Wednesday, March 16, 2011
“Yup, I’m still drunk.” I could smell my breath as it met the receiver.
“Are you still going to church, though?” Jade must’ve not heard me.
“Is it even possible…to still…so drunk the morning after the night I was…drunk?”
“Maybe you should take a shower, see you soon.” Jade hung up the phone leaving me to answer my own questions.
Why wasn’t I hung over yet? Still trashed, I opened my bedroom door trying to avoid…
“Good morning Livie Wivie! How’d you sleep babe?” My mother sounds like a Muppet baby on crack right after she wakes up.
“Goodmoringandgood,” were the words that slurred from my mouth as I rushed into the bathroom. Shower first, small talk later.
The cold water shocked goosebumps to emerge from my polluted pores. Someone told me cold showers were supposed be sobering. Someone lied. I slipped out of the shower, caught myself on the towel rack, and balanced myself over the sink.
I looked up at the mirror and saw the destruction of the night before. I looked like Whitney Houstan after meeting Bobby Brown. I needed water. I drank straight from the faucet, brushed my teeth, and whirled my naked, wrecked self back to my room. After finding something decent to wear I found myself back on the bed finally feeling hung over. Regrets from the night before began to pound on my head and bind around my stomach. I could still taste the Aristocrat but now with a hint of peppermint toothpaste.
Forgetting to knock, my brother, Jeff opened my door.
“I picked this up for you, just sign it,” he dropped a card next to me and made his exit.
“Thanks for being the best there is. Happy Father’s Day.”
Frick! I cringed, smashing the card against my face.
I was going to be sick. I needed to be sick. Memories of the night I lost my shoes and dignity began to flood my head with speeding images.
Oh God, I danced on a bar. Oh God, I fell off the bar.
I was still reminiscing in the back seat on our way to church. My Dad seemed blissfully unaware of my misery. My mom had accepted my, “car sick,” excuse five miles into our journey. Jeff was shaking his head trying to rebuke me with his eyes. He was shaking too much. The car was shaking way too much. The road was shaking! I smashed down the button for the window. I launched my body out just in time. My dad made a sharp left onto a street where I continued to hurl 80 proof acid from my stomach.
“Olivia, I guess you’re more than carsick huh?”My mom had been rubbing my back the entire time.
When I was all done my mom decided I was in no shape for praising the lord. My dad had already turned the car around.
Once in the house I looked out the window to see my dad hosing off the evidence my Father’s day present.
There are some things parents can’t teach you. For example, how to meet their eyes after you know you’ve embarrassed them. Or how do you prove to your parent that you love them after throwing up all over the one day that’s dedicated to show that.
Friday, March 11, 2011
And we shuffled on past the graffiti walls hiding even from bright lights of watching stars. Mama and I were runaways now with our hair still wrapped like noodles on a spoon. I pulled my book bag off my shoulder and held it above the ground. I didn’t want no one facing what we put behind us with quick steps. Mama pulled out her cross that pointed at four directions. She stopped, and waited for the cross like it was a whirling compass. I never understood this; the metal chain didn’t come with a spinning needle on it pointing us north.
“Alright, I know the way,” mama breathed.
Who was I to question her? Ain’t no way a nine year old girl knew which way was which. I had never gone to school but then again Mama never been either. She was the only person I had ever followed without question but then again I never had any other option.
We walked across the old railroad leaving city streets. Now we were walking through high grass that whispered through our legs.
“Ma, what about snakes?” I whispered.
` She picked up the pace showing she wasn’t listening. There were worse things than snakes. There’s the musky scent of a man shifting through my door with no lock. I swung my bag over my shoulder, running to catch up.
Once I was close again I could hear Mama’s soft plea with God.
“Jesus, lead me and little Esther to greener pastures away from the wicked schemes of evil men.”
Suddenly I realized we were being watched. Up ahead there was a dark silhouette leaning against a tall Sycamore. Fear pressed against my stomach like cautious hands. But my mama just thanked the sky and walked towards the stranger.
That was the night I met my Father. That was the summer of 1958 when Mama and I ran like slaves from white men wearing white hoods looking through slits for two black girls who never learned to read any signs. We had walked right past the one that said “NO COLOREDS.”
Running with sweat trickling down his forehead, he kept his eyes ahead; focusing on escaping the surreal scene. Had he gotten away with it? No really. Had he? He wasn’t sure yet, so he continued to run without direction. His bare feet hit the pavement with a rhythm that sounded in his head. He ran until his two foot symphony was the only thing he could hear.
Malachi Server was the mayor’s son, and he had just done something quite reckless. Something so bad it made the adrenaline rush through his veins. Something so bad it left him feeling better than ever. On a day to day basis, Malachi is as edgy as a Beatles’ Cover Band. At seventeen he was what every teenager feared becoming: a parent’s dreams come true. Malachi was the “golden child” of the city. He was never late and always early; he was polite and never spoke his mind. Sometime in between his father’s election and now, his life had turned into a life sentence. His body, mind, and soul held captive by the expectations of his father and his father’s voters.
Malachi slowed to a jog. He decided it was safe enough for him to think. He began to rewind and replay the last hour.
The evening was set, and their professionally decorated home looked like more of a museum in Malachi’s opinion. Pictures he didn’t even remember taking were displayed down every colorless wall. To no surprise, the fact that he had an opinion at all had been forgotten by his parents and everyone else who marched to his father’s beat; sometimes that fact was even lost by Malachi himself. His own mother had also forgotten, now she was just some figure in the dark lacking detail. Malachi loosened his tie, thinking about the loss of another Friday night. The Mayor would accept some shiny award and take pictures. Take, take, and take pictures. He dragged himself out of bed and made his way down the stairs into the crowd of beautifully dressed strangers. In a sea of “suits” and “gowns”, he struggled his way through the crowd and over to his parent’s table.
When everyone had settled and found their seats, Malachi’s father made a grand entrance through the room’s double doors. The Mayor drew an eruption of applause as he sauntered towards the table. He shook hands, threw winks, and shot the occasional finger gun. The Mayor’s eyes fell on Malachi, his smile twitched. He hugged his wife and brought his son in for a close, stiff hug.
“Boy, could your tie be any more crooked?” he asked through a painful smile.
A camera flashed. Malachi snapped out of his daze, awoke from his sleep, and glowered at the ungrateful man that stood before him. His father, his father’s voters, and their big night suddenly seemed insignificant.
His body began to feel feverish. He burned with desire to act. He was angry and needed to act. His father began to speak to the crowd and Malachi slowly left his seat. He didn’t know what he was doing. He was up needing to do something. The audience shushed to a whisper. Eyes were on him. Something needed to happen. With quick feet and no sense Malachi succumbed to the burning. He made like a wicked force charging for his father’s head. With a quick leap from the ground, Malachi was able to get a hand on the Mayor’s toupee.
He looked back once. He saw the Mayor’s face. He didn’t look back again. All of a sudden the suits and gowns had faces. He saw horror, fury, and confusion. Mouths opened, pinched, and turned. Malachi bolted but took mental pictures. Took pictures of them all.
Now, Malachi was running for his freedom and running from his captors: from his parents, from the voters, from the fucking black-tie dinner party for which he had put on a happy face. He stopped for a moment; caught his breath, soaking it in. The wind played with his hair and chilled across his dark skin. Goosebumps or not, he was not trying to turn back to that life any time soon.
Malachi made his hand into a fist remembering how with one hand, he had secured his father’s distinguished toupee. His old man’s crown and glory was intertwined between his fingers. At this moment, Malachi wished more than ever that he had a friend to laugh with. He could still hear everything! Ah, the ringing of his name being screamed as he ran like hell. As he escaped, it was as though his parents were seeing him for the first time. Their faces frozen, unrecognizable from the family portraits on the wall. The Mayor’s face was so tense; it looked as if he had aged thirty years. Malachi tasted sweetness of the smile that spread over his face would leave an everlasting taste to never be forgotten. He knew, even then, that his actions were going to be wrong later but they felt oh-so-right at that single, incandescent moment. He began to think of the man that he feared becoming.
In turn, Warren Server was the mayor, all-American, semi-devoted husband, and a father-figure. He had always been a man who craved power and thrived on teaching his son to be exactly like him. Whoever turned out exactly like Warren Server would not be a stranger to success. Mayor Server had a hard time remembering the last time he heard the word failure (, although, this could be due to his selective hearing.) Warren’s biggest downfall came the day he had seen his hair had run away from his hairline. The last thing Server needed was a reminder of his one weakness: his age. So, he decided to cover up his flaw. In spite of his age, he had the pride of a thousand lions and looked as if he had the strength of a juiced up bear. His alarming height made people automatically look up at him, and his intensifying stare could steal respect with one unsettling gaze into someone’s eyes. Malachi could remember the friends he used to have and how they’d been easily scared off.
They were sitting on the front steps that day. Matt and Riley had helped out moving into the Warren’s new house. The fenced in home/castle was an extra 30 minutes away from Malachi’s school which meant his first day of home-school would start the next week. His dad had just announced he was running for Mayor which signified a fresh start or whatever. Now Malachi’s were moping about our separation.
“Dude your dad blows,” Riley said.
Truer words had never been spoken. Malachi’s hands gripped around my neck.
“Yeah man and he’s a re-pub,” Matt’s dumb slang for republican sounded more like a mental disorder. Re-pub, Re-tard; same basic idea.
Matt and Riley weren’t convincing Malachi of anything. He just sat there nodding to every word they said. He knew they were right but he could really love my Dad sometimes. His Dad was still around after all. They were African American and he’s still around (beating statistics), paying for stuff with real money. Real money. Even though his dad was never around for Malachi’s science fairs and school plays he was around for other stuff. He’d shown for the first half of one basketball game, something Malachi had tried just for him. He was around but things were changing for the worse.
Malachi didn’t know how long his Father had been leaning out the front door. He had no idea if he’s heard anything his friends had been saying.
His father’s color shed to ash.
“I mean YES Dad?”
His friends shifted around and looked up at the man with large knuckles and cracked, thirsty skin.
“Wash up for dinner.” He looked down at Riley and Matt with flared nostrils. “Your parents are on their way.”
“Oh! Well, I didn’t call mine, I thought we’d stay a while and get Mal set up,” Riley kept his eyes on his shoes.
The Mayor reached up to touch the top of his head. He combed through his gleaming, high priced hair.
“Don’t worry it’s fine if you wait for them out here.” The Mayor turned and that was that.
Malachi stood, ashamed of his obedience.
“Uh, see you guys around. We could go see that new Zombie flick Friday!” Malachi saw the damage had been done, recovery hopeless.
“Just go man,” Riley said.
“We’ll figure something out,” Matt said.
But Malachi knew that he was no longer included in the “we’ll.”
As Malachi sat on the side of the road thinking about the Mayor’s eyes and just how scary they can get, he decided it was probably best for him to face his fear before those eyes came and found him. Malachi got up and turned around. As he dragged his feet across the sidewalk, he thought about the repercussions this night would have. He would get the lecture, and, then, he would get his sentence. His punishment would be a reminder of that moment when he was running for his freedom, thinking that it was possible. The drag his feet had once had soon discovered their confident march.
He was home. And there was no confidence. That was gone. The door clicked behind him but brought in a chilling draft of fear. Malachi was taken to the expected mindset. With the adrenaline high worn off, panic paralyzed his legs. Malachi was stuck in the foyer and the Mayor was standing at the top of the stairs. Father versus son was an ancient tale but Malachi knew that this was no Cinderella, rise of underdog story. He knew that he was dead where he stood; his legs had raised their white flag already.
The Mayor’s eyes were steady as they moved from his face to the object drooling out of his pants’ pocket. Hair. Malachi had stuffed the toupee but still fanning out for everyone to see.
The headlights from a passing car lit up the halls and lit up the face up the stairs. Malachi felt a trickle tear down his leg. Nightmares to come would not do the Mayor’s face justice. The eyes of a mad addict without his vice. The nose of a blood-thirsty bull. Lips drawn back into a heating mouth. Once there had been a neck but now raised shoulders and brooding chest meeting the concrete chin.
“You, my boy, are in deep shit,” the Mayor dropped down a step.
Malachi wanted a gun, a knife, mace, and a rape whistle. He needed all of them to appear magically at his feat. He wanted to call upon some God. He closed his eyes. He silent prayed:
Oh, great mighty Zeus let your aim be awesome and your bolt be quick.
He opened one eye and the Mayor was two steps away from the floor. The floor. The floor Malachi’s feet were arrested to. What could he do or say to save him from the unknown aftermath.
“Hey dad…pops…Father, let’s take it easy because I’ve been sick all week,” Malachi’s voice broke, making a strong case.
The Mayor skipped both stairs and hit the floor a loud thud mimicking the sound of Malachi’s heart.
“The way you sprinted out of here earlier didn’t send that message,” he was getting closer; he was a moving sky scraper shadowing over his flesh and blood.
“In fact you should probably be running now,” he was standing quite close now. The heaving of his chest was shoving Malachi’s chest in giving him less air to breathe.
“Dad, I’m sorry I crossed the...”
“The fucking line!”
Malachi was now losing everything. Losing feeling in his toes, losing his deserved satisfaction, and losing faith of obtainable freedom.
“Where’s mom?” her vacant face flashed in his mind and he wanted to know why he was standing alone before Satan’s right-hand.
“She’s not going to help you, son, her bottle is empty and she’s already snoring,” satisfaction crinkled his features.
Malachi knew what was coming. It had been coming, burning up like stomach acid. Bulging knuckles: the last thing he saw before shutting his eyes.
Malachi cried the entire time, feeling everything and knowing no one.