I smelt the alcohol and smoke reek off him. It was in his hair, his clothes and in his mouth. His tie was pulled down and hung like a limp noose below his neck, the top button missing from his shirt. He took of his jacket, revealing sweat stains under his arms and a spill on his belly. He coughed 3 times and sat down hard on the center of the couch. It was going to be a long night. ”Honey, I want’a beer. Grab me one, will ya’ ?”
I walked into the kitchen, stopped myself running and took a longneck out of the icebox. I felt the scar, a long livid streak along the hair line of my forehead. It was still blood red and tender as a mouth. I opened the bottle and poured it into a plastic mug. I hoped he hadn’t noticed I hadn’t given him a bottle, a weapon. I hoped he hadn’t tasted the Rohypnol. As I walked into the room, I splashed some beer onto the once brown, now gray carpet.
”Careful there, that stuff ain’t free.” He laughed to himself, then slapped his hand onto the couch next to him. Dust rose like a firebomb. ”Sit down, honey, take the weight off your corns.”
I handed him the beer and his eyes narrowed as he smiled to himself. He grabbed my wrist and pulled me down onto the couch. I landed half on his lap, knocking beer over him and myself. ”God- dammit, why the hell is everyone spilling beer on me tonight?”
He took a long draft and muttered something.
”I’m sorry baby”, I stammered, looking around the room, my eyes sliding over the green patterned wall- paper we said we’d replace but don’t notice anymore, and onto the scuffed door of the bathroom. It had a lock, I could hide in there. If I made it that far. Hopefully the door would hold. Hopefully the neighbours would hear my screams and call the police. Hopefully they’d come. ”I didn’t mean to, you surprised me is all.”
I jumped again when his hand rested gently on my thigh, rubbing it slowly pulling up the nylon hem of my skirt. ”So it was my fault? Don’t worry, I’ll make it up to you.” He laughed to himself, that wheezing crap laugh that made him cough smoke into my hair three times. He finished his beer. His brass belt buckle unfastened. ”Don’t worry about it at all.”
Later, as he slept on the couch his mouth open, his trousers round his knees, I poured 3 bottles of brandy on him and on the couch. I turned on the gas and put a cigarette in his mouth and a lighter in his hand. I straitened myself up as best I could and wet iodine on the big carpet burn on my shin, grabbed the bag I’d packed that afternoon and left for my sisters place on 53rd street. That morning I got a call from the fire dept.
I lit 3 candles in St Mary’s of the Mercy. I loved him. My brutal bartender. My leather tongued brother.