Painting by Picasso, 1902
She lived downstairs in my apartment building. She dressed like a lady. By that I mean as if she was caught in a time warp of 1956. Pressed slacks with a matching cardigan and a coordinating blouse. She was younger than me by about seven or eight years. Her hair was carefully blonded and feathered. Always low Cuban heels. Never sneakers or teetering stilettoes. She came to some of the senior advocacy meetings I held. Never saying much but totally lady-like in her demeanor amongst all the jeans and t-shirts.
The rumour mill fired up, as they do. She had a drinking problem. She was selling all her "stuff" her jewelry, her crystal, her china and her designer clothes. Her husband, a doctor, had divorced her years before but had left her with an expensive house in a good part of town and alimony until her Canada Pension Plan and Old Age Security kicked in.
Within ten years she had sold the house and managed to deplete the investment account by buying herself a new car every year and taking extravagant trips. She moved into my building about five years ago, her savings close to zero, carless.
One of my close friends in the building had visited her and found her in dire straits in her bedroom surrounded by bottles and no food in the fridge or elsewhere in the kitchen. Just a horrific mess and a bucket beside the bed for her waste. She notified the management who informed her family. They came to visit from great distances. She cleaned up her act and stopped drinking.
As soon as they left, she resumed. She managed to get "loans" from various tenants who took pity on her. ("Enabling" more like it.)
The breaking point came when she tried to wash fecal encrusted cushions in the laundry.
She was evicted about six months ago but she kept returning here, in cabs, buzzing different tenants from the lobby to pay her cab fare so she could wander the halls, banging on doors, looking for loans from her soft touches, the enablers, who were worn down by the begging. I had never given her my telephone number, though she asked many times. She drunk-called all the numbers she had late at night rambling on about her wealth and status and privilege and how she was in a far better class of people than those in her circle.
She died, drunk, yesterday. I didn't know her though I had met her several times. Nobody knew her.
She took a drink and then the drink took her, removing her humanity, her personality, her very life at the end. Her only pal alcohol, fierce and relentless in its hunger to consume her, inch by inch, emotion by emotion, relationship by relationship.
Her only legacy is a reminder to us lucky few sober ones, of how voracious an appetite alcohol has, if left unchecked.
It consumes those addicted to it down to a husk.
*Not her real name