I was a young grasshopper.
On a May night, I hatch from my egg. I crawl on the wet soil. My ears adapt to the sounds of the world. People talking, grocery carts, dogs barking, cars driving past. I listen to the wind rustle the spring leaves. I flap my wings. I hop on the ground. I explore. I crawl and hop up a tree. I avoid a spider web. I land on a wooden balcony. Two humans stand in front of me. A girl and a guy. They look unhappy.
“This is not good. This is bad. This is serious,” the girl says to the guy. Her arms are crossed tightly across her chest. She stares at a bottle that’s almost as green as me. The guy sways like leaves on the tree. “You’ll die if you keep drinking like this.”
He shrugs. “So be it.” He blows smoke from his mouth. I flap my new wings.
“I’ll leave,” she says. “If you don’t go to rehab or counseling, now, tomorow, I’ll pack up my shit and I’ll leave. Please, please, don’t make me do that. I don’t want to do that, but I can’t keep doing this.”
I hop on the wooden railing. They argue back and forth like humans do. During a lull, he leans against the railing, arms spread and hanging over into the dark abyss. He hangs his head for a moment. With her arms still crossed, she leans against it, too. She faces him, her chin on her chest. I’m inbetween them. He looks at her with red eyes.
“Does your therapist have you on medication?” he asks her.
“What?” her head snaps up and her body stiffens. “No, don’t think so. Why would you ask me that?”
“You have mood swings. Intense mood swings. One second you’re happy go lucky Katie, and then the next, you’re angry and like this.”
She shakes her head. “No, I don’t have mood swings. And you’re the only one that’s ever said that to me. Everyone else who’s ever met me always thinks I’m the most even keeled person. But you’re right, I am angry. Living with an alcoholic makes me angry.”
“You get mad at me about laundry,” he says.
“Because when you screw up the laundry, you’re drunk. I’m not mad about the laundry. I’m mad that you’re drunk every single day and aren’t doing anything to help yourself.”
“This has nothing to do with me. You’re a negative person. You hate your family and you hate your job. That’s why you’re angry.”
“No. It has to do with you. I don’t know what else to do. If you don’t get help, I have to leave. And I’m going to call your family. I don’t know what else to do.”
“That’s fine. They know how much I drink,” he says.
“No, they don’t. They don’t see this, they don’t see you everyday. They see you twice a year. They don’t know how much you really drink. They don’t know what’s going on.”
He stands up, tense. I hop once. Then twice. “Fine. You call my parents, I’ll call your parents.”
She looks shocked. “Why would you do that? You’d only do that to be hurtful.”
Smugly, he says, “No, I’m helping. Just like what you’re doing to my parents. I’ll call your parents and explain A and B to them.”
“That makes no sense. You have no reason to call my parents. I would be calling your family so you don’t die,” she replies.
“And I’ll call your parents because I’m trying to help.”
“Great, you do that. Do you even have their phone numbers?”
“I’ll figure it out.”
She steps away from him. Tense, she says, “If you want help, if you want to be sober, I will do everything I can for you. I’ll pay the bills for the house while you’re in rehab. Anything. But if you do nothing, I have to go.”
“I drink to relive stress. What do you do when you’re stressed out?”
“Drinking a 2 liter bottle of whiskey plus whatever else in two days isn’t relieving stress.”
“What do you do when you’re stressed out,” he asks again.
“Jesus Christ, I work out.”
“See, you work out. How’s that working out for you?”
“What, because I ran yesterday and my legs are really sore today? Not even close to what you’re doing to yourself.”
He exhales angrily and turns from her. They stand still and silent for a few moments. I wiggle my antennas. The girl looks at me. She takes a step towards me and leans in. Her arms are still crossed. We look at each other.
“Whoa, it’s a baby grasshopper. I’ve never seen a baby one before.”
He doesn’t look. She keeps looking at me. “So cute,” she mumbles to herself.
He turns and faces her. He walks up to her. I’m inbetween them again. I flap my wings.
He says, “Kate, I love you. You know that? I love you. I drink to relive stress and I’m going to figure it out. I’ll control it. But you’re acting this way, not because of me, but because you’re stressed out. With your family and your job-”
She holds up a hand, interrupting his gaslighting. “Stop. Let me get this out of the way. We’re not going to do this thing where you pretend to stop drinking or drink less, but then you hide it from me and you minimize your drinking. My bottom line is you get someone else involved, now, or I’m gone.”
He becomes furious. His face turns red. “Goddammit!”, he yells. I hop once. I flap my wings. He looks down at me. He raises his thumb and smashes me with it. “Fuck you!” he screams at my crumpled body.
Eyes wide, the girl backs up towards the door. She looks at me. I flap my wings. They don’t flap. As I lay dying, she looks at him and sneers, “Yeah, it sucks I’m smart.”
“It’s not happening. It’s not happening,” he says, pacing.
“Goddammit. You’re the worst,” she says. She opens the doors and disappears.
I don’t hop. I don’t flap my wings. I don’t crawl up a tree. I don’t explore.