Well, August 12 came and went. Again. I managed to orbit around to another mid-August, another year sober. That anniversary was yesterday, accompanied by shooting stars and the streaking space dust of the Perseid meteor shower. I navigated the tricky asteroid belt of early summer, with both old and new rocky obstacles in the mix: the usual early summer anxiety about past behavior, once again a difficult death anniversary and now a dog-shaped hole. Summer will forever be marked by those constellations, however much time manages to try and dim them.
It seemed to be a year of occasionally noticing missing things -- not like "oh, how I miss that!" but actual things gone missing. I opened the china cupboard in the dining room one day and saw little clear rings on the dusty glass shelves; it took me a few minutes to realize that they were left there by a set of little short Moroccan glassware when my house was "cleaned up" while I was off at the nervous hospital. Wine glasses removed, corkscrews taken from drawers, that sort of thing. Left behind, these little perfect circles, to remind me of how imperfect things had been before.
I was in Memphis last weekend; it was a funny place to be so close to the anniversary of my sobriety. Memphis was where my drinking career began in earnest -- I never drank in high school, but things ramped up pretty quickly the day I got to college. I still remember very clearly the freshman orientation party -- I could find the very house in Hein Park if I tried, I know I could -- and the ivy-bound brick patio and the giant metal barrel of Everclear and Kool-Aid and this dumb girl named Vanessa who dove headfirst off a picnic table into the bushes and my hangover after and then the repeat of the whole miserable cycle (though with less picnic table-diving) for almost thirty years after that. I joke frequently that I could never live in Memphis again because of the heat, but what I really mean is that I could never live there again because of the constant reminder of alcohol. Last weekend, every street corner I drove past held a story and almost every one of those stories held some modicum of regret, no matter how hard I tried to remind myself to move past feeling that way. It was an uneasy weekend, but probably necessary. The next time will be less wobbly.
This second year felt steadier, though, more level than the previous one, with fewer extreme peaks and valleys; a drive across a flat, sober Kansas. It occasionally seemed less miraculous than the previous year, less astonishing somehow. It just took me time to figure out that what was happening at last was a return to normalcy, perhaps the most astonishing thing of all.