The following piece was presented at Jersey City Writers’ literary event – Blackout! A Night of Memoirs. Please enjoy.
I don’t remember the first bad night, when you smoked and listened to Alice Cooper in the dark, and mom cried on the other side of the wall.
I don’t remember sitting awake all night outside Tyler’s bedroom, so that when you came looking, you’d find me first.
I don’t remember my high school graduation. I looked for you afterwards, and was told you were unconscious in a stranger’s front yard.
I don’t remember the smell of gin, even when I’m drinking it from my own coffee mug.
I don’t remember the year you forgot Sam’s birthday, and at the last minute bought her a laundry hamper. I don’t remember that you didn’t remember that you’d bought her a laundry hamper the year before that. And the year before that.
I don’t remember the Sunday dinner on the table the day we left you. None of us could eat, and you were passed out in the bedroom. We packed, and were gone, and I don’t remember that you woke hung over to an empty four bedroom house, and mashed potatoes and corn on the cob gone cold.
I don’t remember my first homeless Christmas.
I don’t remember my fourth homeless Christmas.
I don’t remember sitting at the picnic table outside the shelter while you smoked Pall Malls. One of the women told you cigarettes were going to kill you, and you said they’d have to get in line.
I don’t remember when your eyes turned yellow, or when your gums started to bleed.
I don’t remember your trailer by the cemetery, where I tried to visit one day, long after everyone else had stopped visiting. I walked in on a deal in your living room and you threw me outside, and shouted something about knocking.
I don’t remember when you hit me in Walmart for wearing ugly shoes.
I don’t remember when a woman in a tank top tried to stop you, and her cleavage was showing, and you stared and teetered like you were going to fall into it.
I don’t remember sitting in the living room late on summer nights, staying up to watch Zorro when it came on the public channel at two a.m., and seeing you slink by the back windows. You thought you were sneaky, slipping out the back. You thought you were getting away with it like a child sneaking chocolate.
I don’t remember your van outside the liquor store.
I don’t remember the empty cans that fell out of it when you got home.
I don’t remember the look of shame and embarrassment when you rushed to hide the cans before we saw, like we weren’t standing right there, playing with the garden hose in the driveway, suddenly quiet, suddenly confused.
I don’t remember the last time I called you, and was told your number was out of service. There were other numbers I could’ve tried, but I didn’t.