the driveway, Caleb looked one last time at the house that represented another life. It was a life that he didn’t want to leave behind, but he had no choice, because everything about that former life caused him nothing but pain.
He didn’t know if Dave was right or not. Caleb looked down the road that stretched out in front of them and didn’t know if he would find his faith again. But he had to hope that he would.