There’s a photo of me floating around the 9th Lair of Hell of The Internet like a crunched autumn leaf molding under a welcome mat. Too weak to have dug a hole for myself, I’m sprawled out on my parent’s front lawn, arms outstretched like a crucifix too heavy for them to stand up. It was taken at the tail end of my 48-hour bender that ended when I got to their front door, three hours late for Thanksgiving, 2012. I remember swaying upon pleasantries, then deciding to remove myself before anyone else could.
So as the sun went down, so did I.
I often drank myself blind around that time; first, in order to steal back the time my hectic retail job stole from me. Then, to obscenely enduring excess, I would make that time I had re-claimed disappear so they could never steal it back from the confines of my wet brain. This was most prevalent around the holidays; when the inhuman hustle of the job would ramp up, so would my “reclamations.” Without fail, I’d stay up all night on the eve of these familial obligations. “My holiday begins now,” I would utter the night before, flinging myself into another drunken dimension with whoever was able to keep up with me.
But here comes the son, hands shaking on his steering wheel the next morning, over-brimming with paranoia that the whole world has his number and his time is up, an hour drive taking two because he has to keep pulling over to puke, craving the nostalgic warmth of home and hearth to absolve this ghettoized state of mind. To revisit a time that at this very moment, he’s not sure ever existed.
I think this was the first year they stopped asking me how I was and what I had been up to because my face was a billboard for a phantom rehabilitation center they couldn’t afford; they could see very clearly how I was and what I had been up to.
Now their hands are shaking as they sit down the heavy dishes on the table, their preparations acquiring my discord. I can hear the clumsy clinking of plates and silverware and it threatens to shatter me completely. A taste of my own medicine, yet not the kind I crave. I see an open bottle of red and pour the whole neck of it down my throat.
“I think I should lay down,” I said. Though I didn’t tell anybody where.
I fell into a dreamless sleep, now properly reclaiming all of that time.
I awoke to darkness. Night had fallen. I knew exactly where I was from the wet grass on the exposed small of my back.
I heard them giggling. Instead of giving thanks, I had given them the gift of brazen liability; so in turn, they could know how it feels to be culpable.
“Oh my God! He’s still out there?”
Gabriel Hart lives in Morongo Valley in California’s High Desert. His desert-noir novelette A Return To Spring is out now Mannison Press. He’s also the author of the dipso-surrealist twin novel Virgins In Reverse / The Intrusion (Traveling Shoes Press). Other works have appeared in Pulp Modern, Shotgun Honey, ExPat Press, Bristol Noir, Black Hare Press (Australia), and Crime Poetry Weekly. He is a regular contributor to Lit Reactor, EconoClash Review, Space Cowboy’s Simultaneous Times podcast, as well as L.A. Record, a Los Angeles underground music publication. Hart also taught the writing workshop for Mil-Tree, a non-profit reach out program for Vets and Active Duty Military to heal the wounds of war.