Thursday, September 24, 2009

Unlike Fatherhood

It’s rare when someone gets punched in the face and doesn’t seem to mind. Darryl was rare and in rare form. He’d taken down much more than his usual five Jack and Cokes, the evidence of which was more on his breath than in the way he walked. He brushed his dirty blonde hair out of his eyes. All the regulars at the Wettest Whistle knew how well he could handle his liquor. It didn’t occur to him until just before the knuckles made contact with his eye socket that this might be a bad sign in the long run.

Belligerent drunks seem to overflow with alcohol, spilling on the ground, their shirts, and the girl next to them. He wasn’t overflowing. It was more like he was absorbing it all. Not a drop hit the floor, his red flannel, or the overweight blonde girl next to him wearing a cheesy silver crown that said HAPPY BIRTHDAY with each letter getting its own shiny pipe cleaner antennae.

Jesus, that looks fucking ridiculous, Darryl thought to himself.

Cora was her name. She was celebrating her birthday in jeans, cowboy boots, and an unflattering blank t-shirt she wore instead of the white tank top because it was black, and that was supposed to be slimming, wasn’t it? She had bright pink hair that looked like it might have been many colors since its original hue.

The chorus of Happy Birthday was just coming to a close and most of the bar responded with a round of applause. Most.

Darryl turned to her and said, “Happy Birthday.”

As she was about half way through a bright smiled “Thank You,” he interrupted with “It’s clear you got some meat on your bones, but since it’s your birthday, I’d be willing to take you out to my car and screw you.”

She glared back at him. “Go fuck yourself, asshole.”

He wasn’t exactly sure what kind of response he was expecting and he didn’t really care much about the one he got. He went to turn back to his drink when someone accidentally bumped his arm on his way to the bar. Darryl’s drink spilled.

“Hey!” It came out even louder than he meant it. “The fuck’s your problem?”

“Calm down buddy.”

“I’m not your buddy,…jackass.”

Darryl pushed. The stranger pushed back. He cocked back and landed a right hook right to Darryl’s face. He saw the fist coming and didn’t move. He watched it come right at him, make contact with vibrating impact, and send him right to the floor. The birthday party moved to the other side of the room as fast as they could. He stood right back and looked the stranger in the eye. He didn’t move. The stranger paused for a second, not sure what to do,

“Cocksucker,” Darryl said, and then watched another right hook come right at his face, shake his whole body, and drop him to the floor again. He stood up and stayed stock still again.

The stranger stared at him, sizing him up the way most people do before a fight. He wasn’t getting anywhere. “What the fuck is the matter with you?” The stranger asked. Darryl breathed slow. The stranger paused, and then walked out of the bar. Darryl went back to his drink and wiped the string of blood from his face with a napkin.

It was 20 years ago that day. Shit, no, 22. And that fucking girl had to have her fucking birthday today and rub it in.

He’d replayed it in his head 100 times. They were just out of high school. Helen wasn’t supposed to get pregnant. Ofcourse she was going to get an abortion. That’s what you did if you got pregnant young. Right?

She didn’t. Darryl remembered how when she told him she was going to keep it, the sky and horizon turned into a ceiling and walls and started closing in on him. He pitied himself so much then. How could he have gotten into a situation like this? How could she keep it?

That was lifetimes ago. Now, he thought, Christ, it? I had an “it.” Not a son. Not a daughter. An it. The old story about women giving up children for adoption is that it’s easier if you stay distant. Don’t get attached, because it gets harder to let go. This didn’t feel easier. The utter distance just meant it was that more impossible to make it back to being a decent human being. He didn’t pity himself anymore. He didn’t deserve it, he thought.

20 years ago to the day he received a letter. No return address. In the envelope was a small white piece of paper that read, “You have a child. Goodbye.”

Darryl sat at the bar in the Wettest Whistle and took the last sips of his drink which seemed to dull the pain in his face just a little. He was an asshole. He knew that. But he would give an arm just to be a decent human being again.

He stood up from the stool and walked over to the birthday party, and looked the plump girl right in the eye.

“For what its worth miss, I’m sorry I said that.”

And he walked out.

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