The Fish Place by C.C.

A restaurant simply called “The Fish Place.” That’s where I am. It’s a Cajun style joint with some pretty pricey dishes, despite the lack of atmosphere and rather ear-grating music. Although, I can’t complain. It’s warm, a stark contrast to the bitter Texas “winter” weather outside; the weather I live for. The yellow walls make the place seem more appealing; it’s very friendly. I’m with good company: my family. Well, my other family.

My best friend is away on her mission in Mexico, yet I still find myself at her house every Monday for Family Home Evening. I’m not even a Mormon, but her family is so kind to me. Every time I walk in the door they say “welcome home!” as if they are excited that I am there. So, every Monday I am treated to dinner at the expense of sitting awkwardly through song and prayer. Tonight is no exception, only we are spending the evening at this fishy palace where I get to stuff my face with a delicious blackened salmon accompanied by Cajun red beans and rice. Now that is a meal.

As usual, dinner time is passed with typical chatter fit for a meal. “How was your day?”

Fine.

“How are you doing in school?” Okay.

I don’t mind the weekly questioning. It’s nice to know that someone is actually interested in how my day went or how I’m feeling. At my house, no one bothers with small talk. I enjoy the silence, until it’s filled with screaming. I find it funny though that whenever someone asks you how you are, you’re expected to say “I’m good” even if you’re falling apart on the inside. With this family, however, if

you’re crumbling and standing on your last leg, they want to hear about it. They want to help. I’ve been okay this week, though. No need for waterworks. All I want is to enjoy my savory salmon.

We finish our dinner and back to the Mormon house we go. Time .for song and prayer, oh boy. I never actually join in on the singing though, even though they hand me a hymnal botk.  It’s not as if there’s an entire Tabernacle behind us inconspicuously shielding my unwillingness to participate, but they never say anything about me not being a team player. Tonight is especially uncomfortable though, since it is my first Family Home Evening with just my best friend’s mom and younger sister; it seems so empty in this house since three-fifths of the normal residents are away. However, the spirit isn’t low. I am thankful for any time I can spend with these people, my other family.

The lesson for Family Home Evening is rather short tonight. We went around the room three times to say what we are thankful for.

Paper, you guys, books.

My other mom laughs and says I had already mentioned paper. It’s different though; at first I meant paper for drawing. But I am thankful for its other uses as well, such as being printed on for my mind’s stimulation. After the lesson is over, I require a ride home since I let my unemployed brother borrow my car to go job hunting. Other Mom drops me off. I arrive at my house, and as usual, it is empty. All the lights are off.

Perfect darkness.

Tuesday, 1:25 AM

Retch. Cough. Hack. What is that?

A loud wheeze followed by more coughing and retching.

I am groggy. I look at my phone and realize it’s half past one in the morning. The sounds are coming from just outside my window in the back yard. I already know what’s going on. He’s come home drunk again. He’s going to deny it though.

Sure enough, I look out the window and see my brother, stacked over himself with his face in the grass.

Disgusting.

I yell at him, asking why he is making such a scene in the backyard. “I ate my dinner too fast.”

Why are you slurring your words?
“Allergies.” Lies. Lies. Lies.

I ask what he is allergic to in the middle of Texas winter. No response. Proves it.

Liar.

Words can’t describe the rage welling up inside of me. He was driving my car drunk. Endangering not only his life but others as well! And he’s doing it again! This has happened a few too many times. I don’t know why I keep letting up on him. If he ruins one of the only cars we have in circulation in this family, we will really be up a creek without a paddle. Five people, five jobs (most of the time,) and only two cars? That would not work.

I run downstairs and confiscate my keys, all the while he is yelling at me. He’s such a child. I hate him when he’s drunk. Maybe I hate him when he’s sober too, though. I wake Mom up.

He’s been drinking and driving again!

She threatens to kick him out. Oh, all the times that this has happened and I just wish I had a dollar for each of them. Every day. Screaming matches. Tonight is no different. My brother causes unending stress in this family.

“I’m going to kill myself!”

No, you won’t. You’re an attention-seeking drama hoarder.

He runs downstairs and we hear the sharp sound of a knife coming out of the drawer. My mom remains unfazed. She says it’s not our fault if he decides to do anything. We’ve visited every path with him, trying to get him the help he needs for his addiction and for his PTSD. He never pursues the help though. We can’t live like this any longer. That’s what she says, every time.

I go back to my room. I want the drama to be over. I almost regret waking up my mom, but at the same time I want my brother to go to jail for violating his parole and endangering other people’s lives, not to mention potentially wrecking the car I paid for with my own labor. I don’t know what to think. I just want to go to sleep. But I can’t. He barges into my room with a bloody wrist, shoves it in my face and screams “This is your fault!”

Next thing I know, he’s gone. So is my mom’s car.

The cops are called. An APB is posted. Now we wait.

Tuesday, 3:45AM

My sisters are alerted of the situation, finally home from wherever they spend their time out of this horror house. It’s a school night for me, and for my mom, a teacher. We are tired. We want to go back to bed. But the overwhelming feelings of not knowing where my brother is with my mom’s only mode of transportation get the best of us. We all argue. My mom argues with my sisters. I argue with my mom. My sisters argue with me.We all have a different view of how the situation should be

handled. For my sisters, it’s almost like watching a boxing match on TV: my brother versus the cops. They root for the cops.

“He should go to jail! Let’s call the parole officer!”

They push on with the tenacity of crazed wolves closing in on their prey, teeth showing and dripping with thirst for blood.

What’s wrong with you people? He’s our brother. They don’t care.

My sister checks Facebook and she sees a post made by my brother, the sympathy-seeker. He begs for help. None of his scumbag friends are going to help him. He just wants people to feel sorry for him. Well, I don’t.

This is your fault.

No, I won’t feel sorry for you.

This is your fault.

Would you just get out of my head?!

He texts us in a group message, really the only way we communicate anymore, and tells us that the car is all the way downtown. He sends a picture of his slit wrist. Five long scratches, barely deep enough to actually kill oneself. However, the image is disturbing. I don’t like this situation. The only way I can cope is to eat the burger from Jack in the Box that he brought home from his drunken blaze. While I’m shoving the burger in my mouth, a few thoughts run through my head; how does he have the money for fast food and alcohol, but not gas? He said he ate his dinner too fast, but then why would he buy fast food? He’s such a horrible liar! Why did I let him even take the car? Did I really believe he was going to a job interview?

This is your fault.

Tuesday, 3:07PM

I was sent home from work. I’m not emotionally stable enough to be there right now. But, upon arriving home, I realized that we had locked all the doors to the house in fear that my brother would come home and lash out even further. I don’t have a house key. We always go through the garage. The garage is locked. The windows are locked. The house is locked. I sit in the backyard. My phone is about to die because the battery is fried. With the last remaining fifteen percent, I call my other mom. She’s not home, but she invites me over anyways.

I drive over, and my other sister answers the door. She is about to take a nap, so I leave the light off. I am sitting at the dining room table until Other Mom gets home. She smiles and asks why I’m sitting in the dark. Click. Warm, yellow light fills the room.

“Okay, spill.”

I gush to her, guiding  her through the events of last night. I’m not sure I am very audible, as the tears I’m choking on keep breaking my voice. She listens, and comforts me. She is unsurprised  at the actions of my brother.

“Alcoholics are selfish addicts.”

She’s right. They are. I have an addiction  to food, but at least my addiction  doesn’t actually hurt anyone…  besides myself. Am I selfish? Well, probably. I don’t know. She says I did the right thing by waking up my mom, and that my mom did the right thing by calling the cops. I tell her I wish my family was different.  I wish that I could have been born to someone else, or adopted. It’s not fair, life is hard, woe is me. All that jazz.

She’s heard my sad story before. A dozen times. But she never tells me to shut up and deal with it. She’s so comforting. How is she always able to be so calm? She asks me if I’m still taking my anti­ depressants.

No.

I haven’t been able to get the doctor to refill them, since I never see my doctor. His practice  is so overbooked, and he never listens to me anyways. She says it’s dangerous  to be off my meds. She says it could lead to a downward spiral towards suicidal depression. She says she knows.

“I’ve been in the hospital  multiple times for suicide attempts.” Wait, what?

I don’t know how my other mom could be depressed. She never seems like it. She is so collected  and happy all of the time. How could this be? I feel unbearably selfish; all this time I’ve poured out my problems to her, yet she has problems  of her own. So why does she let me put more stress upon her? I never knew. If I had known, would I have still come to her? Maybe, with my selfishness, I would still sek  her sympathy.   don’t know. But now, I can’t help but feel like it really  is my fault.

This is your fault.

C.C. is recipient of the Stayton Scholarship 2015 in the memoir category.                           

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The Fish Place by C.C.

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