ERNIE AND ERNESTINA: Searching

Book Two, Chapter Nine: Separation Anxiety

After the Twelve-Step meeting ends, several members hug Joshua. No one knows he and I are mother and son. I follow him out the door.

“That was beautiful, what you said,” I say.

He shrugs it off.

I want to say more. How truthful, honest, real his sharing was. How Christy has hurt him. How she’s made him miserable and angry and resentful. How he’s played the role of Rescuer/Hero with Ernie and me and with Christy, too. How my co-dependent relationship with Ernie, with its submerged and repressed pain, has affected him, too, hurt him. But he knows all this, doesn’t he? Isn’t that what he just shared?

He and I reach the little red car. He unlocks the door, turns to me. “What are you doing next?” he asks.

“I’m staying here to be part of a Fourth-Step study group. We’re discussing resentment. Do you want to stay for it?”

He’s wearing only his plaid flannel shirt tucked into those baggy corduroy trousers, with a yellow knit scarf about his neck. I haven’t seen him in any other clothes.

“I’m cold,” he says. “I’m hungry. I don’t want any more meetings tonight. . . . So, you aren’t going back to Richie’s with me?”

There’s a brittleness to his voice, a cover for his hurt. He feels abandoned. I’m letting him down, he thinks. I’m deserting him, and I promised to be there for him.

It breaks my heart to tell him no, but I don’t want to ride back to my childhood home with him. I’ve stayed there for two weeks, and I don’t want to stay there any longer. I feel too . . . displaced. Too lost. Too . . . not myself, at that place.

It’s separation time for Joshua and me. How to say this?

“You don’t need me there, Joshua. And I don’t want to sleep in that house anymore. It’s time for me to go back to my own place. But call me.”

I hug him. He gives me a faint, weak hug back.

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Ernestina

My writer husband’s favorite nickname for me was Ernestina, so in this 2-book memoir, he is Ernie. This is his story, our story, and my story. I invite you in.