He wants a drink. A fucking drink. A fucking glass of vodka. He asks me what I’m drinking. I tell him I am not drinking. He says… I want a fucking vodka cause of the pain. He is hungry in the eyes for a shot. He is ugly in his hunger. There is rage in his voice, because he is so thirsty for the drink. Even violence in the question. He wants a fucking drink, he says. He wants it for the fact that he no longer has any legs he says. and because of the fucking pain. Or because he is dying. Or because he is dying and the pain is too much and he now calls himself a cripple… Maybe because of all of this, he wants a drink. Thirty minutes ago a sponsee of his was just in the room talking about how many people dad saved from addiction. As dad waved to the ghosts, she teared up and said that my father is a great man and that he saved more people than she can count. In a sudden moment of clarity that lasted no more than five minutes, he told her about one of his sponsees who is still drinking and also using crack. Dad says that the lost sponsee is deep in the grim or grit or something that starts with a G that the lady sitting next to him knows about, a state of being that all AA people must know about that maybe has something to do with addiction and pain and loss and sadness. I am not sure what the word is because of dad’s voice which is different than it was when he was not dying. Now many of his words no longer sound like English words, but more like the words of a foreigner who once lived in the States, who has been away too long and no longer remembers how to pronounce certain words that he used to say with ease when talking to his American neighbors in this American world. I want a fucking vodka, he yells out again. The English language still intact enough for that. He looks like he would hit me for a drink. And a part of me wants him to fucking try. I know he is delirious and that he is not himself and yet, most of my body and my mind are not on the same page with this. My mind is reasonable about his condition and maybe even sympathetic, but the rest of my body is heated and fucking pissed. There is something in my my bones, my organs, my senses, that remembers something my mind refuses to see. There is a visceral reaction in my limbs that is screaming at me to knock some sense into him or to just run the fuck away. I want a fucking drink, he says…. I look around me to see if I am really alone for this. Is everyone really gone but me? Did his sponsee just leave an hour ago and leave me in this hell? Is my aunt at home sleeping while this man is begging me for a drink? And what is this shit I am feeling as he screams… Give me a fucking drink? Did he scream this in a house I lived in once when I was just a baby in Jamaica? Is this the addict my mother left almost half a century ago? Is there some embedded memory that still holds power over me that just needed a trigger like this to set me off? GIVE ME A FUCKING DRINK….. My dad who has been sober for over twenty years and has helped others to become clean and stay clean, my dad who once showed me a back full of holes and told me that there is nothing worse in life than losing oneself to an addiction, looks like he wants to shake or beat or shame a drink out of me. I run. I tell the nurse that I will be back tomorrow.. Maybe. I tell dad that I have to get back to Queens and even when he begs me to stay, telling me that he does not want me to leave until he recognizes where he is at, I still walk away from his room and head to the elevator. I do first try to orient him to his surroundings before I leave, but in the end, I still leave. He looks at me with such hate as I walk away, a hate that at the moment, if I was a different person, I could return to him in kind. How not to hate back at such an insane moment? There would be a million reasons to justify this hate, and yet, this hatred is not for my dad as much as it is for this addiction that still exists below the surface of his sobriety and comes to the light again as he is just about to die.
Once I am outside and I can breathe again, I try to forget his voice as he yelled at me in the room. But even when I go to sleep that night, I still hear him in my head… I want a fucking drink! Give me a fucking drink! Give it to me now!
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