He comes home stumbling, pants soaked through with piss. This time he doesn’t have a woman with him. This time he throws up on the grass and not the cement steps.
Inky dawn is a place. It’s where I first learned to pray. Face down in the dirt over men who penciled me into boxes that I didn’t want to understand.
Tracy’s father left me when I was six weeks pregnant. I remember the red rings around his defeated twenty three year old heart and the words he couldn’t say.
Simon told me that he’d help me take care of her the way I’d taken care of him since we were kids.
Family before everything.
Depends on the circumstance.
Tracy tip toes past Simon’s bedroom. I know she’s been awake since he retched on the lawn. She has grown up listening for trouble, learning what not to say, what not to notice out loud.
When she was three, she started to fight sleep like it was her enemy. She wanted to wait up for her uncle. She wanted to hear stories of Simon’s adventures.
Less than ten years later and she’s already been caught sipping from the bottles of vodka that Simon hides in the false bottom of his toolbox in the garage.
Like I wasn’t her mother, she had looked me in the eyes and said, “What’s the big deal, Renée?”
My sleep has been restless for years now. I’ve grown comfortable with the way that birds call up the sun before the bees wake to seek our lilac bushes.
These quiet hours. I pray but I cannot hear a response.
Three weeks ago, Simon and I stood shoulder to shoulder at our cousin’s funeral. She had choked on her own vomit. Nobody mentioned this in the eulogies.
On the way home that afternoon, I asked for a sign.
I prayed: Make it clear. Make it big. Make it something I understand.
Tracy turns on the television in the living room downstairs. I know she’s watching a Western on mute.
I’m on my knees. My brother’s breath is unsteady but sure.
I don’t have to look in the mirror to know my eyes are lined with the red, angry gashes of held back grief.
My hand shakes as I reach out to touch his cheek.
“You’ve been in and out of rehab since you were fifteen. I love you. I do. But I don’t think I’m helping you.”
He starts to snore.
“I tried my best to raise you. I know what you’ve been through. I thought you’d quit if I didn’t give up on you.”
I take in a deep breath to stem the sobs that rise in my belly.
“Simon, for the longest time I felt like it was my fault. But I give and give and you don’t get anything.”
I look away. A nick in the baseboard begins to blur.
“There’s a job waiting for me in Seattle. I can’t stay here anymore.”