How it was

Dear listener, I bring this story
out into the clear light of day
the story of how it was
when my brother died.

He took his last breath
in ICU at Pomerado General Hospital
younger brother at his side
an infected hole in his lung
flatlined in the ER for six minutes before they revived him
coma for four days
dead at 49.

After he died
my mom and younger brother
went out to his trailer park
to pick through the pieces of his life.
No one had visited him there for two years.
Afterwards they each told me
separately
in lowered voices

“Sally, you wouldn’t believe how it was.
We waded knee deep in empty Budweisers,
Absolut bottles,
Maker’s Mark bottles
Porno tapes with pig-tailed teenage girls.”
One Savage 22 rifle
Smith and Wesson handgun
Live ammunition rounds lying in crusty orange shag carpet.
Cigarette butts carpeting the understory of the bottle forest.

“Sally, I cannot describe the filth
Take the most disgusting mess you can imagine
and the reality was ten times worse.
Our own brother peed in an excrement tiled bathroom”
His silent microwave still alive with moldy food
Unbelievable filth.

Word at the trailer park was
he would drink 24 -36 beers at one sitting,
tossing empties both inside and outside his trailer
vulturely neighbors told us they made $150 each run
to the recycling center
they were sad to hear he passed.

There’s no point now in continuing
my ancient circular arguments with my mother
“He’s an alcoholic”
‘he just likes his beer’
“He needs help”
‘he just needs a job’
“Wake up, goddammit!”
‘I don’t see anything. La La La (fingers in ears)’

Little old lady on a fixed income dollars
paid for his alcohol
his drugs
his porn
this is
how it was.

There is no arguing amongst us now
As we walked through the filthy trailer
About whether or not he drank
As you wade through empties knee deep
Looking for god knows what
Something of value

A watch
A forgotten $20
A family snapshot
Anything more than simply
How it was.
There was nothing to see but how it was.
No interpretations
No excuses
No covering up
could cover up
what we saw that day.

“At first, I just felt relieved”
This is what I imagine my first words will be,
Ten years from now,
When I tell the story of how it was when he died
How with time I went through all the feelings
Sadness
Grief
Loss
Acceptance
God knows I probably even develop compassion
Ten years from now.

But right now I just want to tell the truth of
How it was
When my brother the alcoholic died.

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