“Cutty!” The room erupted in cheers as the man walked into Davy’s Locker Bar and Restaurant, arms in the air like he’d just won the middleweight belt and hadn’t just been released from Bridgewater State after two years. His father gave him a huge tearful hug. His fiancée—who was only his girlfriend when he went in—wept openly.
“Oh fuck, ” said Elbert on the barstool to my left. “You wanna get out of here?”
“Nah,” I said.
“I don’t like how you said that,” Elbert said.
“How did I say it?”
“Like you don’t give a fuck.”
I shrugged, and tipped my tallboy to my lips. Nobody seemed to care that I was in the bar. Why should I give a shit that he was?
One of the reasons that Elbert and I made good drinking buddies was that we were both losers without much to say. We drank together, because it was less pathetic than drinking alone. Elbert had a hairlip that he tried to hide under a thin ginger moustache. He was self-conscious about the way his mouth moved when he spoke ever since he was a kid.
My mouth was fucked up similarly from my pop’s wedding ring tearing through the tender flesh of my lip.
I didn’t care how it looked when I spoke. Mostly because I didn’t have anything I wanted to say.
I never said the words to nobody.
My father never said them to my mother or to me. My mother never said them to me or him. I never said them to either one. First of all, they would have been a lie. My mother let my drunk fuck of a father terrorize the both of us, herself weakened by the beatings my father put on her, stale beer-breathed on the good nights. On the bad nights, the air he exhaled stank of cheap Irish whiskey, bathing me in it under the exertions of his raining fists.
My mother was the first teacher I had in the Art of Silence, no doubt afraid that a word in my defense would turn into a kick to her stomach.
The fat drunk fuck died when I was six, an aneurism one night in the bathroom, pants down, copy of Swank in his greasy hand. I had to see that. I had to see my father on the floor, his other hand clutched tight over his balls, a trickle of blood worming down his ear.
My mother killed herself with sleeping pills three weeks later. I guess she couldn’t live without him—without the abuses which comprised the only world she knew, or knew how to exist in. Either way.
I found her body, too.
I bopped through foster care, juvie, all that bullshit. They were all better than the place that was supposed to be my home.
Words have always meant nothing to me, hollow sounds, vibrations on the air. I know some words were supposed to have importance, weight. But not to me. Lot of people talk to fill a silence, their conversations just noise to comfort from the fear of silence. Mostly, I just kept my mouth shut. I’m the most comfortable in the silence. Silence was the absence of heavy work boots coming up the stairs.
Then Courtney made me realize what words could mean. Something about her cut through me. Don’t know what she saw in me in the first place. I’ve spent my life in everyone’s blind spot. Everyone except for the man who did his best to end me before I was in second grade.
But Courtney saw me.
And don’t think I didn’t try to hide.
“You okay?” Elbert asked.
“Yup,” I said.
Elbert then went back to his drinking, and I went to mine.
Another cheer erupted from the dining area, the Welcome Home sign drooping above the entrance.
When Elbert went to take a piss, I stole a glance into the dining area. Cutty’s girlfriend fed him a huge stuffed shrimp, butter dripping down his chin. Everybody laughed.
I don’t laugh much either.
The DJ began playing “Happy” way louder than was the norm at Davy’s Locker. Everybody in the place just sort of shrugged and smiled. Who wanted to ruin what was so obviously a joyous occasion
Elbert came out of the bathroom, wincing at the blaring music. “Well, that does it for me. You leaving soon?”
“You sure you’re okay?”
“See you at the garage tomorrow.”
I always struggled with words, much less important ones. My struggle got cut short three years ago by vehicular manslaughter.
Cutty ran a red light, t-boning Courtney’s tiny Neon with his old man’s Caddy. The impact cut the car in half. Courtney, too.
At her funeral, I stood off to the side, looking at her grieving family. None of them knew who I was. None of them ever would. She wanted me to. She wanted them to get to know me like she did.
What she never got was that I didn’t want people to know me. I still wasn’t sure how I felt about her knowing me.
But I was getting there.
I never got to that destination, just like Courtney didn’t the night she was on her way to my apartment to tell me she was pregnant.
Cutty’s old man was a cop. Now he’s retired.
Cutty got two years.
Sit in your own quiet for a moment and let that sink in…
After twenty minutes, Cutty stumble-stepped into the bathroom. I followed him. I tried the door handle. Drunk as he was, he still remembered to lock the single occupancy stall.
“Occupado,” he yelled through the door. I barely heard him over the music.
A flush sounded, barely audible over the cheerful music vibrating off the walls.
The door opened.
I shoved the screwdriver right through his throat and pushed him back in.
I guess I pushed too hard, since the tip went out the other side, severing something in his spinal cord along the way. His whole body went limp as he crumpled on top of the toilet seat.
I left the screwdriver in, as it seemed to stem the tide of blood pouring down his chest, blossoming on his white shirt.
I also didn’t want him to bleed out too soon.
I leaned over and looked into his blue, blue eyes. They were filled with terror. I wondered whether those were the same eyes my father looked into when he beat me. I didn’t feel anything as I did so.
Guess I got a little of my old man in me.
His head jerked ever so slightly from side to side, his mouth working, but unable to make a sound due to the torrent of blood that dribbled out every time he opened his mouth.
That, and the Craftman poking through his throat.
I wiped my hands on his pants, and left him there. I popped the lock button on the doorknob and closed it behind me. The knob stayed locked. It would take a few minutes before anybody sensed that Cutty had been gone too long. Take them a couple more to get the door unlocked from the outside.
I drove down to Oak Grove Cemetery and parked by the maintenance shed that I’d hidden behind three years before. I sat on the cool grass, Indian-style and plucked the longer blades off of the tombstone that read:
February 29 1980 — June 09 2012
“I love you,” was all I said.
Then I just listened to the wind, and in that quiet, I found home again.