new project? can’t tell yet. [fiction]

*and your comments and suggestions definitely act as motivation to keep me going*

You’re Having Some Kind of Personal Problems [fiction]

My goal for February, you write, is to drink less. Only weekends, only special occasions, only if I’m not alone, only if there is a really, really, really good reason.

There’s a bookcase. It’s tipped over. The books and the folders of slides and the scraps of paper and the dust hidden behind are all together now, a clutter soup. Calling it a ‘jumble’ would be too pretty. It’s a shitshow (the Urban Dictionary assures the narrator that this word is defined as ‘chaotic disorganization’).

I don’t know how it got like this, you say. And you mean it both literally, as in I don’t remember how the bookcase got pushed over, and you mean it as in I don’t know how I got to this place in my life. This isn’t a good place. I don’t feel good. This isn’t good.

You think, God it’s so overwhelming, the mess. Why is there so much dust behind a bookcase, behind each book, why do I have to look at it now, all at once, vomited onto the floor like this. Fuck, those slides were in order. And the books, too, alphabetical order. I can get my books in order but (clearly) not the rest of my life.

There’s a sharp buzzer. You think it might be the microwave. Or maybe it’s an alarm on your phone. You rub your face with both hands. The apartment is suddenly too hot, close, smaller than it was yesterday.

Then the bell again, oh it must be the doorbell, though it sounds completely unfamiliar. You don’t want to open the door, you know who it is, it’s the neighbour. Your apartments have a shared wall. Not a terribly well-constructed wall. Not a soundproof wall. You hear their television, and they hear your …

You open the door, she’s in your face:

“Hate to ask again — and I don’t mind saying that I’m tired of asking politely. It might be time for something a bit more direct. It’s too fucking loud over here.”

She’s a bit of a bitch, this one. Big boobs crammed into a too-tight shirt that she probably thinks is ‘sexy’ but instead it’s broadcasting ‘I got this at the expensive store, marked down, so that I can say that I shop there, even though — clearly — I’ll buy anything, including clothes that don’t fit, just so I can take a selfie and post it on Facebook and talk about what a bargain hunter I am …’

Neighbour: “… you’re having some kind of personal problems.”

Really, is she still talking? You’re not listening. You’re looking at your watch.

What time is it? you ask, perhaps not wisely giving away the fact that you can’t tell if it’s 7 p.m. and February dark dinner time, or if it’s 7 a.m. and it’s February dark morning.


Question: What would the neighbour say next?


I want to put this online, to hold myself accountable. I want to document the noise in my head. I'm tired of thinking about drinking. date of last drink: june 30, 2012

  • It’s 7a.m. you don’t remember me coming over last night? it sounded bad over here so i knocked on the door and you cracked open the door and said you were fine. you were crying and looked a mess. you and i both know you are not fine. you need to get your shit together. next time i’m calling the cops.

  • The neighbor doesn’t ask anything but hands you a book; you’re wondering if you should have opened the door, but now its open.

  • The neighbor says … it’s 7:00 pm , you’ve got to be more quiet , you’re disturbing the building. Do you need any help? I see your bookcase is on the floor? I’m across the hall if you need anything ok?

  • I’d like to think the neighbor would say, “I don’t know what your are dealing with, how you feel, why you have situations where it seems like you are out of control at times, but if you need help, I’d like to listen. Really listen.”

  • A breeze blows through the apartment, the neighbor is still talking, I ignore her turning to look at the books, one has fluttered open and something is climbing out….damn what have I been doing?

  • I remember those days. The neighbor having to walk me home….and falling down in the driveway with her. She asked me the next day if I found her glasses. All I could do was say I’m sorry….I was on her patio one minute and then I was on my sofa…..I had no idea….my husband told me all about it. I called her she told me more….I was then mortified. Life falling down around us. Left over wine bottles hidden and empty. Neighbors shaking their heads at us wondering what’s “so bad” in our lives that we have to be like that?

  • If I was the drunk character, I would mumble “I’m really sorry … won’t happen again … ” as I close the door in her face. I wouldn’t give the neighbor a chance to say anything else because my embarrassment would be too much. Also, I’d get so angry and wish she’d mind her own business. Who is SHE to tell ME I’m having personal problems? “F*** her, she doesn’t know my life.” <—Because my Wolfie was screaming at me at this point in my drinking career. Even if the neighbor had been acting kindly I would have shut the door. And crawled into bed to sleep it off. I don't miss those days.

  • I had actually forgotten about a time when I was living in a small studio (my husband had kicked me out for drinking)…when I woke up in a daze, from slowly drinking myself to sleep off an on all weekend, and it took me a while to even realize what day it was, after seeing what time it was. Scary – and a good reminder of the bad places it can take you. I just celebrated 25 years of marriage and 2 years and 8 months of sobriety – life is way better being sober:)

  • Ooh do I not like remembering that feeling. That moment of, “I’m not sure what happened or what is going on but I have to fake it – to make everything seem light again.” How did I find the strength to do that all of the time? As for what the neighbor would say next…maybe something like, “Whatever your problem is, it’s not MY problem. Next time I’m calling the cops.”

  • What would my neighbor say? Well, one drunk night my daughter’s friend brought her 2 month old baby over and I took her over to my neighbor’s to show her off. I stayed too long and baby’s mamma didn’t know where her baby was. It still horrifies me thinking of what could have happened. I could have dropped the baby by stumbling across the front yard. Just thinking about it keeps me sober today. (Day 728)

  • Regardless of the B next door MY selfies look a hell of a lot better now that I’m not drinking. The puff is going away. If that neighbor were like any of my old drinking buddies shed be ripe with envy. The thought of my new and improved selfie would drive her up the wall. It’s sad, that a lot of my drinking buddies liked the tipped overbookcase me, the puffy loud mess. It made their selfies look good in comparison…. but now, now the only thing they can say is ‘hey, remember that one time you tipped your bookcase over….” and now I say “yeah, but it doesn’t matter, I picked it all up and I reinforced the damn thing with anchors and straps and I check the integrity daily”.
    The only thing that gets said in return is a post on Facebook about all the fun they have “still going out”. But I know the truth, I know their wolfie is just as annoying as the tootightshirtb next door.

  • What would the neighbor say/do next? She would probably say “WHATEVER” and then anonymously call DSS so that she could be the first neighbor to be interviewed by the 6 o’clock news in her tight t-shirt saying “I knew it was only a matter of time before the authorities got involved. I’m surprised it’s taken this long.” And then enjoy documenting the play by play on her social media accounts with herself duck-lipped in the foreground while the authorities remove screaming tear streaked horror stricken children from the building in the background.
    KT Web (day 440ish)

  • I don’t know what the neighbor would say next but I can tell you how she would feel. She would at some point realize you didn’t have your shit together and that would make her super uncomfortable and annoyed. You could probably start to feel her back away so your “shitstorm” wouldn’t somehow contaminate her life. But you would be just fine with that. Go away neighbor I can’t deal with you…I can’t even deal with myself.

    Oh how I don’t miss those days. I was thinking on the way to work this morning I am 20 months sober…holy shit how did I get here. I never would have thought I would be a “sober” person. I was a party girl; the fun one. But one day I had a bookshelf moment(or several) and suddenly I realized I couldn’t be that person anymore. Thank you Belle for helping get out of my dark place….Keep on keeping on with the good stuff. YOU ARE MAKING A DIFFERENCE; in so many lives.

  • It seems like this neighbor would threaten to call the landlord or that she already has and this person would show up. Or the police.

  • What would the neighbor say now ? She’s probably still taking her selfies as 489 pictures of yourself on social media isn’t quite enough but you are helping lots of us and I appreciate it . Day 81 today and your work has been integral to my clearing my body of the poison I was giving it . Thank you belle . Sobergirl72

  • “It’s time to get your shit together” or at least that’s what I hear… what I think she actually said was “what did you say? It’s 7am and this is just too loud this early”

    • I remember waking up in bed once in my dimly lit bedroom. I looked at the digital clock beside the bed, saw that it was 5:00, and called my husband’s cell phone. I asked him where he was at 5:00 in the morning. He told me he was at work because it was 5:00 PM and asked me if I had been drinking whereupon I hung up. He’s my ex-husband now. He was a total asshole, an abusive horrid man. I am sure that I married him and stayed married to him because I was a drunk. How chilling the way this passage brought back that episode from so long ago.