So I’m up all night I guess, now, and my brain floats all over the place, thinking about work, the mortgage, the sub prime loan market, and my 8 year old son Jack.
He’s sleeping just fine, and there’s nothing wrong with him.
I just wonder when he’ll cross that line from where there are memories of when things weren’t complicated and into the time when life started to hurt.
I think of a time when all was good in the world. I was about Jacks age. I remember a particular Sunday night, watching the “Wonderful World of Disney” on tv.
They were doing a special feature of the movie 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea starring James Mason as Captain Nemo and Kirk Douglas as some gay sailor guy. I don’t know if he was gay, but he was dressed very Village People. Not that there is anything wrong with it. It just looks –well – gay.
The guys have just got done battling some rubber sea creature. The sailors fighting it in the fake sea water managed to keep their balance in the middle of a howling windstorm on top of a wet submarine (Nautilus) which I believe to be made out of wood. All this saltwater splashing around in their faces and nobody so much as blinks. You don’t have to blink in a movie studio water tank.
I ask my mom if I can have some more pretzels from the blue box of Mr. Salty brand. She
gives allocates a few my way, keeping close guard over the box and the bowl of M&M peanuts she has next to her on the couch.
I am in the bean bag chair.
Things were good that night.
I want for Jack to not feel any of the pain I have felt. I want for him to have a guard or a shell up to fight off any of it.
I just don’t want it to be too thick.
I see a lot of me in him. He’s terminally shy, and when people might think he’s being rude, I know he’s just hiding into his own shadow.
That’s how I was..that’s how it was for me.
And when I got older, I started drinking homemade wine because of the buzz I felt doing it, and how it made the pain I felt temporarily go away.
My dad made wine when I was a pre-teenager. He made it out of grapefruit and oranges.
After several weeks he strained the fermented liquids into wine jugs, and the rest is history. Looking back at it now, I’m sure the stuff tasted pretty bad, but I remember my first taste of it.
He had taught me how to siphon the wine out of the mixing pail and into the wine jugs. I then used that advice to siphon just a little bit (About a cup worth) into a Dixie cup.
That first time, I did it when my dad was at work and when my mom was taking a nap.
It was the middle of the afternoon. It used to snow more back then, or so that’s how I remember it anyway. So I was at home on a “snow day” when the schools were closed. I was down in the basement. I downed the whole cup of the wine in a couple of swigs, kind of shaking off the aftertaste and shuddering as it ran down my throat on its way to my bloodstream.
I waited a few seconds, and I felt my stomach flip a little bit, almost like I was ready to upchuck what I had just tasted.I got a quick cold sweat, I felt my arms, face and chest get all wet with cold sweat.
It passed. I took a deep breath.
Then I did it again.
No cold sweat the second time around, but I did get the shudder and the tingling in the back of my head.
I put the siphon hose back behind the jug where I found it, put the cork back into the jug, and inspected the jug. It didn’t look like there was any of the wine missing. For a moment I wondered if my dad would be able to tell.
The family dog Taffy was lying near where the jug was -under the stairs in the basement, and was judging me. Well, maybe not judging me. But she was looking at me like a dog with human emotions, as if she would tell my mom later about what I was doing.
I looked at her and met her judging eyes, and whispered “Don’t you even think about telling mom”
She seemed to sense I was threatening her, and even though I was convinced she didn’t speak English, she kind of felt like she was going to be in trouble over something. She lowered her head, as if dodging a slap, and I knew I got my message across. I had sent my first message. And it had been received.
As I walked away, I turned one last time and gave her a sneer so she knew I meant it, and while she had raised her head back up to watch me walk away, she lowered it again acknowledging I wasn’t pissing around with her. I would kick the hell out of that dog if she told anything to my mom about this.
Then I realized that in fact she was a dog, and couldn’t speak English after all. In fact she couldn’t speak any human languages.
As I began walking up the stairs, the thought of our dog Taffy telling my mom about me sneaking the wine cracked me up and I stopped, held onto the railing, and started giggling for a few minutes.
I turned around and went to under the stairs, kneeling down and looking at Taffy, who, seeing my smile, started hanging her tongue out, panting, wagging her tail (Never again would a female do that when seeing me-animal or human).
“You’re not-“ I started before laughing, “You’re not going to say anything, right?” I asked, laughing.
Taffy started whining, in a kind of happy, needy way. That made me laugh even harder.
“Please, Taffy, please don’t tell mamma” I said, as Taffy came up and started popping her nose into my crotch. It made me laugh even harder.
I lost my balance and fell on the stairs. Taffy started barking. I put a finger up to my lips again, and shushed her.
Taffy wagged harder and started to bark. I shushed her with my finger up against my pursed lips. She got even happier, her tail banging on to the cement floor while she lyed there, admiring me. I started laughing.
“No, don’t” I said to her, almost crying I was laughing so hard. “Please stop…”
Over the next thirty or so years I would, among other things, vomit on myself in public, vomit on a sidewalk, blackout and lose my car, get mugged, show up at work with liquor on my breath from the night before, and call in sick many, many times.
I will never forget my first buzz. And I’ve been chasing that feeling ever since.
I hope Jack doesn’t go there.