There is a single dark rain cloud in the sky. The sky is gray, but it could be black. Who knows. My own dark black rain cloud hovers over my head.
I watch the students cross the street, peeling off into different directions. Some chat with their circle of friends, aka their “plastics” or “wolfpack” (usually no more than a trio). Others down the last drops of coffee from their thermos’; the local cafes and shops must be too expensive or out of their league. There are a few eating, but most are guys; why is it that society puts this pressure on us girls to not eat in public or really at all?
Two girls squealing with delight grasp my attention. I shift in the driver’s seat of my Toyota Corolla and watch the blonde bimbo run all the way up into the redhead’s arms. Best friends, probably? Most definitely; but not the sort of friends from high school because, sometimes, those are the people who only drag you down. Hurt you.
I catch my fingers rubbing my wrist and, immediately, peer away from the passenger window, away from the girls. I lean back in the driver’s seat and catch my breath. Something thickens, starting at the back of my throat, stinging up my eyes. No tears, not a sign of them at all. Good.
I finally take a peek and through the windshield, I see two proud sorority sisters hanging up a banner across the nearby bench, adjacent from the outdoor parking structure, where I sit like the others who don’t want to go to what awaits them in the seven different class buildings. Unless, there is more; to be honest I wouldn’t know, because today is Friday which makes it my fifth day of college. Woot. Woot…
Freshman year: repeating and reliving high school all over again.
It’s stupid. That sign is dumb. That banner holds my attention—I eyeing it and it eyeing me. Who the hell comes up with this bullshit? “Welcome back! Freshmen, over here!”
School is stupid.
College can suck it.
Welcome to hell.
More cars pull into spots. Students head off into different buildings, some with a school map and schedule in their hands. Yay! More anxious and scared “fresh meat.”
I hate that word, “fresh meat.” What if some of us are vegetarians or vegans?!
Okay, bad joke. Real stupid…Really stupid!
It’s just…oh, nevermind. I don’t want to bore anyone with my stupid story.
I mean, we all have a story to tell; some of us are just better at hiding it for different reasons…
I sit up and loosen my grip around the steering wheel. I reach for the key in the ignition, which pauses the latest popstar’s hit on the morning radio. But, instead, my hand stops an inch before the keys. It just…hits me…
My own tidal wave.
I sit up on the red sofa with my cell phone already glued to my ear. Her voice is filled with such sorrow and regrets, as I listen to...everything. I have no choice but to face my own—new—reality: “I’m...I’m so sorry, Nikki,” my aunt says from her crystal clear phone line (I do not miss a word of this). “I did everything I could. Taking him to the meetings...He’s a forty-nine year old man. I can’t be babysitting him. If your dad’s going to drink, it’s his choice. I’m so sorry, baby.”
All I ever remember was dropping my cell phone to the floor, going numb. My hands were so…weak. I just…stared at the light streaking through the window, across from me, and into the room. Most of it poured onto one of the empty Christmas checkered chairs, like some weird twisted sign. My sign was in a voicemail…a FUCKIN’ bullshit voicemail!
Hi, I’m Nicole and I’m not an alcoholic, but my asshole dad is.
Go and ahead and say it: “daddy issues.”
It’s why people never want to address the truth or the big gray elephant in the room (or white or black—not trying to be racist here). Okay, now that one was bad, so shitty and low of me. I don’t know…lately things are just…It’s complicated.
Life is complicated; let alone the second to last year of being a teenager is complicated. This is my reality, no matter how many times I go to bed, thinking that things will get better or how this is all one big nightmare…
It’s not or never will be. Fred Kruger is out to play.
Hey! That one rhymed.
Reality…Real Egotistic Assholes Living In Their Yuck.
Okay, I was trying to be creative with that one, like the one about F.EA.R. (False Evidence Appearing Real). Yay? Nay? I don’t know, I like that one; makes sense, how we are all our worst critic and enemy.
Oooo…I love this song.
My fingers find the scrolling button and give it a twist to the right, so the volume is louder than bombs. “Electric Indigo” by the Paper Kites is da shit! I love it; ever since I heard it on one of those music podcasts. The hosts are two actors who have a real nab with music, always discovering the latest bands and giving them shout outs on Facebook or Twitter. It’s pretty cool too—this one time (at band camp LOL) the two actors had some news and oh man! I was just sitting at the edge of my seat asking my radio, “What? What?!” Fun fact: so, the social media sphere is a way to…drum roll please…get in touch with da celebrities.
I tried it once—tweeting, but it was never my thing. Maybe, one day it will. I’m a film student, and in the words of one honest man, “Don’t go. Put that forty grand elsewhere,” is quite depressing. For starters, I couldn’t get into any of the film classes because they’re only open to the upperclassmen, aka the juniors and seniors. It has come to my knowledge that most college students put off the important classes until last minute/semester.
I don’t blame them. Who wants to deal with the bullshit? I, foremost, DON’T!
And YES…that one was towards the elephant in the room/my car: dad.
Jesus, I wish I didn’t have to think about it. Ugh, the worst are the times I see things that remind me of him. The obvious: alcohol. The sight and smell of it! God, I don’t know why it’s so difficult to be around it—I mean, I’m no virgin in the alcohol department. I’ve tried it all—you name it. A few times, I also got so trashed and passed out…
There was one bad night too. It was only moments…only a week or so after dad went into rehab for detox, because his priorities were not straight enough. They were a crooked arrow because, from what I understand, he was still leeching back and forth to what they tell you to avoid in AA meetings: bars and other alcoholics, including friends…who drink.
This one time, I got a phone call from my dad and he sounded quite…off. He wasn’t slurring his words or anything, like he usually does when drinking…fuckin’ drunk asshole.
Sorry, I tend to do that a lot lately—the sidetracking and the wishful list of wanting to kill him at times. I know, how fucked up because he’s my dad and I only get one father and blah blah blah save that for your preaching days. Yes, I believe in God. NO, I haven’t gone to church for a bit—but for the love of G-O-D-, PLEASE don’t throw that bible thumping shit at me. Damn it, there go the Christians (sorry, but not sorry…just a few relatives *hint, I’m rolling my eyes at this* throw around the G-O-D card, yet they’re the biggest two timing idiots in life!).
I shouldn’t name drop, but…
I swear…I’ll do it one day and tell these “Christian” relatives of mine how I find [fill in celebrity name] as a God because they are MY GOD!
I actually feel better…ish. Something about having a drunk dad and a mom who turns her cheek to it (avoiding the elephant) brings out this sick, twisted humor in me. I DO agree with my cousin on that: “You gotta laugh at it (the family bullshit) otherwise you’ll be one miserable fuck.”
My cousin is usually the one who cracks the jokes, whenever I stop by to see her, my aunt, uncle, and grandpa. Gramps is still kicking it at…eighty years old. He was in the Philippines during World War Two and oh! This one time (LOL) he said, “Nikki! Go to my room, open the closet and you’ll find a sword.”
Yes, bring it.
So, I did. It was a rusty—no longer—gray piece of metal. My grandpa held onto the sword, smiling to himself, proud as he told me the story of December 7th, 1941. That morning, he woke up to the sound of gunshots and yelling and screaming from the women. I’d assumed he meant prostitutes, because he slipped about my dad and his sisters (who are another story) possibly having other half-siblings somewhere in the Philippines.
Sorry, but hey it was the forties and all there ever was booze and women. This one time—
He stole the sword from one of the enemies (that was NOT what my grandpa had called him, because he’s old school/racist, so it’s no surprise that grandparents, well, think of certain ethnicities in a fucked up way). I mean, my grandpa is Spanish and he had a shitfest, according to some relatives of mine, about changing the “s” of his last name (my last name because of dad) to “z” since, in his words, “Fuck the Puerto Ricans! We’re no goddamn Puerto Ricans! I rather be a Mexican than anyone think that I’m a goddamn Puerto Rican!”
Oh…grandparents. Gotta love them racist grandparents.
I saw the gray of light in my grandpa’s eyes, as he slid the sword back into its sleeve: not the good kind of look, because this was World War Two. Gramps lost a lot of his own men…brothers. He was one of the last survivors…
My grandpa passed away in April of this year. Everyone saw it coming. In fact, growing up, all I ever heard was, “Nash! That old motherfucker is still kickin’ it—”
Oh, nothing. It’s just that your grandpa was one mean son of a bitch!
Oh, nothing, mija.
I hope you can tell how sarcastic I’m being at times; it’s harder to show, rather than think about it. Fast forward to…now, I came to discover—note, scratch that, it was poured on me that “asshole” meant the cold fucked up truth of my grandpa: he loved his drinks too…a lot of it too…bourbon; whisky; beer…and making sure that he got his way no matter what.
I let the air out of my chest. My fingers tighten around the steering wheel. My nails pick at the gripping and I can already feel the speed bumps around it. Fuck, I don’t have any money to fix that. I don’t have a “job” per say, you know the minimum wage sort of thing. Bullshit eight bucks an hour…
Society is stupid. It amazes me how critical and judgmental people can get with…life. God…from the way we look to the clothes on our back. Sorrryyyy for not looking and acting a certain way! And for fucks sakes’, one is not “emo/goth” for wearing black all of the time or having colored strips of hair. I hate that stigma; it’s why people are truly afraid to show who they are because of fuckin’ stigmas. No, wait—scratch that, because of assholes.
Assholes like my dad.
Assholes like my family.
Assholes who call “people like me”:
I’m not suicidal; trust me, I want to be alive. From the time I was a kid, I always used to fantasize how my life would be a certain way by the time I was a certain age. For starters: finish my novel and get it published by the time college rolls around…nope; get Alex to ask me out by the time high school graduation rolls on by…yeah, nope; or how about…enjoy your life, regardless what asshole(s) tries to ruin it…
I’m not unhappy or anything. Just…frustrated. I just can’t connect the dots with what went wrong, or if there was something that I could’ve done. Something that could’ve stopped my dad from picking up the bottle and can.
I know it’s not my fault. Trust me, save the preachin’ for others because I cannot say how many motherfuckin’ times I’ve heard how it wasn’t or never was my fault, or there was nothing that I could’ve done because according to my cousin, “Your dad was going to drink anyhow and even if you knew about it, he still would’ve found a way to do so.”
Dad loves alcohol more than me…his own child.
My cousin tells me to start crying in front of others because of what had happened over the summer with dad’s relapse. Oh! Check this out; you’d think my dad’s first stay in rehab would’ve felt guilt-ridden enough because of the whole, “But George, don’t you want to see your daughter again? Don’t you want to be at her wedding, George? George, don’t you want be there for your future grandkids?”
Like I’ll ever get married and have kids! I already have enough on my plate and mind and don’t need a man to make me, as mother puts it, “happy.” Jesus…I’ve got issues, but whatever. Anyone who says they’re happy is full of crap! No one is ever happy because we’re all trying to push forward to achieve something and for me, it’s always come down to the writing. That’s right, little Nikki with “issues” wants to write for a living. I know, my mother still tries to convince me to become a doctor or nurse, “But Nikki, don’t you want to make money?”
No, no I don’t. I love being poor. I love the fact that I have to ask for gas money to get to school. I love the fact that I am still under dad’s fuckin’ HEALTH PLAN!
I can’t do this…I gotta…
I turn the key and the car roars to life. Then, it just takes over me again. “No, no, no,” I mutter to myself, but it is already too late again…
Until, my cell phone buzzes and buzzes. I only stare at those flashing letters on my phone screen—DAD.
My mouth drops open. My eyes sting. Everything becomes a bit hazy. Not here. Not now. Fuck…
It all just surges from the back to the front of my mind, “Row/Row/Row your boat/Gently down the stream/Merrily/Merrily/Merrily/Life…is but a dream.”
About the author: Natalie Rodriguez is a writer and filmmaker from Southern, CA. In 2014, she graduated with her B.A. in TV-Film from CSUF. Her work has been featured on Amazon Books, “Dime Show Review: Volume 1, Issue 1 – ‘Apricots,’ Tribe section;” Zooey Deschanel's HelloGiggles; A-1 Home Care; All Day Media; AXS; Blasting News; Defeat the Stigma Project; Dime Show Review; Factual Facts; Fictional Cafe; FlockU; Girls Soccer Network; Hamline Lit Link; MCXV; Millennials 365; Ranker; Render Media ("Opposing Views" & "This is Now"); Scriggler; Short Kid Stories; TheGamer; The Huffington Post; TheRichest; Thought Catalog; WeekendNotes; Winamop Poetry; and Writer's Weekly.
Some upcoming publications include a horror story, “Inner Child,” on The Stray Branch this month; a reprint of “Stop the SHAME” on EndPain; and an additional reprint of her personal essay on the passing of a loved one, “The Impact of Grief, After the Loss of a Loved One,” on Longridge Review.