The strain of a life lived hard wore her face down. Sloppy jowls, hollow eyes, and a near-constant frown warned people off.
It wasn’t meant to be this way.
Looking back, it all started when she was 26. Ben left; they were supposed to marry in less than six weeks. She’d lost her job. She moved home to her parents, but that didn’t last either.
‘Chrissie, wake up,’ her dad had yelled one day. It was five in the afternoon; he’d just arrived home from work, and found her in a drugged stupor on the couch.
‘Jesus, the air is a pea soup in here,’ he continued. He waved his way through the thick acrid fog in the room. He bent over the back of the couch and shook his daughter. ‘Wake up,’ he repeated. ‘Chrissie, come on.’
That was the day they’d kicked her out, she remembered. From there she slept rough, until Carol, an old school friend, gave way to guilt and took her in.
Her best years. She thought she’d actually be able to turn her life around, get clean. And she did, for a while at least. Even got a job. Part-time, working as a waitress in a cocktail bar. Met Robert. It was all going swimmingly, until she caught Carol and Robert in flagrante. They were so into each other, neither of them knew she was standing in the doorway.
Chrissie packed and left. Couldn’t even bring herself to tears. Lifting her chin, she determined at that moment to never rely on anyone else, anymore. She would be her own kingpin.
Lying in the hospital bed now, at 62, she realised her mistakes. No one can do life alone. But she was alone. No one visited her. There was no one to visit her. She’d made choices. She’d built walls around her heart and only made friends with alcohol and drugs. They were her connection.
With cancer destroying her lungs, spine and thryroid, Chrissie allowed tears to fall. She’d done life all wrong. And there was no availability for recourse.