Wednesday, July 4, 2012

A Bottle Room Can Save A Marriage

Dad taught math at the high school for almost thirty years before a student finally sporked him to death in the cafeteria. He bled out right there on the floor. Thirty cell phones recorded the scene, but no one thought to call 911.

I was at college when it went down, and if I have the timeline right, I was getting fucked in the ass when it happened, first time. It's funny, me and dad both bleeding out of holes on opposite ends at the same time. I guess true opposites would have been say, his neck and my feet, but Davey Braddock wasn't going to fuck my feet. I'd have let him though. Some people are into that.

The bottle room used to be this little room where we had an electric train set up on top a broken ping pong table. We sculpted mountains out of chicken wire and paper-mache, painted them rocky brown and textured them with plastic pine trees, painted little buildings and the tiny model people. The train set was up for about a week before Dad threw a fit and smashed it all to shit after he couldn't paint a smile on one his people. He said the brush was “fucked”, that he was “fucked”.

At first it was just Dad, he'd finish a bottle and smash it against the wall of the train room, the shards of glass like an icy winter storm blowing through our little town. Dad and Mom yelled at each other a lot less after that and even though I woke up at least three nights a week to the sound of smashing glass, it was better than hearing them say they were going to kill each other. Neighbors didn't call the police anymore, and in bed I cried and jerked off to the sound of breaking glass, so happy to live in a normal family, finally.

Me and my little sis and Mom, we started smashing bottles in the room too. And after a time, not just bottles, but any kind of glass that needed disposing: big pickle and applesauce jars, spaghetti sauce jars, light bulbs. We switched from cans and plastic bottles of Coke to Mexican horchata and pineapple soda, just for the glass. We couldn't get enough. Even our friends started bringing over glass. They'd walk through the door and put their toll into the recycle box and Dad's ears would perk up as he sat in his chair in front of the television, sucking down another bottle, finally in possession of a noble purpose beyond forgetting.
Dad even got rid of the old light fixtures and put in buzzing fluorescent banks throughout the house. We all squealed and cheered as the long tubes burst and popped like lady fingers. We watched one another, happy, the live bulbs painting our teeth green and exposing every flawed inch of skin as we loved like a family should love and made memories worth keeping.

We went on a family drive every Sunday, stopped at every tavern in a twenty mile radius, my sis and me digging through the dumpsters and collecting every bottle, running the ones with liquor inside straight back to Dad. He polished them off while he and Mom sat quiet on the hood of the car. They watched us, arms around one another, swaying to mellow hits of the seventies on AM radio, the music crisp and clear and tinny through the car speakers. Then, smiling, my sis and I climbed back into the dumpsters, fighting off the raccoons and rats for the prizes. There were so many prizes, so many treasures.
We found them all.

The bottle room was kept closed unless we were smashing. The smell inside was sweet and rank and it attracted fruit flies, but each smash night dad used his hard shoulder to force the door open, his grunts and the sound of glass shards sliding over the shredded carpet giving voice to our anticipation.
Night after night this happened and it got to where Dad needed my help with the door because there was so much glass inside, and then Mom's help , and then little sis. We should have expected it, but eventually we couldn't budge the door given all the glass wedged beneath it. We looked to Dad for a solution, but it was like the stuck door turned something off inside him. He looked us over and it was like he was seeing the door and us for what we were, an ephemeral distraction from a hard truth. And just that quickly, it was all over.
The rest of it continued for me and Mom and sis, the collecting, the Sunday road trips, but the room stayed closed and the glass filled the garage and the staircase and the hallways, and more and more often I was woken up by the sound of screams and threats and tears. I'd masturbate to the memories of smashing glass and wish to hell my own piece would just crack off in my hand so I could throw it through my window and jump out and run away forever. It seemed like such a real possibility, but the futility of such a wish dawned on me as I shamed into my stiff sock.

I watch the videos from time to time, alone with whatever boy is snoring next to me on my futon. I watch on my laptop in the dark, watch my dad there bleeding, that white spork sticking out of his neck and I wonder if he was thinking about me and my sis and Mom. Did he have any regrets? I hope he didn't, but I know better. Was he scared? I hope he wasn't. He made us happy sometimes.

--C. S. DeWildt

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