If I had written Dante’s Inferno
I would have written about the level in hell
where the condemned spends eternity
standing by hell’s kitchen sink
trying desperately to scrub the cooked on,
congealed gunk off of Satan’s fine china.

I think about this addendum, of course,
while standing in my own kitchen,
my brown skin a shade of lobster red
from the burning hot water gushing from the faucet
as I desperately try to scrub off
what used to be lasagna
from a dinner plate left in the sink several nights ago.

With the task miraculously done,
I reach for another dish,
carefully inspecting every inch,
front and back,
along the sides,
searching for any sign of blemishes
and then reach for the next dish,
and the next one,
and the next one.

The kitchen has been piling up
with plates for two weeks,
which, is not quite as long as my partner
has been battling a drinking problem.
Somehow the mountainous stacks of dishes
seem small compared
to the fire breathing dragon we have both
been staring at for months.

Plate by plate I slowly and methodically
conquer the kitchen,
believing that if this space is clean
then I haven’t lost control,
that I am in charge,
that my partner did not just tell me
how he has been actively considering
jumping to his own death
for the past three months,
that I did not need to notify his father,
that I have not been looking for therapists,
that I am not searching for al anon meetings again,
that I did not notify his three closest friends,
that I am not scared shitless,
that the road from here does not
wind and curve so much
that it is hard to see where it ends
and quite frankly I’m terrified to know,
that I know how this story goes all too well
because I couldn’t save the last person
I lost to an addiction because one person
cannot save anyone,
that I don’t need to cry because it must be allergies,
that if I can load meticulously clean plates
into this dishwasher
then I can do anything,
that being able to scrape off
every burnt on bit of congealed gunk
means that everything is fine.
This is fine.
We are fine.
I am fine.

If you or a loved one is suffering from a substance abuse addiction, contact the SAMHSA national helpline at 1-800-662-HELP for free, confidential treatment referral and information services.