My father came home from work, clunking about the house, depressed like any other day but he kept it to himself. It made no difference how hard he worked, there would never be enough overtime to get ahead, there was just no way to earn all the money he needed to solve his problems. He thought money would fix his life and his marriage, but we know money doesn’t fix everything. On most days he would arrive home at the same time, unless there was overtime but his company was not approving any extra hours. Sometimes my mother was home eating pills and sometimes she was out at other places eating pills. Prescription or not, she got her medicine.
Things that were normal in my household were not the norm in others. It wasn’t uncommon for my mother to be gone for a few days. She was liable to disappear from time to time. An occurrence that we lived with but rarely spoke about, and when we did we talked around it. It’s not terribly difficult to lie and tell people your mother is visiting family or a friend, most people don’t ask, and the others simply know the truth and leave it alone. The truth was we never really knew exactly where she was off to. When she would return, it was often quietly in the morning hours, like a cat burglar sneaking into bed, with the covers over her entire body. My father would never interrogate her. He would never question my mother about her whereabouts or actions. I supposed he was just happy she came back to him. It struck me as incredibly weak and foolish but it would hurt him more to hear the answers, to hear the truth said aloud was the sharpest dagger into the heart. Don’t we always know the truth deep down within ourselves? The sadist in me wants to hear the answers to those questions we shouldn’t ask. I want to hear the truth, I want the hurt.
You might know deep in the center of your palpitating heart that your significant other is detrimental, that he or she has bedded another, but most either don’t want to know, or they consciously ignore it. I want confirmation. I want the confession that rips you apart and makes you feel nauseous and utterly worthless. After that day, my father was only able to feel worthless, nothing else. That was how he hurt. I channeled my pain in a different direction.
My father always let the door slam after he entered the house, he’d walk around in dirty boots, the floorboards creaking like in a Poe story, searching eagerly for a kiss from my mother. I faulted my father for his unwavering devotion to my mother. Then he’d shower and come out dressed in jeans and shirtless. He’d pound a pot or two of coffee. He only drank on weekends then. My father had his routine. A regiment of comfortability, all the while he worried and stressed about our lives. He traded the coffee for whiskey as the times got harder to deal with. The couches stayed the same.
Maybe one of the things my mother disliked was his predictability. The same predictability enabled her unfavorable tendencies. She knew she could do no wrong. She could get away with murder with my father because he loved her to no end. She would push and push and he accepted everything out of love, it knew no boundaries, there was nothing my father wouldn’t forgive to keep her in his life.
I felt animosity for my father for how much he loved my mother. How fucked is that?
My father didn’t care about the Mets anymore, so we didn’t talk about baseball. My father didn’t talk to me about girls or ask what was going between Maeve and myself. He didn’t ask me about school or SAT’s or later on, bridges. We didn’t talk about anything really. He talked little and only about two things: the weather and films. Even our discussions on movies were terse. There was no longer any in depth analysis or wordy critiques of style or influences. To him a movie was either good or bad. He liked or didn’t like an actor or actress. No reasons were given. Not that he was biggest talker beforehand but after she left, he was almost entirely shut down.
Peter Cushing, our beloved proprietor, boarded a train in Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors. A fortune teller who reveals the future for his fellow passengers, unveiling the terrible fate that awaited them. The twist is they had unknowingly avoided those foretold prophecies due to the fact they were already deceased. Their fate was sealed, as death is the outcome for all of us, only for them boarding that train was the end. They would not make their intended destination. Peter Cushing was death the whole time, toying with them, his sole purpose was to take them. Peter Cushing is all around us, all the time, waiting to introduce himself and shut our eyes. Peter Cushing was death the entire fucking time and odds are, you already boarded that train. It’s like that.
My father said, Hey Colm.
“Hey Pop.” Tap the card three times, Dad. I was the teller of misfortune. The bird of ill omen. A hundred pound grim reaper. I was Peter Cushing.
“Do you know where your mother is?”
I said, she’s gone. She’s gone for good, pop. She’s not coming back.
He shook his head in agreement, but I didn’t know exactly what he was agreeing to. “Don’t pay her any mind. She likes to talk. She’ll be back. We’ll give her her space and in a few days everything will be back to normal.”
“If you say so.”
“I’m going to call it a night. Okay, bud? If you need me I’ll be in my room.” My father didn’t change out of his work clothes. He didn’t even take off his boots. He shut the door to their room, and he laid on top of the covers like a vampire, staying there all night. No television. No horror movies. No pots of coffee. Not a touch of the drink. In the morning I left for school and his door never opened, and he didn’t make it to work. He hoped she would be home in the morning. She wasn’t. The day after, nothing changed, and she still hadn’t returned to him. She had never been gone for more than a week, so when the weeks started to pile up, my father sank deeper into an abysmal state of depression. I supposed all three of us had depression ingrained into us.
I’ve managed a lion’s share of obsessions. I’ve been infatuated with girls, graffiti, music and bridges. I’ve often thought about origins and beginnings. Blood lines. Creation. It gave insight and answers. How did things come about? If my ancestors came from Ireland, where were they before that? How were their lives? How similar were our traits? Were they depressed, fist fighting drunkards prone to bad decision making? How well we played to our stereotypes. Did they have tired hazel eyes like me? Did they have scars across their knuckles? Did they walk like me? Did they bring their hands up to their faces when they laughed as I did? I was curious as to whether they also felt trapped in a state of uncomfortable awkwardness and systemic unease.
Most beginnings tend to be nice, I say most because deep down I loathe any generalizations of any kind, I couldn’t say all things start with nice and lovely beginnings, some do but only because it has yet to be corrupted. The focus shifts as you settle in, you start to see beyond all the wonder and the potential, the story arcs and ultimately it ends. Endings are even tougher not to generalize. Endings mostly bring heartache and grief. If I was a betting man which I’m not, I’d say a small fraction of all endings are happy. How few and far between are the happily ever afters? You can only hope a lesson lies somewhere amidst all the pain and sleeplessness. My mother thought there was more to life and was only disappointed in her role as wife and mother. My father was full of strength and love and when he lost her he lost everything. She had abandoned him and in turn abandoned me, collateral damage, she did give me an option in her defense. There is not always a right choice. You’re not always choosing between right and wrong, but really just looking for which direction makes you feel less miserable, knowing both choices are awful.
Perfection is impossible, a non issue. That is one generalization I’ll forgive myself for. My parents’ love had run its course, like the majority of things in this dreadful place. My parent’s love for each other, their promises to one another, their union had become obsolete. It served no purpose. The love they shared asphyxiated, gasping for over a decade before a final and humiliating death. Peter Cushing came and took it. Peter Cushing came for everything, eventually. Nothing, not a single thing can exist forever. Cassette tapes. Whole civilizations. Vinyl, vinyl might come back. Ozzy. These can live on in the hearts of the purists, but it would never be what it was, no matter how dedicated you are to keeping the memory alive. The time has gone.
My father held vigils for his long lost wife. Little sad rituals in remembrance. Lit candles flickered a golden brown sheen cutting through the whiskey glasses and the melting ice cubes that bobbed inside it. Scented and unscented candles would burn for days, long after my father passed out. An unattended candle was a massive pet peeve for mother, so maybe my father was just being spiteful. She would scold him for that kind of shit. She would say that you have to blow out the candles or you’ll burn the fucking house down. Was that what he subconsciously wanted? Burn Whitestone, burn. The candles might’ve been beacons for my mother to find her way back through the fog.
My father had two bits of advice, “Don’t get married” and “You’re only as good as your last deed.” They were his half truths. Planted in front of the television he drank it away. As he tied knots that were intended for his own neck, he was there but not really. It crossed my mind but I didn’t think he had it in him to commit suicide. The option was never off the table. What was he holding on for? The only reason to live was her. Nothing about life mattered to him. Nothing in the sky to gaze about. Nothing in the world to excite him, or to stimulate an interest. Half of the time he watched his movies I doubted they even had his attention. He was stuck in a cold, dark corner in some awful place within himself. My mother had left, but my father was never coming back from wherever he went either.