Shattering Glass

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“I can’t believe you forgot her!” The words circle in my head like a scratched record. With cold fingers they draw me back through my life to the first time this ever had to be so.

I sat in a red, plastic seat, the size only ever found in kindergarten classes. Ms. Blakely sat beside me in another, which only made me giggle, seeing her attempt to fit her large bottom from overflowing the sides of it. My first day. I wore my new black shoes that I could squeak across the floor, if they were even just a little bit wet. I fidgeted in my pink frilly dress that twirled around my knees when I spun. I must have been the teacher’s favorite, I remember thinking. After all, the other children had to go home at noon while I got to stay and eat lunch in the big kid’s cafeteria and read picture books with Ms. Blakely. I must be special, I mused.

Eventually my mother arrived spewing apologies like a geyser. She was still wearing her frilly diner apron, a pencil defiantly tucked behind her ear. Now confusion swarmed my brain like black flies in June. Daddy was supposed to fetch me from school today. My theory of the day melted like a Popsicle on the sidewalk. I waved good-bye to my teacher, cringing in expectation of the Daddy I would find when I arrived home. Strapped securely in my car seat I endured question upon question about my day, that my mother asked through a smile stretched across her teeth like pulled taffy; too, too sweet and 100% artificial.

No matter how I wished, our minivan found our driveway, and pulled us in against our will, an insensitive magnet. My mother slamed the house door behind us. “I can’t believe you forgot her!” she scolded. My father shook himself awake from where he had been sprawled across the counter, the bottle still clutched in his hand. “I didn’t forget her. I just lost track of time.” He slurs the words barely comprehensible. His eyes twinkled, like they do when he’s silly like this. And though I know the reason I liked to pretend that it was out of pride for me. I could feel the impended fight coming, like the moment before a storm. This time I would stop it, this time no one would be left crying, especially me. “Mommy, can I have a juice box?” yes, an award winning distraction, I thought playing up the deprived child card. “You did forget her. Losing track of time and forgetting her are the same thing.” Each word a piece of shrapnel, seeking my father as its target. He stumbled as he attempted to stand, swaying a little uneasily like a sapling in the wind. “They are totally different things. I didn’t forget her, I was fifteen minutes late to pick her up.” Each sentence followed by a drunken hiccup. My mother stared at him in disbelief, her eyes, blades that cut through his lies. The bottle rolls from the counter and smashes across the floor. The glass shards twinkle across the linoleum, the alcohol rushes through them, an iceberg filled sea. I was desperate now, the dispute rising to its climax. I tugged pleadingly at my Mother’s apron. “Mom, I want juice!” I offered the phrase up but it just floated there stranded in the breeze. Her eyes remained focused on my father’s, in cold disgust, which by now were wide and unfocused. Her voice calm and clipped “I don’t know why I put you in charge of things. You obviously can’t handle it.” “I can handle it. Your just overreacting,” now he had made the argument her fault, Vesuvius was about to explode. I had to do something and fast, I was the only thing that could save our fragile family now, from death by volcano. Abandoning all manners, all politeness, every care of my own punishment I opened my mouth at one last attempt to rescue the broken man now slumped against the wall, “MOM! GIVE ME JUICE!” I shouted it at the top of my five year old lungs. Her crosshairs transferred from father to me and softened as her eyes took in my tear-crumpled face. Going down to my level she took my hands in hers, “Honey what do you want? You need to use your words and ask nicely.” Now that the storm had cleared with fresh eyes she assessed the aftermath. She took in the bottle splayed across the floor, as smashed and broken as the man who had been drinking it. She took in that very man now passed out on our couch, the ghost of an old acquaintance we once knew. She took in the tears painted across my cheeks, the alcohol that had splattered my pink dress and the glass stuck beneath my shoes. “Yes honey, I think there’s an apple juice with your name on it,” the words flowing through my ears like Hawaiian Punch; too, too sweet and 100% artificial.

The memory fizzles and fades, this story played over so many times it’s hard to forget. And now I sit in my new heel shoes that would click just right, when I walked down the aisle. My new white dress flows off every curve of my body and glitters and twirls around my ankles when I spin. My hair folded and twisted too many ways to count around the back of my head, woven amongst diamonds and lilies. I fidget with my lacy white veil anticipating his arrival. He was coming this time he promised, to give me away. My phone vibrates and skitters across the table violently. With an elbow-long gloved hand I reach for it. He was running late, that was all. The voice was not my fathers. The phone slips from my grasp and shatters like a glass bottle across the linoleum. New words spin round and round my head like a hijacked carousel. Daughter? Blood-alcohol level. Driving. Drinking. Tree. Killed instantly. No pain. Identify the body. Daddy! Makeup runs rivers down my cheeks, as the realization sinks in that this will be the last time he will ever forget me ever again. And now on this day, that was supposed to be the happiest of my life, the daughter is giving away the father instead. And I pray that for once he will remember me.





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