The summer after each child graduated high school Mom and Dad would say, “Love you to death but this house ain’t big enough. Time to go.” My sister, however, lived there until she was 21 and when it finally came time for Mom and Dad to sit her down and say, “You’ve gotta go,” she cried. She ended up moving to the tiny mobile trailer across the field.
I remember very little from the time she lived at home, I was 5 when she moved out, but I do remember one thing: being obsessed with her wardrobe. Unlike Mom’s wardrobe, which was appropriate for a 46 year-old woman who had popped out 10 kids and was shaped like a jelly bean, my sister’s was stylish. She worked at the courthouse as a file clerk and had to dress nicely. She’d wear fitted one-pieces cut just above the knee with shoulder pads and high heels.
There’s still one story that she loves to tell whenever we’re around the bonfire discussing the signs of my sexuality as a child. Apparently I liked to help her get ready for dates. Before the second date (with her now current husband) I sat on the bed as she tried on clothes in front of the mirror.
“You can’t wear those,” the 5 year-old me said as she held up a pair of white jeans against her legs.
“Why not?” she asked.
“Because you wore them on the last date,” I said.
I may not have known who the Cincinnati Bengals were and this Ickey Shuffle that my brothers kept impersonating but I definitely knew what my sister was wearing on her dates.
Yesterday 3 people asked me if I was O.K.
Co-Worker: Is everything alright? You seem quiet.
Me: Oh, I’m fine. It’s just that my tables are very demanding. They’re making me run around a lot.
Mario: Estás triste?
Me: No. Estoy bien. Es que no tengo nada que decir. Todo está bien.
Ronnie: What’s up with you?
Me: Huh? Nothing. I’m fine. I’m just a little tired.
I was trying to be a good American by saying everything was fine. When I lived in Spain my German roommate always said, “In America, if your dog just died and your Mom was diagnosed with cancer and someone asks how you’re doing, you always respond with a smile and say, ‘Everything’s fine.’” The truth is I wasn’t feeling O.K.
Two days ago at 7 a.m. I was woken up by a police officer tapping on my car window. Sweating and confused, I unrolled my window.
“Good morning,” he said. “We got a call from some concerned neighbors. Are you O.K.?”
“What? Oh, yeah. I’m fine,” I said as I pretended to act as though I had just parked my car. I started to collect my things from the passneger seat.
“O.K., just checking,” he said and then walked back to his car and drove off.
Why was I sleeping in my car? The last thing I remember was sitting on my friend’s couch in Hollywood, drinking a Pacifico and watching the English episode of Family Guy. As soon as I got in my apartment I locked the door, closed all the blinds, and crawled in bed and stayed there for the rest of the day.
What upset me most wasn’t so much the fact that I blacked-out only after a week of saying that I was going to work on things, I’m only human, but it was the fact that I drove drunk, which makes me a mother fuckin’ MONSTER. I can stomach the idea of hurting myself but the thought of irresponsibly hurting someone else makes me vomit.
I was playing right center when there was a pop fly. The girl playing second base called it but I assumed she was going to drop it so I ran for it anyways. She had her arms stretched in the air and just as the ball touched her fingertips, I come barreling into her back. We both fell to the ground and in a dust cloud, rolled across the dirt. Tiny pebbles ripped through our skin. I heard someone in the bleachers gasp. As I helped her up the captain came over and in a low, stern voice said, “Jim, when people call it, let them have it.”
It reminded me of the time in middle school when the P.E. coach gave me detention for asking her when she was going to put the boys in the volleyball match because, “the girls are sucking.” She, a lesbian, didn’t take too kindly to it and after class lectured me for 15 minutes. I can’t remember what she said, but I do remember crying heavily. When she was finished she rubbed my back and asked if I was going to be alright. “I think,” I said as I used the sleeve of my T-shirt to wipe away the tears.
Last night my friend received his 9 month sobriety chip from AA. To show my support, I joined him at the meeting.
It was held in the basement of a Christian grammar school. The windowless room with dull grey linoleum and blank walls made it easy to focus on the situation at hand: alcohol. We went around the room introducing ourselves but many of the names got drowned out by squeaking the rickety wooden chairs made every time someone bent over to grab their cup of coffee off the floor.
“Hi, I’m Steven. Alcoholic,” he said quickly and then looked at the guy next to him to go. I began to get nervous the closer it got to my turn. What should I say? Should I try to blend in and say I’m an alcoholic or should I be honest?
“Hi. I’m Jim and I’m here to support my friend,” I said. But would it have been a lie if I said I was an alcoholic?
What is an alcoholic? Some people say you’re one if you’ve blacked out more than 3 times in your life. If that’s the case then slap my ass and call me Drew Barrymore. However, my definition is a little different. To me it’s someone who has to drink every day. Someone who craves it, needs it, and abuses it. I certainly don’t drink every day and I definitely don’t crave it, but I do abuse it. I normally only drink once a week but when I do I’m like a machine that goes all night until the next morning when I wake up feeling as empty as the bottle of Pacifco lying next to me. At my age, that’s not cute.
So in an effort to grow up, and not just get older, I’ve decided to take action. Does that mean I’ll never drink again? No. Does that mean I’ll never black out again? Probably not. It simply means that I’m going to work on it. I want to wake up the morning after a night out and feel proud of myself, not guilty. I want to feel as proud as I did for my friend who walked up and received their 9 month chip.