A glass of crazy, p.27
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       A Glass of Crazy, p.27

           Tina Laningham
 
The hardest part about not being old enough to drink is one, getting the alcohol, and two, not getting caught. So far, I was pretty good at both. Every morning I put whatever empty bottles I had from the night before in my backpack and tossed them into the recycling dumpster at school. Fortunately, Mom got some new friends and had stopped being so needy, which was fantastic because I needed more time to drink in peace.

  Megan and I spent the two nights before Valentine's Day in my garage getting all the signs and banners ready for our pro-love rally. It seemed weird doing all this stuff without Rafa. I missed him. I shouldn't have told him this rally wasn't about him, when really it was.

  "Everything's ready," Megan said at her locker on Valentine's Day. "TV news stations, check. Friendworld, check. Text blast at two-fifty-nine, check."

  "What if no one comes?" God, I sounded panicked. I needed a drink.

  "Um, that's not possible," Megan said in her snobbiest, know-it-all voice. At least she had confidence.

  By three o'clock I had a good buzz from drinking vodka out of my water bottle between classes. At the top of the steps, two varsity football players Megan had recruited carried a lectern, while the president of the drama club tested the mic. Dozens of kids gathered at the bottom of the steps and in no time, there were hundreds. While Megan flirted with one of the football players, I moved through the crowd, handing out the heart shaped signs we'd made and searching for Rafa. If he didn't come, I was personally going to kill him.

  Just as I finished handing out the signs, a black SUV exactly like Dad's pulled up in front of the school. The passenger door opened and Phillip Gentry stepped out wearing a Pistols jacket and jeans. Dad had introduced me to him at a basketball game once, but I seriously doubted Phillip Gentry would remember. Ohmygod. Was that Dad's car?

  My heart stopped when the door opened on the driver's side, but the person who stepped out wasn't Dad. Did I actually think Dad would leave the Kat creature long enough to be with me for something this important?

  I stood all sad and droopy when Phillip Gentry, who was a giant, walked right up and said, "Abby?"

  I flipped the switch to fake-happy mode and looked up. "How'd you know?" I asked all cheery.

  He flashed a photo of me on his phone. "Your dad sent this."

  Judging by all the pointing and staring, it didn't take long for everyone to recognize the basketball superstar. I grabbed hold of his giant hand and led Phillip Gentry to the top of the steps toward Megan, who was suddenly speechless.

  "Cough, cough."

  Mouth. Dried paste.

  Light-too bright.

  The walls of my bedroom spun like a wobbly top. I gripped the bed to brace myself. Oh God, getting seasick. I rolled on my side and tons of puke blasted out, over and over, until my stomach had completely emptied itself on the rug below. I reached to wipe my mouth with the sheet, but my hand shook uncontrollably. I collapsed.

  Vague sounds of people talking. My eyes finally opened. This time Megan and Rafa and Mom sat in chairs in my room. Softly, my breath moved in and out. I was alive.

  Mom got up and stretched her hand toward me.

  "Don't touch me," I said with only half my mouth. Drool glued the other half to the pillow. I was able to prop myself up like a cobra and look around. "I think I puked my guts out," I said to them.

  "We cleaned it up, Sweetheart," Mom said. "Are you okay?"

  "What happened?"

  "You passed out after the rally," Rafa said, looking all worried.

  "You came to the rally?"

  The room went quiet. Six eyes stared at me like I was from outer space. My head pounded like a big bass drum as I shifted around, trying to sit up.

  Mom mumbled something indecipherable, and then Megan and Rafa left. Oh God. I was in trouble.

  "Honey, what were you drinking?" Mom asked.

  Holy crap!

  "Where did you get alcohol?"

  "I don't know what you're talking about," I lied.

  Mom closed her eyes and sighed.

  I don't know why I couldn't tell her. Actually I did know exactly why. Mom would take it all away. No more vodka. No more beer. And I would probably die.

  "Look," I said. "It was just this once. I was nervous about the rally. It won't happen again."

  For a long time, Mom stared at me without saying anything. I picked up a glass of water and shakily took a small sip. My head swam over big ocean swells and I had to lie back down.

  "Where did you get that much alcohol?" she asked.

  "God, you're relentless."

  Finally she gave up and left. "Are Megan and Rafa still here?" I asked before she closed the door.

  Megan came in and sat on the bed next to me. "Rafa went home," she said.

  "What happened?" I asked.

  "You passed out."

  "Like before the rally even started, I passed out?"

  "No," Megan said. "After the rally was over."

  I tried to think, but my brain couldn't process any memory of the rally whatsoever. If I couldn't remember, I was probably drunk and made a complete fool of myself. "Oh God," I said, "how bad was it?"

  "Well, Mr. Baldwin called the paramedics and when they came, one of them was really cute."

  Okay, she was talking about the passing out part first.

  "Anyway, the paramedics said you were fine, but you had too much to drink, so Mr. Baldwin called your mom to come and get you."

  "Great." I said.

  "Your mom was already on her way though, because she saw you on the news."

  "What!" More water. Head swimming. A million questions. "Okay, so how did I get to my mom's car? Please tell me the Pistols basketball player didn't have to carry me."

  "You walked," Megan said, looking all perplexed again.

  "Weird." I held my pounding head.

  "You really don't remember?"

  "Yeah, I remember. I'm just messing with you." A total lie. "The rally's still kind of fuzzy in my brain," I said carefully. "What happened exactly?"

  "See for yourself." Megan got my pad and said, "The local news streamed it live."

  The video was loading. Holy shit.

  "Here we go," said Megan, handing the pad to me.

  Okay, the TV camera scanned the crowd, which was much bigger than I remembered. "Look, our signs," I said. Some kids made their own signs that read No Place For Bullying or Kindness is Kool. Suddenly, my face appeared on the screen and underneath, it read, Abby Alexander Daughter of Former Senator John Alexander.

  "God! Why didn't they just keep writing," I said.

  "Huh?" Megan leaned in to get a better look at the video.

  "Why didn't they go ahead and finish that sentence, Daughter of Former Senator John Alexander, who's currently shacked up in Mexico with some weird Kat creature."

  Megan's face got all twisted. "Your dad's not in Mexico."

  As much as I wanted Megan to finish that thought, I needed to hear what I had said on live TV.

  "He-"

  "Shhhhhh. Jeez!" I slapped her arm without taking my eyes off the video. The news guy was talking into the mic like he was getting ready to ask me a question.

  "You're so cranky." Megan crossed her arms and pouted.

  "If that's what it takes to shut you up!"

  Megan looked stunned. "You used to be nice," she said and gathered up her things.

  "Yeah, well, things have changed."

  Finally, she was gone and I could hear myself talking. I slid up the volume button. "This issue is important because of the bullying that goes on after people find out that you're gay." Oh, thank God I sounded normal. I didn't even look drunk.

  "Are you gay?" the reporter asked.

  "No, but my boyfriend is."

  Ohmygod. Please tell me I didn't say that.

  "I see." The reporter smiled devilishly. "So let me get this straight." He turned to the camera and winked. "Pun intended." Then he looked back at me and said, "You're fighting for your boyfriend's right to be gay?"


  Then in my most sarcastic tone, I replied, "That's right, 'bleeeeep.'"

  What! They bleeped me. I rewound the video to figure out what I had said. I watched my lips this time. Oh, lovely, I'd called him an asshole on live TV.

  The news man turned to the camera and said, "We'll bring you the rest of this story later tonight."

  "Yeah, when you can censor it!" I shouted and pushed my head into camera view, making a funny face.

  I cracked a smile that made my head hurt more, if that was even possible, but it was kind of funny.

  "Reporting live from Marconi High School, this is Mark Thomas." And the screen went black.

  "Where's the rest of the rally?" I shouted at my computer pad.

  That's when Dad walked in my room. I stared at him for I don't know how long, until a deep sigh filled me with relief at the realization that this was all a bad dream-a super weird dream.

  "Hey sugar dumpling," Dad said in his usual Texas drawl.

  I slapped my face to wake up. Bad idea. Bass drum. Beating harder.

  "Hey," he said, sitting down next to me. "Don't do that."

  "What are you doing here?" I asked, wrinkling my forehead and hurting my brain.

  Dad seemed surprised.

  "Don't tell me, we've already had this conversation, right? I seemed to be getting a lot of that lately."

  "We have," he said, nodding his head.

  Great. More bits of deleted memory from my brain.

  "When you told me you were organizing your first civil rights rally, I got so proud." He put his arm around me and squeezed gently. "That's one of those things in life you just don't miss-your daughter growin' up and all. It brought tears to my eyes just thinkin' about it."

  "Why didn't you tell me you were coming?" I asked.

  "I did."

  "No you didn't. I would have remembered that."

  "Seems like there's a lot you don't remember," Dad said softly. "Your mama says you've been drinking."

  "And?" I said to the total hypocrite.

  "And I'm concerned," he said.

  "That's funny because you're the one who's an alcoholic, not me."

  "Now hold on, there," he said. "Yes, I used to have a problem, but I got it under control. I haven't had a drink since my plane landed in Houston last night."

  Visions of Dad in that bar in Mexico-drinking tequila with the Kat creature crawling all over him-played in my brain like a tacky scene from a low budget movie. Why could I remember that, but not what happened today?

  "What happened at the rally?" I asked all bewildered.

  "You had a blackout," Dad said, but it was more like he was thinking to himself.

  "Thank you for that diagnosis of my mental state, but that's not what I'm asking. I need to know what happened, like exactly."

  Dad took my hand. Then he let out a deep sigh and closed his eyes. Oh God, he was getting all emotional and reflective, like he was going to impart some words of wisdom on me or something.

  "Please!" I said. "Don't think, just talk."

  "Well, baby," he said, "it went just fine. I was proud of you." He spoke slow and flat, like he was delivering bad news.

  "You'd better tell me the truth," I said. "I'm sure a gazillion kids already posted videos on friendworld." Why didn't I think of that sooner? My brain was so not working.

  "When you got up there and started talking to that crowd in the microphone, my smile was as wide as a Texas summer sky."

  He still sounded sad, but at least he was talking. I gave him the keep-going stare.

  "You said you knew what it felt like to be bullied, something about Ghetto Girl?"

  "U-huh, what else?"

  "Well, let's see, you took a poll of the audience." Dad voice started perking up. "You told them to raise their hand if anyone's ever talked bad about them behind their back. And they all raised their hands! I mean you were a natural." Dad grinned and made big gestures with his hands. "You had your audience fully engaged and I was standing there shaking my head, wondering how I got so lucky to have a child as smart and as caring as you." He squeezed me again.

  "What about Phillp Gentry," I said. "Did he talk?"

  "He sure did. You introduced him all professional like and I stood there wondering when my little girl grew up to be such a fine young lady." But then Dad's expression changed. I assumed I showed my not-so-fine side at some point during the rally. Or maybe he was thinking of the TV interview, which wasn't exactly lady like.

  "Okay, so I introduced Phillip Gentry. Then what happened?"

  "You really don't remember?" Dad asked. "It was huge news. In fact, they're still talking about it on all the channels."

  "What, what!" This was worse than interrogating a criminal.

  "He came out of the closet. He's the second professional basketball player to ever do that."

  "No he didn't!" I perked up.

  "Oh yeah, he asked if anyone in the crowd had an issue with it. Everyone got real quiet."

  "I bet they did."

  "He went on about how kids need to respect each other and to stand up for people who are being bullied."

  "Was Rafa there?"

  Again, the look of total disbelief. Whatever.

  "Rafa was standing with me, watching," Dad explained. "He was really happy to see me."

  Rafa was probably hoping to see the Kat creature in real life. Ohmygod, the Kat creature. "Is she here?"

  "Who?"

  "Kat." My tone clearly expressed that I hoped the answer was no.

  "What? No. I wanted to spend time with you." Dad stood and rubbed his head. "Why don't you get cleaned up and I'll come back and pick you up. We'll go have some dinner."

  "Why didn't you tell me you were coming?"

  "I did, baby girl. I told you on the phone."

  "Whatever." Dad turned to leave, which stirred up my abandonment issues, but I reminded myself he was coming right back. "I can't believe Mom let you in the door," I said.

  "She called me at the hotel and told me to come over-that it was urgent."

  I couldn't even picture that in my mind.

  - 28 -

 
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