I held a baby for a long time today. She was small and soulful looking with huge watery eyes and a tiny puckery face. I rocked her and fed he baby formula until her eyes closed and her little baby fingers wiggled into rest. I held her while her mother and my mother reminisced about high school and drank their vodka in a unison buddy system. When it was time to leave my uncle gave me twenty dollars. He was thankful for the break and he felt sorry for me. Maybe.

Mother lost herself somewhere and did not remember who we all were once it was time to leave. Often, when our families come together, the festivities have a maudlin befuddled conclusion. While Father tries to pack Mother in to the car, I don’t help. I just sit in the backseat between anger and tears and pretend with my father that she is not drunk. He tucks her in, staring off into nowhere, a strange half smile on his face. He does not indicate that this bothers him at all. It could be that he just bought a very large sack of fantastic potatoes, and he is dreaming a mountain of fries.

My aunt and uncle wave from the window, looking fake happy. Just before the curtain drops I see my uncle shaking his head, his face long and sad.

To get back at my mother I don’t check to make sure she has remembered her purse. I would rather she has something think about in the morning to make her understand how she was. All the way home I obsess about this. She will freak out in the morning, but we will not be allowed to talk about why she left her purse. Somehow it will be my fault. I am suddenly scared, the edges of secret poking out at the wrong time. I know she can not handle her own flaws. I am constantly afraid that she will find out my true opinion of her, somehow know for certain that people shake their heads in sadness when she leaves a room. She has tried to kill herself twice already and it is my job to keep her from ever doing that again. I see her purse strap and breathe a sigh of relief. She groans and my stomach knots.

My father sat in the dark once mother had been put into bed. I ask if I can spend the night a Lee’s house, but it is already after ten and he says no. I sit in the dark with my father, trying several times to open my mouth and ask if I can please move out. My father breaks the silence “I wish I had some friends…I’d go there right now.” I tell him I know the feeling.

Somehow we begin and I tell him I am unhappy in this house. He is quiet except for swallowing noises. He will not look toward me, even with the lights off. I know that I have upset him and he asks me why I don’t like the house. For the first time I tell him that I think my mother is an alcoholic, but he defends her. I fall silent, seeing the futility. Father speaks, sounding as if he might cry. He tells me I am melodramatic, that he remembers sixteen and thinking that he was cooler than anything. “You don’t know shit!

With his voice teary he tells me that it hurts him that I show no respect for my mother, reminds me how she raised me for ten years, alone, before he came back. I feel like a traitor, something to double bag and bury. It occurs to me that my father is too young to argue with an arrogant teenager who makes him feel worthless.

I think I am forcing them to age, and it occurs to me that I never want children. No matter how thoughtful they look when they are just about to cry, or how strong they seem when they grip your fingers.

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