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A Black Grain of Sand This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

By , Deer Park, NY
“You ever drink before?” was the beginning of another trivial conversation at lunch. I’m trying to remember the name of the girl who said it; Julia I believe. Oh yes, Julia with the overdone make-up. I
meant to tell her about how she needs to fix that.

“Ugh, of course not,” spoke the supercilious voice of Cassandra. It was as if the word was created just for her. There was really no other term in the English language to describe it. She did not sound cavalier nor did she sound exactly egoistic, haughty or stuck up. It was an odd form of sophistication and the sound of blocked nostrils that comprised what came out of her voice box. “How could anyone drink while knowing the long-term effects it has on the development of your brain?” Wait a moment, snobby could also be used to describe her voice. And her.

“Exactly.” exclaimed Paula. “ If I was at a party and someone offered it to me, I would say ‘B**** please. Hell no!’ Peer pressure can kiss my a**. Plus, beer smells nasty.” The table laughs uncontrollably. My snicker was only half-heated. Really, Paula is ridiculous. Everything that you shouldn’t say is said by her. She had the grades of Einstein yet had the mouth of Shanaynay. They all were in honors classes, but are still in the right crowd. Other than momentarily scientific lapses of Cassandra, all they talked about were these three topics: boys, how their girlfriends suck, and how they wish to be in the arms of Ryan Gosling, Johnny Depp and Chase Crawford simultaneously.

I don’t even understand how I got into any honors classes, which is how I met these three girls. I remember my guidance counsel looking at my transcript, from my former private school, and saying until the end of eighth grade my grades were outstanding. Impeccable is the word I believed she used to describe them. And, like everyone else, she understood why I went into that slump, how no one has to know about my brother, and how being in a new school is going to be so good for me. She thought it was a good thing that I took off the rest of ninth grade, seeing with how I was after eighth grade. From looking at my grades, she thought I would do well being challenged to the ultimate degree, so she sign me up for every single advance class this school had. Luckily, it’s public school so the courses haven’t killed me yet.

I would have left the table the second day, but the guys who come to their table are fine. Don’t even think about calling me a hypocrite yet, the guys are also hilarious. I can live through the conversations fulfilling the boy crazy schoolgirl stereotype if the last fifteen minutes of the period are filled with those guys. They are the only ones who understand my obsession with basketball. I tried the girls; Cassandra said there are no hot guys in that sport so there is no point in following it, and the rest of the table agreed.

“No,” I lied”, why you ask?”

“Oh, I heard that Hali, you know the fugly girl from Bio, drank so much last night at this senior’s party that she puked all over his couch then attempted to make out with him when she saw his face. I guess it was an apology seeing,” then she whispered “ ,she’s a prostitute.”

Paula replied with “,She probably thought if she got all the way he wouldn’t make her pay for the sofa!”



“That is just gross,” Cassandra said “Let’s change the topic.”

The conversation spiraled downward to something vapidly monotonous- I think they said something about John Krasinki from the Office- so I wonder if any of them have even been to a high school. It’s only the first month of freshman year, so not that many good parties have been thrown yet. I fear not though, because by Christmas break some stupid freshman would. That’s what happened at my school last year.

Really, they embraced sobriety a way a nun embraces chastity, yet none of them have been in the mist of alcohol temptation. Have they ever felt a pain so fierce, so excruciatingly agonizing that going into intoxication would be the only way to survive? Shots numb the pain from something equivalent to surgery without anesthesia to a swampy pit of despair. The jack daniel’s have even made laugher slip through my mouth, in the times of desperate need for a heart.

The point, which is what I was trying to get to my “Alcoholic Anonymous” group today, is how can you go through the motions when the people around you don’t even know the taste of a drink? Forget them not knowing the high of it, they believe the only reason anyone chooses it id to look cool. Uhm, no one slowly poisons their liver just to look cool. There are so many underlying emotion issues behind the action of grabbing the neck of a Heineken. Or Bud light, if domestic was the only thing available.

The rest of the meeting goes on with awkward silence between a circle of people who would never talk to each other if their current addiction problem was non-existent. Homeless men whom I’ve seen cry, a woman who believes her Louboutins are so important she tries not to touch the ground at all when she sits down-plus she always has sunglasses on and a scarf over her head so I do not even know how she looks like-a soccer mom, a prostitute-looking person, a drag queen, a guy with the face of a cop and Meredith. She’s the person in charge of this AA meeting.

Meredith dismisses us and I don’t stay for the coffee and doughnuts. My legs pull me up the stairs like a cheetah and again I see the sidewalk. A blistering cold wind hits the pale skin of my face. My mother picks me up a corner away from building where the meeting is held. Even after what happened, she still worries about what other people think of her. I guess having no job for twenty years changes your priorities. She will do anything to stay in the clique of those housewives at the club. It is weird how after you turn a certain age all your female relationship somehow end up being like a sixth’s grader again: shallow, ever-changing, and two-face. I fear of the day I become this age.

“How was your day, honey?” My mother’s voice sounds like it is about to crack. Her hands are choking the steering wheel.

“Fine,” I reply. I really should have said more about my day. I’m afraid she will go on and on about her day, and then have an emotional breakdown while she is driving. We don’t need that.

“Oh well, I’m happy it was for you today. Isn’t it nice that I drive you from all of this instead of the chauffeur now? You like that now I take you to school and what not?” I really feel sorry for this Mercedes. Honestly, all this leather shouldn’t have to go through the nail piercing my mother does when she gets angry. Angry is too violent of an emotion to describe the way my mother is acting right now: jittery, uncertain, nervous and crazed are more fitting words. My mother will never have the strength to properly execute the full emotion of rage. I mean no disrespect towards my mother, for I do respect her, it is just that she is meek. If there are two roads in front of her, one leading to gold and another to hay, she will take the one to hay if it is easy. The reason why she married my father is because his job was so demanding she would have to stay home. She is the reason why I don’t believe in Darwin’s theory; if only the strongest survive, then how is my mother here?

“Yes, mother, it is.” My mind drifts off as she drones on about how Demetria is undermining the emotional needs of children from their parents and how quick drives such as this one can give some of that. “It’s about the little things,” will pass the mouth of hers before I step onto solid ground again.

The tarred road looks like silk from my position. If I was walking, I could probably see every single yellow strip that divides the lanes, and how the texture of the street is more like coarse sand than 300-thread count sheets.

Maybe, if I stayed walking with Dakota, I would have noticed these things about him. I would have seen why he was the way he was. I would have seen that within the big coast that is Dakota, there were grains the color of coal instead of the sun. Instead I kept speeding in my own Ferrari kind of life, not seeing him trying to keep up with me. When he wasn’t being sent to the ward or in one of his moods, he was really nice. He would try to help me with homework, which I didn’t need back then but I let him do it anyway. He would listen to my petty problems, when I use to care about that stuff. I saw him as an embarrassment. He was a older brother who didn’t have cute friends, didn’t have the stability to protect me, or at least have the connections to get me a keg or a joint. We look so different that I somehow kept it a secret that we were even related. I kept my title as middle school popular girl, and he stayed with role of a started-puberty-late depressed sophomore.

Then she came in. It was brief, his love affair. It was one of those periods when he was in the ward. Don’t ask me what happened exactly. All I know is that she was there, he fell in love with her, she ran away, and then he killed himself. Eventually they found her, but some of the other patients were so angry with her she couldn’t go back there. Maybe he would have done it even if she never came into his life, but is so much easier to say that Clarissa Simmons is the reason my brother is dead, instead of saying my brother committed suicide.

My mother went into a haze, days and weeks of vacant intestines and unwashed hair. Her eyes held the look of a dead person, and sometimes I would come home, and see her in the bed, so still, and with her room smelling the way it did because she never took showers anymore, believe she is dead. My feet would force themselves to the edge of the California king-sized bed. I would stare at her and see if her neck or chest appears to be moving, and it would not, so the floor would feel a stampede of tears crash onto them. However, after forty minutes or so, she would wake up, go to the bathroom, and come back to her bed. My father actually moved into a different room- I have been there comforting my mother this past year more than he has. There were times I thought she would be trapped in this time of bereavement forever; then one day, she started getting out of the room. I began to smell brew coffee in the morning and pancakes. Before I went back to school she was complaining about Demetria like nothing had changed.

I, on the other hand, needed vices to go into such a blurry place. That is when drinking came in. Originally, when bourbon went down my throat, I didn’t like it that much. It smelt, it tasted horrible and it burns. But then it was able to turn my heart cold. I could be a cold-blooded murder when I’m drunk.

All emotions did was hurt me. The guilt of my brother’s death took over my life at the time; it was only that he died the way he did that I didn’t grab a knife. The heartbreaking pain was with me when I woke up, it stayed with me throughout the day, and straggled me in my sleepless nights. I had to be strong for my mother, so I would take on the role of an actress at school. Oh boy was I good. I was happy, I started meaningless rumors, I made girls cry and never get in trouble myself. Older boys took all I had and I didn’t mind. Seeing that no one knew he was my brother, and the school being so posh they would never announce one of their pupils taking their own life, my status as popular girl increased. If I wasn’t at home drinking, I was at a party drinking and sleeping. I drank through the summer and the first quarter of freshmen year. My grades were disgusting low, and by then my mother had started to grasp reality, so she took me out and sent me to rehab. Rehab was trouble, and so was I back then, so I ran away. Being the spoilt rich girl I am, I only survived two days before finding a pay phone to call her. She put me back for so long. By the time I got out, all my friends were heading to tenth grade. So I went to public school, lied to everyone- except my guidance counselor, damn transcripts- about why I’m not in tenth grade, and got accepted into the popular crowd again. But the thing is, it doesn’t feel the same.

We arrive at the apartment. As I go through the lobby, I hear two business associates laugh about drinks. Instantly in my mind is the picture of a vodka bottle open and a hot glass already filled to the rim, just for me. I have to hold on to the railings in the elevator not to fall. We enter into the apartment, my actual home, and it takes all the strength within me not to run to my father’s back-up stash in his study. Mother never allows him more than two glasses a night at a party, parties are the only time she asserted authority, but by the time he was in bed he would have gulp down at least five. I know every drink he has in there, but I don’t get it. Instead I go to my room, do my homework, eat dinner and lie in bed, never the lust for alcohol truly obliterated from my mind.

A recovering alcoholic by fifteen. One can only go up from here.





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