Monday, March 31, 2014

The Knot

            “Dad? Would you comb out my hair?” His daughter was drying her hair with a bath towel. She was dressed in simple blue pajamas, but her feet were covered in neon striped slipper socks.  At 10 years old, she was still comfortable being different.  He said a small prayer that she would be strong enough to stay that way in the years to come.
            “Sure,” he replied as he set down his Sports Illustrated. He went to the master bath to grab a comb and detangle spray. When he came back his daughter was sitting at the kitchen island.
            “I turned on the radio, is that OK?”
            “That’s fine,” he said.
            She sat back against the chair. He started to run the comb through her hair, fascinated at how the water would collect on the bridge of the comb.  The teeth of the comb making solid lines in her light brown hair.  They sat there quietly.  Not needing to fill the air with useless chatter.
            He moved the comb to capture the hair on right side of her head. He moved the comb above her ear, then down to her neck. The comb snag, bringing her head back quickly.
            “No problem, Dad.”
            He gritted his teeth as the comb caught another knot.
            She laughed a little, “No problem.”
He continued, falling into a rhythm of clean runs with an occasional knot that he would work through by placing his hand on her skull above the knot to minimize the pull on the roots of the hair. Just like his wife had taught him.
            After a few songs he thought he was done, but he didn’t quite want the moment to end, so he ran the comb through her hair a few more times. He moved the comb to catch a few stray hairs by her left ear. As he ran the comb down toward her neck he caught a small knot. His daughter’s head snapped back.
            “Sorry,” he said softly.
            She didn’t answer. He thought he heard a small sob.
            “Sorry, little one. Didn’t mean to hurt you.”
            She raised her hand to say OK.  He felt something change in the room.  He didn’t know what it was, or what to say.  He paused for a few seconds fighting the temptation to see if she was crying.  Instead he went back to combing her hair.  It was drying out and he knew he would have to stop soon or her hair would become frizzed from static electricity.
            He felt he should say something, “I’ll work on getting the knots better.”
            He defiantly her sob this time. “I miss her, dad.”
            He had to set his jaw quickly to fight the pain in his chest as the cracks in his heart opened. Images and sounds flashed in his mind. The red and blue lights. The blue civic bent at an incredible angle. The delivery truck sitting on the curb as if it was waiting for the drive thru of Burger King to move.  Every time his wife, her mother’s face tried to surface the pain in his heart would grey it out.
            “I miss her, too,” he said through his emotions.
            He placed his hand on her head to minimize the pain and started to workout the knot.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

One More

His hands shook.

The bottle sat next to the glass.  The glass was empty, for now.  His hand print was clear in the dust on the bottle neck.  He sat at the kitchen island, trying to be quiet.  His eyes were closed.  His right hand running through his hair above his ears.

Two months, 14 days.

His chest felt heavy. His breath long and labored.  It was a bad day.  The kind of day where you wake up in a bad mood.  The kids were hyper, loud, and wanting to hang all over him.  He had a fight with his wife about something she had bought.  It felt just like old times, except he was sober and the day had penetrated his head like a nail.  Even now it felt like a spike was running from the top of his head through his neck, causing his shoulders to be tense, and into his heart.  Which felt like it was dripping blood into his stomach making him queasy.  One sip.  The fire would melt the iron spike. Burn close the hole in his heart.  Warm his stomach until he felt the comforting blanket of alcohol wrap around his mood.  Just one, maybe two drinks and he would feel good.

Two months, 14 days. His hands shook, lifting the glass to gaze into its emptiness. He could see the carmel colored liquid flow from side to side. He licked his lips. He reached for the bottle.  It was a bad day.  Just one, maybe two drinks.  It was the first bad day in over a month.

A picture of his little girl, holding out her latest coloring attempt for him to see.  He blinked.  The reply of his son turning to him with a foul ball clutched in his hands, smiling from ear to ear. "I caught it!"

"I know, that is awesome."

"Wow, what a good day."

There had been some good days lately. In fact there had been some good weeks.

Two months, 14 days.  His hand shook as he reached for the bottle.

Today was a bad day. He felt lost. He didn't know how to handle this. How to remove the spike on his own.  He knew he should call his sponsor, but he had always done things himself. His lips thinned out as he confronted the truth of his thought. He had always done things with a drink.

It started his sophomore year. He knew now how much of his life was just another cliche. High school and college were the same story.  Not excatly a bad story, he was in the popular group.  Got A's and B's.  Played sports in high school and went to college on some academic scholarships.  Met his wife at college.  But everything seemed to simply be something you got through until Friday or Saturday night.  He smiled as he added Thursday nights to his memories for college. It was just what everyone did, it was just what everyone lived for.  He let his hand drop.

Two months, 15 days now, he thought as the clock switched to the a.m.

He stared at the bottle.  He had hid it in the garage as a reserve.  His children's faces flashed in his mind again.  His eyes swelled.  The last two weeks especially had shown him how children could break your heart with joy.  His little girl was always waiting for him to come through the door with something in her hands that she had made at daycare.  His son would ask him for help on his homework, or even to play a video game. And his wife seemed to be looking like her college self, again.

Today was a bad day.  Yesterday he reminded himself.  He held his head in his hands, letting them roll to the top of his head.  It felt like life was scotch taped together and he couldn't hold it back from falling into a million pieces. Just one, maybe two or three.  It would put the picture of life back to normal. No tape, no edges. A clear view of what life meant. A drink is all it would take to go back to what everybody did, how everybody lived.  Just getting through the week until Friday or Saturday night.

He grabbed the glass and the bottle. Two months, 15 days he thought to himself.