No Safe Place for Boxed Wine
my own being
from many years ago
when my worth was lost
and fear ruled my fragile heart
who was that absent girl
that lived so incomplete
undone by others
Nothing brings out the American small town spirit quite like the Fourth of July. I sat on the back deck, watching my husband grill up about a million hot dogs, and sipped on a glass of pink wine. The kids tossed the football around in the yard, and we listened to the sound of fire crackers from next door. It was not yet dark. All the kids were anxiously anticipating our streetside firework lighting. I finished my wine, and opened a hefeweizen. After one sip, I decided I’d pass on anymore alcohol, and asked if someone wanted to finish the beer I was about to waste. Surprisingly there were no takers. My sister Brooke, five months pregnant, commented sarcastically that our younger selves would be so proud. I laughed and replied, “Our former selves would be hiding their heads in shame...oh my God! She had half a glass of wine, and can’t even finish a beer! What a disgrace!”. Later that evening, I noted there were no actual rules stating fireworks had to be lit at dark, and wondered if we might get the show on the road so I could get off to bed. My suggestions were met with annoyed looks from the kids, and a slight grin from my husband, who knew I was just kidding, and also knew I wasn’t all at the same time.
Time, and the responsibility of sustaining 7 other lives, changes a person. When Brooke and I were teenagers, we could put away more alcohol than a frat house, just between the two of us. It was the early nineties, and times were a little different. The internet, and cell phones for that matter, were not yet available in the common household. Although, my grandpa did have this enormous car phone, about the size of a shoebox. OJ simpson was on trial for his wife’s murder, sadly, words like “fag”, and “retard” were still widely used, we’d seen the end of the first gulf war, there were no anti bullying campaigns, and fast food restaurants were not required to post caloric information for their consumers. After wrecking my mom’s car, I was off to a third high school, this time living with my grandparents in Northern California, and Brooke joined me about six months later. My grandma kept boxed wine in the garage, and my sister and I realized quickly, there was no real way to measure the amount of wine in the box without going to extreme measures (or at least measures that required more energy than my grandparents were willing to expend), allowing us to partake in drinking from it whenever we desired. To my knowledge, no one knew of our little habit, and if they did they didn’t care.
The small town we lived in, was aptly named Oklahoma by the Sea, despite the fact it was in California. It was a town of only a few thousand, where everyone knew everyone else, and a rather odd backwoods country vibe prevailed. It also happened to be a part of what is termed, The Emerald Triangle, a three-county region of rampant marijuana growth. At any given time, one could be speaking to a toothless hillbilly, or to a wannabe sixties throwback, wearing dreads, reeking of patchouli, and offering psychedelic mushrooms for “way cheap man”. It was a special place indeed, a place separated from modern day, and held in some sort of rift in the time/space continuum. High school kids, still went “cruising” on Friday nights, and the police turned a blind eye when they got a tad tipsy. A weekend didn’t pass when there was not a bonfire on the beach, filled with a bunch of drunk football players and cheerleaders. Such was life in small town America, in a time when digital technologies were but a distant dream. We had nothing else to do but shotgun budget beer.
Wednesday nights were party nights at our house. The local Indian casino held bingo tournaments on Wednesday evenings, that ran late into the night, and our grandparents were loyal regulars. Give two teenage girls access to the liquor cabinet, and an adult free house, and they will surely make the best of it. Brooke and I were famous for our Wednesday parties, which hosted mostly boys. We had a very few close girlfriends, but for the most part girls didn’t much care for us. Girls were mean back then, and jealous, and catty. Boys were easier to get along with, and made better drinking buddies. I suppose on that level, not much has changed in the last twenty years. In any case, on Wednesday nights the beers were flowing easily down our gullets and the hot tub was open for business. We had a good run of it, until spring when my grandma started her gardening. Being the ever clever girls we were, we disposed of our empty beer cans just over the fence in our backyard. Looking back, the pile was really quite impressive. Unfortunately for us, our grandparents saw it a little differently.
I suppose we got off easy, with a month of grounding, but I was never one for confrontation, in fact I avoid it like the plague. In my great wisdom I decided I couldn’t face the shame of being uncovered, or the punishment handed down. Within a week, I was back in Oregon, with my mom, six weeks from graduating high school, and ready to move on with my “adult” life. It’s comical how far I actually was from being an adult. I was engaged to a 23 year-old man-child, who had proposed while I was hiding in the bedroom of his mother’s house, where he still lived. I remember having the very clear thought that I had better say yes, else no one was liable to ever ask again. My self-esteem was in the shitter. I used alcohol and avoidance as coping mechanisms, and I became really good at pretending to be confident. I petitioned my high school - now the fourth change of schools in four years - to allow me to skip the graduation ceremony. I would graduate, but I was not going to walk across the stage. I was afraid there’d be no applause upon my name being called, and I’d be mortified. (Again, self-esteem in the shitter.) It was a very grown up thing to do. The school granted my request, and I picked up my diploma from the office on the last day of school. On the night of the graduation ceremony, I sat at home on the back patio of my mom’s apartment drinking wine coolers with my fiance, whom my mother had bought a greyhound bus ticket for a week after I had come back home.
Now, I am of the belief that if the past changes, so then does the future. I am largely in love with my present life, the one my former self would be ashamed of. If given the opportunity, I would not go back and rearrange one historic moment gone by, for fear of missing such a magical future. I do, however, at times wonder why in the world no one grabbed me by my pretty little face, squeezed my cheeks between their hands and asked me what the hell I was doing, before slapping me silly. Not that I would have listened, or it would have mattered, but it was probably needed nonetheless. Instead of getting my ass kicked, I was handed the keys to my own apartment at 17, where I could get on with adulthood. It has occurred to me that perhaps everyone else was aware life would do the ass kicking itself, and I would eventually end up right where I needed to be. It’s a big chance to take, but I suppose it paid off.
For the Love of God, Let me Sleep!
Sleep illudes this fragile shell,
I toss and turn in a slow torment
silent utterances begging for rest,
followed by infuriated groans,
until finally the sheath is cracked,
and there is nothing keeping me in,
no rest to be had for the unglued,
nay or joyful waking,
nor peaceful company kept,
for nights long bereft of sleep,
make a dreadful being.
Eight Dollars A Hit
I used to talk shit about cosmetic surgery,
but I've since reconsidered,
my friend hosted a Botox party,
sipping wine and standing in line,
of course I could not attend,
I need to buy toilet paper and eggs instead,
besides if I’d showed up in my lounge wear,
my chosen daily attire,
their Gucci purses would have rallied against me,
and pushed me out the door,
back to where I’d come from.