I think most, if not all, Irish boys think their mothers should be nominated for sainthood. And that’s mostly because of their ability to tolerate the things their Irish sons put them through. That certainly goes for my Mom. One year, my brother and I found all sorts of quotes about the Irish and printed them on this cool parchment paper and framed them to give to her for Christmas. One of them reads ”To be Irish is to know that in the end, the world will break your heart.” Mom’s got that one prominently displayed in her office.
I went over to the house today after class and did some practice restraint techniques on Seamus and gave him a mock clinical exam for my Vet Tech exam the next day [Author’s note 5/19: Didn’t work out. Blasted TBI brain damage takes no prisoners.] It was the second time in as many days I went over there. Yesterday it was to talk to mom about the quiz I bombed the other day. We discussed my work ethic (admittedly substandard), getting a tutor, moving forward in the Vet Tech program, etc. So after going over the restraint technique and the physical, I felt pretty good about the short-term future. I had a test postponed to next week, so I only have one more test tomorrow, then 4 days to study for 3 exams. Should be able to pull it off. I came home to write the rough draft for this post and when I walked in the house, He was sitting at the dining room table. I walked over and pulled out my laptop and started scrolling through folder that contains my class notes. He was sitting right next to me at the table, thin greasy hair pulled back in a dull silver pony tail tied off with a piece of black canvas torn from the black sackcloth cloak He wore.
“What’s with the flask?” I asked as I thumbed through my notebook.
“Well, it is the middle of the day after all. In fact,” He darted His pinched yellow eyes up at the clock on the wall, “It’s right around the time when, in your old laugh, you’d be waking up from your first drunk nap of the day!” He took a big swig from the flask.
“Uh-huh,” I said, not looking up from my work.
“Jameson,” he smiled. “Course, you wouldn’t know anything about that. You always were too cheap to buy any of the good stuff. Or should I say, too poor. Never did have a job that made shit, even with your college degree.” He stuck His finger in His ear, then wiped it on the hem of his robe. A minute passed.
“Sure you don’t want some?” that putrid smile, all mucus and liquor stain.
“Huh?” I raised my face to His. “Oh, no. Thanks. Busy.” I got out my day planner and started transcribing every workbook assignment, every quiz, every test from my syllabus to the planner. One on the calendar, one on the page for the due date. The smile lowered to a somewhat confused grimace.
“What are you doing?” He asked.
“Just following through on stuff I should have done before I got scared.”
“Oh, y’know, writing down dates, organizing my study schedule, finding index cards. Probably gonna need a lot more of those.”
“What are you aiming to do?”
“I ain’t aiming to do nothing, I’m doing it. I talked to Amber in the Disability Office yesterday and got some stuff straightened out.”
“Just stuff. Like how I psyche myself out and get flustered and frustrated and then I can’t study well and forget all kinds of-“
“Yeah, stuff. She wanted to see me because she checked on my grades and she wanted to give me a pep talk.”
“I got your pep talk right here,” He scowled and drank from the flask. I stared at Him.
“Anyway, talking with her and talking to my mom calmed me down. Then I got an email from a 2nd year Vet Tech student who can tutor me. So I’m meeting with her on Thursday.” I resumed working on my calendar. A moment of silence passed. I finished with the paperwork and took out my voice recorder to find the lecture I was going to listen to on my walk. I glanced again at the flask.
“Why does it have a number on it?”
“What?” He seemed startled, jostled from whatever passes for thoughts in His sickly, twisted mind. Then the grin returned. “Oh that. That’s a date.”
I stared at Him blankly.
“Y’know what it means?” He asked.
“Enlighten me.” I already knew the answer.
“Well, I’ve been doing some studying of my own. The date’s the month and year.”
“I can’t really read it.”
“But I can,” He said as He refilled the flask from a bottle He produced from His cloak. “You want it to be a surprise, don’t you? I just considered how long after you completely screw up this semester you will take to realize it’s useless and come back to me with your tail between your legs.” He quickly walked His fingers across the table, then put His hand back in His lap, smirking all the while.
“Oh yeah. And how is that going to happen when I know things you don’t?” He looked confused. “See, I knew said you’d say something like that, looking the way you do now. And I think I’ve pretty well got you figured out. You insult me. You make fun of me. You mock me for my TBI, something I have no control over but that doesn’t matter to you because all you are is a bully. Like all the kids I came up with who called me “fat-ass” and “loser” and, nearly every day of my youth, found something about me to pick on until I literally run home crying. But, as it turns out, despite all that, I need you.”
“And why is that, pray tell? ” He picked at the blisters and sores on His mud-caked feet but He looked interested.
“If I don’t have you around to remind me of the deep, dark chasm you live in and how pathetic and miserable YOU are, then I can’t learn from you. Really, they’ve all said that in one way or another.”
“Everybody. Dr. D. My mother and father. My brother, my friends, everybody. I told you before you’re not real. I was wrong, you are just as real as I want to make you.”
“That’s where you’re wrong, asshole!” He shouted and abruptly stood over me. “You can’t get rid of me, I am everything you are now and have been since they pulled your freakin’ body off that operating table. Do you understand me? And every time you think I’m gone, I’ll be waiting right around the corner. You can’t get rid of me! Do you hear me?! I own you! So you can stop with all this Vet Tech program stuff and AA stuff and -”
“Don’t you know any other words? And I don’t want to stop and I’m not going to get rid of all this AA stuff,” I said and popped a Dum Dum in my mouth. “You don’t own me and you’re not everything I am now. You’re everything I was for a long time, I’ll give you that. Whisky’s spilling”
In His fit of rage, he had tipped over his flask and Jameson was spilling on the floor.
“A pity,” I said, smiling. “Anyway, you get to stay, be happy with that. A lot of the folks I talked to said you can kiss their ass. Some even wanted to punch you in the nose. I didn’t have the heart to tell them you don’t have a nose, just those two little holes, look like, ah what’s the scientific word … anuses.”
“All the better to snort- “
“Shut up. And I may still let them punch you, but for right now, you can stay. Just go back to your corner with your black cloak and your flasks and sit there and think about what you’ve done to me. Call it a metaphysical time-out, if you will. I’ll probably need you sooner than later. Oh, you can listen to your crappy techno Euro-trash music or Miley Cyrus or whatever while I am on my walk, but when I get back it’s Stevie Wonder Talking Book, agreed?”