It was 6:30 p.m. during a disco-ish summer when cerulean skies faded into cobalt nights and the cicadas’ song provided a harmony for the snarling Corvette engines racing along the scorched streets. Dad was in the basement workshop struggling to dovetail the wooden edges of Mom’s broken curio cabinet. Crystal should be displayed properly, she said, with the type of aristocratic tone that spoke to a childhood consisting of debutante balls and fine art classes and lessons for things strung. A lost ant of sweat trickled down his whiskered cheek.
Two hours prior, I’d over-indulged on a plate of lasagna and now stood over a plastic Ford Mustang, trying to coordinate my seven-year old fingers enough to place a too-fragile fender on the back end, nearly comatose. Conversation lagged. We’d developed a habit of placing our drink containers next to each other upon the workbench, his tan Coors can hissing at the mouth next to my 6-ounce 7-up – a bit of Mom’s medicine for a bloated tummy – and I’d often frown, wondering why something named soda pop wasn’t considered an adult beverage.
Without windows, illumination came from a single bulb, dangling from the ceiling in a way that only your well-endowed man could truly appreciate, its shadows circulating every time my father bumped the glass with one of his stalwart shoulders. At some point, I’d engaged intently with my model and accidentally reached my hand toward the workbench, closing my chubby fingers around my father’s beer can. Eyes still focused upon the ‘stang, I drew hard on the spout, the bitter taste of alcohol crossing the threshold of my mouth with the will of a waterfall.
The unexpected can shock you – the first touch of a hot stove, a nip from a friendly dog, Grandma’s gas issue, and the anticipation of something sweet turned pungent. I twisted my lips into something resembling Munch’s The Scream and my father looked at me with that tilted eyebrow and upturned lip old men get when a child discovers one of life’s un-discussed pleasures.
Anyway, that’s how my AA counselor and I became friends. 🙂