For the Love and Hatred of the Bottle

Because life is so much more difficult than they teach you in high school, and some of us can only manage that reality with that burning elixir that offers a refuge from our racing thoughts and competitions with ourself. We crave the break that a bottle can bring. Not to be considered a position of peace, by any means. More so: a tool of management for those who have learned the delicate balance. Just like we set an alarm, schedule our plans for the day, and make our own half-assed attempt at an acceptable appearance, we’ll eventually fill our glasses. Ironically, it is the very aspect of life that I always feared the most…

A child in need of control can be a force to be reckoned with, and I fought like hell every day to do anything but disappoint. Perhaps, this is the very thing that I still struggle with now. That lack of control is bad in itself, but the helplessness that lies beneath is intolerable. As an adult, I won’t allow it to take hold. As a kid, I was powerless. With an emotionally absent mother and dealing with being placed in a care-giver role to the drunk that I proudly called my dad….My future was set in stone from the day that I was born.

I knew that I was different. I saw; I heard; I felt—not the black and white, not what I should have, and not what I was being programmed to see. This heart was too strong to be programmed. It saw all the sloppy grays that the world painted over. I saw my mom leave for work, and I saw my dad and me watching down the road far too late at night for her arrival. I saw my sister go to bed with a smile, oblivious to anything but the fairytale life she believed in her naivety. I saw my dad disappear to his own world, his only form of coping. And, I always went to find him…

There was a time when I couldn’t have been any more than 5 years old, and I was so excited that Dad was spending time with me. Real time, coherent time. He took me outside to draw pictures at the picnic table of our (literal) white picket fenced backyard. Mom was gone again. It never really mattered because, when she was there…It was never for me. I remember every game we tried to play ended with her lecturing me on the rules and paying attention, like the game of Memory was the SATs instead of the cartoon pictures that laid in front of us. Or, every time that she took a picture and I had to present myself just right. Hell, she couldn’t even take a picture to save her life. But, all that mattered was that I looked just like the little doll that she dreamed that I could be. I was dressed like my sister and expected to act the part as well. All that I was doing was seeing the grays, and the shades multiplied with every time that woman treated me like the family defect. The thing was, I was never the defect. They just hated that my eyes lifted the veil of their own dirty little secrets.

Dad had to leave again. It turned out that the drawing had an ulterior motive, and so did that pretty little fence that contained me. I tried to hide my disappointment, with my head down low like I was really working hard on my very best drawing to show him when he returned. But, he didn’t come back. I walked to the gate. I knew how to open it; it wasn’t that hard. I roamed around the house to find him, but I knew that I wouldn’t really. The beer was in the garage, and I didn’t want to catch him.

It seemed like an eternity to me, but I was so little. And, he was so mad. He was already drunk when I met him back in the fenced-in yard, and he was fighting his own tongue to scream at me for leaving. I didn’t, Dad. I waited for so long. I liked the funny man that you drew when we sat at the table. Can’t we just draw? I didn’t do anything; I just tried to find you. Please don’t punish me for that. I always try to find you.

We’re done, and he’s putting away the paper. I got a glimpse of being a kid that day, and I ruined it. It was my stupid fault for stepping outside of the white picket fence. So many times since then, I struggled with the confines of the expectations of that family that were entrapping my soul. But that was the moment that I truly realized what a lie that fence held in its presence.

If we went back to drawing that day, it could have changed my life. But, the bottle held precedence over the one person I felt close to: My dad. You’ll never see a white picket fence at my own home today. I’ve learned firsthand that no amount of paint can hide pain. And, that is the harsh truth that carried on the cycle for him, his family, and all that I am now.



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