A memoir about marriage, methamphetamine & mental illness

By Stephanie Rosenfeld & Luciano Colonna

Chapter Nine – THE PUPPET MASTER

The chapter about Tim’s death was supposed to lead into a chapter about Luciano and Harm Reduction — why he was attracted to it; also, whether or not it was a good idea for him to work around drugs.

Instead, thinking about that time set him to reminiscing about his drug-using days — there are so many more stories: He thought he might want to root around in that material a little more, before moving on. Then he started thinking maybe he should write some more about his upbringing: That could be a book in itself, too.

So, as I cooled my heels waiting for him to “hand something in”– that’s what he keeps calling it — we decided I should just write my own section.

STEPHANIE: Really? That’s not going to be very good.

LUCIANO: Of course it is! You’re a writer!

STEPHANIE: I know, but. Not of this part. I mean, yeah, when we get back to the marriage part, and the drugs and all that. But all this background stuff — that’s all you! I don’t want to write about my childhood, and the time before I met you, and about how fucked up I was. Am. Was. Whatever. That’s not exactly going to be entertaining…

LUCIANO: Yeah, I know. But: You can make it into something good.

STEPHANIE: No, I really can’t. It’ll just be, like, having a really tedious conversation with me at my worst — you know: Where everything connects to everything, and by the end your head is spinning and you just want it to stop. It’ll be like going to therapy with me! Nobody’s gonna want to read that!

LUCIANO: God, man, do you have to be such a downer?

STEPHANIE: Yes! Duh! That’s kind of my point!

Some people have pointed out that there’s not enough me in this story. Or, that what there is seems to be deflective, dodging the spotlight — while at the same time, maybe, controlling the narrative a little too much. Someone even used the term “puppet-master.”

That made me laugh — not exactly mirthfully. First, at the thought of anyone else besides Luciano trying to put on The Luciano Show. But also because: If there were no puppet-master, there wouldn’t be any story. There’d just be a bunch of funny-sad anecdotes and free-floating non sequiturs and passing epiphanies and drawings like this:

Maybe the puppet-master comment is actually canny, though — in the way in which it mirrors our life: Maybe my efforts to normalize our problems, to keep re-knitting our unraveling bond as fast as Luciano’s inexplicable need to regularly destroy it, to keep the whole thing running, even as the wheels fell off, played a big part in how bad things got.

Because it’s true: If I hadn’t been working so hard to believe that our individual damage, along with the subsequent damage we were doing to each other, was surmountable, and could one day resolve into a “normal” domestic life, there would have been no relationship.

If I’d been more clear-eyed or decisive about that, it would have ended the night he broke the door of our apartment, a couple weeks after he moved in, trying to get in to yell at me some more after I’d locked him out because I was overwhelmed by the intensity of the rage attack I’d just witnessed. Witnessed? Undergone.

People have said they like the honesty of this story. But what if it’s not? Honest, I mean. Because, the puppet-master person was right — I am controlling the narrative, choosing what and what not to reveal. After all, I never wanted to write a memoir — especially not one about meth addiction entering my life and breaking everything in it.

Because that isn’t my story. I’m pretty sure I’m right about that: That the story of Luciano’s relapsing after twenty years of sobriety isn’t a story about me, though I was one of the main characters in it. That it’s a story about him, and about untreated mental illness, and about the drug — methamphetamine — itself. Either that’s true, or I need to keep thinking it’s true ; and I guess I’m willing to control the narrative to make it so — to keep remembering: The story of Luciano’s illness and his addiction is not the story of me.

That said, here are a few doodles. “A little about me”:

Maybe we’ll all be lucky and Luciano will turn in his draft for Chapter 10 soon.

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