When I was 14, I
had a friend named Todd. He was 22, tall and gorgeous, in a familiar sort
of way. Todd worked for my dad, he always wore flannel.
The thing I remember most, is the way he smelled sweet like whiskey, no matter what time of day it was. I had the biggest middle-schooler crush on him. I would look forward to the days dad was too drunk to pick me up from school-the days Todd's rusted blue pick-up would be waiting for me in the circle drive of our catholic middle school.
"Break any hearts today, beautiful?" were always the first words out of his mouth as he held open my door.
I remember the last time he picked me up. It was a Friday, the air hot, I pealed off my wool sweater-the one my mom embroidered with a cross on the sleeve- and lit a camel light. I could feel the stares from the other girls waiting for rides, hear them giggling and mumbling about my hand-me-down khakis and Good Will dress shoes. How I was always a little too chubby to get a guy to like me. I hated those girl.
Down the road, I could see Todd's pickup truck coming over the hill -my savior from the piranhas in designer clothes. I tossed my cigarette towards the girls as his truck approached. Through his open window, I could already tell Todd was different that day. His eyes were shallow, a desolate pit of blue-rings of deep purple under each eye. He didn't open my door.
We rode quietly down Cooper Street, I sang along as Heart faded in and out on the radio, Todd smoke his Marlboros and stared straight ahead. I didn't mind the silence. I never minded when Todd was in 'his moods',
-he always said I was the only one that he could talk to, but lately, he doesn't talk much at all. He pulled into Ella Sharp park, into the space in front of the Sycamore tree, our spot, and turned off the engine. He was so distant that day, quieter, smaller. He pulled out a joint, lit it, passed it to me,
"Do you even wonder what your purpose is, beautiful?"
he asked me, as I choked out the harsh smoke. I shrugged my shoulders, trying to hold back from coughing. I watched the way he rolled the joint between his fingers, watched him slowly exhale the thick smoke in one slow, easy breath.
"I just don't know what I'm doing this for."
when he would talk like this. I mumbled something about God, about his
love for us, about a greater plan, something I'd heard Sister Helen say
in Religion Class earlier that day. He grunted, hit the joint, passed
it back. The trees began to sway back at forth to the rhythm of Barracuda, which played over and over in my head. I couldn't help but giggle.
all bullshit, beautiful, we all die alone, some people just wise up sooner than others,"
he said, as he popped the cherry out of the roach, scooting closer. He pushed my bangs out of my eyes, rested his hand on my thigh. We sat in his pick up for two hours, listening to the radio, his hand on my thigh, my head on his chest.
next day, when I came downstairs, my dad was sitting on the couch,
drunk, not typical for a Saturday. "A little early, don't you
think?" I said condescendingly, as the doors tried to lighten the mood
from his record player.
I danced around in our pale green kitchen,
with the chipped wooden floors, and began my Saturday ritual. Make my
dads' coffee-strong-so he's able to function at work, make my brothers'
pancakes, clean the kitchen.
My dad entered like an unwanted storm, slamming cupboards, looking for the fifth I hid.
"Take it easy, Sir." I said, trying not to further upset him. "You're going to scare John."
"TAKE IT EASY?!" He screamed
Throwing plates, cans of tuna, boxes of crackers- desperation in his eyes as he tore through the kitchen, searching for the Jack.
"Todd's dead." He mumbled.
I remember my head was spinning, my knees weak, my breathing nearly stopped. "...what..?" I choked out, unable to take my eyes off the burning pancakes infront of me.
"He died last night. Killed himself. They found him hanging in the bathroom this morning. Selfish fucking bastard."
I pulled out the bottle of harsh whiskey from behind the bread box, poured us each a glass.
John had to eat cereal that day.
When I was 14, I went to a funeral for a man named Todd. I never said Goodbye tho, never saw his lifeless body, his still hands that once rested between my legs. Instead, I sat outside on the steps and drank whiskey from my coke bottle.