From What We Can Tell

I don’t really know how I figured it out that my mom was being unfaithful. It was that sensation, like when you know you’re in your own house in a dream even though nothing in it is yours or recognizable; it was like that. I don’t know if Dad knew first or if I did; all I know is that I realized he knew too when he joined me on the porch with a bottle of rum. My brother Ryan was at his girlfriend’s house, and I realized I was alone with my dad for the first time in a while. It wasn’t like my father to drink, especially straight from the bottle – Mom would’ve killed us both to see us there, taking turns chugging from the crusted rim of the Captain’s bottle – and I knew I was crossing the threshold into some place from which I could never return.

“Where’s mom?” I asked. I politely waved off his first offer of the bottle, cautious and waiting for him to offer again so I could accept.

“Yo-ga,” he said, drawing out the second syllable as though he was still deciding if it was true. We both knew it wasn’t, and I took the bottle this time, mimicking his swig and being careful not to drink much more than he had. I knew he was off somewhere else in his head, but drinking on the porch with your dad is a sign of something, and I wanted to treasure it.

It’s not that my mom is fat; she’s a hefty woman, but most women where I’m from tend to be. They see it as some earned right after having and raising a few children. So when she announced that she was going to start attending yoga classes at the YWCA in town, my brother and I can’t be blamed for snickering. My dad popped Ryan on the back of the head.

I defended us. “No, nothing against you, mom, but isn’t that new age stuff for hippies?”

Ryan snickered again.

My mom smiled at me a smile that shut me right up. It wasn’t an ill smile, or the smile she used to get when she’d grit her teeth and say, “You just wait ’til your daddy gets home.” Maybe it was the smile’s foreignness that stopped my mouthing off, who knows. Something about it made her look like she wasn’t my mom, like she didn’t recognize me or herself as the woman that I was addressing.

I took another swig of rum.

“What are we having for dinner?” I asked even though I wasn’t hungry.

“Hell, I don’t know,” he said. I looked up at him as I handed him back the bottle and feared what he would say next. “Probably just make us some sandwiches,” was all he said though.


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