the way we were (Part IV)

Whenever I brought you with me to see my family, I wished immediately upon arrival that I hadn’t. I never learned.

You were drinking in the car that night. As I drove, I could look over at you and see the open bottle of whiskey in your lap and your open window. I’d made comments before, about how I wasn’t comfortable with you drinking while I was driving (because, hello, it’s illegal, did I need another reason?), but I never actually forbade you from doing it. I never dared give you an order. I knew how quickly that smooth, calm surface of your face could ripple into fury, and I never risked that. I’d seen it often enough to know that I wanted to avoid it at all costs.

You always did take things to extremes. I bit you during sex, so you made a game out of seeing how many impressions of your teeth you could bruise into my neck. I dug my nails into your back, so you bought knives and shredded my skin to pieces. I tugged your hair, and you’d snatch my head backward so hard I thought my neck would break. “You said you liked that.” It was like a big brother smacking a sibling in the shoulder and the sibling saying it didn’t hurt at all, when really their arm is screaming and they know it’ll be bruised purple later. If you admit they hurt you, they have the upper hand; they get to call you stupid and weak.

So you kept drinking and I kept pretending I didn’t notice, hoping we didn’t pass any cops or get pulled over. I couldn’t talk my way out of this one, and antagonizing cops was a favorite hobby of yours. You used to call them pigs, used to oink whenever they came near you. We’d been caught by them several times, fucking in the backseat of my car, and I’d always managed to get us out of trouble. Somehow I couldn’t see you shutting up and letting me handle it with whiskey in your bloodstream. You and alcohol was a wicked combination of fuck and fight, and not much else.

The drive only took twenty minutes, and you mostly seemed okay. But you couldn’t be okay, the whiskey bottle was half empty and it hadn’t been when we’d left. I wondered briefly if you were going to die, and if I would care.

We arrived in a field set back from the highway, surrounded by trees and featuring nothing but a huge dirt pile. It’s where some of my cousins used to smoke, so their parents wouldn’t know. I never bothered smoking myself, but I thought you might, and bringing you with me was the only way you’d let me spend time with my family.

I got out of the car and greeted my cousins, and I remember one of them asking if I was okay. I rolled my eyes and told her you were drunk. I said it before you got out of the car so you wouldn’t hear — you wouldn’t be happy that I’d mentioned it.

Standing up was a bad decision for you. You made it around the car to stand next to me — barely — but you were so incoherent by the time you made it to me that I figured you needed to sit down. You were leaning on me so heavily, just to stay upright, that I thought you might pass out.

I convinced my cousins to sit in the car with the windows open instead of standing outside. You and I were in the backseat, and you kept making rude references to our sex life and a host of other things I wished you wouldn’t share. At some point you weren’t making sense anymore, and one of my cousins passed me a box of crackers for you to eat. Soak up some of that alcohol, buddy, you’ve had too much.

You wouldn’t eat them unless I fed them to you, so I sat with you and tried to get you to stop talking long enough to shove a cracker into your hateful mouth. I managed to get you to eat a few, but after that you’d had enough and would spit crumbs at me whenever you spoke. I gave up.

I eventually took you home once you’d calmed down enough to be quiet, and helped you to your door.

When I got back in the car, I hoped in some dark, twisted part of myself that you wouldn’t be outside when I came to get you in the morning. Tragic accident, they’d say, drank himself to death. And then maybe I could be free.

When I arrived the next morning to pick you up, you stood where you always had, just waiting for me.

Maybe you were too evil to die, like a fairy tale monster that couldn’t be killed.

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