Safe Haven

Tell a story about a time you got drunk before you were legally able to do so.

By the time I arrived in Copenhagen, I had not been fully horizontal in 48 hours.

I had travelled from Carmel to San Francisco; flown from SFO to JFK on a red-eye.  I had been drinking.  And I had forgotten that the flight East was shorter than the flight West; had barely sobered up in time for a 9am meeting.  Worked all day; left the office early for a flight from EWR to CPH.

Throughout the travel, I was writing; writing; writing.  Spinning drafts and trying to focus on the work, but I could not.  I was distracted and distracting.  I had moved out of my husband’s house five months’ prior.  I had filed our separation papers 45 days before.

And I was drinking and flying; flying and drinking — occasionally, drinking and driving.  I had been taught about whisky, light and sweet.  And we’d been consuming sherry, syrupy and sometimes terrible.

Then I’d gotten on another plane.

I met Jade at baggage claim at CPH, where she found me, perched on the side of the carousel, laptop open and trying to connect to airport wifi.  Doing work.  I was always doing work.

Let’s go.

Then we tried to navigate the Danish trains, but the Danish are so Danish and everything is in Danish.  I tried to hide my jetlag and frustration and smile as we stood, cold, on the platform.

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We took a train to our hotel, but had accidentally hopped on a quiet car and we were talking.  An old lady smacked us for our infraction — like a schoolmarm with a ruler, her palm came down on us with a crack.

Well, that happened.

We navigated transit, and explored the city, before we went back to the hotel and rested.  The only thing on TV was Paul Blart, Mall Cop, in English and in Danish.  So we watched.

Again, and again, and again.

The next day we decided to to take the train to Jutland — to Ribe — to visit a family friend.

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Throughout the travels, we drank.  We drank wine, and we drank whisky, and I played Paul McCartney and Wings on my iPhone.  We had intended to stay only a few hours in Ribe, but Anni had scoffed, You Americans! and we stayed for two nights, leaving all of our things in a Copenhagen hotel room.

We borrowed clothes and looked ridiculous.  And I had that look about me of jetlag, and having had too much to drink.

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On the second day, when the world became too much, Jade and I climbed into the bed, and we settled in for an afternoon nap under the starched duvet.  I told her what I had been playing on my headphones, which was McCartney’s Mamunia over and over.  And over again.

We each took one of the earbuds and listened — still and silent together.

In Polish, mamunia, is an informal term for mommy.  And in Arabic, mamounia means the same thing, but in a broader sense — it is roughly translated as safe haven.

We were safe.

At the time, Jade was a relative newlywed; I was still married in name only, sitting in my year of Purgatory mandated by the State of New York.  I had begun my divorce in the last State in the Union without No Fault; the only place in the country where one had to separate for a year or announce a reason for the split.

He’d threatened fault because I’d been so long lovedrunk on someone; something else, but instead we’d settled to separate.

And that was how I’d gone to Carmel to San Francisco to New York to Copenhagen to Ribe, where I had been upright for days and was now without clothes, to being safe under a duvet in a borrowed sweater.

Mamunia.

And I was sobering from being lovedrunk on a man who later gave up the bottle and took up with a Danish woman.  And also, I was scarcely awake from the recent nights where someone else would pick the whisky and whisper the notes of the ingredients in the brew we were sipping.

I had been drinking, drunk before I was legally able, really.  Because I had been and was still tied down to a paper life and a paper man and a paper marriage making its way through the Supreme Court of the State of New York.  And the company I’d been keeping; the feelings I’d been having; the things I’d been consuming were not the sorts of things contemplated within the confines of marriage vows.

Eventually, though, the trip ended, and a year later, so did the marriage — in the legal sense.

But I remember those early days of separation with startling clarity; the travel and the alcohol.  The soundtrack to it all.  I remember waking up from the swoon of having loved an alcoholic, and the fuzzy mornings after having consumed too many cocktails with a married man.

And I remember the day, in a tiny town in Denmark, knowing that eventually, the spinning would stop and I would be okay.

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