“When I was 11 years old, my father was supposed to pick me up from school. I waited, anxiously, at the corner for that familiar green van to emerge in my field of view. The one that brought me comfort. It never came. When the clutter of after-school faces vanished and I was suddenly met with silence after a sea of humming engines, I started to worry.
Where was my father? Why wasn’t he here? Oh, I know why. I hoped I didn’t. Only this time would prove different. You see, my mom worked 16-hour shifts. My dad would sometimes show up drunk, plastered, really, or not at all.
Next came a wave of teachers that exited the school building. My social studies teacher spotted my worry from across the pavement like clockwork. ‘Do you need a ride again, Amelia?’ I shrugged my shoulders. She shot a look of sympathy. ‘Come here. Let’s get moving.’ This would be one of many times my teacher drove me home when my father didn’t show up. Only this wasn’t like the others.
When I arrived in front of my yellow house on the corner of Franklin Avenue and followed the cobblestone path upwards, an eerie feeling hit me. I opened the door to find my father, cold, blue, unmoving on the wooden floors.
I was 11, watching the flurry of red and blue lights dance and ricochet across my ceiling as they pressed me with questions. ‘How long has he been here? What is his name? Date of birth? Are you here alone?’ I watched as they wrapped a pale, unfamiliar version of my dad, draping him in white, and wheeled him away for the hospital. He never did return home. Alcohol poisoning. His next location was the morgue.
You see, that night when we went out to a house party, I was hesitant. Drinking was always something I avoided, and understandably so. Until I didn’t. Suddenly, I was 13, downing shots alone in the school bathroom, seeing the worst of my father in myself. I called this ‘grieving.’ So, with the grace of God, I gave it up. It was hard, but necessary.
When I went to that party, I didn’t know it was a party. I was told it was a get together of sorts. Sure, it was a Saturday night, but I thought it was more of a movie and popcorn kind of thing. I passed the front doors to find mouths dripping with alcohol. Someone was already passing out on the couch. Others dancing uncontrollably. I wanted no part in this scene.
You knew my past. You knew about my father. Yet, you judged me when I turned you down. ‘Are you KIDDING ME? Just take a drink already!’ I shook my head no, clearly uncomfortable. In a moments time, I could see that white sheet laid over my father again. Another girl came up. She didn’t know my past. ‘COME ON, DRINK! DRINK! DRINK! Don’t be such a prude.’
I was weak. I took the drink. I sipped it. I posed for the photo. I hated myself.
Did you know, I was smiling in that picture, but dying on the inside?
Did you know, I got ‘messed up’ that night and contemplated suicide?
Did you know, my trauma was more important than your right to have a fun time?
Did you know, I saw my father in my nightmares that night?
Did you know, that drink led me down an alcoholic rabbit hole that took me three months to get out of?
I don’t blame you. You didn’t know I was that weak and vulnerable. Perhaps you didn’t understand. But please, if you’re reading this, if someone does not want to drink, just respect that. Understand it is their right. Please respect it. They are not lame or boring or a ‘prude.’ Understand there is sometimes more to the story, more pain, than meets the eye.”
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