C.J. The Weird Woman
In the early millennium I attended a small tight i2-step group in a church recreation room further on down my street. The group was mostly successful older women, a few older men and me. They were politically conservative and voiced it, although the rules of the program told them not to. One day we had a new member, an attractive thin blonde excited to talk about her success in abstinence yet struggling desperately to get there. The women were uncomfortable with her. At the break she brought out her therapy journal and asked the women to sign it. “Coping with Child Sexual Assault” The women were disgusted. I’ve never understood how 12 step members can think alcohol is a terrible traumatic experience, but sexual assault isn’t. Nonetheless they notoriously reject any method of modern psychology because it counters their 1930’s religious approach. C.J. had no one to talk to. I looked over and she walked over to me. Finding her attractive, I didn’t mind. She asked for my number and wrote it in her therapy journal.
That night I got a call from C.J. late into the night. I told her I had to be quiet as my parents were sleeping. Yes, I lived with my parents. She started talking about alcohol and how she thinks she can quit this time. I couldn’t tell if she was drinking, but looking back she probably wasn’t. She was very odd, spoke rapidly and often off topic with an intense feeling of intimacy and personal confession. I had to sleep eventually, so I told her I had an appointment in the morning.
The next day CJ. Came by in a blue convertible. We went for a ride through the hills. She told me a story of how she dated Sonny Bono for a time. I found it interesting. I didn’t know Sonny Bono dated younger women. Her world, her life, seemed so surreal, like a dream that buries suffering. We went to a coffeehouse and continued to talk. She said she was a singer and would I like to hear? Then she stood up from the table and belted out singing The Greatest Love of All by Whitney Houston. It was a quiet coffeehouse, there was no Karaoke, everyone was staring. One of the problems with mental illness is that it can be very embarrassing when you behave mentally ill. We were asked to leave. We went to her home.
Surprisingly, she lived in a large house in the hills, two story. She had two children not living with her and I’m not sure who had custody. She never mentioned an ex-boyfriend or a husband. In an odd action she took all the liquor out of her cabinet, put it in a bucket and poured gasoline in it. I understand she was quitting drinking, but it just seemed like a terrible waste of alcohol. She asked if I wanted to spend the night and I liked the idea. The night grew in and I laid down to sleep on the couch. She said that I was to sleep in the master bed upstairs then she laid down on the couch. Very puzzled I laid upstairs to sleep. I had been in some strange situations in my life, but this had never happened before. I thought maybe she would wait till midnight then come up and sneak in the bed with me, but no. Obviously there was something all around odd with her, yet I was comfortable with her. Being bipolar myself I had been mocked and harassed in the 12 step program all my life. I came accustom to different people, abnormal was normal to me and what others were afraid of was perfectly fine. C.J. and I became upset on the way home and had some kind of a fight, probably because of the sexual tension. I told her I didn’t’ want to talk to her for a while and she became upset and dropped me off.
I was upset and didn’t want to see her again. The next day I came home from school ready to due my homework. Then I looked in the kitchen. There was C.J. sitting at our dinner table having coffee with my mother. They had never met. I told her that I was going to the art walk with John, the womanizer. I didn’t really like John, The three of us gathered downtown in the courtyard area. John immediately began hitting on C.J. I asked him what he was doing and he said I was no longer with her, she’s fair game. Then C.J. started flirting with John, I guess to make me upset. When I saw C.J. looking at John and John looking back at C.J. I realized I had the opportunity to get rid of two people I was getting tired of and left. I never saw her again.
Months later, at the 12 step meeting the woman were sitting around gossiping. They said that C.J. had committed suicide, that she was the mother of two children. Then they said something horrible. “I wonder what God does to people like her.” I thought of how she had so desperately turned to them for help, how they coldly rejected her. I don’t know what God did to C.J. but I know what he’ll do to them. I left the meeting. Time has passed and I think about C.J. often, not in a romantic way but in all the lives I’ve seen lost in the 12 step groups and the mental health system. One fault of mental illness is that we just can’t fit in, no matter hard and vitally we try. I don’t know that there’s a heaven or a place for people who commit suicide, but I know there’s a place in my heart for people like C.J. who have touched my life.