Intercosmic - Chapter 36 - 16 and ½ Shots

“He’s down at the local pub, he’ll probably be back around bed time,” mom smiles as she sits a glass of cold hot chocolate in front of me.

It’s funny, she always seemed to remember the strangest little details about me. I can drink hot chocolate all year, but in the summer, I let it sit out until it’s room temperature. I’m surprised she randomly had hot chocolate in the cabinets. Did she expect me to pop up and visit? I sit and drink with her, fill her in on my life. She’s upset I haven’t found someone to get married to yet. She’s craving a grandkid by blood or adoption, she just wants one. All of her friends have them, and she feels left out. When I mentioned Renan she tells me to go “apologize to the nice boy,” and adopt some kids. I wonder what she’d say if she knew I was only here because of a chat with a prostitute. It’s moments like this when I realize I really do love my mom. Sometimes I’m not sure, I always felt she put everyone else before me. She just expected me to handle everything on my own, and I’m still kind of mad about that. I’m still very mad about that. I’m even irate some days. But, when we get these moments and she actually wants to hear about my life, I get excited, I feel like I’ve got the love I’ve been waiting for her to give all my life. It’s childish, but I can’t help it.

I didn’t come here for mom, so I promise to visit again before I leave Earth. I came here for dad, to get to the bottom of our issues, one way or another. I don’t care if we solve them, but I’m going to at least understand him. I didn’t need to ask mom for directions to the local bar, I knew where it was. Chaka’s in the same place it’s always been. I’ve only been here once, when I turned 19, he brought me to his favorite bar. I had my first drink with him, then he sent me home and spent the rest of the night there by himself. My father isn’t an alcoholic, he only drinks on Fridays and Saturdays, after eight. But, from eight until closing you wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between him and a seasoned alcoholic.

I take the elevator to the 11th floor and enter into a dimly lit room, filled with the scent of cheap liquor and cheaper food. The terrible pictures on the wall haven’t changed since the last time I had been here years ago. Tucked in the corner at a table that has only his chair I spot my father. The wrinkled face that looks so similar to my own with the mean old eyes focused on some sports news.

I make my way over to the bar tender, “hey, give me two shot glasses and whatever the old asshole in the corner drinks.”

“You don’t want to mess with him,” the bartender hesitates.

“That’s exactly what I want to do.”

“It’s your funeral,” he hands over the bottle and glasses as I pay. “If you don’t die, you pay for whatever gets broken,” I smile at warning and head towards my dad.

I sit the glasses on his table before dragging a chair over. I don’t even greet him, just take a seat and pour two shots of the crystal whiskey the bartender provided. Crystal whiskey is expensive, but this is bottom tier, just barely qualified to be called crystal. I didn’t think he’d favor something so expensive, but it explains why he drank so rarely. He didn’t need much to get drunk off of this. I down my shot and wait for him to stop staring. He takes his shot slower, probably wondering why I’m here.

“Why are you here,” he grumbles after finishing his shot.

“I’ve come to see my dear old dad.”

“I thought I was done with your damned visits.”

“Nope.”

“Well I don’t have anything to give you.”

“I don’t want anything but some of your time and since I’m paying for the drinks, you owe me that.”

“Then pour another shot,” he demands.

I pour two more shots and quickly drink mine, “what is your issue with me and Edan?”

“You’re weak. You both keep hanging on like you need me to hold your hand. You’re grown men, he calls your mother four times a week and you’re starting to visit once a week and that might be worse.”

“I never asked you to hold my hand. I asked you to be a normal father who doesn’t avoid his children only to piss on their lives and existence the moment they make eye contact.”

“Did you not have a home to sleep in and food in your belly? Did I not provide for you?”

“That’s what you’re supposed to.”

“Shot.”

“You’re also supposed to help guide your children through life, not leave them to fend for themselves.”

“I said shot damnit,” he raises his voice and waves off the bartender.

I pour another shot for him, and one for me. “Instead you were always concerned about somebody at the job, trying to guide the future of the company. Meanwhile your sons were starving for some attention. I know we weren’t rich but you worked way more than you had to. You damn near avoided us.”

“Shot,” he demands, I oblige with another shot for each of us.

“We can drink all night,” I finish my shot, “but you’re going to talk.”

“I got a question for you,” he asks.

“What the fuck would you do if you suddenly had a family you hadn’t planned for? You looked up one day and had four people depending on you?”

“I’d do the best I could, I would do everything but run away or hide.”

“Well your best isn’t always good enough. Then what.”

“Try harder motherfucker,” I pour two more shots. “Drink.”

“You think it’s easy, but you haven’t had to do it.”

“You keep saying how hard it was for you, your trials and tribulations. But you never tried to deal with your own shit so you made your burdens everyone else’s problem. I can’t blame you for everything that happened in my life but I still think you’re a weak man. You’re irresponsible, selfish and in denial about the problems you caused us.”

My dad pours the shots this time, we drink, he speaks “I’m fucked up, but you’re more fucked up than me, is that what you want me to say?”

“No, I want to know why.”

“Why, what? What do you want to know?”

“I want to know why you treat us with so much disdain, why you think we’re perfect targets for your own insecurities?”

“It’s not because I’m insecure, it’s because you’re all fucking failures. I got a dead son, a military drop out and a damn criminal.”

“Wrong,” I slap my hand down on the table.

“How the hell are you going to tell me I’m wrong?”

“Because you treated us like this long before Evan died, long before Edan stole his first candy bar and long before I even enlisted. That’s just bullshit you tell yourself to sleep at night, but I’m the boogeyman, and I’m not letting you sleep.”

“You stupid drunk, did you think that was clever?”

“Yeah,” I pour two more shots, “now drink.”

“It’s clear nothing I say will change your mind,” I take my shot, he follows. “You’ve got your mind made up already. Curse me, with every breath in your body.”

“That’s not what I want.”

“Then tell me what the hell you want, because I’m getting tired of your bullshit Efrem.”

“I want a relationship with my father, but every time I confront him he gives me some crooked ass answer instead of the truth.”

“I’m telling you the truth.”

“No, you’re telling me what you think I want to hear. Just tell me the truth.”

“That all you want?”

“Yeah, the truth, then I can move on with my life.”

“Fine, the truth is I’m fucked up. I always have been. I won’t bore you with all the details, but my childhood was terrible. I was an orphan, I had been in a gang, I went to jail, all before 18. Whatever evil things you can imagine, it happened to me. Drugs, abuse, violence, I was no stranger. That didn’t make me any less fucked up. Some days I’d wake up, and put my gun in my mouth. Other days, I wanted to just kill the whole family and be done with,” this is the first time my father’s been so honest with me. “I didn’t want you boys, but your mom wanted a family, and I would have done anything to keep her. I couldn’t bear the look on her face when I asked her to abort Evan then she popped out two more little bastards that looked like me. Even acted like me. But Evan, Evan was just like me. He never told me about the mood swings or shit he was going through. He was good at hiding, too good. But, I could see them in him every time I looked at him.”

“Why didn’t you do anything,” I ask.

He pours two more shots, we toast to Evan, “because I didn’t know how to help him. I never got help until after he died. That’s why I pushed you two even further away. I didn’t want you to turn out like Evan, like me. I couldn’t deal with my shit, and I made it your shit. I’m sorry.”

“I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have made you think of that.”

“Nah, you wouldn’t know. I never told.”

My father stumbles to his feet as he attempts to stand, gripping the table to maintain his balance. I can’t help but chuckle. Partially because of how old and frail he had become while still being this massive monster in my brain; partially because I knew I’d be making the same movements as I stood. I take the bottle and finish the half shot left. I get up, slowly, trying to avoid the same mistakes that I just watched my father make. For just a moment I swear he smiles, a genuine smile, but then it’s gone. He stumbles across the bar room, I reach and grab his arm to steady him. He never had a problem holding liquor like this when I was younger. I’m suddenly realizing he’s a frail old man now, and I’m not an angry teenager who had just lost his brother anymore. He did me wrong, but I can’t keep holding onto that.

Outside, I walk my father home. He doesn’t want me to, but I feel I need to. I’ve been stuck in the past, blaming him for holding me back. I’m just glad we were able to clear the air. I wish things could have been different, but they weren’t so I need to make the best of now. The walk is silent, dad seems to be focused on walking in a straight line, and I’ve suddenly become a soul searching drunk. I turn to leave as Dad enters the apartment. He points to the couch and stumbles toward the bedroom he shares with mom before pausing to remove his shoes.

“Are we good,” he whispers the words so softly I can barely hear them.

“Yeah, we’re good dad.”

He just nods his head and silently enters the bedroom, the door sliding closed behind him.

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