I haven't drunk alcohol in around 17 years, but I do remember how it goes - and now it's just so much fun to watch Brits self-medicating. Especially at this very special time of year - holly, migraines, in-laws, that bloody partridge up a gum tree, spewing its ring. We work hideously long hours, our weather is getting worse, our savings may be worthless by next Tuesday and our individual debt repayments would each sustain a Latin American state, we are distantly, hopelessly at war, we're tired of God but confused about praying to Dawkins - of course we find it tricky to relax. So we medicate with prescribed medication, we medicate with illegal medication and we chug down a licensed drug that makes the government millions every month. (Lucky coincidence, here - after all, would we ever vote for any of them, if we weren't either mashed or hung over?)
I love this. I'm glad I found it right when I was trying to line up all this stuff in my head. It is Christmas and I have, as recently mentioned, living space issues, I have family issues, and I have, to be specific, other people's alcohol issues. For Christmas I get a special bumper pack of issues tied with a big red ribbon. I am hoping, almost expecting, that this is the last time I will spend Christmas with my father. We don't go to his house - he comes to ours, and he brings his way of life with him (folded up in a suitcase. and he came much sooner than usual, this year, because he is recovering from brain surgery). I hope it's the last time he's ever in the same living space as me, and that's a liberating concept; it means I no longer have to be cold, or cruel, or kind, to this half-infirm old man. He will be in the hands of another soon enough. The success of the surgery has made him happy. I can let that make life easier.
He moved the corkscrew.
The corkscrew lives in the kitchen, because nothing containing alcohol would ever get opened outside the kitchen, unless it's somebody's birthday or the green fairy is here. A corkscrew on the living-room table is bad. It's someone living in a hurtful way, in my house. You know how it is when you can't even stand the smell of someone? When finding their laundry mixed in with yours is just hateful, when you can only feel at home by pretending they're not in your house - preferably by pretending they don't exist?
Alcohol isn't even the most potent part of this mix. It's money. I have seen him drink more money in the last week than I like to spend in a month, on everything. And sometimes money isn't even more potent than symbols. It's a corkscrew, just a corkscrew - a folding one with penknife on the back and a bottle-opening tool on the end. It's not mine. It's like the tin opener or the pastry brush. It's not for getting mashed with and it shouldn't be outside the kitchen drawer.
I've contemplated many improv homicides over the years, with tube lights and pestles and fire, but corkscrew through eyeball has been a favourite mental image since June 2004. The Corkscrew (not the one that lives in the kitchen, the one that lives in my head) looks kinda like this; I've never owned an athame, or particularly wanted to, but if I did.... So my hand starts curling as I walk about the house, imagining horn ridges and a twist of iron that, fortunately, is not there.
And then he said it. Right after I'd got done whining on the phone to the blue person about it all. He'd brought spirits into the house for the first time in a year, literally replacing almost-empty bottles purchased last December; I made some cocoa and added a dash of cointreau, because it was there, commenting that I'd not had any in about three years. And he just said, in the amicable way that many things have been said lately; "I drink too much."
Never happened before, that one. Not outside that couplet, you know the one-
"You drink too much."
"That's your fault - you drive me to it."
-that every kid who ever had an addict in their family knows about. This time, he just said it. (The green one and I got talking a while ago how, in his age group, alcohol abuse is pretty normalised).
I was probably meant to say something kind. Something gentle of the we-love-you-and-want-you-to-get-better type. What I said, and I said it amicably, was was 'Yes, we know, we knew ten years ago, back when we had no one else in the world, but it's different now, we've got our own lives and...' I stopped before the 'and it's not our problem any more, so I. Don't. Care.' Maybe I have a heart after all. Maybe I'm not done untangling 'I care' from 'This is fucking hurtful to me'. Maybe I expect my siblings will be mired in this even after I'm gone - I tend to be the appointed communicator in this failed excuse for a family unit, as she gets too down and he gets too angry when they try to communicate with him. I am half telephone, half human shield. I am the reason she does not have to deal with the reason she's scared of answering the (real) phone. When our father actually asked why the youngest never calls him and does his best to make it impossible for him to be called, I was the one who didn't say 'Why didn't you worry about that five years ago?', and got on with playing intermediary instead.
He said it a couple of days ago, went out to buy more of it yesterday, and nothing more has been said about it.