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by Embe Charpentier

The first step: admitting you have a problem.

When am I going to put down my drug of choice? I won’t. It’s in me.

My wife Candice left two days ago, but she’ll be back. I cry in her arms. Voluptuous make-up sex follows. She brings me breakfast in bed. A marriage created anew.

When I’m manic, I’m bottomless. Desire, money, speed and pleasure rule. Candice becomes Candy. She warns me to take my meds, but soon enough she’s in with both feet. She drives my old Vette down the freeway at 110. Sex is a swirling, backboneless circus. Candy lives the way Candice wishes she could.

“Let me fly,” I say.

“Take me to the moon,” she answers.

We laugh at the word “codependent” together. She geeks off my high — a bipolar junkie, my frenzied follower, a maenad worshipping Dionysus.

I don’t drink — it flattens my high. But she drinks enough Patron Silver for us both.

After the fall, I listen to old music. The lyrics to Bell Bottom Blues by Eric Clapton trickle from my lips. When Reckless Eric howls, “I don’t want to fade away,” I know I haven’t. Not yet. A faded canvas never recovers its glory. Sienna, umber, orange, all as burnt as I am, lay tubed and ready. Candice comes back just to make sure I’m eating, she says. I cry … wash, rinse, repeat.

So do I have a problem? My shaking hand can still grab a paintbrush. A contrite Candice crawls back to her boss and tells him her husband got sick again. Her adoring boss says, “Poor Candice. You’re such a good wife. What would he do without you?” I will the paint to defy gravity, to rest easy on its tilted surface. I muster enough momentum for a gallery show. I run the gauntlet of snobs who seek the Emperor’s Newest Clothes on canvas. Money spills into our hands.

I’ll take the twelve steps around the maypole. Twist the ribbon tighter, lower and higher, and then let the strands unravel.

So do I have a problem?

Ask Candy.

Embe Charpentier has most recently been published in Metro NY, Romance Flash, and Gambling the Aisle. Her award-winning NaNoWriMo novel Vouchsafe is available on jukepop.com. She writes feature articles for her local newspaper, mentors young authors, and trains teachers on the use of short narratives in the classroom.