My old man
I breathe deep smoke that isn’t my own, coughing my lungs out before I escape to the porch.
I live with a man I’ve hated all my life and can’t escape, and now contemplate murdering him in his sleep.
Who would miss an old drunkard like him, I wonder, and then go outside, to sit, watch the rain and the puddles thick with mud.
I would sleep out here except for the thought I won’t be put out of my own home, as small as it is, and cold as it gets.
I won’t kill him either because he’s kin.
After all, he never actually beat me when I was a kid, he just acted like he might, driving me crazy with fear, although I hated his lectures most about how I ought to shape up or ship out.
Now I lecture him – and he’s so numb from the booze and pills to cure the tremors, nothing I saw gets through.
I hate that more than anything: the idea I have become what he was, and that sends me off to the local strip club to stare at snatch I can’t get, and drink away too many memories I’m stuck with.
I go home as he used to, staggering just enough to be clumsy, always dropping the keys as I feel for the right key to unlock the door, having him wake with a start to ask “who is that?” and hearing the fear in his voice from that one time when that one person burst in when he was dead drunk to beat the shit out of him for having sex with that man’s wife.
No one messed with him when he was right – except for me, and I only gave him hard stares when I worked with him – he telling me he has to go off with the lady of the house to discuss business elsewhere and that I should keep working until he gets back, and – always pausing before he leaves – whispering at me not to tell mom about it because she wouldn’t understand.
He smoked then, too, and I hated it then, too, the pack of Winston always half empty on his dashboard, the long ash always dangling from his lip.
The years have turned his two fingers brown from clutching burning cigarettes.
Now, it is all he does, sitting on the side of his bed, spewing smoke the way he used to spew cures – his words lost in each billow, and his blood shot stare seeking some space beyond the clouds only he can see.
Even from the porch, with the rain, I heard his heavy breathing, his slow dying I cannot and will not stop, the suck on his cigarette, the cough when the smoke expires, the miserable life he leads now that mom and the other women ceased needing him.
Sometimes – even though I don’t smoke – I suck in the air he breathes out, feeling the sting of his smoke inside of me, feeling his pain and despair with each breath – me, needing to take in something of him before he vanishes, knowing how much I will miss him when he is gone.