Salem’s mom walked right passed the broken wine bottle and spilled wine which he had just recently thrown at the wall by his father and snapped her fingers while pointing down at the mess as she passed right by it with her chin held up without even looking down. “Clean this mess up.” She commanded, nonchalantly. She demanded it from him. She expected him to do it without a single problem. She spoke to him in the same way my old gymnastics coach would coach me and demand me to complete a task without any negotiation, whatsoever. Does she even realize who she’s talking to?
“Y-yes, ma’am!” Salem said as he straightened himself up and then ran to the kitchen. Uhh. I never saw him respond like that to anyone… like…. anyone.
A few moments later, he came running back out and got on all fours in a hurried fashion. He was rushing and knelt down with a little shovel and broom quickly trying to use the broom to scoop up the contents, which were on the floor, into the shovel as fast as he could. He, then, used a towel that he had wrapped around his neck to begin to soak up all of the wine which was on the floor. He was breathing heavily & was moving quickly in a nervous manor. He honestly acted like one of those old peasant children back in the day who worked in a workhouse and were treated like absolute garbage and were abused if they didn’t complete their tasks perfectly or DARED to ask for more food. It was almost as if he was an actor in an Oliver twist movie and they were showcasing exactly how badly those children were treated. It was so weird to see Salem act like that. It really was.
A few minutes later, I found myself talking to Nelly as Salem, his mom, and Sarah were all in the dining room. “Johnny I really want to just personally apologize and thank you for coming over here. Sarah explained to me exactly why you were here and how she asked you to help Salem.” He said to me in private as he and I were in the living room while everyone else was in the dining room of Salem quickly cleaned the rest of his mess. “This has all been nothing short of an embarrassment to our family for you to have personally see all of this. It’s the same story over and over again. I’m sure you’ve already notice that. There’s no hiding it, anymore. That’s why he’s here. Understand?”
“Oh-uh, of course. No problem. He’s my friend.” I said giving a little smile at Nelly. I was honestly still shocked by all of the behavior that I had just witnessed that day and a little freaked out about the way that I saw him react to his mom. I just couldn’t understand it. I, also, still couldn’t get over this weird feeling of how I knew her. It was a nagging splinter in the back of my mind that was figuratively pulling my hair in some way shape or form. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but, it felt like she was watching me the whole time even though she wasn’t looking at me, directly. And, I’m not going to lie. It was downright creepy & unnerving.
As we all gathered around the table, once more, when Salem had completely cleaned up his mess and picked up the chair he threw, his mom spoke. “Well…” she started and joined both of her hands together in a clap and smiled. “I think it’s about time, we shared a decent meal, yes?” she finished as she looked around. I think everyone was a bit taken aback by her calm approach to everything, but, smiled regardless and nodded and agreed. “Good. I’ll heat this up, Sarah could ya make your motha some tea, please? Oh, and you young maa’an. Get the wine from the sellar downstairs… in one piece this time.” She said raising a brow.
Her son simply said. “Okay.” And walked off, gloomly.
Eating the Indian Food which was finally heated back to perfection, seeing how quickly everyone and everything recovered, and seeing Salem’s family actually all together and talking with one another, honestly left me feeling…. alone. Yes. He was actually eating, which, was a good thing. But, I couldn’t help, but, just feel unhappy and hollow. I couldn’t explain it. But, I suppose seeing Salem have, somewhat, of a normal family, despite, everything that they were all going through & what I originally thought about them being split up, made me feel like an outcast. I was simply reminded about the fact that my family was “tainted” now. At least Salem’s was INTACT, still. You know? I was the defective one. I was the misfit from having only one parent live with me. I was one of those damaged broken housed kids. And, there was nothing o could do to hide that!
I know it may sound terrible to admit it, but, I suppose I subconsciously liked Salem so much because, well, I thought he had a broken family like mine, too. And, I felt like I wasn’t alone. And, even though I didn’t know or fully understand exactly what his family’s living circumstances were, I found myself getting upset that it was just different than my own home life, anyway. I was jealous. I hate to admit that. But, I was. I was getting angry and frustrated about my own messed up and empty life. But, as usual, I was being fake. I was PRETENDING like everything was okay. I was faking my own happiness like I always do in order to make everyone else happy out of politeness no matter how much it took the breath away from my own lungs in order to properly do so. I was getting sick of faking it already. I was sick of being fake. I was tired of walking around like some pretend Barbie boy doll, while, on the inside I was secretly melting away into an empty black hole of plastic nothing.
Something was changing in me and I didn’t know what it was. And, I couldn’t stop it, either. Time was ticking and I felt that it was only a matter of time before I finally cracked. I felt myself slipping. I felt it and I didn’t Iike it at all. It felt like half of me was falling, while, the other half of me was sitting at that table. I felt exaclty how Rose from the Titanic felt as she was glaring off into nothing in the first class dining area right before she ran off to the back of the grand ship to jump off and commit suicide. She became my favorite character of all cinema, because, I had never related to anyone in my life before more than her. I understood her and in many ways, I WAS her.
The food was good, though. And, I still put on my best manners that I could, just as I was taught and trained to do so by my mom. I asked his mom, finally, why she was there in the first place out of, somewhat, irrational anger. It’s not like I made it obvious that I was mad or anything. I was just curious as to just what the hell I felt from her, already. “I’ll be here visiting for the holidays, and for a few things as well….” She said looking at me as she said that last sentence. “Some business I gotta take care of…” She finished still looking at me. Whatever… Christmas. Don’t even get me started on that holiday. It was only a few days away. And I was dreading every second of the upcoming events to that day.
After we wrapped up some dessert, and Salem’s parents and Sarah were drinking their coffee. I got up. I was feeling overwhelmed. The room felt hotter than it did before and I felt the need for some fresh air. “Thank you for everything, but, uhm i-I have to go. My mom, uh- there’s an emergency. She needs me back, now.” I lied. My mom was working and unable to even text at that moment.
“Oh! Well, are you okay? Do you need some help or a ride?” Sarah asked getting up with a concerned look on her face. Salem’s mom just watched us all as if she was watching a rerun to a soap opera she had already seen over a dozen times almost as if she had already panned out all of this to happen.
“Wait.” Salem said getting up and looking into nothing. Everyone kind of looked at him. “Can I get something from my room with Johnny? It’s important. Uhm- please?” He asked his parents, obviously fully aware of the impending doom and punishment he was going to experience from the way he acted today, but, was still asking them, nonetheless.
“Hurry back.” Nelly said giving his son a stern look.
Salem got up and pulled me by the hand up to his room. He closed the door softly and locked and turned around. He looked up at me shyly and gave me a soft kiss on my cheek. I was a little shocked about that, you know, from all of his BIPOLAR behavior up until that point. He almost beat me up again, too, earlier, and I just didn’t understand what the real cause for his change in his mood was , anymore. I was getting overwhelmed about my relationship with him as well and I really just wanted to leave. Was this normal to him and his family, already? Was it normal for him to do a 360 degree turn every single day? Was the abnormality of Salem’s life already normal to them all? Lord.
My thought patterns were interrupted when he said to me, “Listen. I know you’re mad and I don’t blame you, but, I want to give you your Christmas present early, cool? Okay? I don’t know what plans you guys got back at your place for the holidays and I don’t know if I’ll be able to see you by that time, anyway. So, I want to give it to you now and you can open it tonight ’cause I don’t really follow those rules you know? Santa ain’t comin’. I’m santa. I bought it. And…” he paused and hesitated. “I can kinda tell you need some, now, anyway. Be good, okay?” He said and kissed my lips, lightly, in a sweet kiss as he placed a 10 inch tall wrapped box in my hand with a burgundy velvette bow with glistening gold rim trimming on its edges. He got me a Christmas present? Hmmm. I need some? What’s he talkin’ about. Sigh. Whatever. That’s sweet of him, though, I suppose. He’s being sweet. I’ll have to give him that. And, yes. I won’t lie. It was really cute.
“Salem there are no plans for Christmas, understand?” I said giving HIM an attitude for a change.
“What?” he asked.
“My dad left this passed spring. This is the first stupid Christmas I’ll ever have without him. My mom wants us to stay as close and warm to each other as possible and make some new traditions for this year. But, I’m gonna HATE THIS CRAP.” I said all frustrated. Before he could even comment, I said, “Anyway, thanks for the gift I appreciate it. I-I gotta go, now. Bye.” I walked out of his room and ran down the stairs. Before leaving his house I told his family goodbye, thanked them for the food, told them I’ll be back next week with cookies my mom said she’d bake for their family with me, and gave one final look at someone before I left. I saw his mom look at me and raise her wine glass. She shook her head ‘no.’ whatever that meant….
Walking inside of my room, I kicked my shoes off, took off all of my clothes, minus my boxers, and put on a tang top white tee to get ready for bed. I decided to put on a re-run on Disney channel of Good luck Charlie with low volume in the background.
I was curious. I sat down at my desk and opened the present that Salem had given me. I was sitting on my computer desk and rummaged through it’s contents to feel something cold inside. It was.. it was… “Anniversary” Huh? I thought. Salem bought me a bottle of “Anniversary” uhm what was it… Rum? I rolled my eyes. Of course HE would buy me liquor as a Christmas present, somehow, and in his sick and twisted mind that was a sweet gesture and, somewhat, socially acceptable. Does he even REALIZE what my mom would do if she saw this in the house? Does he even know what alcohol DID to my family? Does he even know my mom doesn’t allow alcohol in this house under any circumstances, whatsoever? Oh my God. I better hide this! If she sees this, I’ll DIE. I’ll die, I tell you! RIP, Johnny Applebee, if she does, because, she’ll beat my little butt into a Russian coma!
I would have thrown it away, but, after googling the brand of rum online, Salem spent a good $56 plus tax on me with this fancy bottled stuff. Sigh. So, it wasn’t cheap, exactly. Not to us teenagers, anyway. Hmm. I don’t know what I’ll do with it, yet. But I couldn’t just leave it out on display, there. So, I stuffed it in my bottom desk drawer and layed down on my bed, propping myself up on my elbows, and watched TV for a bit, flipping through channels.
Then, the last straw came. It happened. I SAW it on TV on a commercial. It was an advertisement for some karaoke bar in town. And, I saw a bunch of people on the commercial, smiling, giggling, and laughing as they sung into the mic in the dimly lit place with drinks all around. JUST LIKE WE USED TO.
Something happened, just then, in my brain. Something ‘clicked’ in me. I wasn’t just sad, angry, or hurt about Christmas, my dad, my relationship with Salem and how MESSED up it was on so many levels, or my realization that I was GAY and will never live a normal life or possibly BE normal, it was a combination of them all at once. I couldn’t believe that. Like the universe or GOD, himself was showing me that commercial of all times just to rub it in my skin a little bit deeper and make me moan in pain as he laughed at my face. I was so MAD. UGHHHH!!!
My father… was a musician. He was a GOOD one, too. He was always on his guitar or listening to good oldies to get some new ideas throughout the house, or was at shows to see others perform for musical input and output on style, talent, and skillset. Music always lived inside of him and was a major part of my family’s life. He would do many gigs and shows at many of the bars and places in town that we used to live near and would also be a regular at all the clubs in Denver. He was really famous where we were from and was well known, loved, and honored at all the places he went to by the locals and owners of the establishments. But, they also all knew about his ‘problem’.
He was extremely talented and we had so much of his music equipment at our house in our large and finished basement, that it was like a playground for anyone who was interested in music. Guitars, two keyboards, a bunch of professional amplifiers, microphones, but, above all else, it held my father’s guitar and the karaoke machine that he, my mother, and I would all practice on sometimes for fun.
Snapping my brain back to the present and thinking about all of my wonderful memories at the same time, I peeked. I looked at that bottom large drawer of mine that held Salem’s present.
I stared at it for a moment and thought “What would happen if I…” then stopped the thought and looked to the TV. No.
I looked back at the drawer in a defiance and thought- “Merry Christmas.” to my self as I slowly got up.
Should I do this? I thought. I shook my head. And started to walk back to bed, but, then, like an ‘animal’ part of my brain defiantly rebeling against trying to be tamed and controlled, a part of me thought “Nooo. Why shouldn’t I? Right? What’s ONE drink gonna do to me? Huh? Grownups drink all the time when they’re emotional. Why can’t I?! I.. I DESERVE it.”
I stormed out of my room and grabbed an average small glass from the kitchen. Why was I running? Why did I feel like I HAD to do this for some reason out of no where? As I sat back at my desk, I closed my door with my foot and opened the drawer. Struggling to get the bottle opened, not being experienced with such a task in the past, whatsoever, I finally manager to do so and heard the famous “PLOOP!” as the cork popped opened.
I smelled the contents inside and winced at the strong and sharp odor that they gave. I coughed a bit from it’s strong vapors entering my lungs in an uncomfortable and foreign way, but, poured a good half a cup of the liquid into the glass and took a sniff as I placed the bottle down. Taking a deep breath before I sipped the contents, I then tasted some of the drink.
I didn’t cough. I didn’t wheeze. I didn’t complain and whine about the flavor or strength of the Anniversary Rum which I had just tasted for the very first time, like many others do or would have. On the contrary, I felt warm. I felt the warm feeling and rich elixir that made me feel full of life ooze down my throat as my first few sips of the drink settled into my stomach.
I LIKED it. I actually enjoyed the flavor. I can’t explain it. But, it sort of tasted like caramel sugar, without the sweetness, but, with an extra punch. It was strong and I liked that. I guess I like strong things. I have a thing for them, I suppose. I mean, I like Salem don’t I? They make me feel something. They make me feel power. They make me feel powerful. And, I liked that.
This drink was amazing. Call me nuts. But, I loved it. I took a few more sips and I finally realized what the flavor reminded me of- Banana Foster. It was the cooked rum, sugar, and glazed banana dessert concoction I had tried several times at old Colorado restaurants that this rum tasted like. That dessert is a staple where I’m from. And, this drink really DID have those flavors, somehow, and made me feel some of those same feelings back, then, when I would eat that dessert without a single care in the world. I liked that. I wanted it. I WANTED it. I wanted more.
I served another glass…. And, then, one more… and, then, another. And, when I thought I was done, I had some more. And, before I knew it, I was clenching onto my glass as hard as I could, with my hand, reminiscing the old times when I would catch my father drink this stuff, remembering when he, my mom, and I would sing in our old basement for fun after she made us a bunt cake. I was recalling when he would take me to some of his shows during family nights and get me to sing a song in front of everyone. It was so fun! I remembered how a bunch of the waitress girls would giggle and comment on how they said I had such a nice voice and that, maybe, should go for some professional auditions. I never did so, mind you. Singing was just something I enjoyed doing and was an artistic hobby my dad and I shared, being that I couldn’t play instruments, except for strumming on his ol’ electric guitar here and there. Regardless, of how good I actually was. I only ever sang for fun.
I was clenching my hand harder and harder around my glass the more the alcohol settled in and the room began to feel like it was rocking back and forth in a mocking rhythm. Back and forth. Back and forth, almost like the movements of the room were mocking me and knew what I was thinking as the walls closed in around me. The more I remembered my past the more irritated I felt. God. I also remembered… the song. It was OUR song and she took it away from us! IT WAS OUR song that I would sing into his professional karaoke machine back in the day as he would play the guitar in the background in unison with the other musical backdrop the track played. It was OUR DAMN SONG!!!! AND, now I’ll never sing it with him AGAINN. EVER. AGAINNN!!
The entire glass broke into a bunch of tiny pieces all over my desk that I was clenching so tightly from all of my anger. And, I didn’t even care; I was shocked, but, I think I was too drunk to fully realize what had happened or notice the blood that was seeping down my hand.
I felt my body shaking from my anger. I clenched my teeth so TIGHTLY from my annoyance as my mouth was still closed and I gave my closet a death glare. She didn’t WANT me to play that song ever again? “Who the hell is sheeeeee?” I thought. My mom wouldn’t LET me play it or sing it again as it was ‘bad’ for me? How COULD she? It’s ITS MY DAMN song. GODDAM IT! I DON’T CARE WHAT ANYONE SAYS OR THINKS! I felt like I was under some type of hypnosis where, suddenly, every thought I had, I just acted on without thinking. It was like my actions were more impulsive. My sense of reason no longer could battle with my emotions or instincts to do whatever it was at that moment that I wanted to do.
I got up so fast and walked clumsily over to my closet and fumbled with the knob to open it in an impatient and quick manor. I felt my face turn beet red from my flustered mix of stress and anger. I busted that DOOR open and pulled out all three suitcases of mine. They were the biggest ones I had. I hadn’t touched these since I last left my old house. And I didn’t CARE ANYMORE. I WANT THOSE SAME FEELINGS BACK. IM PLAYING IT. I don’t care I’m DOING THE SONG. IM PLAYING IT.
Before I knew it, I withdrew the suitcases’ contents and plugged them all into the wall socket and into my laptop. Breathing heavily, standing in front of my tv, and seeing the animations of the song appear on my screen, I did the one thing that my mother had forbidden inside of this house, besides liquor being kept inside of it’s walls. I played my song. I pressed play as the Karaoke backdrop to my absolute favorite memory of my dad and I began to blast in my own room.
OH GOD. I haven’t heard this song since I last sang it with him. It FELT SO so good to hear it again. I thought me and Salem’s first sexual experience was good. This was just as good! Maybe, it was even better. Hearing this song again echo inside of my mind’s walls and in the walls of my room made me go back in time and float in a world of memories and fantasy. It made me happy and sad all at once and the only thing I could do to swallow my emotions and tears of confusion from how I really felt about hearing this song again was to run to the desk and take a few last big drinks of my rum straight from the bottle. And, then I began….
“Imagine me and you. I do. I think about you day and night. It’s only riiiiiiight to think about the girl you love and hold her tight. So happyyyy togetherrrrrrr.”
I heard my voice surround my ears and life once more as if I was singing to this new town, all of my old feelings, memories, and frustration as I introduced it to the way things WERE, to the way things used to be, to how they should be before my father left us, saying he needed to go and couldn’t do it anymore because of his ‘problem.’
He was never a bad guy! He just had his problem and couldn’t stop. He left us only to better himself and didn’t want us to see it anymore or be a bad example for me. I HATED SEEING HIM LIKE THAT, DAMMIT!
I screamed into the microphone with all of my musically taught ability and poured all of my emotions that swirled around in my head at that moment that wouldn’t leave me alone, into that microphone and into this new house I was imprisoned in.
“I CAN’T SEE ME LOVIN’ NOBODY, BUT, YOU FOR ALL MY LIFEEEEEE!!”
It wasn’t his fault. You know? My dad was good! He was sweet! He was the best! That’s why my mom didn’t make him pay child support. She felt bad for him and understood him and even said she loved him before he left.
I started to think about how BAD Christmas is gonna be this year. Without him, how can we even dare to survive this and PRETEND AND be FAKE and act like we’re happy just to make everyone else happy? What are we plastic Barbie dolls?! I don’t like to say cuss words but, I don’t care about Christmas. FUCK CHRISTMAS! I HATE CHRISTMAS! FUCK CHRISTMAS!!!
“SO HAPPY TOGETHERRRRR. SO HAPPY TOGETHERRRRRR.”
I continued to sing the song and so many thoughts of mine were in my subconscious mind. And, they wouldn’t LEAVE ME ALONE. I was mad about Christmas, I was mad about Salem’s life and I was MAD AT MY FATHER! I remember thinking as I sang. “HOW COULD you leave me like this, dad?! HOW COULD YOU?! I LOVE YOU! …I – I HATE YOU!!” I screamed in my head as the river of tears stung my eyes and stuck to my face, running down my cheeks forcing me to taste my own saltiness from them passing my lips.
“So happy togetherrrr…
So happy togetherrrrr…
How is the weatherrrrr?
So happy togetherrrrr…
How is the weatherrrrr?
So happy togetherrrrr….”
I exhaled sharply after I stopped singing the song with all my might. The room was spinning too much for me to even hold myself up, anymore. I dropped the microphone as I felt my eyes role back and I stepped backwards a few times on my own body’s accord and my back slammed hard on my bed as I layed down with my boxer covered legs hanging off of it’s end.
I breathed slowly as my mind felt like I was on a rollercoaster making me nauseous from all of it’s violent and unpredictable movements, yet I was doing absolutely no moving, whatsoever. I heard my own voice make a few groans from my sharp exhales. I grinned to myself. This- this felt SOOO good. I loved it. Finally, I could just make my brain shutup! I finally found it. I found my version of Salem’s “cigarette’. I found my way of being able to numb my past and life and stop the thoughts. I found a way to release all the GARBAGE I was always holding inside like some little church boy to ‘behave’. WHY?? Why should I? Why should I ‘behave’? Why should I PRETEND to be happy anymore just to make others happy? IM NOT PRETENDING!! I’M NOT HAPPY!!!! You don’t like me? Well, then, maybe I don’t like YOU. Right? That’s something my boyfriend would say. GOD, he’s the best thing that ever happened to me. He taught me how I should REALLY react to things and not be fake anymore. I giggled to myself, involuntarily, as my eyes were barely opened; I thought of how I found my new ‘solution’, my new “hit” to take, my new ANTIDOTE. Which would make sense, considering, my father was an alcoholic…
If you would like to hear an exact depiction of Johnny’s vocals in his version of “Happy Together” that he sings drunk in his room, here is a link to the track of what he entirely sounds like in my mind where this chapter was directly inspired from when he opens the doors to his new potentially alcoholic life, following in the foot steps of his father.☠️🍷