Bottles in the Closet (A Poem)

You only call me when you’re drunk.

I can hear the slur in your words even as you say, “I haven’t had a drink all day.” We both know it’s a lie. I can almost smell the alcohol on your breath over the phone.

You poured another glass of red wine, instead of putting the cork in the bottle and just walking away. Drink some water and start up again the very next day. As if drinking red wine will numb the pain and erase all the memories you swear you don’t remember.

Or maybe it was a shot of vodka to chase all the bad thoughts away. When you wonder why it is that none of your children want to stay. Throwback the shot glass, the alcohol burning your throat. I bet you don’t need a chaser. You simply grab another.

You keep pouring

and pouring

and pouring,

until everything goes fuzzy. You almost feel like you’re invincible. Like you aren’t risking your life and everyone else’s when you get behind that steering wheel.

You only call me when you’re drunk.

You tell me you don’t want to be here anymore. It’s something I’ve heard before, ever since I was 13 years old. What a thing that a teenager hears from her mother. Can you imagine how that makes me feel?

That time you took a steak knife in the kitchen and cut your wrist in front of me, slurring your words as you screamed and cried. Always playing the victim and making it about you when it should’ve been about us. Your children.

But no.

I had to be the mother. Coax you to hand me the knife even as the smell of vomit on your breath and leftover wine made me gag. I had to lie and tell you that it would be alright. I had to tell you that you were a good mother and that we loved you. That we didn’t blame you for all the hard times.

And when I finally got the knife away, you wouldn’t let me call the police even as the blood dripped on the floor that I’d clean later that night.

You left to go have some fun with drinks. Drank more. It was as if it never happened. As if I was the one who was crazy instead of you. As I was on my hands and knees scrubbing the red off the floor and trying my best to erase the memory of you dragging the knife across your wrist oh so slowly, like you had to make sure I was watching.

You tell me that you’re a good mother, and that you tried your best. Yet you do the same thing over

and over

and over again. You hit repeat. You never learn. You never listen.

You are not a good mother. You never were a mother.

You didn’t do your best. You don’t even know what that means.

Your best is not staying out late partying while your oldest daughter takes care of your children.

Your best is not the water or the electricity being turned off because you got more clothes rather than pay the bills.

Your best is not the pantry and fridge being empty and children going hungry because your happiness is more important than your children’s.

But go ahead, pour yourself another glass of wine. Fill up the cup if that makes you feel better. Makes you feel like you’re not a failure of a mother. Like you’ve done nothing wrong. Like you’re the saint that you think you are.

I remember once I opened your closet door and on top of all the shoes were empty alcohol bottles. Dozens of them, sparkling in pretty colors in the yellow light. Like it was some dirty little secret that you failed at hiding.

How many times did I help you out of your shoes and into bed, making sure you were on your side so you didn’t choke on your own vomit? I couldn’t tell you, I lost track. I know it was too many for a teenage girl to have to deal with.

You always said you weren’t an alcoholic but you’ve got bottles in the closet and wine on your breath that tells another story.

You always say that you’re a good mother and that you love your children. I don’t doubt that you love us. But I don’t think you loved us enough. I think you love yourself and the bottle more. You love partying with friends and trying to capture your youth while your children are left behind. Then we are the bad guys when we want to leave. When we want out of that toxic environment and to do better for ourselves. Suddenly we are abandoning you and turning on you.

You only call me when you’re drunk.

You tell me you love me, that you are so proud of me. As if that matters to me. You had nothing to do with the woman I am. There is not a single part of you in me, and for that I am glad. I don’t see you anywhere, and if I did, I’d be terrified.

I don’t want to be like you. A woman who drowns her self-loathing and insecurities in booze. A woman is so blinded by her own perceived greatness of motherhood that she can’t see the mental scars she’s left on her children. That she still leaves on them. A woman who puts the blame on everyone else instead of looking in the damn mirror and realizing that it’s been her all along. That she is the problem. Not us.

Go ahead. Pour yourself another drink, all the up to the brim until it pours over the edges and drips like the blood did on the linoleum all those years ago. I bet you’ll lick that wine up too. Make sure you don’t waste a single drop to numb the pain and ease the guilt.

Go ahead and call me, tell me you’re a good mother and that you did your best.

I know the truth.

The truth is in the bottles in the closet.

You only call me when you’re drunk.

-K

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