The empty bottle fell off the table with a crash taking two more with it. Lillian’s hand sluggishly moved to catch it seconds later. She giggled at the futility of her attempt and moved her hand to the puddle of mixed spirits which had been growing on the table in front of her for the past hour and a half. From the puddle wafted a sickening stench which filled Lillian’s entire single bedroom bungalow. It settled on her clothes and on the couch in the living room. It settled in her auburn hair and in the painting of a herd of wild horses hanging from the wall beside her. It settled in her skin and in her small pointed nose and on her naturally pouted lips. It flowed into her dishes and into the dry soil of her many dead plants. It flowed out of her and into her home.
She could barely even remember why she had opened those bottles to begin with but she supposed that was the point. All that came to her now was a feeling of defeat and exhaustion and anger.
It was the kind of anger that came from loss, from being crushed and ground to nothing. It was the kind of anger that one feels after giving everything and being told it was not enough. Lillian felt the anger despite her intoxication: pure, unfocused, and unforgiving. It gave her energy, made her dangerous. She wanted to rip the world around her to pieces, to hurt whoever or whatever made her feel this way. She wanted retribution for whatever wrongs had been done to her. But first Lillian wanted another drink.
She lifted her head and spied an unopened can of beer in front of her. She lifted her hand from the putrid puddle taking a sleeveful of liquid with it. Her clumsy reach knocked the can to the floor and it rolled under the table and further away from her. With a sigh she slid from the chair landing with a thump luckily missing the pieces of broken glass which littered the floor. It took a few minutes for her to fight the motion sickness she experienced before continuing her search. The can was on its side resting against the opposite chair’s leg. On all fours Lillian crawled over to it and grabbed the cool aluminum. Then she stood up forgetting the table above her and banged her head hard against the pine wood.
Lillian cursed and recoiled with shock from the impact rolling herself away from underneath the table and causing more motion sickness in the process but once again managing to avoid the jagged edges of the broken bottle. It was as if her stomach and brain did two extra rolls for every one her body did. Slowly Lillian righted herself and rose, then she dashed to the bathroom barely making it to the toilet before spewing her stomach contents into and onto the porcelain and tile.
Lillian was hunched over the toilet for an hour spilling her guts. Each time the nausea returned and the convulsions began a few more tears rolled down her face. The mess got in her hair and on her clothes and added to the stench of mixed liquors which wafted through her bungalow. Each time she thought she was finished, that the burning pain in her throat could finally be allowed to subside she would smell her home again and be back in front of the bowl. Eventually there were barely any solids leaving her body. No more partially digested pad thai or chicken nuggets. She had given all she had to give and still more was demanded of her. The last few trips to the toilet saw flecks of blood mixed in with the bile.
Exhausted she collapsed against the bathroom wall, a familiar sense of defeat washing over her bringing with it a familiar sense of pain. She receded into herself and let sleep come.
She dreamt she could travel. That time and space were at her command so she could accomplish what was impossible. She dreamt that she did not need that power. She dreamt of his face, usually smiling, now apologetic. He was saying something to make her calm down for she realized now that she had been acting on her fantasy and had been breaking everything related to the source of her fury, everything related to him. He was trying to make her feel better. He was saying that he had made it all better, had corrected his mistakes, had forgiven hers, but she did not care. All that he said was only fueling her fury.
She dreamt that she hit him and that he cowered from her. She screamed and he was silent. He was afraid of her and it made her feel powerful.
Lillian woke up in the bathroom with a headache and a renewed memory. She stumbled to the kitchen and fought back the awful feeling that the smell of her apartment created inside of her. Her phone lay on the counter top blinking brightly as if it were screaming at her. The flashing blue light was made more obnoxious by her blurred and confused vision.
The time on the phone’s screen told her that several hours had passed. The messages which she had received told her more.
They had been looking for her, worrying about her. She had stormed out of the office without saying a word to anybody and with a pained expression on her face. They wanted to know where she was. Was she okay? Did she need somebody to pick her up and take her home? They called her older sister and twin brother. Her brother was calling her now. Lillian waited for the call to go to voice mail then removed her phone’s battery.
The thoughts which had haunted her not so long ago came back with force. It was not fair. Why did it all land on her? The pressure, the failure, the shame. She did not deserve this. She should not have to shoulder this burden alone, especially when there were so many more burdens waiting for her attention. She should not be so alone. She should not be so helpless. She should not feel so useless.
It took Lillian a moment before she realized that a bottle of vodka was in her hand unopened. Her hand was trembling as rapidly as the thoughts flying through her head and she was spilling the alcohol onto the counter. Lillian felt herself spilling as well as her persona was steadily pulled apart more and more at the seams.
She turned her phone back on and took a swig of the drink to calm her nerves. It tasted especially foul as it mixed with the vomit residue in her mouth. With a wince the taste moved to her throat, burning all the way down the fleshy tube. Her hand still trembled.
A call immediately came in. It was her brother again. Lillian hit the answer button and let herself unravel completely.
He never even got a chance to speak before she began blurting out all the things she held inside. She was confessing and accusing and explaining and excusing all at once. Then she paused and there was silence save for her exasperated breathing. Then she resumed but this time with a viciousness that he did not deserve. It was not his fault. He was not the one who she dreamed of attacking, of hurting, of eviscerating. But she could not stop. There was too much she had to release even if she was aiming in the wrong direction. And he was too close to it all to have avoided it anyways.
But god bless him he stayed on the phone. For an entire hour she tore into him, tore him apart, did all she could to break him and he stayed and took it. Lillian screamed herself hoarse and her brother listened to every word. And when that hour was done he did not retaliate. He only said what she needed to hear. He only promised his support. He only asked if there was anything he could do, if she needed him to come to the city, if she wanted to spend some time with him and his wife. She said no. He promised to call back tomorrow.
Limply her hand fell to her side and let slip the phone to the floor. A wave of exhaustion and guilt came over her and crushed what little spirit remained keeping her upright. Her knees weakened and buckled and she crumpled beside the counter and sobbed uncontrollably.
Among the thoughts worming their way through her mind were ones of self-pity and self-loathing. They felt like old ideas, ones which she had extensively explored in the past and found unfavorable but which she could never cast aside. Now they almost exclusively drove the mechanism by which she sought her self-destruction.
Rising once again Lillian surveyed her home. It was a mess. A thick miasma hung in the air from her previous activities. Each surface seemed like it was coated in a sticky film of who-knows-what.
The air was choking her and the walls were holding her. She needed air, she needed to get out.
She quickly used the bathroom then grabbed her keys and a jacket and stumbled into the cold night.
A numb face shielded her from the frigid air. Had she been sober then she would have made a note of the late hour and realized that there would no cars on the road which meant no buses or taxis. She stood at the bus stop for ten minutes before it dawned on her that she would have to walk to wherever it was she was going.
Where was she going? Lillian had only a foggy clue. This was not helped by the fact that her mind was so foggy already. Keeping the thought in her head was like trying to hold onto soap suds in a rainstorm. The only thing harder in her inebriated state was putting one leg in front of the other.
She had been walking for some distance before she noticed the headlights approaching her. She lived on a quiet street which saw little traffic during the daylight hours and now it was the absolute dead of night. The car slowed down as it got nearer. Lillian put her head down and walked faster. She was in no mood to talk and in even less of a mood to be found especially as she was. And it was probably a stranger in the car and Lillian had no idea what he or she wanted and was not interested in finding out. But the car stopped when it got beside her with the window rolled down and a voice from inside which was equal parts relief and fury and exhaustion called to her. Lillian looked over to see the voice’s owner.
It was him.
His face seemed to be surrounded by a halo created from the vehicle’s internal lights. It was faintly wrinkled and sagging in places. There were a few faded scars here and there from a youth long ago turned to memory. Hazel eyes stared at her from beneath a creased brow which was accented with thin, grey, caterpillar-like eyebrows. The crown of his head was wreathed with more long and thin grey hairs. Moreover his face was apologetic; he was pleading for forgiveness without saying a word. He was always apologizing.
Lillian opened the door and sat down beside him. She knew she reeked. She did not care. He asked if she was okay. She did not answer. As he drove he spoke softly, gently, used all the ways he was familiar with to make her feel better but still Lillian remained silent. She could feel her blood boiling inside of her with each word that he uttered. The return of the rage was euphoric; Lillian savored the energy and focus it gave her. For now she would let him talk and then it would be her turn.
They drove for a while through the city. It was clear that he was as unsure of where to go as he was of what to say.
Lillian felt like she was a cobra being handled by an amateur snake charmer. Every muscle and synapse was coiled to strike with the venom she knew filled her.
They turned onto and then off of some side streets and found themselves on the road leading out of town towards the east. The sunrise was just becoming visible in the distance casting a golden glow over the black star filled night.
He was still talking. He was saying something now about how he was worried about her, how she lived in a bad neighborhood, how she associated with reckless people and had bad influences, how she was careless, how she should not have moved out at her age, how she should still be living at home with him, how she drank too much…
Then he stopped talking and she laid into him with everything that she had been saving for the past six months since the last time they spoke and fought. It was his fault. And that stupid woman’s. And all the things which she had, all the good things, they had been taken from her because of him. It was all his fault. She wanted things to go back the way they were but they could not. She wanted her old life back. She wanted her mother. She wanted her brother and sister. She wanted her father. She hated him. He was the reason she was like this, why she lived how she did and where she did. She was crying again, just like when she was a girl and they were happy. It was his influence that made her this way. He had been there for her then, when she was seven and had broken her arm. And when she had gotten so sick they thought she would die. But he was seldom if ever there afterwards. It was his example. He was the one who was always drinking so much. He had pushed them all apart. She just wanted him to be proud of her, to like her, to acknowledge her. He had broken their happiness just like he had broken so many promises. He had stolen the good things or worse, he had let them slip away. She hated him. She hated him. She loved him. She hated him.
But she was tired. She did not want to hate him anymore. She did not want to fight him anymore. She did not want to be angry anymore.
And then she was silent and so was he.
Lillian and her father sat in the car for some time after that watching the sunrise. They sat as the dew misted the windshield and as the wind rustled the trees and grass and as old wounds finally began to heal and as Lillian felt her senses return to her.
She needed a drink… of water.